Set adrift in the Atlantic, the draw of the Azores is their remoteness and the unique landscapes this promises. Most trips here tend to centre on popular Sao Miguel or the UNESCO sights of Terceira – and we’ll take you there – but we’ll also take you further. On our Azores Grand Tour you’ll explore the secluded islands of Flores, Pico and Faial as well. Many of the sights and experiences on these lesser explored islands are completely unique.
Take Faial for example. While all of the Azore Islands are volcanic it is here that you’ll find the most memorable volcanic vistas. The eruption of Capelinhos volcano in 1958 created 2km of ash dusted earth, where today you can explore craters, cones and lava tubes. Over on Pico Island you’ll be one of the few people to taste wine grown from volcanic soil on the vineyards that climb Mont Pico, while Flores in the west is the most secluded island of the lot and promises an eden-like-interior of tumbling waterfalls, green carpeted cliffs and twinkling lagoons.
The adventure also stretches to the transport. Inter-island flights let you spot the rims of volcanic calderas, while island hopping by boat offers the chance to spot whales splashing in the waves.
Start your trip on Sao Miguel and the capital of Ponta Delgada. You'll stay for two nights at the Hotel Vila Nova, which is just minutes from the marina and the waterfront. The food and restaurants in Ponta Delgada are the best place for an introduction to Azorean cuisine - try grilled limpets with Molho Alfonso sauce, or a desert made from Sao Miguel pineapples.
Hotel Vila Nova
The highlight of any trip to Sao Miguel is to stand on the banks of Sete Cidades. These are the biggest pair of volcanic crater lakes in the Azores, although it’s their colour that brings in BBC film crews . Separated by a thin slice of land, one lake is a glowing turquoise green while the other is a deep blue. You’ll also have the opportunity to travel across the mountain roads and visit one of Sao Miguel’s famous pineapple plantations at the Vista do Rei Belvedere.
Hotel Vila Nova
Today you fly to one of the remotest islands in the world, Flores. More than one hour flight further west across the Atlantic, you’ll enjoy stunning views over what Portuguese explorers called the island of flowers. And with less than 4,000 residents you’ll have the flowers and the rest of the stunning scenery on Flores all to yourself.
The lakes, streams and waterfalls on Flores are just a little crisper and sparkle a little more than anywhere else in the Azores. Your tour will stop at the beautiful Lomba, Funda and Rasa lakes at Riberia da Cruz, as well the waterfalls at Poco da Alagoinha where a collection of streams tumble off the cliffs into a crater lake below. Time your trip between May and September and you’ll also be able to see the hydrangea covered fields that gave the island its name.
It’s back in the air for more sweeping panoramas over the islands as you head to Faial. This island was once popular with pirates but is now a favoured stopping off spot for cross-Atlantic yachts people looking to lunch. This makes Faial a great spot to try windsurfing, kayaking or any other form of splashing around in water.
Take in the best of Faial with a tour of the Valley of Flamengos and Caldeira - the highest point of the island that offers sweeping views over the Atlantic. Continue north to Capelinhos to walk across the remains of the last volcanic eruption in the Azores. Much of the land here was formed by the 1958 eruption, and the ashen coloured dirt hides not only craters and volcanic cones but also the remains of a lighthouse.
On your day trip across to Pico by ferry keep your eyes peeled on the water for whales. There is a chance to learn more about the role whaling and now whale watching has played in the life of the Azores at Pico’s whale museum. Your tour will take you up the slopes of Mont Pico, the 7,700ft retired stratovolcano that dominates the island. Here you can sample wine at the famous UNESCO heritage wine vineyards that grow in the volcanic soil, and trace tidal pools crafted by the volcano along the Misterios de Sao Joao – including plenty of opportunities to jump in.
If you didn’t see the whales yesterday on the ferry ride, your free day in Faial should be spent on a whale watching tours . The waters off the Azores are a sanctuary of marine life and you can hope to see marlin, sharks and bottlenose dolphins. But it’s the whales that remain blockbuster viewing. Blue whales and killer whales are two of the more sought after sightings, while sperm whales can be found surfing through the waves year round.
Today you’ll fly to Terceira and a three night stay at the Hotel Angra Garden. The hotel is set at the heart of the historical capital of Terceira, Angra do Herismo. This is one of the oldest settlements in the Azores, and the cobbled streets, whitewashed facades and terra cotta tiled roofs make for a picture postcard setting recognised by its UNESCO heritage listing.
Your tour of Terceira starts inside a 90 metre deep volcanic chimney. The lava tube at Algar do Carvao (summer only) was formed by receding lava thousands of years ago, and today you can step past the flowstones and stalactites to touch the burnt red walls of an extinct volcano. There is more volcanic fun at Carbito, where the eruption has served up natural swimming pools formed from black volcanic rock where you can take a dip. Your return to town will take you through the sleepy farming village of Doze Ribeiras and alongside the fishing fleet moored off Sao Mateus.
Use your free day in Terceira to take in the grandeur of Angra do Herismo. Start at the Museu de Angra do Heroismo, which details the island's role as a stopping off point for Portugal’s keenest explorers and a bolt hole for deposed Portuguese princes and kings. The 16th century Se Cathedral is also an essential stop, while cobbled Rua de Se ranks as the best place to try the local Dona Amelia cake made with honey, cinnamon and a dash of cider and a tot of port.
Your final inter-island flight takes you from Terceira across the Atlantic to Sao Miguel. You’ll enjoy a final three night stay at Hotel Talisman in the centre of historic Ponta Delgada. You’ll find modern facilities set inside a period Portuguese building, while the views from the hotel rooftop pool over the sea and mountains are truly spectacular.
On your free day in Sao Miguel head for the bubbling waters of Furnas Crater Lake and dodge the hot springs and fumaroles that burst from the ground. Take a dip in the cooler geothermal pools or try one of the local stews that is literally cooked by the volcano – the locals bury it in the ground close to the caldera.
Enjoy a tour of rural Sao Miguel, visiting picturesque villages amidst magnificent scenery. This includes a stop at the Riberia Grande tea plantation – the only such plantation in Europe. Tea picking here is a relatively simple operation, and you can watch workers hand pick leaves amidst the tea bushes or taste the local produce at the canteen.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to the UK. (B)
15 day tour, from £1899 per person
- Return flights in economy class with Sata International from London Gatwick (from Saturday - Saturday)
- All airport taxes
- Private return airport transfers
- 14 nights accommodation with breakfast in twin/double room throughout
- Guided excursions & entry fees as specified
- Ferry boat & flight tickets as specified in itinerary
- Tips and gratuities
- Meals other than specified
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