Like centuries of other intrepid travelers, you have set a course for the Azores. Portugalonline.com’s Best of the Azores package will ensure you experience the very best of these fascinating islands. Over ten days, you will roam four islands and see the full array of sights that have made the Azores a destination of both ancient and contemporary legend: The mystic volcanic crater lakes in São Miguel, the 15th century fortress of Angra in Terceira, the historic port of Horta on Faial and the perfectly conical volcano of Pico. Along the way, you will gain personal insight into the unique culture, history and geography of Europe’s westernmost paradise.
"We had a wonderful 10 days in the Azores on the tour you arranged for us. The islands are very beautiful, each with their own character, both scenically and culturally. The hotels were beyond our expectation; the local cuisine in cafes and small restaurants caused some increase to our girths. But perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip was the personal interaction with our guides who provided insight into the local history, culture, family life, and politics." - John Jones, Australia
Day 1 - Terceira: Arrival in the Azores
Grab a window seat on the plane so you can be the first to spot the seven ancient volcanic peaks rising from the Atlantic that make up the Azores. You’ll land in Terceira, the third Azorean island to be discovered, the archipelago’s third largest island and, therefore, unsurprisingly, has a name that translates as “third.” On the streets of the 16th century UNESCO World Heritage village of Angra do Heroismo, you will swear you time traveled back to the Age of Discovery. Angra is a snug harbor protected by a volcanic cone that made the port a major staging point for European explorers on the way to the New World from the 16th to 18th centuries. In fact, ships laden with riches often moved in convoys from Terceira to Europe to ward off pirate attacks. You can climb the hill behind the pretty public gardens for a grand view of the city and the volcanic cone of Monte Brasil to complete your day.
Day 2 - Terceira: Tour Fishing Villages and Volcanic Wonders
Depart by the south coast to Praia da Vitoria via Porto Judeu, a small fishing village on your full day, private guided tour of the island. Make a stop at São Sebastiao to see its 15th parish church and the Azores’s most colorful “imperio,” a small chapel that is central to the religious festivals of the Holy Ghost (Espirito Santo) popular throughout the archipelago. Take time for lunch in Praia da Vitoria, a charming town with a main square and a pedestrian shopping street. Take the mountain road up to Serra do Cume for a view of the rolling, multi-hued green fields, bordered by stone walls and hydrangeas and a glimpse of Praia harbor in the distance. Move on to Algar do Carvao, a huge lava tube about 300 feet long covered in stalactites and stalagmites open only in summer. Continue to Biscoitos on the north coast to see the natural lava swimming pools. Return to your hotel by way of the classic villages of Altares, Doze Ribeiras and São Mateus.
Day 3 - Terceira: Leisure Time on Terceira
You’ll have today to uncover more of the unique attractions of Terceira. Angra is a wonderful city to explore on foot. Or take a taxi to Monte Brasil for a panoramic view of the city and follow walking trails past several old fortresses and a castle. Or taste local seafood and wine as you soak in the island atmosphere.
Day 4 - Terceira to Faial: Stroll Historical Horta
Grab a window seat on the plane so you can be the first to spot the seven ancient volcanic peaks rising from the Atlantic that make up the Azores. You’ll land at Faial, one of the most strategic ports in history. The capital Horta has served as a hub for centuries of sailors - from explorers to pirates to whalers to today’s trans-Atlantic yachtsmen. Despite its formidable 16th century fortress, both the Spanish and England’s Sir Walter Raleigh attacked Horta. During the pre-wireless days, Horta was a strategic relay point for the trans-Atlantic cable communications. Today it is a traveler’s paradise of maritime legacy and a perfect place to enjoy whale watching, water sports or gazing at the sea.
Wake refreshed and ready for a short ferry ride to picturesque Pico. Dock in Madalena and meet your guide for a full day tour of the second largest island in the archipelago. You won’t miss the perfectly cone-shaped namesake volcano, Pico (pronounced “peak”) that serves as a backdrop for views across the island. Lava rock from ancient eruptions forms the walls of many homes and borders vineyards that grow the grapes for the local wine, Verdelho. Before returning to Horta by ferry, don’t miss the whaling museum which details the historic transition of Pico from a whaling station to a renown place to see whales in the wild.
Day 6 - Faial: Visit the Capelinhos VolcanoToday you will get face-to-face with the island’s volcanic origins. Your private English-speaking guide will drive you through the mountains over the Valley of Flamengos, on to Caldeira, the highest point on the island, and north to Capelinhos, the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in the Azores. The 1957-58 offshore event added two square kilometers to the island! The extensive ash fields and earthquake aftershocks caused so much damage that many islanders emigrated to North America.
Day 7 - Faial to São Miguel: On Foot in Ponta Delgada
Today you will enter the Azores of the 21st Century. Flying into the largest island of São Miguel, you will get glimpses of its geographical diversity and you will see the expanse of Ponta Delgada, the archipelago’s capital and largest city. But as you settle into your hotel for three nights in the old section of town, you will appreciate its charming historical center and marvel at the town’s intersection of old and new. Take the afternoon and evening to get acquainted with Ponta Delgada’s food, drinks and culture.
Day 8 - São Miguel: Tour Furnas’ Gardens & Hot Springs
Meet your private driver/guide and head beyond the homes of Ponta Delgada for a full day tour of São Miguel’s interior. The rural life of São Miguel dominates as you take the south road passing the village of Lagoa, a viewpoint at Caloura and the former capital of Vila Franca. Upon arrival in the Furnas area, the volcanic attractions take top billing: Don’t miss the lake, the hot springs and the holes in the ground where local specialty “Cozido nas Caldeiras” (Caldera Stew) is cooked for seven hours by underground volcanic steam. Continue to the charming town of Furnas for a lunch stop. Stroll the historic botanical gardens (additional charge) planted in the 18th century and take the opportunity to swim in the hot springs swimming pool. The Furnas hot springs and mineral waters were a popular and fashionable 19th century spa resort for Europeans that are now being revitalized. Cross the island to the north coast, stopping for a fine view of both the south and north coasts and visit Europe’s only tea plantation on the way. Return to your hotel for an evening of dining and relaxation in town.
Day 9 - São Miguel: Marvel at Sete Cidades and Fire Lake
Some say it is wise to save the best for last. We think you’ll agree. On your final full day you’ll take a Full-day guided tour the famed view of Sete Cidades. The view of the twin blue and green caldera lakes from Vista do Rei on the crater’s rim is nothing short of spectacular. After catching your breath, you’ll travel to the tiny town of Sete Cidades down in the crater along the lake. On the way back to Ponta Delgada, be sure to stop at a plantation and taste one of São Miguel’s small, sweet pineapples – they’re the only ones grown in Europe. Continue to the Fire Lake the highest crater lake located in the center of the island, stop at Caldeira Velha (entrance fee not included), Ribeira Grande and return to the Hotel.Absorb the glow of your last Azorean sunset before heading to dine on local specialties in town. Brunch included.
Day 10 - São Miguel: Enjoy Free Time before Departure
Wake one final morning in the salty Azorean air. Check out at your leisure, store your bags at the hotel, and spend your last hours on São Miguel doing some last minute shopping, strolling and sightseeing. An optional morning tour to Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake for an additional charge) with a stop at a nearby ceramics factory is popular with many visitors. Bid a fond farewell to these storied isles – as centuries of travelers to the Azores have done before you.
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