The nine islands that make up the Azores, a nature-rich Portuguese archipelago nestled in the heart of the Atlantic, mark the westernmost boundary of Europe. Just a four-hour flight from the UK, the archipelagos spans the Mid-Atlantic Ridge around 900 miles west of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Their volcanic origins are clear – deep craters or calderas dominate the landscape, making holidays here a walker’s paradise. Although summers are not stifling, the temperature averages an exceptionally pleasant 23oC. Due to the year-round sub-tropical climate, the islands are covered in lush, green vegetation and vibrant flowers, helped also by the volcanic soil.
Each island has its own unique cultural heritage, but they all share unspoilt nature and a traditional way of life. Travel between each island is easy, with short flights and ferry journeys connecting nearby neighbours regularly. Car hire is available everywhere and roads are open, traffic-free and boast spectacular countryside or ocean views, making an island-hopping fly-drive holiday the perfect way to explore three or more of the islands. Discover Sao Miguel, the ‘green island’, with its landscape packed with volcanic lakes, rugged coastlines and steaming thermal hot springs, Terciera with it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic city, Angra do Heroismo, or Santa Maria, the most temperate island and Christopher Columbus’ first stop on his voyage back from discovering the New World.
The Azores sit on the migration route of many species of cetacean, making it one of the best places in the world for whale watching. For the best opportunity to see humpback of blue whales, visit between February and April when they are migrating through the islands. Between May and August, the countryside comes alive with colour, as the famous hydrangeas bloom in bold pinks and blues.