Faial - The Blue Island, known for its hydrangeas
The Azores - truly an under the radar hidden gem of a destination and just 4 hours flying from Boston.
Often described as the Atlantic's version of Hawaii, this archipelago of 9 beautiful and unique islands covers an area of approximately 386,000 square miles. An autonomous region of Portugal, it is full of pristine and natural beauty, unique scenery, quaint fishing villages, historical centers and so much more.
With temperatures between 55-75 degrees (Fahrenheit) year round, it is perfect destination any time. Weather-wise April through November are the best. June through August are the busiest. Though not touristy, the Azores do attract many Europeans over the summer holidays.
The Azores really offer something for just about every taste - from foodies and history lovers to those interested in gardens, the outdoors, yachting and hiking. One can whale watch, golf, bike, horseback ride, scuba dive, walk along black sand beaches or simply enjoy a spa moment.
Sao Miguel, the Green Island, is the largest of all 9 islands, the most visited, the most accessible, and where the majority of the Azore's population live (138,000 of the total 240,000 residents). Ponta Delgada, the island's capital, is the main base from which people explore the island.
Sao Miguel is known for a variety of experiences, from hiking and swimming to thermal spas, gardens and plantations, including a pineapple plantation and Europe's only commercial tea plantation. The region is one of the top 10 places in the world to see dolphins and whales year round. In the summer you can observe up to 14 different species of whales.
The beautiful green and blue lakes of Sete Cidades, one of Portugal's 7 Natural Wonders is also found here. Legend has it that the lakes were formed from the tears of a shepherd and princess who shared a forbidden love.
Pico Island, the Mountain Island, is the second largest island, and is dominated by crater remnants, lake filled cones and Pico Volcano, a 7700 foot high volcanic cone. Not to be missed is the longest lava cave in the Azores, the whaling museum and wine cellars. Viticulture dates back to the 15th century, and it is fascinating to see vineyards planted in the lava fields and the stone walls protecting the vines. The landscape of the vineyards is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A few miles from Pico lies nice and peaceful Faial Island, the Blue Island, named for the large number of hydrangeas that bloom in the summer months. The marina town of Horta is world famous and one of the busiest in the world with recreational sailors. It is also a strategic site for the transatlantic cables.
Terceira, named such as it was the third island discovered, is mostly about nature. Here too you can explore old lava tubes, including one that runs almost 300 feet underground and you will find the only accessible (to tourists) lava chimney in the world.
The Portuguese built their first settlement here because of the protected ports.
Lesser explored but equally nice islands include Corvo (awesome for birdwatching), Flores (incredible cheeses), Graciosa (wonderful scuba diving), Sao Jorge (great cheese and best milk in all of Europe) and Santa Maria (a fossil rich island).
Foodies never leave disappointed either. Regional gastronomy is exceptional. Naturally, fish and seafood are quite common (and good). The volcanic soil (and all the natural minerals) help produce great vegetables, wines and pastures that keep all the cows happy. And happy cows produce delicious cheeses, milk and beef. Not to be missed on Sao Miguel is the Cozido das Furnas, a beef stew that is cooked in the ground through thermal heat for 6+ hours.
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder