In the center of the North Atlantic sits the Azores, home to some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere on Earth. This archipelago consists of nine subtropical jewels that are located 2,400 miles off the east coast of North America and 930 miles west of Portugal. These islands, together with an economic exclusion zone, form an autonomous region of Portugal known as the Autonomous Region of the Azores.
The nine islands can be divided into three distinct groups. The islands of Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Faial and Pico form the middle group, while the western group consists of Corvo and Flores. Santa Maria, Sao Miguel and the Formigas Reef together make up the eastern group.
Settlers from several different European nations came to live in the Azores during the two hundred years the islands were settled. This is reflected in the unique blend of cultures, cuisines and languages found on the islands today.
There are a number of activities for visitors to choose from. Many water sports are popular. Sailing, surfing, diving, swimming and windsurfing are a few of the more popular sports. Yachts are available for rent, as are deep sea fishing vessels. Many visitors choose to swim with the dolphins that live just off the coast while others prefer to go whale watching.
Horseback riding is another popular activity, and the Azores also has some fine golf courses. Visitors who crave a bit more adventure may climb any of the many volcanoes that are found throughout the archipelago. They also may tour the underground lake on Graciosa. Hang-gliding and jeep safaris are also popular.
Accommodations on the islands range from beachfront resorts to villas located high up on the mountains. Ultra-luxurious lodgings are available to those who have the money to spend, but there are also rooms available for the budget conscious.
Good food is one of the delights awaiting visitors in the Azores. Much of the cuisine is a spicier form of Portuguese that focuses heavily on meat and potatoes. Seafood is also extremely popular, of course. Cheeses from the Azores are widely considered to be among the best in Europe. Every island has a different way of cooking even traditional meals. Desserts range from fresh fruit to unique local pastries.
Several Azorean restaurants deserve special mention. Canto da Doca grills each guest’s seafood or meat at the table using flat, heated rocks. Casa da Galinha Parmagiana serves great rabbit and sausages. It also features local specialties such as Holy Spirit Soup. One of the best places to go for local seafood is Beira Mar de Sao Mateus. Many of the hotels also have restaurants on the premises.
The Azores is also known for their handicrafts. Every island features local artisans selling their work, which may range from pottery and carving to delicate embroidery. Other local products include wine, scrimshaw work, pineapples and rush mats.
Most visitors travel to the Azores by plane and then get around the islands by boat, car and bus. Several tour companies also have packages available.
- Azores, Portugal (ilhasbruma.wordpress.com)
- Madeira Islands: A Treasure Harbored by Sea Cliffs (greatmentor.net)
- Musings from the Azores.. (azoresorbust.wordpress.com)