The Azores, nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic, have been described as Europe’s best kept secret. One could not disagree but, I would give them another accolade and that is they are also one of the most underrated destinations in Europe.
Sunvil has been featuring this little-known Portuguese archipelago since 1990. Up until 2005, the only route from the UK was via Lisbon which almost made the islands more alluring. My first visit was in 2003 and I confess to have been a little disappointed. The weather was warm but wet with poor visibility and all the wonderful sights that I had been promised, had disappeared into the clouds.
I was soon to learn that the Azores should never be pre-judged or underestimated. Be patient and all will be revealed.
I returned the following year, twice in fact. Lessons learnt; I was hooked.
It is actually hard to imagine a more scenic and dramatic destination being just under 4 hours away. These stunning, sub-tropical islands will never cease to amaze you with their hidden crater lakes, hot springs, botanical gardens, quaint fishing villages and eco-friendly ethics.
A couple of years later, I was on the inaugural direct flight from Gatwick which Sunvil was proudly involved in. We touched down in Ponta Delgada to a water salute and a very enthusiastic reception, it was just a privilege to be part of such a significant moment.
Over the years, I have explored the entire archipelago, each island is unique, individual and beckoning you to visit them. A standout highlight for me is, what can only be described, as an eruption of blue hydrangeas during the summer months giving a truly spectacular show across the islands. The view from the islands of Faial and Sao Jorge across the water to Mt Pico, a towering dormant volcano cone peeking out above the clouds is another memorable sight.
There are no busy resorts on these islands, this is a land for nature lovers, walkers, and outdoor enthusiasts. As a result, the Azores has become one of the most sustainable nature-based island destinations in the world. Budget airlines have recently made them more accessible but, thankfully, it has done nothing to detract from their indisputable charm.
Returning from a trip, I would talk enthusiastically about what I had seen and experienced. My husband, David, finally said it was time he checked it out for himself. A Busman’s Holiday perhaps? no, a glorious week walking, whale watching and soaking up the geological highlights of Sao Miguel. It was lovely to be able to show him a destination that has become so special to me. However many times I visit I will always find something new and exciting. Last October I made my 21st visit, I know it won’t be the last.