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Azores Islands: The European Hawaii

Ishwari Pamu Jun 14, 2019
The Azores is a far-flung archipelago of 9 islands belonging to the Portuguese territory. There can’t possibly be any other place better suited for nature-lovers, hikers, adventure sports enthusiasts or anyone looking to get in touch with nature.

Corvo

With a total population of about 468 (2006), it’s the most isolated island of the Azores archipelago and is a product of only one, now extinct, volcano.
Corvo offers out-of-this-world sunsets (that’s if the weather permits) and the volcanic crater is the main attraction of this remote and peaceful island. It is a place of excellence for birdwatching, hiking, diving and snorkeling.

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Flores

The name, Flores, meaning flowers, does complete justice to the island.

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Emerald green series of mountains and hills, myriad of flora, crater lakes and vibrant hydrangeas that hem in the paved streets make up this island. It’s exotic. It’s isolated. It’s a paradise for birdwatching. It’s breathtaking, it’s mother nature in its rawest form.

Terceira

The highlights of Terceira are the pasture patchwork of Serra do Cume, the volcanic chimney and the underground lava tube of Algar do Carvão, and killer food.
You can go diving to see the centuries-old shipwrecks around the island, paragliding and spelunking. Known for its architecture, in the downtown of Angra do Heroísmo even the sidewalks have limestone and basalt mosaics.

Graciosa

Roughly the size of Manhattan, Graciosa is the island to visit if you want to escape the city hustle and enjoy the little things of life. This place oozes authenticity in terms of food, culture, lifestyle and people.
Undulating landscapes, ranges of mountains, the thermal water of Carapacho, diving and fishing are the main attractions of this island.

São Jorge

Only 8km in width, this knife-shaped island hosts a cocktail of the most dramatic landscapes, from lakes and cliffs to series of volcanic peaks and ravines.
It’s also known for its unpasteurized cheese - Queijo de São Jorge. Apart from consuming cheese by the block, mountain biking, surfing and hiking are a few other things to try out while you are here.

Pico

Pico Alto (2,352 m), the highest mountain in all of Portugal, stands on this island. Vineyards that grow on lava rocks, centuries-old volcano caves and rock pools call this island home.
Whale-watching (best destination to do it), hiking the Pico Alto (if you are up for the challenge) and ingesting wine in biblical amounts (some of the wines don’t leave the Azores, let alone Portugal) are a few must-do activities in Pico.

Faial

Faial is nicknamed as the Blue Island (Ilha Azul) due to the abundance of hydrangeas hedges found all over the island. The natural sea pool formed by volcanic eruptions, the Capelinhos volcano and the crater of Lagoa da Caldeira are worth visiting.

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São Miguel

The largest island of the archipelago, São Miguel has a little bit of everything its sister islands have to offer. Along with numerous outdoor activities, it also has mind-blowing food (especially the meats), enough to keep you busy for an entire week.

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One of the wonders this unusual island offers in addition to lakes of Sete Cidades, beaches with dark volcanic sand, lakes in volcanic craters and thermal water pools, is Purple tea, “special tea” as they call it. It’s green tea but made using volcanic thermal waters.

Santa Maria

It is the very first of the Azores islands to be discovered by the Portugese. The weather here is extremely unpredictable and this island, thus, is geologically different from the others in the archipelago.
Golden beaches, Gruta Azul (the underground diving spot) and the shallow sea pools which make for excellent swimming spots, are the main attractions of this island.
Pro-tips:
  • The weather is quite unpredictable.
  • The food is dope (especially the meats).
  • Learning a little Portuguese, even the basic, can go a long way.
  • Island hopping can be a bit heavy on the pocket, so pick your islands logistically.
  • Take all the trash with you until you find a bin. The islands are one of the most sustainable places worldwide.