Simply put, the Azores islands are unlike any other place in the world. They're an ideal vacation destination for those seeking to escape the winter, or to forget about the workaday blues in a hurry. Here are some of the best tours and attractions that these islands have to offer.
Caledeira das Sete Cidades - According to legend, this was once the site of seven towns, all of which sank beneath the water. The Caldiera is home to twin lakes, one a brilliant green, and the other a sparkling blue. Jeep tours take guests to the Calediera in style, giving them the chance to concentrate on the scenery while relaxing. It is truly awe-inspiring.
Furnas - On the island of Sao Miguel is a little town called Furnas. This romantic getaway is full of hot springs, and locals use the heat of the ground to slow-cook meals. To get a taste of the local custom, visitors are welcome to use the ground ovens as well. Pack your swimwear and spend some time in the warm pool at Terra Nostra, where you'll be surrounded by verdant gardens.
Capelinhos - This graceful peninsula on the island of Faial was formed not so long ago by a volcanic eruption. Visitors here get a glimpse into how the islands themselves were formed, and how they must have looked until the local flora and fauna populated them. It is truly a sight to see.
Graciosa - This small island is full of caverns to be explored, reefs to dive, and landscapes to marvel at. 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.
Algar do Carvao - This is the only place in the world where you can actually step inside a volcano. Don't worry; this one's not active. At the bottom of the cave, you'll find a lake formed over eons by the water trickling down through the earth. Despite its awesome beauty, this place is rarely crowded, so it?s the perfect spot for some quiet contemplation.
Baixa do Ambrosio - This marine reserve is one of the most popular SCUBA diving sites in the Azores, and it's easy to see why. Divers here encounter Devil Rays, schools of Bluefish, and even Yellowmouth Barracudas. Novice explorers may prefer to snorkel near the surface, but more advanced dives are definitely a possibility.
Pestana Gramacho Resort Golf Course - Many golf enthusiasts say the course at Pestana Gramacho Resort is one of the most beautiful courses in the Azores. This secluded course is challenging yet accessible, and friendly, knowledgeable help always staffs the clubhouse.
Octopus Diving Center - If you're eager to explore the crystal blue waters of the Azores, but nervous about taking your maiden voyage, then Octopus Diving Center of Terceira is a wonderful place to start. The patient and good-natured diving instructors will make sure you're ready, before taking you on your first spectacular dive.
Whale Watching With HortaCetaceos - Known as one of the premiere whale watching excursion companies in the Azores, HortaCetaceos receives rave reviews from lovers of marine life. The guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and guests always come away from the experience with pictures to show, and stories to tell.
Things to Do in Azores
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.
Sao Miguel - 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.
Santa Maria - 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 - 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.
Graciosa - 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.
Sao Jorge - 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 - 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.
Faial - 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.
Flores - 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.
Corvo - 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.
What to Expect from the Weather in Azores
The islands of Portugal's Azores archipelago are a popular Portugal vacation destination for many reasons, not the least of which is the wonderful weather you'll find on a trip there. Let's take a look at the Azores weather and climate to help determine the best time to visit Portugal for your planned tours and travels.
The waters surrounding the islands of Azores are kept warm by the Gulf Stream. The best month for swimming is August, when the ocean is the warmest.
The islands' position at approximately the same latitude as Lisbon, Portugal gives them each a very temperate climate. In terms of the general climate, the islands are classified as "dry-summer subtropical."
Average high temperatures from July through October are in the mid-70s Fahrenheit, and they rarely dip below 50 degrees, even during the coldest months (December through March). With an overall average yearly high temperature of 67 degrees, and an average low temperature of about 58 degrees, you probably won't need your parka while on the Azores islands.
The Azores Islands are surrounded on all sides by the mighty Atlantic Ocean, so rainfall is fairly frequent there. No matter when you visit, you'd be wise to pack a rain jacket, just in case. The least rainy month on the islands has historically been July, when average monthly rainfall is just over an inch. June comes in second in terms of average sunny days, and typically receives just under two inches of precipitation. The wettest months are, in order, December, with 5.4 inches average rainfall; November, with just over 5 inches; October; January; and February.
Also, bear in mind that if it's raining on one side of the island you're on, it may be perfectly sunny on the other side. Consider escaping the drizzle by hopping in your rental car, and taking a short drive. Our tips on Driving in the Azores page is a great place to start.
Best Time to Visit Azores
There really isn't a bad time to take a trip to the Azores. Summer is perfect for spending your days on the beach, SCUBA diving, and whale watching. The spring is when all the azaleas are in full bloom, and the air is filled with a truly wonderful fragrance. The autumn and winter months are slightly cooler than the summer months, but not by much. True, you'll experience more rainy days, but you'll also get plenty of sun, and your visit may feel a bit more authentic for the lack of other visitors. Whenever you choose to visit, Azores is truly a paradise any time of the year.
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