Portugal · 19 Days · 62 Moments · August 2012

The Azores - Pearls in the Atlantic

26 August 2012

Airport Sao Miguel In order to fly back to Europe or the U.S. we would suggest to fly back to the main island Sao Miguel. Because of flight delays that regularly occur due to bad weather conditions we decided to stay a further night on Sao Miguel (in a youth hostel in Ponta Delgada) before flying home. It was a wonderful trip, there's nothing else to say :)
The "Big" Red Desert - Deserto Vermelho Funny, because if you have a desert in mind, you wouldn't think that this place could be a desert. Actually, we were looking for something big and finally found a space that seemed to be a little bit larger than a soccer field ;) You'll find Deserto Vermelho between Anjos and Sao Pedro.
Furna de Santana Not far away from Anjos you can explore this cave on your own. You can reach it via a path that starts close to the harbor of Anjos. Sturdy shoes are recommended and don't forget torches!
Monument Christoph Columbus Actually not very spectacular, but here you'll have the chance to take a photo of Christoph Columbus, who stopped on Santa Maria after his voyage to America in 1493.

25 August 2012

Festival Maré de Agosto Coincidentally we got to be part of a well-known festival on the Azores - Festival Mare do Agosto. Local food and local musicians provided a very relaxing atmosphere. It is not really crowded, so you can lay back in the grass, have some drinks and listen to the bands.
Cascata do Aveiro This is a 110 meter high waterfall, which ends in a duck pond. It was a little bit smelly as there were quite a lot of ducks - anyway, it's a nice place to visit ;)
Farol de Goncalo Velho Farol de Goncalo Velho is located at Ponta do Castelo. We weren't too lucky with the weather that day, although Santa Maria is said to be the sunniest of the nine islands.
Bay of Sao Lorenco This beach is located in a marvelous bay with wine gardens on the hills around. You can find open sea access with nice waves, but also wave-protected zones for swimming.

24 August 2012

Casa Blanca After Pico, we moved on to the last island of our Azores trip - Santa Maria. This island is famous for the white sand beaches, because most of the beaches on the other islands are black due to the volcanic stone. A nice place to sleep is Casa Blanca hosted by a German couple.

23 August 2012

Dolphin Swimming As mentioned earlier, it is also possible to watch dolphins in their wildlife habitat and also swim with them. If you have never done this, do it. It makes you happy!
Pico Wine Museum This museum is deals with one of the most important elements of the island’s history and economy - wine. Apart from that it's a nice place to relax in a park with the biggest dragon trees I've ever seen, taste wine or buy a bottle as a souvenir.

22 August 2012

Restaurant Ancoraduro If you want to enjoy a really delicious dinner with a fantastic sea view and a breathtaking sunset, you should reserve a table in the restaurant Ancoraduro located in the outskirts of Madalena.
Whalers Museum This is nothing for whale lovers - the whalers museum. Indeed, you get a bloody insight into the cruelties of whale hunting, because this is part of the Azores' history. Nearly everyone on the Azores islands was employed in the whale hunting industry, but since the 1970s the hunting is forbidden and only the closed-down factories remain.
Whales, dolphins and other sea animals Pico is a famous spot for observing sea animals in wild life. You can not only watch whales or dolphins, but also with sharks! Near the Church of Madalena you find numerous diving schools. We chose CW Azores.

21 August 2012

Restaurant Casa do Poco A nice restaurant, also not far away from the accommodation in Sao Roque do Pico. It looks like a normal house and is therefore not too easy to find, but definitely worth a visit!
Mount Pico With a height of 2.351 meters Mount Pico is not only by far the highest mountain on the Azores, but also of entire Portugal. From the base station you still have to hike 1.200 meters, but it is definitely worth it. Special fact: On top of the mountain (actually it is a volcano) there is another tiny crater located on the plateau of the first bigger crater. Different from the big crater there is not really a track to walk on on this second one - it is indeed more climbing than walking. Still if you really make it to the top you have a mind-blowing view - a 360° view over the whole island and the Atlantic ocean.

20 August 2012

Peter Sports Cafè If you are on Faial you should visit the Peter Sports Cafè. Despite all travel guides saying that it is very touristic, the Cafè preserved its charm and tradition. It was and is a place for sailors who are spending most of the year on their boats.
Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Center If you an extra day or just some hours you should spend your time at the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Center. The museum is interestingly related to the architecture of the building (integrated in the volcanic ground) and the historic backgrounds given. The highlight of the tour though, is the overwhelming volcanic scenery, as you can walk on different tracks through the volcanic setting.
Ferry to Faial Faial island was not one of the main islands to see on our trip, but if you are already on Pico, it makes sense to start at least a day trip to Faial to see some extraordinary sights. Daily, there are several ferries going from the harbor in Madalena (Pico) to Horta (Faial).

19 August 2012

Vineyard landscape of Criação Velha The landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. The origins of this viniculture date back to the 15th century, but still today wine grapes and other fruits grow at this special place.
Gruta das Torres A must-see on Pico is the Gruta das Torres, the largest lava tunnel known to exist on the Azores. It has a total length of roughly 5,150 meters and a maximum height of 15 meters. Prior to the guided tour visitors are shown a short film about the geological history of Pico. Afterwards you explore the tunnel system of the cave, you also experience complete darkness for some moments. Sturdy shoes are recommended.

18 August 2012

Festival at the seaside of Sao Roque do Pico It's always a good idea to talk to the local peaple. We wouldn't have heard about this small festivity at the sea otherwise. We really enjoyed the tasty snacks there, the Azorean Bands with the sound of the sea in the background accompanied by a nice sunset - one of the great unplanned moments during our stay.
Quinta da Ribeira da Urze Next to the small village Sao Roque do Pico we found a nice accommodation. The house itself is typical for Pico, because it is made out of lava stones. The house provides everything you need: a large kitchen, living room, TV, shower, two bedrooms - and of course a very nice host.
Ferry from Faial to Pico After we left Flores, we took a flight to Faial island. From there we took the ferry to our next destination - Pico. The impressive Mount Pico can already be seen from afar! The ferry ride takes only about half an hour.

17 August 2012

Fabulous Dinner What a dinner!! If you are surprisingly on Flores you have to visit this restaurant. Note: You have to book a table at least one day in advance. After this step, you should be prepared for food heaven, and the prices are ridiculous compared to the amount of food and drinks you get. It is some sort of All-You-Can-Eat-And-Drink ;). Unfortunately we don't remember the name of the Restaurant, but we are sure, that the inhabitants there will know and will recommend it.
From The East to the South Heading from the North of the island to the East, you have a great view down to the capital of Flores: Santa Cruz das Flores. Before you reach the city you find Porto do Boqueirao next to an abandoned whale factory. Here you can experience the wilderness of the sea while climbing around extrusive rocks.
Miradouro de Ponta Delgada & Lighthouse at Ponta Delgada At the North-Western peak of the island you have two opportunities to see the smallest of nine Azores islands Corvo. Actually, this island is more or less one volcano. The Miradouro next to the capital city of Flores leads to a track down to the ocean where you have a beautiful view of the rough coast line.
Other Lakes in The Center of the Island Apart from Caldeira Funda and Rasa there are some more beautiful lakes on the central plateau of Flores in the Reserva Florestal Natural do Morro Alto e Pico da Se: Caldeira Comprida, Caldaira Negra, Caldeira Branca and the dried-up lake Caldeira Seca.
Morro Alto The highest point of Flores is Morro Alto with an altitude of 914 meters. It can be reached by car and worth a visit as you have a nice panoramic view of the whole island and the neighboring Island Corvo, the smallest of the Azorean islands.
Caldeira Funda & Rasa Not only on Sao Miguel you can find a blue and a green lake next to each other, but also on Fores. They are called Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Rasa, which are too originally volcano craters. Like everywhere on the Azores you can see the wonderful hydrangea in different colors, but you should not come to the Azores later than August, because then you can't see the flowers in all their beauty anymore.

16 August 2012

Westernmost Point of Europe - Faja Grande Fajã Grande is a rural civil parish in the municipality of Lajes das Flores in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. If you have time, stay until the evening and watch the sunset!
Rocha dos Bordoes This spot is a stunning nature attraction. The impressive basaltic columns of this rock reach up to 28 meters and therefore belong to the highest in the wold.
Cascata do Poço do Bacalhau in Faja Grande On the west side of the island you will find the highest waterfalls on the Azores. There are several ones to see, but one waterfall has a walking track for better access. If there is not enough water in the river it is a fascinating phenomenon to see the waterfall not reaching the ground, because of the strong winds. Instead the water is evaporating and if the sun is shining you can also see a nice rainbow.
Cascata da Ribeira Grande A nice stopover are the waterfalls near Ribeira Grande. On our stop it was definitely fascinating to observe how the wind cut through the waterfalls so it seemed the falls were not really floating to earth, but up in the air. Maybe you are lucky enough to see this miracle too :)
Faja de Lopo Faz In the south of the island you will find the most beautiful and wildest coastline of Flores. There is a rough track to climb down the steep cliffs (about 30 minutes walk, up a little bit longer), but it is definitely worth to stay for a while, either to play with the endless volcano rocks on the beach or just watch the fascinating wildness of the waves that break against the massive rocks.

15 August 2012

Vivenda Flores If you want to stay for one or several nights on Flores - the flower island - you can have a nice and calm stay in Vivenda Flores. Easy to find and located next to the main road (still not that much traffic) and only a 20 minutes drive from the airport it is the ideal place to explore the island. There is at least place for 9 people, separated in three houses. All of them provide showers and small kitchen. There are several spots to have a barbecue and the best: there is a large, self-cleaning swimming pool and enough deck chairs to enjoy the sun.

14 August 2012

Shopping! - A rare experience on the Azores ... Parque Atlantico is the only shopping centre on the Azores. There are many fashion shops, food spots and also a cinema, mostly with movies in Portuguese, but also some in English. The prices are relatively cheap in comparison to Middle Europe.
S. Miguel Park Hotel***, Ponta Delgada After our flight to the second island on our Azores trip was cancelled due to bad weather conditions - thanks to the nice airport service, we got a hotel coupon for free. The hotel is located near the city centre of Ponta Delgada. Worth to be mentioned is the extensive lunch and dinner buffet that offers something for every taste.

13 August 2012

Church Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz This is a famous pilgrimage church on Sao Miguel, located on a hill. To reach it, you have to climb up many, many stairs - and when you're there, do it! The view from up there is great!
Ilhéu de Vila Franca The most spectacular beach on Sao Miguel is located on a very small island nearby Vila Franca do Campo, which can be reached with a boat of "Cruzero do Ilhéu". Originally it is a crater, like many things on the Azores which only exist because of the volcanic activity. In the middle of the crater there is a small lake with a narrow entrance to the ocean. On the sides of the crater you can enjoy the day. The place is also famous for the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship.

12 August 2012

Mulher de Capote in Ribeira Grande Ribeira Grade is not only a nice city, it also hosts a liqueur manufacture called Mulher de Capote. You can taste so many liqueurs for free that you are definitely not able to drive afterwards ...
Chá Gorreana - The only tea spot in Europe! The tea plantation "Cha Gorreana" is a MUST-SEE on the Azores. It is one of the rare tea plantations in Europe. You can watch the tea production all the way from the tea plant to the finished tea bags. After the tour you can taste as much as many different flavors as you like and of course there is a shop where you can buy some tea as souvenir. It's a funny feeling that you can visit the production plant while they really work in there.
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiros Part of our Northern tour was a wonderful waterfall where you can climb along a more or less paved trek to the top with a stunning view. If you are really brave you can walk till the the edge and look down to the bottom of the waterfall.
Miradouro Despe-te-que-Suas Another nice Miradouro near Nordeste, that offers a great view and beautiful impressions of the Azorean nature.
Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada One of the great viewpoints along the way. Very typical on the islands: lots of places, where you can have a picnic or a barbecue surrounded by wild nature next to the steep coast.

11 August 2012

Cozido In Furnas many restaurants offer the special "Cozido". So there is no need to choose a special restaurant. The source of all Cozidos is the lake Furnas. In a Cozido pot you'll find different meats and vegetables.
Terra Nostra Garden The "Terra Nostra Garden" offers not only wonderful flora with numerous flowers and plants, but also a hot-iron-pool. You think you'll get dirty... which is true, but there are of course showers to clean up after swimming.
Lagoa das Furnas In the south of the lake you find the wonderful old chapel Ermida da Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, in the north you find sulfur springs and lots of holes in which the traditional hotpot "Cozido" is cooked. After a few hours of steam-cooking you can enjoy your first Azorean Cozido in one of the restaurants that are located in that region.
Sulfur Springs in Furnas When you pass by Furnas you will quickly notice the so-called "Caldeiras" (because of the sulfur smell and the ascending fume). In the surroundings of the Furnas you can find lots of further evidence for the volcanic origin of the islands (for example around Lagoa das Furnas or the Terra Nostra Park).

10 August 2012

Dinner at Restaurante Garajau One of the nicest restaurants on our Azores trip in a small fisher village with the most creative menus that we have seen so far ... Menu in a Bottle :)
Historic city of Ponta Delgada Ponta Delgada is by far the largest city on the Azores. Therefore you will find most of the people here, although the city offers not really much to see. It's still worth a visit to stroll around one afternoon.
Lagoa do Fogo Sometimes you can be lucky and there won't be fog hovering over this lake. Still, this is not why this lake is called "Lagoa do Fogo" cause "Fogo" means fire. It's because the lake is located in the crater of an extinct volcano.
Caldeira Velha Between Ribeira Grande and Lagoa do Fogo you have the opportunity to visit "Caldeira Velha", a pool of warm mineral water under a waterfall in a forest. On your walk to that nice spot, you see lots of plants and flowers and you have the chance to make a short side trip to see some fumaroles and a caldeira with boiling water. It will take you less than 30 minutes to get from the parking area to Caldeira Velha, so it's not a too exhausting walk ;)
Miradouro de Santa Iria You'll find many so-called "Miradouros" on your way (on all of the Azorean Islands). They are lookouts or viewpoints and definitely worth stopping for taking a photo. One of them is the Miradouro de Santa Iria with a beautiful view over the costal landscape and the ocean.

9 August 2012

Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos in Agua de Pau If you are lucky you can be part of Christian celebrations around August that take place in different villages on Sao Miguel. We enjoyed the preparations for one of them in Agua de Pau. It was called: Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos. During the preparations young men of the village put up strings of lights along the streets and they decorated the whole church with them on very long, wobbly ladders. Lots of inhabitants were on the streets to help, to watch what was going on and to have a good time together – even before the celebrations really started.
Dinner in Lagoa at Borda d'Agua The small, but comfortable restaurant Borda d'Agua is like many restaurants on the Azores famous for their fish and sea food dishes and comparatively cheap. You can enjoy your meal indoors or outdoors. Specialty are shrimps!
Praia de Água d'Alto On the next day we enjoyed our holidays in the sun at one of the best beaches of Sao Miguel, Praia de Baia d'Alto. The beach is located next to one of the rare hotels of Sao Miguel (Hotel Bahia Palace, 4****). Overall, there is a good mix of white and dark-sanded beaches on the Azores, some more fine-grained, some more rocky. Furthermore most of the time you have powerful, but not too dangerous waves to play with :)
Beach in Ribeira das Tainhas In Ribeira das Tainhas you can find a small picnic area above a lonely beach with black sand. You have to take a lot of stairs to get down to this beach, from where you can see the Island Ilhéu de Vila Franco (see Day 7).

8 August 2012

Sunset at Mosteiros Beach If you are fit enough after the crater trip you should drive to Ponta dos Mosteiros where you'll find a black volcano beach. It's a bit rocky, but definitely worth spending some time before and around sunset.
Lagoa das Sete Cidades One of the highlights of Sao Miguel are the crater lakes "Lagoa Azul" and "Lagoa Verde". They got their name cause of their blue and green color if the sun angle is right. But please note: The lakes are not good for swimming (water quality!). However, it is a great experience to walk around the rim of the big crater. It took us approximately five to six hours (length is about 15 kilometers). The tour is so great because you pass different sceneries. You walk through forests, climb up small mountains (on paved tracks) and have different views on the two lakes and smaller craters, but also on the sea which you can see from the higher peaks on the track.
Arrival at Carla's place in Provoacao If you are on the largest of the nine islands (Sao Miguel), we can highly recommend to stay at Carla's place (Found at Airbnb.com), which can be reached within 50 minutes from the airport. On the way to Carla's place you get first impressions of the richness of plants here, especially of all the beautiful hydrangeas and the wild ginger which grow right alongside the streets. Carla's house is modern, but also traditional and comfortable. To describe it in one word: Fantastic! Great living room. Great bathrooms (yes plural!). Great kitchen. Beautiful sea view. And Carla is a wonderful host. Her breakfast is great, including tasty cakes, fresh bread and if you are lucky, you'll get a delicious dinner too. Good coffee and maybe some good port wine in the evening. There is nothing more to say!
Transportation To get from one island to the other we suggest to make use of Inner-Azorean flights (except between Fajal and Pico, here the ferry with a traveling time of about 30 minutes is the best option). Ferries also link all islands but it takes quite a long time to get from certain islands to the others. To get around on the islands themselves we'd recommend to rent a car – it's good to be flexible on the Azores. Whatever means of transport you prefer, if you want to visit several islands you should plan your trip carefully and in advance. Flights and ferries do not operate every day between all of the islands, so check carefully. Anyway, we'd suggest to rent the cars and book all flights quite some time prior to the start of your trip.