Back in 2018, we fell head over hiking boots for the Azores, “Portugal’s best-kept secret” by Condé Nast Traveller.
Scroll down for a short introduction to this relatively unknown destination and our seven must-do experiences.
7. Escape the crowds
Never heard of the Azores? Don’t fret; most haven’t. The region is a collection of nine volcanic islands found off the coast of Portugal. The archipelago is touted as ‘The Atlantic’s Hawaii,’ with one major distinction: no crowds. Travelling here provides a welcome escape to the hordes of tourists other island destinations attract.
6. Soak in the thermal baths
Like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland or the Turkish Baths in Budapest, the Azores feature a number of naturally heated pools courtesy of the volcanic activity below. Some are rugged and unkempt. Others are spa-like facilities with extra amenities.
5. Surmount Portugal’s tallest mountain
Lace-up your boots, as you’ll likely spend a significant portion of each day hiking the nine rugged islands. On Pico Island, you can trek the country’s tallest mountain (2,351m/7,713ft) for a perfect panorama.
4. Enjoy the water sports
Our favourite way to explore the Azorean waters is by kayak, canoe and standup paddleboard. You can challenge yourself in the rougher ocean or relax on the waveless inland lakes and calderas. More adventurous souls can try their hand at coasteering, a mix of climbing/canyoning, repelling, swimming and hiking along a rocky coast.
3. Taste the local flavours
Try the cozido — an Azorean meat stew simmered inside holes dug into burning volcanic soil. Beyond this memorable means of cooking, the archipelago is making a name for itself with its unique terroir. Unlike mainland Europe, the climate supports coffee production, bananas, pineapple and passion fruit. Locals are bottling acclaimed wines and fermenting unique cheese. Of course, nothing compares to seafood. Fatty tuna is a common favourite, while rarer fish like the leopard-print moray eel surprises the taste buds.
2. Spot rare species of whale
Experience the wonder of seeing a sperm whale breach the Atlantic Ocean only meters from your zodiac — a small boat fitting 10-16 passengers. One-third of the world’s cetaceans call the Azores home, making it one of Earth’s most important marine sanctuaries.
1. Photograph the calderas
If we were asked to list the one thing that defines the Azores Islands, it would be the calderas, lakes formed by inactive volcanos. A trip through the Atlantic archipelago wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to see and photograph these natural wonders.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Shutterstock x 2, Futurismo x 3, Robert Sharp x 1, Futurismo x 3)
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