Welcome to the Azores, a series of nine volcanic islands off the coast of Portugal. Within the past few years, these historically overlooked islands have become Portugal’s – if not Europe’s – trendiest travel destination. Get to know our favourite four islands featured on our big gay adventure below!
São Miguel Island
São Miguel is the gateway to the Azores Islands and is aptly nicknamed ‘The Green Island.’ The latter is a nod to the island’s grassy countryside where cattle happily graze. In fact, the landscape is so lush you can find Europe’s only tea plantation here.
Beyond the countryside, Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores and is famous for its lively pubs and world-class restaurants. Be sure to take a walking tour and visit the city’s top attractions, such as the historic convent or the impressive fortress.
Top Activities in São Miguel:
- Kayak or Standup Paddle-board across the Twin Lakes of Sete Cidades
- Simmer in one of the island’s steamy thermal pools
- Hike to Sanguinho, a village abandoned since the 70’s
- Savour Azorean cuisine in one of Ponta Delgada’s acclaimed restaurants
- Slumber in one of the Azores’ boutique hotels
Photos of São Miguel:
São Jorge Island
São Jorge’s slender topography runs 33m/53km from east to west and is particularly prone to erosion. Its dramatic cliffs fall directly into the powerful waves along its coast. The same waves, in fact have made São Jorge one of Europe’s top surfing destinations. The more adventurous amongst us can hire a local surfing instructor and brave these tumultuous seas. That said, the nimbly-impaired may prefer the island’s other incredible activities, such as hiking along Caldeira do Santo Cristo or touring the island’s agricultural offerings, such as clam, dairy and coffee farms.
Top Activities on São Jorge:
- Hike the island’s dramatic cliffs
- Watch surfers brave the island’s notorious waves
- Taste the local produce such as farmed clams and local cheese.
Photos of São Jorge
Faial Island is best known for Horta, a port town with serious maritime significance. Horta’s harbour has been a key hub for yachts and sailboats on transatlantic journeys between Africa, America and Europe. In fact, there’s a longstanding tradition of sailors painting the harbour with the name of their vessel and the date they docked here. A guestbook, if you will.
Aside from the city, Faial has (at least in parts) an unusually barren terrain due to semi-recent volcanic eruptions. Visitors often liken these areas to ‘walking on the moon.’
Top Activities on Faial Island:
- Order a pint at the world-famous Peter’s Cafe
- Hike Capelinhos Volcano
- Sign up for a whale-watching tour
Photos of Faial
Gay travellers will be blown away by Pico’s otherworldly landscape. At the centre of the island sits snowcapped Mount Pico, Portugal’s tallest mountain. Surrounding the mountain are UNESCO World Heritage vineyards that thrive amongst the island’s signature lava rocks. These remarkable vineyards stretch right out to the sea and produce some of the country’s most fascinating vintages.
Speaking of the sea, nearby Lajes do Pico features the archipelago’s best whale and dolphin watching. Be sure to jump aboard a zodiac and spot the endemic cetaceans.
Top Activities on Pico Island:
- Surmount Mount Pico, Portugal’s tallest mountain
- Uncork the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Vineyards
- Join a whale-watching tour in Lajes do Pico
Photos of Pico
All photos courtesy of visitazores.com.
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