The Azores archipelago floats in the Atlantic about 1500km off the west coast of mainland Europe – next stop, America.
First colonised by Portuguese in the 15th century, the nine islands are still one of the country’s regions and often described as; to Portugal what the Canaries are to Spain. But, unlike their Spanish counterparts, the Azores were the archipelago less travelled by UK visitors until recently. Now with direct flights from the UK to São Miguel and tales of spectacular holidays drifting home, the secret’s not such a secret any more.
Direct UK flights to the Azores from April to September take just over four hours.
Temperatures in July and August between 25 and 30˚ with low rainfall and 10 hours of sunshine a day.
The lush, volcanic archipelago’s home to Portugal’s highest mountain, 2351m tall Mount Pico, and the dramatic São Jorge fissured sea cliffs.
The country’s international airport, major marina and three of its six cities are all on the main island of São Miguel.
One of the North Atlantic’s best locations for whale watching in spring and dolphin spotting all year round.
Regular ferry services connect all the Azores’s islands during summer along with direct inter-island flights from São Miguel.
The Azores has two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the landscape and vineyards of Pico; the historic centre of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira.
São Miguel might be the largest and most developed of the Azores’ islands but it still has a thrilling sense of uncharted territory that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in Europe now. There’s no mistaking the Portuguese influence in the lovely capital, Punto Delgada. It’s in everything from the easy charm of the people to the graceful, historic architecture, mosaic cobbled streets, colourful festivals and passion for good food, music and wine. But step away from the city and São Miguel quickly becomes more Hawaii than Portugal: dramatic, volcanic, dazzlingly green, flower strewn and breathtakingly beautiful.
Terceira is the Azores’ second largest island and four hours by ferry west of São Miguel. The main city, Angra do Heroismo, dates back to the 16th century and its Renaissance centre’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Azores are one of the world’s leading whale watching destinations and the island of Faial is renowned for spring sightings of migrating blue, sperm and humpback whales.
Home to the largest peak in Portugal, mighty Montanha do Pico, this dramatic little island is also where to find the Caminhos de Santa Luzia World Heritage vineyards and 5km long Gruta das Torres – the longest lava tube in the world.
Known as ‘Mother Island’, Santa Maria is the oldest in the Azores and famous for the archipelago’s best beaches like blue flag Praia Formosa and São Lourenco Bay.
As one of the world’s leading whale reserves, the Azores is outstanding for sightings during spring and many recommended companies offer a variety of experiences including multi-island cruises and scientific whale watching. Futurismo Azores Adventures
São Miguel’s a small island with an incredibly rich and diverse geography, guided day walks are one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to explore everywhere from Pico da Vara to otherworldly Sete Cidades. Geo Fun Guided Walks
Coasteering’s exhilarating anywhere with a coast, but the rugged and dramatic volcanic water’s edge round São Miguel takes the thrill to an entirely different level. Coasteering
Ideal for inexperienced riders, mountain bike day tours on São Miguel concentrate on seeing the island’s hidden secrets rather than defeating technical challenges. If kids are up for more demanding days out, guided freeride and downhill tours are available. Bike Safari
The Azores is well known for Lusitano and Cruzado horses, combine these beautifully well-behaved animals with São Miguel’s lovely summer weather and stunning scenery and riding here is unforgettable, even for complete novices. Quinta da Terca
Gorreana is one of only two tea plantations in Europe, this is a surprisingly interesting little museum and a tour of the plantation itself is good fun – even for kids. Porto Formoso
With more than 2000 trees and an immense thermal swimming pool this former 18th century estate is one of the loveliest parks in the Azores. Terra Nostra Park
The astonishing twin crater lakes at Sete Cidades are immersed in local myth and legend, start at the excellent visitor centre and learn about the geology, fables and facts surrounding this incredible natural phenomena. Sete Cidades
When kids swim with dolphins in the Azores there are no pools involved – unless you count the dolphin’s own ‘pool’ the North Atlantic. Picos de Aventura
São Miguel’s the archipelago’s larges island and it can be crossed from end to end in under two hours, so getting about in the Azores without a hired car is easy. Most experiences, tours and activities include transport. Inter-island flights operate year round and there are several ferry services during summer. Taxis are inexpensive and Ponta Delgado’s very walkable, close to main beaches and has a good bus services for longer distances.