Put quite simply the Azores are stunning.
Only a three and a half hour flight from the UK the nine islands that rise from the middle of the Atlantic are bathed in the warmth of the Gulf Stream and so have good weather all year around.
The islands are characterized by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas but each one is totally different. With the people being so friendly and food so cheap, I frequently had meals for less than 12 Euros with wine. With relatively few tourists the islands reminded me of Mallorca fifty years ago.
I was just there to visit two of the islands but I met couples who Sunvil had arranged for them to visit five or even six over a two-week period.
Sao Miguel is the biggest island of the archipelago, some 40 miles in length and 9 miles at its maximum width it is dominated by beautiful highlands. All the islands have so much to offer from casual exploration of their incredible volcanic scenery, history and culture to special activities such as birdwatching, riding and walking.
In fact, the islands give amazing walking whether it be on the cliff top paths or looking down on the tree lined lakes that now fill the old volcanic craters. You can go horse riding in the hills too if you wish. They are also a popular destination for cycling/mountain biking and whale watching.
The latter is what most people who come to the Azores try to do as it is one of the best destinations in the world for this activity with Sperm, Blue and Humpback whales all seen. I took a trip on a rib with seven other people that skipped across into the Atlantic and were soon joined by a pod of some sixty dolphins, some with young, that played, breached and leapt from the water and seemed to be smiling at us and so close that at times I felt I could touch them. Indeed, some people in other boats were snorkelling with them!
That night I strolled out in the streets of the capital for a beer and a meal in the bars and restaurants that line streets of the old area around the centre. As a general rule, Azorean cuisine tends to be much more country rustic than mainland Portugal’s (this is not a hard and fast rule, but is generally true).
The cheeses are superb and there are different types all of which you have to try. Pineapples are grown on Såo Miguel, you can get a really good tour of the plantation, and they are frequently seen on the menu of restaurants for dessert and are a nice alternative to the richly sweet flans and tarts that are very yummy!
The next morning, I was taken to the airport to board my flight to stay on the western most island, Flores some ninety minutes away. Top tip here, do get yourself a window seat, you can’t book one you just have to get near the front of the queue, as you fly over the five islands that form the central group of the archipelago and it’s an amazing sight.
The beauty of this place is that it is the most westerly point of Europe and still isolated and under developed from the tourist point of view. The same is true of all the other islands so do and go and visit before it’s too late and they catch up with Mallorca.