Each of the nine volcanic islands collectively known as the Azores is a unique and beautiful destination worth exploring. Nearly 1,000 miles from mainland Portugal, these remote and picturesque islands are well worth the trip. Let's take a look at the best things to see and do on each island in the Azores.
The largest of all the Azores, Sao Miguel offers plenty to keep visitors entertained. In the center of the island, you'll find Lagoa do Fogo, a sparkling lake hidden away in the center of a dormant volcano. The views here are breathtaking, and the setting is immaculate. It's the perfect spot for reconnecting with nature.
At Terra Nostra Park, visitors while the hours away in a thermal lake, surrounded by gorgeous flowers and trees. The town of Furnas also has hot springs that bubble up from the earth, and occasionally erupt in fantastic geysers.
Most come to Sao Miguel to relax, but if you're after something a bit more cosmopolitan, then be sure to spend some time in Ponta Delgada, the island's capital city. Here, you'll find ancient cobblestone streets and historic architecture side-by-side with a thoroughly modern marina, cutting-edge restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.
The island of Santa Maria is only a short plane ride from Sao Miguel, and it is definitely worth the trip. The climate here is hot and dry year-round, so it's a great place to escape the winter. Maia and St. Lourenco Bays are two of the island's finest, but golden beaches abound here, and the island has miles of pristine shoreline.
The village of Anjos is a must for history buffs: it was a stop on Christopher Columbus's return voyage from the Americas. Santo Espirito village is the very picture of pastoral charm, with its quaint little church and rolling fields.
Terciera is the Azores' third-largest island, and there's plenty to see here. At Monte Brasil, hikers are treated to sweeping vistas of the nearby city and the sparkling ocean. The grottoes of Algar do Carvao are lava tubes filled with stunning mineralogical formations, and crystalline pools of water.
At Sao Joao Baptista do Monte Brasil, visitors step back in time to an era when the threat of pirate raids was very real. In response, the Portuguese crown commissioned several forts to be built, in order to aid in the islands' defense. This is one of the most formidable forts, and the best maintained. Its ornate porticoes and impenetrable volcanic bastions are definitely worth slotting into your travel itinerary.
This small island is full of caverns to be explored, reefs to visit, and landscapes that simply shouldn't be missed. Active vacationers enjoy hiking to Timao summit, and students of history marvel at the collection contained in the Graciosa Museum, a former warehouse now dedicated to showcasing the relics of the island's whaling and winemaking trades.
On the island of Sao Jorge, sightseers marvel at the beauty of the island's many hiking trails, and stare in wonder at the remains of an ancient church that was buried by volcanic eruptions at Urzelina.
Pico's coast is dotted with natural swimming holes and sandy beaches. Scuba divers love the crystal-clear waters that surround this island, and whale-watchers embark daily from Madalena, Santo Amaro, and Lajes.
The "Blue Island" is thusly called because of its abundance of hydrangeas. The Portuguese and Flemish originally settled the island, and many examples of historic architecture can still be found, some of which are partially buried by volcanic activity.
Faial is a hotspot for geology enthusiasts, who find the caves and lava arches of Lajinha and Ponta Furada to be quite enthralling. The scrimshaw museum houses more than 100 ornate examples of the craft, and is certainly worth a visit.
This aptly named island is positively brimming with wildflowers - both native varieties, and others that have been naturalized over the centuries. Other attractions include the hot springs of Aquas Quentes, the waterfalls at Ribiera Grande, and the picture-perfect village of Fajazinha.
This tiny island has only 400 inhabitants, but it is still a great place to visit. The Caldiero is the crater left by the volcano that birthed the island. At its bottom are two shining blue lakes, full of tiny volcanic islands. The island is also home to Vila do Corvo, a village where the pace of life is slow and relaxing, and where the locals are helpful and friendly.
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