Holidays to Azores are ideal for resting and relaxing, with a leisurely pace of life reflected in the easy-going attitude of locals. Created by volcanic eruptions, the nine islands of the Azores enjoy a strategic position between Europe and North America. Some 1,500 kilometres west of Lisbon, this Portuguese territory represents a completely unique proposition as a holiday destination.
Every island has spectacular coastal aspects on all sides – unsurprisingly, the word ‘Azore’ comes from the Portuguese term for blue. Combining super-fresh cuisine with crisp air and rugged coastlines, it’s easy to see why many people call Azores holidays a perfect escape.
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A quarter of the 250,000-strong Azorean population can be found in the capital, Ponta Delgada. This feels like a proper Portuguese city, with an airport and ring road surrounding a grid-pattern layout of narrow streets lined with whitewashed buildings. The warm climate makes this a year-round destination for sun-worshippers.
The climate is also ideally suited to the dolphins and whales that flock here. As well as conventional diving tours and shark adventures, travellers can actively contribute to an ongoing scientific study of sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins. Before your first night’s sleep on this island nation, you’ll easily see why there is so much more to Azores holidays than meets the eye.
Each of these islands has its own distinct character and culture, and the diversity of attractions ensures that holidays in Azores will always be unique experiences. Every island has an airfield, and ships criss-cross the Atlantic between different ports, so it’s easy to explore more than one island during Azores holidays. Many visitors will participate in island-hopping, although Sao Miguel and Terceira have enough attractions and amenities to keep you entertained for weeks. Holidays in Azores can often be managed quite spontaneously, adding an extra sense of adventure to any stay here.
The splendid isolation from mainland Europe has necessitated residents of the Azores to produce as much as possible locally. In return, holidays in Azores are synonymous with handmade gifts and locally grown produce. This is Europe’s only tea-producing region, while local restaurants incorporate grass-reared animals and freshly caught fish into their menus. Food is often simplistic in creativity, but its freshness and flavour far outweigh a lack of exotic ingredients, and Azorean wines and cheeses are particularly impressive, so make sure to indulge!
Due to the Azores being surrounded by the sea, seafood is a huge part of the local diet. Delicious and highly rated seafood restaurants are scattered across all of the islands, particularly on San Miguel. In addition to this, traditional Portuguese food can easily be found anywhere you decide to stay.
Family holidays to the Azores will be centred around the numerous outdoor activities on offer here. Camping is an activity all family members will enjoy, as they get to explore the unique flora and fauna which has emerged on these isolated volcanic islands. Why not go for a hike around the Caldeira Seca as well as the Calderia do Alferes? You will be rewarded with spectacular postcard-perfect views.
The countless beaches on the Azores are another feature making this an ideal family holiday destination. Beautiful white, as well as black sand beaches are perfect for building sand castles and soaking up some Portuguese sunshine. Snorkelling is another family friendly activity; ask locals for the best spots to see the abundant marine live which lives beneath the waves!
Whale watching tours can be organized and will be a thrilling adventure for the whole family! Getting so close to the worlds largest mammals is a truly awe inspiring experience that everyone will remember for a long time to come.
As well as being the second-largest Azorean island, Pico is also Portugal’s biggest mountain. Its steeply-sloping sides can be climbed in a few hours, while committed mountain bikers can also tackle the ascent to 2,350 metres above sea level. Time it correctly, and you can be at the top for a spectacular sunset that will provide a perfect backdrop to any holiday photos.
Dramatic landscapes are a standard feature of holidays to Azores, from the bubbling volcanic ground on Sao Miguel to Terceira’s historic city of Angra. Its narrow cobbled streets are lined with brightly-coloured buildings reminiscent of a real-life fairy-tale, with many streets leading directly onto a bustling marina.
As you might expect given their oceanic surroundings, Azores holidays are ideal for water sports and activities like fishing. Every island has its own harbour for sailing or yachting, and the concentration of villages along the various coastlines ensures the Atlantic is always within walking distance.
Since the Azores are a collection of nine islands, there is definitely no shortage of beaches on Azores holidays. San Miguel, the largest of the islands, is also home to some of the most famous and popular sandy beaches, such as Praia Populo, Praia Agua d'Alto, Praia Ribeira Quente as well as Praia Porto Formoso, the longest white sand beach found on the Azores.
The island of Faial, on the other hand, is home to the longest black sand beach found on this group of islands.
If you head over to Santa Maria island you will be rewarded with equally stunning sandy beaches of a distinctly different character such as Praia Formosa and Praia São Lourenço.
Pebble beaches can be found on almost all of the islands, and are a great alternative for those looking to have a picnic at the beach.
Nightlife on the Azores is mainly clustered on Sao Miguel island, (particularly in Ponta Delgada) as it is the most popular arrival and departure point for tourists, as well as being the largest island. Nightlife here is dominated by various bars which range from chic and sophisticated to casual and laid back. The Lava Jazz Bar is a popular spot which features live music and a lively atmosphere, making it a travellers' favourite. The HC Bar & Lounge is the place you come to enjoy some delicious cocktails in a calm and relaxing ambience. If you like to get your boogie on, Ponta Delgada also has a number of nightclubs which stay open until the early morning hours.
Furthermore, Arco 8 is a venue on Sao Miguel island, used for various performances, ranging from live music to art galleries and even theatre performances. It's worth inquiring what's on during the time of your trip!
Couples will have plenty to do on their holiday to the Azores. Whether you want to relax on the many sandy beaches and sip cocktails all day long, or are out for some adventure to discover these marvellous volcanic islands, be sure that all your desires will be met here.
Enjoy a romantic dinner in one of the many quaint and rustic restaurants which are scattered across the islands; try some of the delicious local wine, as well as Vino Verde, a Portuguese speciality. Perhaps you want to make use of the many pebble beaches found on the Azores, which are perfectly suited for a romantic seaside picnic. Make the most of alone time with your significant other and marvel at the wonderful sunsets which bless the Azores every evening.
Azores is Roman Catholic so there are plenty of religious festivals throughout the year that are an excellent way into the culture of the area. The Holy Ghost festival, held seven weeks before Easter, crowns a person as Empress or Emporor for the day who is carried through the streets. A mass is said in the local church and a feast with a special ‘Holy Ghost soup’ is held with festivities following. Santa Maria is a big and well known festival in Azores, held at the end of August to celebrate the patron saint of the town. Expect lots of music and dancing with feasting and celebrations.