Authored by Bruno B
In recent years, rumors have begun to spread about the existence of a group of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, about two thirds of the way between Europe and the US.
Islands with emerald beaches, dazzling blue lakes, verdant pastures, volcanic caverns, bubbling mud pots, sprawling sunrises and waterfalls cascading deep into ravines (which you can rappel into, by the way).
Basically, if someone grabbed Iceland, moved it 3,000km to the south, and smashed it into nine pieces, you would have the Azores. They share the same volcanic origins and overwhelming landscapes, only this archipelago has subtropical lush vegetation instead of ice.
The Azores Islands are an autonomous region of Portugal. And while only a two-hour flight from Lisbon, this far flung archipelago has been but a blip on the radar of possible destinations, making it Europe’s best kept secret.
7 Reasons The Azores Islands Should be on Your Bucketlist
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Paradise For Thrill Seekers
For many years the Azores were seen as a place to unwind, relax and “do nothing”. That’s definitely not the case anymore. Opportunities to seek adventure while in contact with the purest form of nature are endless here.
From the numerous hiking trails – including hiking all the way up to Portugal’s highest mountain in Pico island – to paragliding and canyoning, as well as horse-riding and golfing, you have many options for an active trip. Recently, the islands have been emerging as a top-notch surfing hotspot and rewarded with hosting one of the stages of the World Surf Championships.
The Azores are the ideal destination for those trapped by city life, looking for an opportunity to reconnect with nature. Considered one of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world, the landscapes here cover an insane color spectrum of green hills, black volcanic rock formations and vibrant blue lakes.
You’re likely to notice that the scenery is often overwhelmed with black & white spots; these are cows on the meadows. There’s almost a 1:1 ratio of humans vs cows in the islands (can you imagine?!).
Like in the rest of Portugal, eating is an experience in itself in Azores. Based on a Mediterranean diet, food is generally of great quality, based on local delicacies and with a very low price tag.
You can’t leave without trying the fresh seafood, including tuna, sardines and the local speciality, grilled limpets (“lapas”). Meat is also of great quality and steaks (“bifes”) are the most tender and juicy you’ll ever taste!
Abundance of Hot Springs: Take a Forest Spa!
Weather has been known to be unpredictable on the islands, and you can often experience four seasons in a single day.
The good news though is that there’s nothing better than swimming in a hot spring on a chilly rainy day – mother nature can heat up these mineral-enriched waters to reach temperatures as high as 39ºC.
Hot springs are more common in São Miguel island where they are surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation. In other words: a surreal spa in the forest!
Get Up Close with Dolphins and Whales
The Azorean archipelago is praised as one of the worldwide meccas to watch cetaceans in their natural habitat. Up to 30% of ALL known cetacean species can be seen in a single three-hour trip – including the mighty blue whale.
Lookouts by the shore watch for the location of these magnificent creatures so that whale-watching operators can offer high probability of cetacean sightings in their tours. Currently the figure is around 97%!
After a trip to Azores you’ll never want to see dolphins in an aquarium or a zoo again.
The Lakes Will Take Your Breath Away
The many lakes dotted across the Azores feature on almost every postcard of the islands, and they’re so spectacular that you’ll return home with postcard worthy photos of your own!
Most of these lakes (or lagoons) are created inside the craters of volcanoes, which adds mystery to an already awe-inspiring view.
Many of the hiking trails in the Azores start or end around these lakes which is a perfect way to explore the surroundings and take it all in.
Now is the Ideal Time to Go!
For decades, very few airline companies flew to Azores, which made the price to get there ridiculously high. However in 2015 the airline space was liberalized, and the islands are now accessible to all travelers.
Tourism has boomed by 30% since that summer, and there are now concerns whether Azores can maintain their ecotourism standards as they are slowly invaded by mass tourism. Efforts are being made to grow steadily, but in any case, the best time to go is now.
The Azores Islands are still Europe’s best kept secret. But rumors of it’s beauty are starting to spread, and you should visit before the rest of the world finds out.
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Photo credits: Featured photo & second pinterest image by Paulo Valdivieso. Flores Island by Paulo Valdivieso. Hotsprings by Bruno B. Lake by Pete Ashton.
Very interesting. Azores seems like a place worth visiting. And, especially even more after reading this amazing article. Thanks for sharing! Cheers and enjoy your weekend.
Thanks Gagan, it truly is a special place (and it’s not just because I’m from there! :))
Have a great weekend yourself!
I love visiting off beat places or those that are still a “secret”. We are heading to Portugal next year, I will keep this in mind. I wonder how it is though since late March would still be cold? I shall read about it more. Thanks for this Meg.
Glad we could provide some inspiration and ideas for your Portugal trip Karla – definitely a unique destination to add to your holiday. Feel free to shoot Bruno any questions you may have or jump over to his blog for more information :)
I want to visit tomorrow!! It sounds like an amazing place with the possibility of all 4 seasons in one day, the views, and all the activities. I would definitely find my way to the hot springs to spend an afternoon. Hiking up the highest mountain on Pico Island would be cool too!
Sounds like you would LOVE the Azores Bryanna! Let us know what you think after you plan a trip!
How’s the diving in the Azores? I’ve heard there are lovely beaches, but I really prefer diving on coral reef.
From your photos, it looks like there’s some great hiking in the Azores too.
Hi Jennifer, there’s some great diving in the Azores (and yes, hiking is absolutely spectacular too!). Diving here is in sandy, rocky or mixed seabeds, in caves or shipwrecks.
I’ll let Bruno respond as to whether there are any great coral reefs he would recommend, my understanding is that the main highlight of diving in the Azores is being in the water with pretty abundant marine life :)
Your photos are amazing! I hope we keep this beautiful place a secret hahaha. Seriously it would be lovely to visit Azores soon!
Glad you enjoyed the post Carla! Hope you do have the chance to visit the Azores soon :)
This is the exact kind of place that I want to visit…still Europe, but a TOTALLY different vibe!
Absolutely Jessica! It’s great for Europe “off the beaten path” :)
Wow…. I really like this place. A forest spa….that is so cool. Dolphins and whales, i dont need any other reasons to visit this place.
It’s got it all! Glad we could inspire Gokul :)
I never thought that the azores would be so pretty!
The photos are amazing, but I’m sure they don’t do it justice :D
I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of the Azores Islands before reading this. Really well written article and beautiful images. You’ve made we want to be a week of adventure in the Azores. It definitely reminds me a lot of Scandinavia, particularly the lakes.
Glad we could introduce you Skye! I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the hottest destinations in 2017 :)
This place sounds too amazing to be true- all the details including the delicious sounding seafood. It’s wonderful how you can even see dolphins and whales in their natural habitat! I’m definitely adding this to my bucket list :)
Glad we could inspire you Mar! Perhaps something to add to the list for 2017 :)
My God, this looks stunning! I have to admit I have only heard of the Azores island but never actually bothered to check where they are located. Thanks for sharing this, it was eye opening! I can see why you compared them with Island, such amazing views but in a warmer climate. The lakes are stunning and so are the hot springs! Will be looking into options to visit them.
Glad we could provide you with some background info to put to the name Sia :) Hope you have the chance to visit soon!
Wow the Azores are so intriguing, I must admit I am among the masses of the ignorant, but very glad I am now informed to their beauty. The hiking looks fantastic and I’m always up for a hot springs!
Glad we could introduce you Emily, & hopefully add another destination to your bucketlist! :D
Azores is next on my list. After visiting Lagos and Lisbon I absolutely love this country and can’t wait to explore more…
Lagos and Lisbon are definitely wonderful Christopher – it’s very easy to fall under Portugal’s spell! You’ll love to Azores – let us know what you think!
Had flashbacks of living in SE Alaska with your pictures!! Would love to visit the Azores one day. Such gorgeous country and so close to the rest of Europe.
Alaska is indeed a stunning destination too – I can definitely see how there would be similarities with the landscapes and lakes! Hope you have the chance to make it to the Azores soon Elaine :)
Can you swim in the lakes?
Hi Skye, from my knowledge, where swimming is allowed in the lakes there are indicated zones, but Bruno is the local expert (the guest author of the post), he’s @bruno_mb on Instagram and very responsive :), I’m happy to shoot him a message and find out unless you’d like to chat with him directly?
Thanks for reading!