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  • Writer's pictureUrsula

Azores 01.09.-28.09.21

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

During four weeks we travel through eight of the nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic and are surprised by the uniqueness of each island. Common to all islands is the wild, volcanic landscape with crater lakes, steep coasts, natural Atlantic pools, churches, hydrangea hedges (we are 1-2 months too late for the full bloom) and green fields framed with volcanic stones. On each island there are well signposted hiking trails, but they often follow the normal road and are therefore only moderately attractive for us. The food is certainly not the reason to travel to the Azores: the meals are good, but the creativity and variety is often missing. Between the islands you move by ferry or for longer distances by plane. The much cited Azores high is often not present, but the weather changes often and one usually finds a ray of sunshine per day.


The beautiful landscape:

The natural pools:

The churches:

The flowers:


Terceira

We are accommodated in Angra do Heroismo (with the UNESCO World Heritage city center). This is a good starting point to explore the pretty town on the one hand and the island on the other. Angra do Heroismo is very small, with a pretty harbor, well-kept houses and black and white paved squares and alleys which reminds us a bit of Funchal in Madeira.

The local mountain 'Monte Brasil' in front of Angra can be hiked in a good 2 hours (with safari feeling) and offers a nice view of the town. But most of it is also passable by car.

We find a good restaurant, the 'Captain's Table', and enjoy it there on two evenings.

On the 1000 meter high Serra de Santa Barbara, we have a beautiful view, unfortunately interspersed with some clouds. Already the drive up through a lush landscape is worth the trip. Lagoa das Patas is a dreamy lake with ducks, which show no shyness in front of visitors.

In the Misterios Negros area we do a 5 kilometer hike, which turns out to be a mud hike and scramble over lava rocks for which we need 2.5 hours. So nothing for 'fair weather hikers'.

A drive over the Serra do Cume with a wonderful view of the green fields bordered with lava stones is a must on Tereceira.

The Algar do Carvao, a cave in the extinct volcano, can be visited. But it is not a must from my point of view.


São Jorge

On the long island the volcanoes are lined up and the coastal landscape can be reached via steep small roads (or only on foot).

We make an excursion from Velas via the southwest coast, with always beautiful views, all the way to the west to the dilapidated lighthouse. A short hike behind the lighthouse offers a dizzying, unsecured view of the surf on the jagged rocks.

On the way towards the eastern tip we visit Urzelina, where the church was buried by a lava flow and only the tower is still visible, enjoy the landscape and the fajâs (plains) below the steep coasts.

The last day spoils us with sunny weather and we take a hike to the highest mountain, Pico Esperança with a magnificent view of the volcano Pico on the neighboring island of the same name.



Pico

We reach Madalena on Pico after a 2 hour ferry ride (it is worth booking the ferries in advance even without a car) and drive right away along the north coast ...

... and visit the famous (UNESCO) wine region with the small plots bordered by lava stones. But the sight is rather disappointing, probably also because the grape harvest is already through.

Pico is THE defining, very impressive volcanic cone on this island. You could climb it, but only with warm clothes and gloves. With moisture, it should also be quite slippery. So nothing for us. But nice pictures can be taken at Lagoa do Capitao. From there we continue over the mountain ridge, past many crater lakes. It is getting foggier and foggier and we have to cancel this trip.


Faial

The blue island, because it is crisscrossed by blue hydrangea hedges, has a pretty town with Horta, where we are also accommodated. In the harbor there are sailing ships from all over the world and you can admire the wall and floor paintings of the Atlantic sailors.

The island is characterized by the mighty Caldeira do Cabeco Gordo, which, however, does not want to show itself in the sunshine. Actually, we would have liked to do a good 6 km long crater hike.

We circumnavigate the whole island and stop every now and then. Be it for a dilapidated lighthouse or for small seaside beaches and pools.

In the far east, the Volcão dos Capelinhos was formed in 1957/58 and has created a new lunar landscape, most of which has already been eroded by wind and weather. From the visitor center you can make a short, worthwhile hike to the top of the ridge.

On the last day the sun is shining and we can still admire the crater cone of the Caldeira do Cabeco Gordo. Then we continue by plane to Flores.


Flores

Flores is a small island with the main attraction of seven lakes, beautiful waterfalls and as the name says: many flowers. This is definitely worth a trip.





Corvo

On the third day we want to visit the neighboring island of Corvo with the most beautiful crater. Tickets for the ferry are long gone, but we find a private provider, which brings us by speedboat to Corvo. The trip goes rapidly along the coast with waterfalls and caves and then across the open sea to Corvo.

We continue up by shared cab to the magnificent volcanic crater.



Santa Maria

On the oldest and sunniest island we find no more lakes. We provide variety by hiking around the island during 5 days. The 80 km long 'Grand Route' is very well signposted and shows us the Azores from a leisurely side. The hike goes steeply down and up, over cow pastures, through rough paths, to the sandy beach, through vineyards, up the highest mountain and through beautiful forests and landscapes. This is a very beautiful hike, but with many steep elevations and some difficult terrain. You can plan the route from hut to hut, or like us, let the hotel take us to the appropriate stations and pick us up.


Sao Miguel

The largest island, Sao Miguel, has the most variety to offer. What we notice is that the houses, unlike all the other islands, are not freshly painted and the gardens are less beautifully decorated. It all seems a bit untidy - Ponta Delgada is the only place worth seeing. There is a pedestrian zone with restaurants and (souvenir) stores and a magnificent main square. The best thing, however, is that you can find some good restaurants. The food at the Peruvian-influenced Japanese 'Otaka' was heavenly.

The visit of the crater lakes Sete Cidades is certainly a must. Unfortunately, the weather was not so good that we could have made a hike to the most beautiful viewpoint.

In Furnas, with Lago das Furnas, the earth is still quite active. It bubbles in some places and the locals bury their food in the ground, stew for a few hours and then sell or consume it in the adjacent picnic area.

In the Parques Terra Nostra we follow a 3 km long trail through the beautiful park with a huge thermal pool and a Jacuzzi where we enjoy ourselves.

In the north of the island you can find the only tea plantations in Europe.

Last but not least, we visit the picturesque Lago do Fogo in the center of the island.


Conclusion

You don't have to visit all the islands to experience the beautiful nature of the Azores. The characteristic landscapes repeat themselves again and again in one way or another. For a 2 week vacation we would probably limit ourselves to Sao Miguel, Flores/Corvo and possibly Faial or Terceira.


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