The Azores: Nine island gems with a volcanic past and a magical present

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(CNN) – The journey to heaven on earth does not require a long, arduous or dangerous journey.

In fact, a vague landscape reminiscent of a fairy tale is barely five hours from Boston and about four hours from the United Kingdom. It is a land where waterfalls descend from iridescent green slopes; Where roads are lined with hydrangea hedges; And where the rough shores are covered by black sand beaches.

Lost quality prevails, whether it’s a village of stone dwellings attached to paved roads, or locals who adhere to the old ways of planting crops on fertile plains at the foot of steep cliffs, or ride horse-drawn carts. Deliver the milk to the cheese factory.

Welcome to the Azores, a chain of nine charming islands in the middle of the Atlantic but part of Portugal. The archipelago is an autonomous region located about 1,000 miles from the Portuguese mainland. The island’s thermal pools, lush caldera, crater lakes and steaming geysers all bear witness to the violent volcanic forces that gave birth to them, yet each island has a distinctive character where nature prevails in its wild.

Azores Airlines flies non-stop from Boston to Sao Miguel Island to Lodges on Terceira with year-round stopovers to Ponta Delgada and Ponta Delgada. Both United (from Newark) and Azores Airlines (from JFK, on ​​select days) have summer non-stop service to Ponta Delgada. British Airways serves nonstop, summer on Saturdays.

Here’s what to expect on each island, after heading straight to the archipelago that is far from the world:

Western islands

Flores

Flores is the westernmost island of the Azores. Although its name translates into “flowers”, it is the abundant water that most defines this striking emerald green island that is often shrouded in fog.

There are seven crater lakes that speck out the undulating interior, including the green Lagoa Negra of the forest that sits right next to the Cobalt Blue Lagoa Comprida, with the Miradoro (point of view) completely between them.

Side-by-side Lagoa Negra, on the left, and Lagoa Comprida Flores create stunning views.

Side-by-side Lagoa Negra, on the left, and Lagoa Comprida Flores create stunning views.

Javarman / Adobe stock

Between the lush green cliff walls of the island dripping with waterfalls, the mighty Poko Do Buckalhau walks 300 feet down to a small, swimming pool.

Visitors staying on Aldeia da Cuada, A centuries-old village adorned with local antiques and patchwork quilts transformed into an atmospheric accommodation of stone cottages, will enjoy views of the cascading waterfalls from their back door. The sanctuary embraces the simple pleasures of life, including star gazing from a private garden.

Corvo

With less than 500 inhabitants and a secluded town situated on a single parcel of land above sea level, Corvo is the smallest (and most remote) Azorian island, only four miles long and not even three miles wide.

Bird-watching on small corvo is a popular activity.

Bird-watching on small corvo is a popular activity.

Jacob / Adobe stock

Nevertheless, this tiny island (remnant of an ancient volcano about 10 miles north of Flores) is a popular paradise for bird watchers, who especially gravitate here in the fall, hoping to see the yellow-billed cuckoo, Korean sheerwater and many other species. . .

Central Islands

File

For hundreds of years, sailing ships have built the capital port of Horta – known for its boldly painted seawall – a stopover involving navigating between the new and old worlds in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The anchoring of their yachts, many current captains and crew are still approaching Peter Cafe Sport, An establishment more than 100 years old where marine monuments plaster comfortable interiors. His Scrimshaw Museum, dedicated to the art of carving and carving whale teeth and bones, features items from the late 1800s.
Vivid hydrangeas border roads along the route to the western end of the file.

Vivid hydrangeas border roads along the route to the western end of the file.

Schleierner / Adobe stock

Sky-blue Hydrangea Border Road and frame house soccer ball-sized globes along the way to the west end of the island. This desolate, monochromatic area is in stark contrast to the buzzing, colorful Horta.

An entire village is buried in charcoal-black ash and other volcanic material that erupted from a long submarine eruption decades ago. Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Center There are exhibitions telling stories of these and other volcanoes.

Pico

Mount Pico, about 8,000 feet high, Portugal’s highest peak, dominates the island’s landscape.

Mount Pico is the highest peak in Portugal at 7,713 feet (2,351 m).

Mount Pico is the highest peak in Portugal at 7,713 feet (2,351 m).

rvdschoot / Adobe Stock

Here, it seems, almost everything is made of black basalt lava stone, including a coral mosaic around the local grape vines that have kept them warm and protected from the island’s dim, salty winds for centuries.

It is the fertile, mineral-rich volcanic land that puts Pico on every true onophile list. This Cooperative VitivinicolaThe 70-year-old wine co-op in the island’s capital, Medellina, offers informal tasting, including Verdelho, a crisp white product made from local grapes on the island.
Considering the sensitivity of the soil near the pico, like a village Lava Homes The resort relies on local stone and wood in the construction of its 14, multi-window, contemporary villa.

Sao Jorge

Snacking from the landscape of wild heather and Japanese cedar is the scenic footpath that ends at Faja, or the cliff-backed fertile plains that were formed by landslides and ancient lava flows.

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One of the most exciting is the Faja de Santo Cristo, accessed by a six-mile-long donkey trail descending from the cloud-covered summit of the Serra de Topo. The route passes through the gates of old watermills and tiny branches to the secluded, waterfront Hamlet Faza de Santo Cristo. Residents grow yams, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes in the terrace gardens.

This shore attracts surfers who come for point break waves. However, the island is best known for its culinary delights: their tangy cow’s milk cheese.

Quijo Sao Jorge Still produced by methods centuries ago. This delicious cheese – it can be drizzled with honey – is served in restaurants not only on Sao Jorge (such as Fornos de Lava) but also on other Azorian islands and mainland Portugal.

Graciosa

Many of the signature sites on the Graciosa offer a dramatic education at the island’s volcanic origins.

Go down about 200 steps Ferna du Enxofre, Active volcanic lava cave. It is disturbing to know that, before this ladder was built, the locals used to lower themselves by rope to get drinking water for their cattle.
Ferna do Enxofre is an impressive lava cave on the island of Graciosa.

Ferna do Enxofre is an impressive lava cave on the island of Graciosa.

Stefano / Adobe stock

The bottom view is surreal. Unlike the base pond filled with cold rainwater, the cave air is saturated with the smell of sulfur and the fumarole bubbles and boils at 180 F (82 C). Sunlight is poured into the roof through the oculus, showing yellow crystals that glow from the boulder to the sloping slopes.

In Carapacho’s spa village, geothermal energy is used to heat the pool by soaking. Termas du Carapacho The resort offers numerous treatments, including hot stone massages based on the island’s volcanoes.

Tersera

While Pico’s black basalt gives the island a black and white brushstroke look, Tercera uses the Creola crayon palette in many ways.

The colorful facade in front of the streets of the capital, Angara du HeroismoAnd strikingly painted – violet-hooded – imperio (chapels), sprinkling the lush landscape.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angara do Heroismo, features brightly colored historic buildings.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angara do Heroismo, features brightly colored historic buildings.

Jose A. Burnett Bassett / Moment RF / Getty Images

On the north coast, the village of Biscoitos traces the origins of its volcanoes in which natural pools of all sizes and depths puncture the hard black lava that spreads over the harbor. Next to this, beach towels, umbrellas and loungers can be taken out one day at sunrise and soaking.

The town is also home to a family Wine Museum Where his more than 100-year-old wine-making works of art are on display inside and outside the garden.
Of Tersera Caprica azores ecology Laurel Forest offers six modern cabins. Local women’s art is at least pronounced in the interior.

Eastern Islands

Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel is the largest Azorian island and where Ponta Delgada, Located in the capital of the Azores Autonomous Region. The island is about 40 miles (65 km) long and 9 miles (15 km) wide.
Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores Autonomous Region.

Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores Autonomous Region.

Daliu / Adobe stock

It is home to the world’s oldest commercial pineapple-growing greenhouse and Europe’s oldest operating tea plantation.

One of the island’s most famous landscapes is the Farnas Valley, a dormant pit wrapped in foliage and dripping with memories of its volcanic past, inviting warm springs.

Centuries old inside this valley Terra Nostra Garden Especially magical. Winding shady paths along the Serpentine Canal, grotto and local and exotic plants, which are more than a century old.

With volcanic sand-filled tree ferns and bunkers, the 18-hole Furnace Golf Club is located 1,700 feet above sea level.

In Ponta Delgada, guests stay at the boutique property Senhora da Rosa Experience away from the hustle and bustle of this capital city, especially when soaking in the small pool set in the pineapple greenhouse.

Santa Maria

Santa Maria is the southernmost island of the Azores, with sunlight and golden sand beaches.

Santa Maria is the southernmost island of the Azores, with sunlight and golden sand beaches.

Clara Bakalrova / Adobe Stock

Santa Maria, the southernmost of the Azores, is not only the sunniest of the islands, but also the only one with golden sand beaches.

The sea, sky and valleys of the sea and valleys combine at Miradauro da Pedra Reza, creating a beautiful picnic spot. Japanese cedar forests form canopies along zig-zagging roads, sometimes along roads surrounded by Azorian blueberries and small orchids.

The village of Sઓo Lorenco is especially popular in summer for its photogenic sandy stretch backed by tapestry of old vineyards surrounded by black lava stone walls.

The village on the coast of Anjos has a quiet, natural pool and local watering hole Bar dos Enjos Provides stellar views of the sunset to enjoy roasting limpets (sea snails).

Jeanine Baron is a New York City-based travel writer who specializes in Portugal and has frequently visited the Azores.

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