The Azores: 9 island gems with a volcanic previous and a magical current

(CNN) — Touring to a paradise on Earth would not essentially require a protracted, arduous or perilous journey.

In truth, an unspoiled panorama harking back to a fairytale is barely 5 hours from Boston and about 4 hours from the UK. It is a land the place waterfalls cascade down iridescent inexperienced slopes; the place roads are rimmed with hydrangea hedges; and the place craggy coasts are blanketed with black sand seashores.

A lost-in-time high quality prevails, whether or not it is a hamlet of stone dwellings linked by cobbled paths, or locals who stay true to the outdated methods of planting crops on fertile plains on the base of sheer cliffs, or driving horse-drawn carts to ship milk to the cheese manufacturing facility.

Welcome to the Azores, a necklace of 9 enchanting islands that huddle in the course of the Atlantic however are a part of Portugal. The archipelago is an autonomous area situated roughly 1,000 miles from the Portuguese mainland. The islands’ thermal swimming pools, lush calderas, crater lakes and steaming geysers all bear testomony to the violent volcanic forces that birthed them, but every isle has a particular character the place nature in its wildest state prevails.

Azores Airways flies continuous to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island from Boston, and to Lajes on Terceira with a stopover in Ponta Delgada year-round. United (from Newark) and Azores Airways (from JFK, on choose days) each have summer time nonstop service to Ponta Delgada. British Airways presents nonstop, summer time service on Saturdays.

After a direct hop to an archipelago seemingly a world away, this is what to anticipate on every island:



Flores is the westernmost island of the Azores. Although its identify interprets to “flowers,” it is the plentiful our bodies of water that almost all outline this shockingly emerald inexperienced isle that is continuously shrouded in fog.

There are seven crater lakes speckling the undulating inside, together with the the forest inexperienced Lagoa Negra that sits proper beside the cobalt blue Lagoa Comprida, with a wonderfully positioned miradouro (viewpoint) between them.

The side-by-side Lagoa Negra, left, and Lagoa Comprida make for a striking scene on Flores.

The side-by-side Lagoa Negra, left, and Lagoa Comprida make for a hanging scene on Flores.

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Among the many island’s verdant cliff partitions dripping with waterfalls, the highly effective Poco do Bacalhau cascades down 300 ft to a petite, swimmable pool.

Guests who keep at Aldeia da Cuada, a centuries-old hamlet transformed into an atmospheric lodging of stone cottages furnished with native antiques and patchwork quilts, will get pleasure from views of plummeting waterfalls at their backdoor. This sanctuary embraces the easy pleasures of life, together with stargazing from a personal backyard.


With fewer than 500 inhabitants and one solitary city situated on the one parcel of land at sea degree, Corvo is the smallest (and most distant) Azorean island, simply 4 miles lengthy and never even three miles broad.

Bird-watching is a popular activity on tiny Corvo.

Chicken-watching is a well-liked exercise on tiny Corvo.

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Nonetheless, this wee island (a remnant of an historical volcano about 10 miles north of Flores) is a famend paradise for bird-watchers, who gravitate right here particularly within the fall, hoping to identify yellow-billed cuckoos, Cory’s shearwaters and lots of different species.



For a whole lot of years, crusing vessels have made the capital port of Horta — famous for its boldly painted seawall — a stopover, together with those who navigated between the New and Previous Worlds within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Anchoring their yachts, many present-day skippers and crew nonetheless drop in on the close by Peter Cafe Sport, a greater than 100-year-old institution the place nautical memorabilia plasters the comfy inside. Their scrimshaw museum, devoted to the artform of carving and engraving whale tooth and bones, comprises objects relationship way back to the late 1800s.
Vivid hydrangeas border roads along the route to Faial's western end.

Vivid hydrangeas border roads alongside the path to Faial’s western finish.

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Soccer ball-sized globes of sky-blue hydrangeas border roads and body homes alongside the path to the island’s western finish. This desolate, monochromatic space stands in stark distinction to buzzing, colourful Horta.

A whole hamlet is buried in charcoal-black ash and different volcanic materials spewed many years in the past from a prolonged undersea eruption. Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Middle has reveals telling the tales of this and different volcanoes.


The just about 8,000-foot-tall Mt. Pico, Portugal’s highest peak, dominates the panorama on this island.

Mount Pico is Portugal's highest peak at 7,713 feet (2,351 meters).

Mount Pico is Portugal’s highest peak at 7,713 ft (2,351 meters).

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Right here, it appears nearly every part is constructed of black basalt lava stone, together with the mosaic of corrals surrounding the native grape vines which have warmed and guarded them from the island’s blustery, salty breezes for hundreds of years.

It is the fertile, mineral-rich volcanic soil that has put Pico on each true oenophile’s record. The Cooperativa Vitivinicola, a greater than 70-year-old wine co-op in Madalena, the island’s capital, presents casual tastings that embody verdelho, a crisp white produced from grapes endemic to this island.
In line with Pico’s close-to-the-land sensibility, the village-like Lava Properties resort relied on native stone and wooden within the building of its 14, many-windowed, modern villas.

São Jorge

Snaking by way of a panorama of untamed heather and Japanese cedar are scenic footpaths that terminate at fajãs, or cliff-backed fertile plains that have been fashioned from landslides and historical lava flows.

One of the crucial beguiling is Fajã de Santo Cristo, accessed by way of a six-mile-long walkable donkey path that winds down from the cloud-covered summit of Serra de Topo. The route meanders previous outdated watermills and gates of gnarled branches to the remoted, waterfront hamlet Fajã de Santo Cristo. Right here residents have a tendency terraced gardens rising yams, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes.

Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is a fertile plain at the base of a steep slope.

Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is a fertile plain on the base of a steep slope. Inventory

This coast attracts surfers who come for the purpose break waves. The island, nonetheless, is most famous for a culinary delicacy: their tangy cow’s milk cheese.

Queijo São Jorge remains to be produced by strategies relationship again centuries. This delectable cheese — it might be drizzled with honey — is served in eating places not solely on São Jorge (akin to Fornos de Lava) but additionally on the opposite Azorean islands and mainland Portugal as effectively.


Lots of the signature sights on Graciosa present a dramatic training into the island’s volcanic origins.

Nearly 200 steps spiral down into Furna do Enxofre, a lava cave of an energetic volcano. It is unsettling to seek out out that, earlier than this stairway was constructed, locals lowered themselves down with ropes to entry consuming water for his or her cattle.
Furna Do Enxofre on Graciosa island is an impressive lava cave.

Furna Do Enxofre on Graciosa island is a formidable lava cave.

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The sight on the backside is surreal. In distinction to the lake on the base brimming with chilly rainwater, the cave’s air is saturated with the scent of sulfur, and dirt fumaroles bubble and boil at 180 F (82 C). Daylight pours in by way of oculi within the ceiling, revealing yellow crystals shining on the boulder-riddled slopes.

Within the spa village of Carapacho, geothermal vitality is used to warmth soaking swimming pools at Termas do Carapacho resort, which presents quite a few remedies, together with a scorching stone therapeutic massage that depends on the island’s volcanic rocks.


Whereas Pico’s black basalt offers that island the looks of black and white brushstrokes, Terceira in some ways makes use of a Crayola crayon palette.

Colourful facades entrance the streets within the capital, Angra do Heroismo, and shockingly painted — even violet-hued — imperios (chapels), sprinkle the verdant panorama.
Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features brightly painted historic buildings.

Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage Web site, options brightly painted historic buildings.

Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Second RF/Getty Photographs

On the north coast, the village of Biscoitos reveals off its volcanic origins with pure swimming pools of all sizes and depths puncturing the hardened black lava stretching throughout the port. Beside these, seashore towels, umbrellas and loungers could be set out for a day of sunning and soaking.

This city can also be residence to the family-owned Wine Museum the place artifacts from their greater than 100-year-old wine-making operation are on show inside and within the gardens.
Terceira’s Caparica Azores Ecolodge presents six trendy cabins huddled in a laurel forest. Artwork from native ladies accents the minimalist interiors.


São Miguel

São Miguel is the biggest Azorean isle and the place Ponta Delgada, the capital of the autonomous area of the Azores, is situated. The island is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) lengthy and 9 miles (15 km) broad.
Ponta Delgada is the capital of the autonomous region of the Azores.

Ponta Delgada is the capital of the autonomous area of the Azores.

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It is residence to what’s mentioned to be the world’s oldest business greenhouses rising pineapples and Europe’s oldest working tea plantation.

One of many island’s most heralded panorama is the Furnas Valley, a dormant crater that is draped with foliage and dotted with reminders of its volcanic previous, together with inviting scorching springs.

Inside this valley, the centuries-old Terra Nostra Backyard is especially magical. Shaded paths wind beside a serpentine canal, grottoes and endemic and unique vegetation, some greater than a century outdated.

Additionally scenically beautiful, with tree ferns and bunkers crammed with volcanic sand, is the 18-hole Furnas Golf Membership that sits at 1,700 ft above sea degree.

In Ponta Delgada, friends staying at boutique property Senhora da Rosa really feel removed from the bustle of this capital metropolis, particularly when soaking in a small pool that is set in a pineapple greenhouse.

Santa Maria

Santa Maria is the most southern island in the Azores, boasting sunshine and golden sand beaches.

Santa Maria is probably the most southern island within the Azores, boasting sunshine and golden sand seashores.

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Santa Maria, probably the most southern of the Azores, will not be solely the sunniest of the islands, however it’s additionally the one one graced with golden sand seashores.

The greens and blues of the ocean, sky and valleys mingle at Miradouro da Pedra Rija, certainly one of many viewpoints that makes for a beautiful picnic spot. Forests of Japanese cedar cover the zig-zagging roads, typically beside paths bordered by Azorean blueberries and small orchids.

The hamlet of São Lourenco is particularly fashionable in the summertime for its photogenic sandy stretch that is backed by a tapestry of outdated vineyards enclosed by black lava stone partitions.

The endearing seafront village of Anjos has a relaxed, pure pool, and the native watering gap Bar dos Anjos presents stellar views of the sundown to get pleasure from whereas nibbling grilled limpets (sea snails).

Jeanine Barone is a New York Metropolis-based journey author who makes a speciality of Portugal and has visited the Azores many occasions.

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