The New York Times recently released their 52 Places to Go in 2019, listing the most alluring travel destinations for the coming year. The Azores, a Portuguese archipelago, stands at number nine, and for good reason. Here's your itinerary around this gorgeous, soon-to-be-hip handful of volcanic islands.
What and where are the Azores?
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Azores archipelago is made up of nine major islands and a few islets with volcanic topography. Relatively isolated and boasting pristine scenery, the Portuguese territory is a hidden jewel.
A blend of the Caribbean's lush greenery, Scandinavia's jagged coastlines, New Zealand's relaxed atmosphere, and a little unique otherworldliness, the Azores' landscapes truly are one-of-a-kind. With azure-hued crater lakes, towering volcanic peaks, luxuriant vegetation, bucolic villages, and black sand beaches, you'll never run out of gorgeous sights. Here are the top-tier experiences you can enjoy in the archipelago.
Enjoy the panorama at Sete Cidades
Sete Cidades might be the most jaw-dropping sight of the entire archipelago. Sete Cidades is a caldera, a cauldron-like hollow that appears following the draining of a magma chamber, situated on Sao Miguel. The enormous twin crater lakes that have formed, one emerald-hued and the other azure-colored, are surrounded by verdant slopes covered in a lush mantle of various shades of green. Various walking trails were also incorporated into the landscape, running along cliff sides or leading to the lakes' shores, and they all offer different mesmerizing angles of this singular landscape.
Stroll around Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada, located on the southern coast of Sao Miguel Island, is the archipelago's capital and largest as well as most populous city. Bustling yet serene, rustic yet forward-looking, Ponta Delgada is a must-see while in the Azores. Noteworthy sights include the imposing, three-arched city gates, the peaceful harbor, the St. Sebastian church of Gothic architecture, and the Gruta do Carvao, a monumental lava tube.
Get close to magnificent marine mammals
Most of the islands offer guided tours to visitors who wish to get closer to the majestic marine creatures that roam this part of the Atlantic, which notably include whales and dolphins. The tour companies are also committed to minimizing disturbances to the animals during these excursions, combining amazing adventure with good conscience. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of pods of dolphins playfully chasing your boat as you glide across the serene ocean.
Indulge in local delicacies
Due to their geographic isolation, the Azores have developed their very own culture, which even varies from island to island. This diversity within singularity is translated into the archipelago's cuisine, which is an intriguing and flavorful culinary patchwork. A particularly loved delicacy is lapas, clams caught off the rocks that are enjoyed raw or grilled, accompanied with butter, lemon, and garlic. On Sao Jorge Island you'll also find one of the Azores' most prized specialties, Queijo São Jorge, which is a delicious cheese.
But the one dish that truly is unmissable is cozido. In the village of Furnas, on Sao Miguel Island, a meat and vegetable stew is sunk into the volcanic ground, which will slowly cook the meal for a whole day before it can be enjoyed. Ovens and hobs really can't compete.