Azores - a great place for a ‘walk on the quiet side!’
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Philip Gilbert is a
true specialist, having spent the last nine years leading tour groups to the
Azores. He and his partner Ann still return from time to time for walking
holidays. He says: “The spectacular
scenery, the tranquillity, and the friendliness of the island folk make it a
superb holiday destination for the adventurous over 50s”.
A visit to Sao Miguel – the largest island in the Azores Archipelago
Just over a 3 hour direct flight, weekly from Gatwick, we are landing on
Sao Miguel island - the largest of the 9 islands that make up the Azores
archipelago, and it soon becomes clear why it is locally known as the ‘Green
Island’. Once one leaves the capital city of Ponta Delgada, there is a
wonderful mix of lowland green fields, housing a population of dairy cows which
are as numerous as their human counterparts and the more rugged volcanic
scenery of spectacular viewpoints, lakes and steaming, bubbling hot mud.
More than 50% of the population live in the main town of Ponta Delgada,
which is an attractive port that on occasions attracts visits from the cruise
ships that are returning from the Caribbean. The town itself has a safe and ‘laid
back’ feel, enabling visitors to stroll with confidence in the streets of the
old town and to explore the three superb botanical gardens sited within the
city boundary. Perhaps make a visit as well to the old 17th century
fort on the seafront, built originally to protect the island from the constant
threat of pirate attack, but now operated as a military museum by the
However, for those who
love beautiful green scenery, the joy is to explore the outreaches of the
island. Over 1 million years ago, there were originally 2 islands that became
joined together by further volcanic activity, so the visitors will see a clear
difference when visiting the East and the West. For those who prefer to be
independent, rather than joining an organised tour, hiring a car is easy (your
hotel reception will help) and the quiet, well maintained roads make driving a
stress free experience.
Our first trip out was
to head east towards the village of Sete Cidades which sits on the shores of 2
magnificent volcanic lakes. To fully appreciate the beauty, and to see the
phenomenon of seeing one blue, and one green lake, head for the viewpoint of
Vista del Rei and soak up the ‘wow’ factor of looking into this giant volcano. This
area is the Lake District of the island and has many hidden volcanic lakes, not
all visible from the road, so for those who love walking, take your rucksack
and boots and explore on foot, the paths being generally well marked. We
tackled the 3 mile circuit that starts adjacent to Canary Lake (Largo do
Canario) and were rewarded by views of 6 hidden volcanic lakes, plus panoramic
coastal views, so this is one of the many walks to ‘go slow’ and savour unspoilt, natural beauty at its best. If
planning to walk, always take local advice about cloud, which can, on
occasions, sit on the high ground, even when the weather is clear on the coast.
No Azores experience
would be complete without a boat trip to see the whales and dolphins that
abound in these waters, and there are several companies that offer well
informed trips, with high safety standards and an agreement to work within the
regulations that ensure that the animals are not stressed or disturbed by the
whale watch boats. The better companies offer a pre-departure briefing and the
on-board presence of a marine biologist to explain the characteristics of the
particular whale or dolphin that has been seen. Luckily for us, the day we
chose had calm seas, warm sunshine and, most importantly, the whales and
dolphins decided to be out and about - especially the ‘showmen of the seas’,
With the promise of
clear weather in the mountains, our final trip of this holiday was to the
majestic Fire Lake - another ‘must see’ for any visitor. Leaving the town of
Ribiera Grande, on the north coast, the drive takes you up the mountain road
which offers several spectacular viewpoints and passes the pollution-free
geo-thermal electricity generating plants. Near the summit the reward is a
magnificent view of this dramatic lake, seen from the roadside viewpoint. Even
better, if you are feeling up to the physical challenge, you can climb down the
steep path and find perfect tranquillity with a stroll on the lakeside.
All our friends have heard of the Azores, nobody, however has a clue where it is! Thankfully for us the islands have escaped the tourist masses and remain a green and unspoilt destination for the visitor who seeks peace and beauty, as opposed to the ‘disco lights and glitz’ of some mainstream holiday destinations.
- Best time to visit: May to October.
- Flights: SATA (The Azorean airline) offers weekly, direct flights from Gatwick.
- Climate: Variable weather conditions. Sub-tropical, e.g. June temperatures approximately 22 degrees.
- What to pack: Comfortable footwear as many of the roads are cobbled and lightweight rainjacket.
- Language: Portuguese.
- Currency: Euro.
- Island dimensions: 40 miles by 10 miles.
Advisor recommends Sunvil
for group visits contact [email protected]
Agencia Acorianna de Viagems
Rua de Lisboa
9500 - 216 Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores
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