The name ‘Azores’ most probably comes from the Portuguese ‘Açor’ – a falcon, or ‘Azures’, which means blue. In 2007 The Azores archipelago was chosen by National Geographic as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. Lying in the Atlantic Ocean, it is an autonomous region of Portugal and is located about 1500 km west of its coast. The islands were discovered by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century on their way to the New World. There are nine major Azorean islands, in three main groups – eastern with Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, central with Terceira, Graziosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial and western with Flores and Corvo. The climate of the Azores is very mild, being influenced by the passing Gulf Stream, which makes it an evergreen island. You will be struck by its unspoilt, natural beauty with the black vertical cliffs, the blue ocean and the extensive craters of ancient volcanoes with crystal clear water. Furnas and Sao Miguel may be especially worth visiting in spring when thousands of pink azaleas are in bloom. Similar spectacle with blooming hydrangeas takes place at the beginning of summer on Flores – the flower island.
Sao Miguel is the biggest island of the archipelago. It is 65-km-long and 16-km-wide. It is called ‘The Green Island’ because of its incredibly rich flora and it is the island most commonly chosen by tourists. It is recommended for both nature buffs and enthusiasts of active holidays. The capital of the island, lying in the south-west, is Ponta Delgada. It is also the island’s port. This charming little town hasn’t changed for a long time and still offers its olden beauty with winding, narrow streets, perfect for evening walks. Life concentrates on the 5 Outubro square, with a wide choice of concerts and festivals during the summer. Ponta Delgada, thanks to its location is an ideal base to start any trip around the island. In the north we have an interesting city called Ribeira Grande which, with its fertile land, is known for its tea plantations. Dark, gravel beach, awarded with the Blue Flag certification is famous among the windsurfers. In the south lies Vila Franca do Campo, the former capital of Sao Miguel, with its pineapple, banana, orange and grape plantations. The areas around Furnas are known for their geothermal phenomena. You can visit the sulphur springs with water so hot that it can be used to prepare the island’s traditional dish – cozido, which must be cooked for several hours in the pot buried underground. On the coast, in Ilheu da Villa you can swim in the natural swimming pool, also certified with a Blue Flag.
The third island of The Azores archipelago, when it comes to size. The landscape of the island is comprised of some geological miracles, like volcanic craters and caves, unique lava fields and evergreen vineyards. From spring to autumn it’s a home to many colourful festivals, for example the famous run with bulls taking place around the adjacent villages. Angra do Heroismo, the capital of Terceira, is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the entire archipelago and it is the cultural centre of the islands. It has been included in the UNESCO Heritage List. The historical centre has some very original buildings and numerous monuments: 17th-century tenement houses, a cathedral, a temple, castles and museums. The Monte Brasil peninsula with its volcanic crater that emerged from the sea, is the foremost attraction of the island. From the top you can enjoy a spectacular view of the capital and its two harbours – Fanal and Angra. While on the peninsula you can also pay a visit to the nature reserve and appreciate the island’s rich flora. Praia da Vitoria, the second biggest city, is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and the location of the US Army base. For all the wine lovers, don’t forget to visit Biscoitos, where the landscape is hugely dominated by magnificent, green vineyards. There is also a museum of wine, where you can get to know the production process of verdelho, a sweet wine, once exported to the Russian court. Finally, for adventure seekers, in the same area you can visit Algar do Carvao, one of the most majestic caves, 100-meter-deep, created over two thousand years ago in a volcanic eruption, and admire its splendid dripstones.