As Europe’s best green tourism destination, the Azores remains a little-explored island archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The nine islands are technically Portuguese yet offer their own unique culture and landscapes, with much of the activities focused around outdoor pursuits, thanks to the surrounding vast ocean and steep volcanic interior.
Explore the Caldeira das Sete Cidades in São Miguel
The main island of the Azores, Sao Miguel is home to the stunning natural landscape of the Caldeira das Sete Cidades, aka Caldera of the seven towns. Formed from a collapsed volcanic crater, the unique Caldera landscape was shaped in 1445. With the caldera are two main lakes: Lagoa Verde has sparkling green waters and Lagoa Azul has azure blue waters and are connected by a small bridge. The crater is surrounded by 300 meter tall crater walls and thick vegetation, which offers a great opportunity for walking and exploring. Within the caldera is also a neo-Gothic church, a small village and endemic flora and fauna.
Enjoy the beaches on Santa Maria
Santa Maria is dubbed the ‘yellow island’ thanks to the vast pastures and fields of crops. And if you’re looking for pristine and secluded beaches, head to Santa Maria Island which is the sunniest and also the driest of all the Azores. The island has vast cliffs interspersed with hidden bays and deserted white-sand beaches.
Try scuba diving on Terceira
The island of Terceira (which means third in Portuguese) was the third to be discovered and is home to the more developed town of Angra do Heroismo, which has UNESCO World Heritage status. Terceira is also a great spot for scuba diving. Beginners will appreciate Calheta do Lagador where octopus, eel and bream can be seen. This site is also perfect for night dives and snorkelling. Spot stingrays at Cinco Ribeiras and dive the 1878 shipwreck at Lidador
Enjoy a whale watching trip
Four of the Azores islands offer whale watching experiences; Sao Miguel, Terceira, Faial and Pico. The island of Pico was first to offer such trips following the abolition of whale hunting in the 1980s. There are several interesting museums on the subject on Pico, such as the Whalers Museum and the Whalers Industry Museum, which showcase both traditional crafts and the history of whale hunting. Between spring and autumn the main attraction on a whale watching trip is the mighty blue whale which is the largest animal on the planet at 150 tons and up to 30 meters long.
Climb Montanha do Pico
The Azores offers superb geotourism within its 1766 volcanoes, caves, ravines and crater lakes and calderas. And the very best geotourism experience has to be the Montanha do Pico, aka Pico Mountain. This is the highest peak within Portugal, rising to a height of 2,351 meters. Located in the lush Montanha do Pico Natural Reserve, the mountain is surrounded by endemic flora and fauna amidst the scrubland. Hire a local guide to reach the summit and gaze over Pico.
Explore the culture of Ponta Delgada
The largest city within the Azores, Ponta Delgada, offers a glimpse into the traditional local culture. Wander the Church of Sao Jose and visit the Carlos Machado Museum. Ponta Delgada is renowned for its pineapple crops, wines and locally produced crafts. The market stalls and boutiques on Ponta Delgada’s main avenue sell jewellery, ceramics and lace products.
Try your hand at Big Game Fishing
The seas that surround the Azores are perfect for a spot of big game fishing. Expect to come across both white and blue marlin, which are absolutely huge! There are also dolphin-fish and bluefin tunas in this region of the Atlantic Ocean. Keen fishermen can either join a small group led by an experienced game operator, or hire a boat and the equipment locally for an independent adventure.