Amazing Azores

Eoin Walsh 15 May 2018
When I received an invitation to a friends’ wedding near Lisbon, I immediately began researching possible destinations for a short break after the wedding. I eventually stumbled upon the Azores as a possible destination. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know where they were or what they were! I soon found out that the Azores Islands are about a two-hour flight from mainland Portugal and is Europe’s best kept secret. There are nine major islands in the archipelago so decided to book a flight to Sao Miguel, the largest one. There’s a huge amount of activities to enjoy such as: Whale watching, Hiking, Horse Riding, Cycling, Golf, Paragliding, Surfing and Scuba-Diving.

After a wonderful few days at the wedding and a night in Lisbon, I was on my way with some friends in tow. We had booked a fantastic apartment in Ponta Delgada, which is the main town on the island. In the morning we strolled through town to grab some breakfast and pick up our rental car. Everyone spoke a little bit of English and seemed really friendly. We noticed a popular swimming spot down by the pier which became our morning ritual before heading off to explore the island.

Our adventure began when we left town and began driving towards Sete Cidadas lagoon. One thing that you can’t ignore are the abundance of purple hydrangeas that line the roads no matter which way you drive. We turned a corner and out of nowhere a massive eagle appeared on the road in front of us, munching on a bit of road kill! Luckily our feathered friend managed to avoid our vehicle as we continued on driving up the windy roads. Reaching the viewpoint above the lagoon was a sight to behold. The crater lagoon is split by a bridge which gives the appearance of two lakes, one blue and one green. The natural beauty of this area is incredible, and we decided to explore the area by foot and mountain bikes.

Over the next couple of days, we visited many of the islands geothermal lakes and pools. Furnas is a typical Azorean village with white buildings and decorated churches. However, what it’s famous for are the hot springs and the amazing Terra Nostra gardens. Within the gardens, we found a massive geothermal pool filled with pleasantly warm orange water. We drove a short distance to admire the Caldeiras das Furnas. This was a multiple of boiling and bubbling mud springs as well as mini-geysers. We visited another bunch of hot springs called Caldeira Velha. The water temperature is around 25 degrees which is basically a natural jacuzzi filled by a hot waterfall, amazing!!

In the evenings we strolled around Ponta Delgada exploring the local restaurants and bars. Coming to a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic I was a bit sceptical regarding the quality of the food, but I was pleasantly surprised. We managed to find somewhere new and delicious to enjoy every evening and at very reasonable prices. There’s quite a few laid-back bars to enjoy after a long day of discovery and activities. Raiz Bar overlooks the city gates, has a great atmosphere, live bands and fantastic cocktails.

In a well-connected world where more and more people travel every day, it’s very hard to find a place with such unspoiled natural beauty and at the same time affordable, safe and friendly. I really think it’s a destination that will become more popular over the next few years. Take my advice and beat the crowds, book it now!!