Last spring, I was lucky enough to visit Portugal. I really can’t remember why we thought we should also visit the Azores, an island chain in the Atlantic that belongs to Portugal. The Azores are well known as a holiday spot to North Americans (no doubt due to their location, it is only a 4 hour flight from Toronto) but seems largely unvisisted by the rest of Europe save for Portugal itself. In fact when we told people in England we were heading for the Azores, they looked puzzled and said ‘ The Azores? isn’t there a weather station there?’ or ‘ The Azores? Why not Madeira?’ Which is a legitimate question as Madeira is rumored to be beautiful.
But so are the Azores. Stunningly beautiful in fact. We stayed in Ponta Delgada, the largest city on Sao Migeul the largest island. There are 9 islands in the Azores and Sao Miguel has the largest population. We didn’t get a chance to see the other islands, that is for next time especially Pico known as the black island for its volcanic sand as it main island for the vineyards. Getting between islands can be challenging due to weather conditions via boat and air can be a challenge as well but it is well worth it to try!
Back to Sao Miguel, the Green Island, where to start? Well I would suggest using the Pure Azores tour company. https://www.pureazores.com/en/tours/sao-miguel They were the company we used, though there are lots of excellent ones to choose from. Sao Miguel is a small island I strongly suggest doing both the East and West tours of the Islands. The tour in the West takes you to the Pineapple Plantation as the pineapples grown in the Azores are delicious. You also get to see the amazing Sete Cidades volcanic lakes complete with an abandoned 5 star hotel. This tour takes you to the hotel as well and you can see vestiges of its former glory and get the best views of the lake.
The East takes you to Furnas, bathing in the natural thermal ponds heated by volcanoes (amazing but wear a dark suit the minerals in the water can stain), eat cozido a meat upon meat stew with cabbage and potatoes made in the ground and cooked by volcanic activity. You also visit one of the islands 2 tea factories. the baths were my favourite and my skin felt amazing afterwards, @benton8tor was looking forward to the meat stew but… it might have been to much meat. all he wanted to do after that was nap and then nap again.
We wanted to see more of the island so @benton8tor decided the best way to do that was to rent a scooter. I interpreted this idea as certain death but @benton8tor assured me that they were safe and I would enjoy it. Despite secretly hoping for rain which didn’t happen, we set out on the scooter on a bright sunny day. . We made it to Ribeira Grande the second largest cit on the island (approximately 32,000) to visit Fabrica de Licores Muhler de Capote, a factory that makes gin and vodka and infuses a lot of the product with local fruits. Tastings are amazing and it is well worth the visit. http://www.mulherdecapote.pt/en/site/. From there we visited the second and smaller tea factory but I swear the tea was better, the factory beautiful and the view? Out of this world so check out the Cha Formoso http://www.chaportoformoso.com
/principal_ingles.php. Afterwards we made it to the small town of S Vincente Ferreira to visit th Quinta De Jardinete vineyard. It can be very hard to find so trust your GPS/google map and you will need to make an appointment. The tour is really good and I feel completely comfortable in saying that Quinta de Jardinete produces the best Azorean red wine that I tried. https://www.quintadajardinete.com/ In all @benton8tor was right and the scooter was the best way to see the island. I did get really comfortable on it.
Finally the food, the Azores are a meat and dairy lovers paradise. They are famous for their cheese and with good reason, the cheese is ridiculously good. Taberna Acor has a great selection of cheeses to try (and wine) as well as local Azorean delicacies including pork bites and sausage. https://www.ponta-delgada.com/en/taberna-acor-2/. Reserva wine bar also has great cheeses and meat to try along with wine https://www.facebook.com/reserva.bar/ and finally Calcad de Cais was my port in the storm as I needed a break from the rich food and they offer some more veggie options along with the Azorean specialties including some amazing pineapple chutney. https://www.facebook.com/calcadadocais
In Ponta Delgada itself, there is shopping, markets etc… There is also a incredible botanical garden to check out with giant fig trees .
The Azores also offer hiking, water sports beaches etc.. there is lots to do and it is a cruise ship destination so it can get busy. It is best to book ahead. I could write and write about the Azores but really the pictures are what sell the Azores . The Azores offer food, wine, and relaxation in a stunning setting. Why not go?