Set in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores feel a world away from mainland Portugal. From dramatic landscapes to lake-filled calderas, the nine islands make any visitor feel like they’re truly getting back to nature. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, then the Azores offer the perfect escape for you to rest and recharge.
To get to this island paradise, fly direct, or if you fancy a few days in the city first, you can book a cheap flight from Lisbon. There are plenty of luxury hotels available across the islands, including an eco resort on Sāo Miguel and a boutique spa on Lagoa. But whilst accommodation is important, it’s how you spend your days that will make lasting memories. Here, we look at four activities that will have you dreaming of a break to this gorgeous Portuguese archipelago.
#1 Take a Jeep Tour
The Azores are a volcanic archipelago, and they’re known for their spellbinding landscapes, mountains and waterfalls. Whilst you can hike around your chosen island, for those who prefer to take a more leisurely approach, why not book a Jeep tour? You’ll see much more than you would on foot, and you’ll benefit from having a guide who can show you remote villages that you might not have found yourself. Some tours even include a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, so you can really get a taste of island life.
#2 Wine Tasting
If your ideal holiday activity is wine tasting, then you’re in for a treat in the Azores. Pico Island is known for its viticulture and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site as a result. The volcanic soil gives the wine a distinct taste, and the most popular grapes are Azores arinto, verdelho and pico terrantez, which are all white. Beyond just tasting, make sure to visit a vineyard to see the local technique of growing the vines in ‘currais’, which are areas separated by stacks of stone to protect the plants from any harsh island weather.
#3 Poça da Dona Beija
If it’s a local spa experience that you’re after, then you’re in luck. Being a volcanic island, Sāo Miguel benefits from thermal hot springs that have pooled to create natural thermal baths. The rich orange shade of the water might put you off at first, but it’s just the iron, which actually offers some health benefits. These baths are outside too, which means that you can relax and enjoy the beautiful views as you feel your aches and pains wash away.
#4 Whale Watching
Whale watching is one of those activities that can be ethically problematic, but in the Azores they have strict rules in place to keep the wildlife happy. You’ll be heading out in a small RIB boat, so as to cause as little disruption to the water as possible, and boats have to come side-on to a whale rather than from behind so as not to surprise them. Boats must also must stay a certain distance away and can only stay with the same whale for half an hour maximum.
All of these precautions mean that you feel reassured when booking a trip to see these gorgeous animals. There are several small family run firms in the Azores, so book early to get a local guide who can really enhance your experience.