The Azores offer a wide variety of activities and attractions for the steady stream of people who visit the islands each year. With nine islands spread over a wide expanse of the Atlantic, each one with its own character and its own unique attractions, holidays to the Azores can offer something for pretty much every holidaymaker.
Here are just a few of the highlights of the islands that some historians claim could have been the site of the fabled lost city of Atlantis.
The waters around the Azores are considered to be one of the world’s top whale-watching sites. On a good day you might be blessed with sightings of sperm whales, baleen whales and pilot whales. The best time to see whales is July and August, although trips do run as late as October.
The islands are a hiker’s paradise, with many miles of trails that take walkers to some of the more remote points on these small islands. Some of trails are old tracks used to the link villages and farms, while others have been marked out for hikers. Guided walks are available, although for many the idea of getting lost and discovering their own surprises is part of the delight of a good hike.
3. Adventure sports
The islands offer many great opportunities for adventure sports. While the ocean is popular with surfers and divers, the inland rivers and gorges of the Azores are becoming increasingly popular for those wanting to experience canyoning. Both Sao Miguel and Sao Jorge have established canyoning routes and have licensed guides who organise trips.
The cheeses of the Azores enjoy a fine reputation, not least for the way that traditional cheese-making methods have been retained on the islands. Visit Sao Jorge and enjoy a cheese that is aged for 120 days to create the strong flavour for which its known. On Pico try the Sao Joao cheese, a soft cheese that goes down perfectly with a glass of wine. Talking of which…
5. Wine tours
Vineyard tours are a popular attraction on the island of Pico, with the quality of the island’s verdelho wines enjoying the approval of Europe’s royal courts in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most vineyards will welcome unannounced visits and you’re bound to be offered a sample to try.
6. Explore the islands’ history
Stop for a while in the larger settlements of the Azores and digest the rich history of the islands through its churches and occasional museums. The Azores saw explorers, merchants, slaves and prisoners pass through and each group has left their mark on the islands’ history.
7. Take a geology tour
At first glance this idea may not send everyone’s pulses racing, but these are some of Europe’s most spectacular volcanic islands and the story of how they were created and became such fertile rocks is a remarkable one. Take a Jeep ride across Sao Miguel with an enthusiastic English-speaking geologist and discover the results of millions of years of volcanic activity.