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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