If Hawaii and Ireland had a love child, it would look exactly like the Azores Islands. Located 900 miles from Portugal, the Azores islands bring out the most exciting adventures in every type of traveler. While It’d be easy to name the hundreds of reasons to visit these islands, listed below are my top 10:
1 - The Volcanos
While all of the Azores islands are made up of Volcanic rock, located on Terceira island, is a in-active volcano called Algar De Carvao. This is the only volcano in the world that allows tourist and nature enthusiast to walk down the volcanic chimney and explore the second magma chamber. It instantly brought me back to my Magic School Bus days, it was surreal to actually be inside a volcano and look up at the eruption opening while standing in the magma chamber. This is certainly a must-see if visiting the island of Terceira.
... and other marine life. One of the benefits of being literally located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is that the islands are all around a majority of the world's whale migration patterns. On our trip out, we saw 6 Blue Whales (which is an incredible sight, as you're getting up close to the world's largest animal), & 5 Humpback whales. We also saw several species of dolphins and sea turtles. So if you find yourself in the Azores, book a whale watching expedition and be prepared to be amazed!
For every two people living in the Azores, there is one cow - so needless to say the Azorean people are pretty proud of their cheeses. Almost every restaurant you go to will feature a cheese plate - my recommendation, order one...or five!
4 - The Most Picturesque Landscapes You’ve Ever Seen
Whether it's vast lakes, drop-cliffs, or fields of flowers off volcanos, the Azores offers the most beautiful landscapes for every type of traveler. Trails for hikers, mountain climbing, or cliff jumping for the most adventurous. Some of the must see landscapes include: Sete Cidades, Furnas, & Pico Mountain
Registered by UNESCO as a world heritage site, Angra Do Heroismo (which means 'Bay of the Hero') is located on the island of Terceira. With a long cultural background, it's a popular destination for history buffs. It served many different rulers and was at one point even the capital of Portugal. It now serves as the Supreme Court Branch to the municipal Azorean Government. The beautifully colored buildings, views of the ocean, and Mont Brasil are some of the many reasons travelers fall in love with this city.
Add underground chef to your list of accomplishments after your visit to Furnas (located on São Miguel island). A delicious meat stew (called Cozido das Furnas) is placed underground near the volcano and cooks naturally from the steamed heat off the volcano. Typically the meal is a meat stew with an assortment of different meats (chicken, beef, lamb, even blood sausages!) along with a mix or veggies (kale is a staple ingredient in the stew) and potatoes. Hands down, one of the best meals I've ever had.
Or really any of the homemade Azorean Baked Goods. While the Queijadas Da Vila Franca are the most famous, there are an assortment of sweets the locals highly recommend you try: espécie ( a spice infused cookie), roquilhas (flower shaped, alcohol infused cupcake), Suspiros (a lemon flavored
Through the months of June to September, the Azores islands are flooded with stunning views of Hydrangea flowers. From along roadsides to city centers, these flowers are seen everywhere. What's incredible about these particular plants grown in the Azores, due to the volcanic ash they're grown over, the color of the petals vary based upon the PH balance of the soil. In some areas you may have natural pink, purple, and blue petals, while in other parts they may appear white, yellow, or lavender.
Whether they're pools made of the lava rock formations and salt water from the ocean or thermal baths heated from the volcanic core, a bathing suit is very much needed on your trip over to the Azores. While the beaches are not white, nor sandy - the difference the volcanic rock beaches give is uniquely beautiful and an experience in itself. Stopping the high tides are volcanic rock that block the natural pools created for the people of the island. Make sure to bring your water shoes! Locals have mentioned how slippery the rocks could get - or a visit from a couple sea urchins has happened in the past. In addition to the natural volcanic beach pools are the thermal baths located inland on the island of Sao Miguel. These naturally heated waters are said to have healing powers and are a staple hot spot for the locals. While it's a truly relaxing swim, be mindful the water is concentrated with a good amount of iron causing the water to turn orange (this is not harmful for swimmers in anyway - in fact it's quite good for your skin) it can change the color of your swimsuit. I learned my lesson when I went swimming in a white suit which ended up becoming a nude color.
Known to the locals as the discovered islands of Atlantis, there's no surprise this hidden gem in the middle of the Ocean is becoming more and more popular among tourist. While the hype has kept relatively small, they have seen a 30% increase in tourism throughout the last year alone. Now with direct flights from Boston on SATA Airline, they see this percentage growing and growing. The natural wonders of the world located in the Azores should be seen by everyone - as they truly are remarkable.