Nine tiny islands 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 island or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites sights of Terceira – and we’ll certainly take you there – but we’ll also show you some of the lesser visited, but no less extraordinary sites of the archipelago. On our Azores Grand Tour you’ll also explore the secluded islands of Flores, Pico and Faial, each of which is home to its own array of unique natural attractions.
Start your trip on Sao Miguel in 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. Spend the rest of the day at leisure. 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.
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. The afternoon is free. (B)
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. Upon arrival into Flores Airport you will be transferred to Hotel das Flores for check in. The remainder of your day is at leisure. (B)
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. On the return to your hotel you will stop at the Caveira belvedere. (B)
It’s back in the air for more sweeping panoramas over the islands as you fly 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. Upon arrival you will be transferred to Hotel Azoris Faial Garden Resort for your 4 night stay. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
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 1957 eruption, and the ashen coloured dirt hides not only craters and volcanic cones but also the remains of a lighthouse which now houses a fascinating museum. (B,L)
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. Return to Madalena and catch your ferry back to the island of Faial. (B)
If you didn't see the whales yesterday on the ferry ride, your free day in Faial should be spent on a whale watching tour. 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 hit. 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. (B)
*Speak with your travel agent about adding on a whale watching excursion to your holiday
Today you’ll fly to Terceira for a three night stay at the Hotel Azoris 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. Upon arrival you will check in, and the remainder of your day is at leisure. (B)
Today, enjoy a full-day jeep tour around Terceira with a local driver/guide, visiting some of the hidden sites of the island. Follow coastal roads offering stunning panoramas, head inland to discover the volcanic heart of Terceira, stop at local pastures and experience milking a cow or learn how Azorean wine is made in the village of Biscoitos. For lunch, head to the islands’ best traditional Azorean restaurant and sample the delicious local dish, ‘Alcatra’ - mouth-watering beef cooked in a clay pot for 12 hours to intensify all flavours and textures. One of the many highlights of today is a visit to the ancient Algar do Carvao lava vent - a 900 metre deep volcanic chimney that reaches deep into the earth, marking the path that lava once took to reach the earth’s surface. (B,L)
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. (B)
Your final inter-island flight takes you from Terceira across the Atlantic back 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. (B)
Today has been left free so you can explore Ponta Delgada in greater depth, or venture out a bit further afield to one of the island's many attractions. Speak with your travel agent if you would like to add on an extra excursion to your holiday. (B)
Today enjoy a full day trip to Furnas, stopping at the village of Vila Franca do Campo en-route for a view of Ilheu Da Vila, the remains of an old volcano crater, where the sea has breached part of the crater wall. Continue to Furnas valley, driving past the lake to the area of geothermal activity, just north of the lake, where caldeiras bubble and smoke. Watch local people and restaurateurs dig up huge pots of cozido nas caldeiras, which you will try for lunch - mountains of thermally cooked meats and vegetables! Take a relaxing swim in the hot natural water pool at the botanical gardens before making a stop at a tea plantation on the return to Ponta Delgada. (B,L)