Experience 4 beautiful islands within the Azores on this exciting fly drive holiday. See dazzling geysers, mineral hot spring and extinct volcano craters. Bathe in a natural hot water swimming pool, taste traditional Azorean food and wine, and go in search of whales and dolphins by boat. Travel at your own pace through the route detailed below, witnessing volcanoes, lakes and awe inspiring scenery along the way. Hotel accommodation is included throughout as well as internal flights and ferry transfers to each of the islands. This is a great way to explore the Azores independently, with services such as hotels and inter-island transfers pre-arranged for you.
Fly to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island and meet with your local representative to pick up your hire car and confirmation of internal flights. Drive to Hotel Sao Miguel Park and check in for 3 nights. Spend the rest of the day at leisure.
After breakfast, drive to the Sete Cidades Massif, an extinct volcano crater of 25 square miles, within two emerald green and aquamarine lakes. Visit Ferraria in the south west of the island with its thermal springs and spa. On the return to Ponta Delgada visit the Gruta do Carvao, the longest lava tunnel in Sao Miguel, measuring 1912 metres. The cave’s age is between 5000 and 12000 years old, and is classified as a Regional Natural Monument. (B)
Drive to the village of Lagoa and visit the OVGA (Volcanology Centre), the science centre for applied research and scientific dissemination in the field of volcanology, seismology and geothermal energy. Learn about the Azores' volcanic history before visiting an actual volcano at Furnas, a village with two ancient calderas, and the beautiful Lagoadas Furnas Lake. You'll have the opportunity to a traditional meal called "cozido" cooked using the underground vapours of the volcano. This is slow cooking at its slowest, 7-8 hours, makes for a very tender stew of pork, chicken, chorizo and black pudding, layered with as many vegetables as you can fit in the pot. Visit the fumerols and the hot springs in the centre of the village, or enjoy a stroll through the botanical garden of Terra Nostra with its large natural, warm water swimming pool. On the way back to Ponta Delgada drive to the top of the mountain of Lagoado Fogo, the central volcano on the island, for an amazing view. Stop for a swim at Caldeira Velha, a natural tepid water swimming pool. (B)
After breakfast, drive to the airport and drop off your car before boarding the flight to Terceira. On arrival collect your car and drive to the Hotel Praia Marina. Check in for 2 nights.
Drive to Angrado Heroismo, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful town seemingly untouched by time. It has a wealth of former palaces and noble houses with a few old buildings that have been left to decay, making the restored ones appear even more pristine. Being on the sailing routes from the spice rich Indies and later, the Brazilian sugar plantations, the wealth of the island ebbed and flowed according to the desirability of this commodity. Sugar, far from being the ‘poison’ it is today, was the gold of the 16-17th century. A whole industry grew up around the delicate, sweet pastries and the sugar ‘promises’ Alfarins from Arabic, given in thanks for answered prayers. Stroll through its cobbled streets and enjoy the view of Monte Brasil across the harbour. Perhaps then drive to Monte Brasil and marvel at the extinct volcano that emerged naturally from the sea and joined the city of Angrado Heroísmo. (B)
The landscape on Terceira is parcelled up in to tiny pastures enclosed with volcanic dry stone walls. Small scale dairy farming is the norm with portable milking machines and old fashioned churns. Competition is strong between villages and within villages for the best painted house - not only white washed but with perfectly edged window frames highlighted in contrasting colours. There are gaudily painted chapels with colours more reminiscent of India than Europe.
Drive to Serrado Cume, an amazing viewpoint from which to take in the landscape, locally known as the ‘Patchwork Quilt’. Visit the Algardo Carvao, an ancient lava tube located in the centre of the island. Considered a geological Nature Reserve, it has an altitude of about 550 metres above sea level, with majestic stalactites and stalagmites and a pool of crystal clear water. Then, visit the Natal Cave (just 10 minutes drive away), an extensive geological formation composed by fluid lavas solidified that formed several tunnels, ramifications and stalactites. (B)
After breakfast, drive to the airport for your flight to Pico. On arrival, collect your car and drive to Hotel Caravelas. Check in for 2 nights. (B)
Today, explore the amazing sites of beautiful Pico island. Geologically the youngest island in the Azores, its active volcano is the highest point in the country with an altitude of 2351 metres and is visible from everywhere.
Drive through Criacao Velha and Santa Luzia for an impressive view across the island and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Currais, where you can see walled enclosures built by hand with volcanic stone to protect the thousands of vineyards scattered across Pico from the salty Atlantic winds. Brought in by a monk in the 16th century, wine production has remained the chief source of income on Pico. Finding sufficient soil for the vine roots and keeping the whole vineyard irrigated is no small task.
Enjoy a stop at Adega da Buraca for wine tasting and sample other local products like a delicious blackberry liqueur. Here, the struggle of man against the elements is vividly displayed at the wine museum. Visit Grutadas Torres in Criacao Velha and marvel at the 5 kilometre long cave with its enormous stalactites and lava stalagmites and lava balls. Leave some time for the Whaling Museum, located in a former whale processing works. Whaling was another source of income on Pico until 1987, where they especially hunted for sperm whale for the rich oil contained in their heads. You will be left torn between the barbaric killing of these magnificent creatures and the bravery of men so desperate to support their families that they risked all for little financial reward. (B)
This morning, drop off your car at the harbour before boarding the ferry to Faial Island. Collect another car on arrival and drive to the Hotel Canal or similar. Check in for 2 nights. Spend some time sipping an alcoholic beverage in Peter’s Café Sport on the harbour - a favourite haunt of tourists and sailors alike. Faial’s safe harbour offers sanctuary to yachts from the Atlantic waves and is a very popular stop off point for yachts crossing the Atlantic. Leisure and business have thrived on this constant stream of global visitors and legends have grown up such as the mural paintings around the harbour to ensure safe onward passage. Visit the Cabeco Gordo Cauldron, which marks the highest point of the island at 1043 metres above sea level and offers awe inspiring views of Faial and the ocean. (B)
Drive to Capelinhos, situated in the Capelo volcanic complex and the last volcano in the Azores to erupt, in 1957. Visit the Capelinhos Lighthouse which offers excellent panoramic views of the volcano extension and its rare beauty. It was here that the eruption started and the scenery provides a stark reminder of how the earth is constantly evolving and that the Azores Archipelago is sitting on a very hot spot in the Atlantic Ocean. Today, the former living quarters of the lighthouse have been turned into the Interpretation Centre which provides detail about the eruption and the history of volcanic activity on Faial. (B)
After breakfast, drop off the car at the airport before your flight back to the UK. (B)