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A magical destination and always in contact with nature, the Azores are 9 islands of geological diversity, history, culture, tradition and incomparable beauty, in the middle of the Atlantic!
Places to visit
The island of São Miguel, the largest and most visited in the archipelago, has its capital city, Ponta Delgada, as the gateway to the ex-libris and postcard scenario: Lagoa das Sete Cidades, one among several lagoons, such as Fogo or Furnas with geysers and fumaroles due to the volcanism of the Furnas complex. Terra Nostra is a wonderful garden, which is about 200 years old and promotes endogenous flora and plants native to countries with completely different climates. Inserted in the park, you can find the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel with its thermal pool, rusty yellow waters and temperatures between 35º and 40º full of essential minerals. Terceira (Ilha da Terceira) is recognized for the traditional festivities of Espírito Santo, with bulls released in the streets, and colourful chapels; and has its capital, Angra do Heroísmo, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site after the 1980 earthquake. This is also where the US military base (Base das Lages) is located, the Paços do Conselho Building, from the 19th century and, at 550 meters of altitude, Algar do Carvão, Regional Natural Monument. In Faial the meeting point is Peter’s Café, opened in 1918 and from where you can’t leave without drinking a gin and exploring artefacts made from whale bone, an extinct art since hunting of that animal is prohibited nowadays. This island is home to the Capelinhos Volcano, whose last activity was in 1957, where there is also an interpretation centre. However, Pico Island (Ilha do Pico) is home to the third largest volcano in the Atlantic, as well as the Gruta das Torres (Torres Cave), one of the largest in the world. Graciosa Island, on the other hand, was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, being the second smallest island in the archipelago, and São Jorge Island stands out for its famous cheese whose production dates back five centuries; and where you can visit the Church with a Museum dedicated to Sacred Art, from the 17th century, and one of the most striking examples of Baroque art in the Azores. Finally, Corvo Island is perhaps the least known, but the white houses next to the black rocks stand out from its landscape, being classified by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
What to eat?
With regard to gastronomy, there are some musts in the Azores. The meats and vegetables of the Cozido das Furnas are found nowhere else, and the whole process, from its cooking to eating it is an unforgettable experience. For those who love the traditional, a fennel soup or a sour broth is suggested. This is followed by a stewed octopus, grilled limpets, barnacles and the various fish, or the sausage with yams, the greaves of liver sauce and the stuffed capon. As to desserts, conventual sweets meet the queijadas of Vila Franca do Campo, the pineapple cake, the passion fruit puddings and tea. The lêvedo cake from Furnas and the cheese from the island of São Jorge must have a special recognition. To accompany this great food, the Pico wine which is not very full-bodied and has a characteristic perfume, and the liqueurs of passion fruit and pineapple, are great choices.
The Azores are the sanctuary for the observation of cetaceans, where more than 20 different types can be seen, or the equivalent of one third of the total number of the species. Santa Maria is the oldest island and the first to be inhabited, having an immense geological, natural and architectural heritage. Meanwhile, the Flores Island stands out in the category of the most romantic, often isolated due to storms. From Faial there is a panoramic view over the 8 islands and, obviously, the Pico volcano, the highest mountain in Portugal (2,351m). The lava fields make up the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the verdelho caste gives a special flavour to the wine, worthy of the Russian czars. Of the 1700 volcanoes in the Azores, only nine are active. About 80% of the island of São Jorge is covered by pasture, feeding around 8000 cows daily.
This is the ideal destination for everyone, whether as a family with children or couples or in a group of friends, everyone will find the best and most invigorating vacation. To better enjoy, we advise you to rent a car, you can do it in advance or on arrival, with numerous options. Are you going to dive in thermal pools? Choose to take an old bathing suit or you will end up with damaged clothes. There are several flavours to be tasted in the Azores, and green or black tea is one of these examples, as it is grown and produced according to Chinese techniques brought in 1878; as the Azorean pineapples. These are visits that no one will want to miss. Whale watching is one of the most popular activities, but there are other options such as hiking, mountaineering, canyoning, cycling, kayaking, paddle or snorkelling. Do not be surprised if you feel the four different seasons of the year in a single day, which is a great reason to create a daily plan that can be adapted in case of rain, for example.
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