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Travel to the Azores Islands

Travel to the Azore Islands
Travel to the Azore Islands
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Step back in time in the Azores Islands where you'll find quaint fishing villages with historic churches. The Azores have something for everybody - whether you're a culinary connoisseur, history nerd, architecture aficionado, whale watcher, wine or nature lover - the Azores will astonish you!

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Read her article about her travels below:

The Astonishing Azores

By Michelle Newman

Step back in time in the Azores Islands - here you’ll find quaint fishing villages that haven’t changed much since the 17th century; Baroque churches, monumental forts built to protect against pirate attacks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the happiest cows on the planet.

The Azores have something for everybody - whether you're a culinary connoisseur, history nerd, architecture aficionado, whale watcher, wine or nature lover outdoorsman.

The Azores Islands is an archipelago comprised of nine islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I recently visited São Miguel and Terceira Islands, the two largest islands in the chain. It really doesn’t matter what time of year you visit because the weather is pleasant year round. It’s hard to imagine that departing from Boston, you touch down in the Azores Islands in only four hours aboard Azores Airlines! Or better yet, fly TAP Air Portugal to Lisbon and take advantage of their generous 5-night Stopover Program with no extra fees incurred. Take in some serious sightseeing around Lisbon before heading over to the Azores. This is a great way to recover from jet lag while seeing Lisbon’s highlights and squeezing in a trip to Sintra, the Portuguese Beverly Hills, with its drop dead gorgeous palaces, villas and fairy tale castles.


Settled in the 1440s, Terceira Island and its port city capital, Angra do Heroismo, were important commercial and shipping centers in the 15th and 16th century. Ships stopped here to restock their provisions and get repaired. Vasco da Gama stopped in the Azores on his return trip from India. Portuguese ships laden with precious cargo -- gold, silver, luxurious silks from India, precious Brazilian woods, exotic spices from its colonies and more -- stopped in the Azores to catch favorable winds to sail back to the Portuguese mainland. At one time, the wealth of the world flowed through the Azores, leading to great prosperity for the islands. That, of course, attracted pirates! Forts were built to protect the harbor from invasions. Visitors can stay at Pousada de São Sebastião, a restored 17th century fort overlooking the Bay of Angra and catch glorious sunrises overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Surprisingly, The Azores and America share a strong historic connection. The Portuguese were such exceptional sailors, fishermen and whalers that in the 18th century, American whaling companies recruited them to join their fleets. Many New Englanders, especially those from the coastal areas of Massachusetts, can trace their roots and ancestry back to the Azores and the golden age of whaling. These New England fishermen are very proud of their Azorean roots and heritage. Back in the day, during the peak of the golden age of whaling, Portuguese sailors were known for their outstanding scrimshaw carvings. There’s even a scrimshaw museum on Faial Island showcasing this dying art.


There are tons of outdoor activities for the active traveler in the Azores. Between whale watching, scuba diving, surfing, fishing, volcano hiking and mountain biking, there’s no way outdoor enthusiasts will be bored.

Adrenaline junkies will get their hearts pumping at Algar do Carvão - descending nearly 300 feet into the bowls of the earth into the mouth of a dormant volcano where they will see silica stalactites and underground lakes. This is an amazing caving adventure and a rare opportunity to explore an ancient lava tube, even if you’re not the big outdoor type.

The Azores are sort of like the Hawaii of the Atlantic - - they are so similar that I had to pinch my self several times to make sure that I was in the Azores and not experiencing Hawaiian deja vu. There are so many similarities like the lush green foliage, fertile volcanic valleys and big waves crashing along the rugged coastline - and of course the year-round mild climate, although the Azores are a bit brisker than the Hawaiian Isles.

The village of Furnas’ eerie steamy streetscapes are an amazing natural phenomenon to witness. In many ways it resembles surreal lunar landscape. The village is built inside of a crater, so it’s not surprising that day and night, plumes of steam billow from mud pools in the middle of town creating a mystical ambiance and aura.

Sete Cidades panoramic views are picture postcard pretty. There are two co-mingled craters - one is blue and one is green in this dual lake inside of a volcanic crater.

Jumbo waves come crashing ashore at the natural pools formed by ancient volcanic eruptions at Piscina Naturais dos Biscoitos. The area is named after either biscuits that Portuguese sailors used to take out to sea with them, of the volcanic rocks on the seaside.

Forget going to an indoor spa when there’s Poça da D. Beija, natural outdoor thermal pools. Here you can relax and soak in a breathtakingly beautiful setting surrounded by lush landscaping, towering fern tees and natural rock formations.


Like fresh seafood & fish? How about some eel, limpets, octopus or Espada (Scabbard)? You’ll find plenty of fresh fish and seafood in the Azores especially at Mercado da Graça, a traditional farmers market established in 1848. A fantastic foodie stop at the market is "Rei dos Queijos," which means "The King of Cheeses." Plan on spending a few hours at the market sampling tasty goodies. Enjoy browsing through the colorful produce section; the meat market selling all sorts of sausage; and souvenir stalls next to herb vendors. Don’t be surprised if you’re overcome by the intoxicatingly sweet scent of local pineapples permeating through the air. You won’t leave the market empty handed!

Cheese lovers can watch cheese being made followed by a tasting at Queijo Vaquinha, a local cheese factory.

Although the majority of the population makes their living from fishing, the most traditional meal is Alcatra - the Terceira version of Beef Bourguignon that’s cooked for hours in clay vessels until the meat is so tender that it falls off of the bone. The stew is a hearty peasant inspired dish that’s seasoned with peppercorns, bay leaves, sausage and bits of pork fat. Quinta do Martelo does a wonderful presentation of this traditional local dish in a rustic setting.

Another local favorite found in Furnas on São Miguel is Cozido das Furnas. This legendary meal is a must! Cozido is cooked in gigantic pots that are buried underground and cooked courtesy of Mother Nature. Steam and thermal heat at Lake Furnas are so intense, that it’s hot enough to cook a stew! Blood sausage, taro, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage chicken and pork are cooked until all of the flavors blend beautifully together. The tantalizing aroma is indescribably irresistible. Cooking Cozido is a BIG daily event and happening down at Lake Furnas - sort of like watching sunset on Key West’s Mallory Pier. Here locals and tourists gather, cameras in hand, along the lakeshore to watch the culinary action. Gigantic pots are buried underground and cooked for hours beneath mounds of earth, until they are dug out and carried away to vans, which transport this local delicacy to various restaurants.

One of the biggest surprises is discovering Plantações de Chá Gorreana, on São Miguel, Europe’s only tea plantation. This family owned and operated business, open since 1883, is proud that five generations later, the plantation and processing factory is still going strong. Following the tour, visitors are welcome to stay for complimentary tea tasting. Don’t leave without getting a scoop of the rich and creamy green tea ice cream.

And of course, saving the best for last, wine lovers will enjoy visiting the quaint and charming Wine Museum in Biscoitos on Terceira.


Serious shoppers will find abundant retail therapy opportunities in the Azores. Kick off your shopping spree with a visit to Bordado dos Açores, where you’ll find stunning hand embroidered linens and fine local handcrafts. At this one-stop-shop, textile lovers can watch artisans busy at work creating exquisite hand embroidered tablecloths, placemats, table runners and more. The prices are extremely reasonable for the fine quality of workmanship offered. Shoppers will find a rather odd local handcraft here - - fish scale art. Dainty floral wreaths and arrangements made out of fish scales and embellished with golden thread and pearls are framed in shadow boxes.

Next stop, Olaria de São Bento and watch artist Ricardo Bento throwing clay on a potter’s wheel in his studio. You’ll want to pick up a traditional clay cooking vessel that’s used for cooking beef and fish.

For old world style hand painted tiles and ceramic objects - visit Cerâmica Vieira, founded in 1862. Be sure to visit on a weekday when artists will be working in the factory/gallery. One of the most unusual local handcrafts is wheat straw embroidery, which is embroidered tulle netting with wheat shafts in place of thread. This is usually done on a black or dark surface fabric and the effects are truly dazzling, yet subtle. The shimmery surface of the light reflecting on the golden wheat is breathtaking. Be prepared to shell out a bundle for this rare handcraft that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.

For a delicious New Year's resolution, add the Azores Islands to your 2019 bucket list, and visit these breathtaking islands.


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For more info:
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico; Pousada de São Sebastião
Getting there: TAP Air Portugal
Where to eat: Cantina do Colégio; Furnas Lake Villas (Cozido das Furnas); Quinta do Martelo (typical meal called Alcatra); Taberna da Queimada; O Pescador Restaurant
What to pack: Layer, layer, layer and be sure to bring a travel umbrella and sun hat.

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