Are you looking for a travel destination where you can get more bang for your buck? If you’re twenty-five or younger, the Azores archipelago in the Mid-Atlantic is an undiscovered gem just waiting to come into the limelight of youth travel. The nine volcanic islands, each unique in its own way, offer a myriad of natural beauty, Portuguese culture, and exhilarating travel experiences.
SATA, currently the only commercial carrier servicing the islands, offers flights from Boston four times a week and seasonal flights from Providence on Fridays from June to September. The most frequent flights are to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the largest island. The islands can be thought of in three distinct groups: the western group, the central group, and the eastern group. If you plan to travel in the central group you can fly straight to the island of Terceira instead of to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel. If you buy tickets ahead of time, a normal round trip fare from Boston to Ponta Delgada (PDL) runs about $650 plus taxes, and Boston to Terceira is the same price. You can also find flights from Providence or travel onward to Lisbon on the Portuguese mainland.
One reason why you might want to start your journey in Ponta Delgada is so that you can apply for a carta jovem (youth card). Costing about 50 Euros, this card is your ticket to spectacular student savings. It will take you only fifteen minutes to get your cards made on the main island of Sao Miguel as there is an office in Ponta Delgada. Armed with your carta jovem, you can take advantage of Atlantico Line’s youth discounts. This ferryboat company services all nine islands, although it’s best to plan ahead because their two boats can’t be everywhere at once. While a normal fare for the journey from Sao Miguel to Santa Maria is 56 Euros, the student fare is only 1 Euro! If you don’t get a carta jovem, you can still take advantage of Atlantico Line’s Blue Sea Pass that allows you to travel to three islands for 80 Euros.
If you are a Portuguese youth, you can take advantage of half-price student airfares from SATA to fly between the islands. A regular one-way ticket from Ponta Delgada to Faial, Sao Jorge, Pico, Terceira or Flores usually runs about 87 Euros. If you are a Portuguese youth or student, you can get the same ticket for 43.5 Euros. Unfortunately, this discount is not open to students of other nationalities.
Where to Stay
There are five different types of accommodation in the islands: hotels, hostels, apartments, guesthouses and rooms in private homes. For the student or youth traveler on a budget, the best deals can be found in hostels and rooms in private homes. You may come across some guesthouses or apartments for a similar price, but usually rooms in private homes are the most affordable option.
In order to find rooms in private homes, apartments, hostels or guesthouses, you merely need to show up at a Tourism Office and get a current list of accommodation options. There are tourism offices located in each of the Azores’ major cities. For example, if you fly into Pico, you’ll find a tourism office in the city of Madelena. Go straight to the Tourism Office and ask them for the accommodation contact list. Then you can start calling around for room rates and availability. You should be able to find something available in your price range within fifteen minutes. There’s not any need to book ahead unless you want to make sure you get accommodation at a certain guesthouse.
What to Do
Your options are virtually unlimited when it comes to the Azores. You can get up close and personal with volcanic calderas, go whale watching or scale the peak of a volcano towering over the Atlantic Ocean. You can tour vineyards, sip wine while watching the sunset on the beach, or savor the Azores’ famous cheeses. See the breathtaking waterfall in Flores, the dramatic cliffs of Sao Jorge, the bustling port Horta in Faial, and the dazzling Portuguese cathedrals scattered throughout the islands. One trip to the Azores will leave you longing for more of the unspoiled natural beauty, the lively Azorean culture, and the adventure that waits to be discovered at each island.
For More Information:
- S.Miguel, Açores: my dream (miguelinbelgium.wordpress.com)
- Musings from the Azores.. (azoresorbust.wordpress.com)