This Spring when I was telling friends and clients that I would be traveling to The Azores for our family Summer vacation, most people looked at me with a Blank Stare or asked “What is The Azores”. So let’s start with The Basics! The Azore Islands are an autonomous region of Portugal and an archipelago of 9 islands in the Middle of The Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the 9 Islands you will find a tremendous variety of natural beauty and cultural experiences. The average temperature ranges from mid 60 to 70 degrees throughout the year, but the weather changes drastically daily both during the winter and summer months. Most importantly, these Islands provide gorgeous scenery, fun activities and European culture without the CROWDS. BONUS: it is only 4 to 5 hour direct flight from the U.S. However the Secret is OUT and you should be contacting your favorite travel consultant NOW to book your Azore vacation!
Most Azore Vacations start on the largest Island, Sao Miguel where the majority of international flights fly into the town and airport of Ponta Delgada. You can reach all other Islands and Mainland Portugal through Ponta Delgada. Depending on your vacation desires, you can easily visit two or three Islands in a week long itinerary. If you don’t have enough time or are looking for slow paced travel, Sao Miguel has enough to offer as a destination itself.
Take a Look at this adventure family’s favorite places in Sao Miguel.
Sete Cidades: The Volcanic Crater of Sete Cidades is the biggest attraction on Sao Miguel. The area consists of two lakes side by side, one green and one blue, appropriately named Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul and a charming village nestled in the valley. You can spend a full day exploring the area. It is convenient and cost efficient to set up a tour guide to take you to all the gorgeous sites while visiting the Western Side of the Island. You can drive yourselves but hiring a driver saves you lots of time turning around, pulling out maps and trying to park. Not to mention, some of these breathtaking views would be appreciated a little more with a glass of wine! No matter which way you visit, you will want to take in the views at Miradouro da Vista do Rei. There is an abandoned hotel here, you can climb to the top and get the best views on the Island. The spectacular walking path at Miradouro da Grota do Inferno is not to be missed and you can make this hike however short or long you would like it.
Once have taken in the views, it is time to descend into the Caldera and enjoy the Lakes. Lagoa de Azul is the larger of the two and where you will find your basic water activities such as Kayaking and paddle boarding. There is also a small beach for swimming, park areas for playing and a restaurant. The nearby town of Sete Cidades also has some quaint restaurants with lots of local flavors.
The Beaches and Coastline:
The Island of Sao Miguel has a rugged and gorgeous coastline. I recommend seeing some of that coastline from above and visiting some of the beaches nestled within. There are several great beaches all over the island, which one you visit ultimately depends on where you are staying on the Island. Two of my favorites are Praia Santa Barbara and Praia Vinha D’Areia. The water is typically a bit frigid but there are warmer beaches in some of the neighboring Azore Islands.
The Azores is one of the world’s top whale watching destinations, with 28 different species of whales and dolphins have been sighted off the shores. Different species travel through The Azores at different times of the year, but Sperm Whales and a variety of Dolphin species stay for a significant portion of Spring and Summer. The majority of boats head out from Ponta Delgada but we loved our experience with the amazing company, Terra Azul out of Vila Franca do Campo. I like Terra Azul because their practices always have the best interest of the whales in mind and they really do follow their rules of sustainability and responsibility to the sea life. Whichever company you prefer, I definitely recommend going out on a small RIB boat rather than one of the larger whaling boats. It makes for far more exciting experience. if you are traveling with children who are good swimmers, Many of the companies also offer swimming with the dolphins in the wild. What an incredible experience!
Ilheu da Vila Franca do Campo:
This Islet is the result of an ancient submerged volcano. The Islet is now a nature reserve and is only accessible by a short 10 minute boat ride from the Marina in Vila Franca do Campo. The ferry leaves every hour, but they only sell 400 tickets per day. There are no facilities on the Islet except one public restroom, everything you bring to the Islet must be taken away. You can snorkel, swim in the warm waters, and explore the cliffs. Once a year Red Bull hosts a cliff diving competition here which is extremely impressive to imagine. When you have had enough of this little tropical paradise, you take the next ferry leaving back to the mainland every hour.
There are hot springs throughout the Island. Your best options for swimming in the Hot Springs are in Furnas and Caldeira Velha. The hotsprings in Furnas are located with the lovely little town of at the bottom of Furnas Valley. The whole area is worth a full or half day tour. Be sure to visit Terra Nostra, you can swim in the thermal swimming pool set in The Natural Botanical Gardens, there is a restaurant and spa on the Grounds. You can visit for the day for a relaxing experience or spend the night in the lovely Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.
For a more jungle experience, visit Caldeira Velha located near the breathtaking Lagoa do Fogo to swim under a warm waterfall located in the picturesque fern covered swimming hole. It is the perfect hot spring experience.
The Island of Sao Miguel truly is a perfect getaway for anyone who loves nature, wants to relax or is looking for true adventure, dislikes crowds and is interested in Portugese culture. Did I mention the fresh food and Wine! If this sounds appealing to you, Be sure to contact us to plan the perfect itinerary for you in The Azores.