In October 2017, I had the pleasure to be invited to the UK’s most prestigious ABTA Travel Convention on the islands of the Azores. Whilst I was mainly there for the convention, I did take the opportunity to explore the main island of Sao Miguel for a day.
The Azores comprises of nine unique Portuguese islands located in the mid-Atlantic between Portugal and North America. The scenery is sublime, from calm seas to crater lakes, colonial architecture, beaches, the island has so much to offer.
Whilst there are direct seasonal flights from London to the island of Sao Miguel, I took advantage to fly with TAP from Manchester via Lisbon. Although I had a few hours wait in Lisbon Airport, I took advantage of the ANA Lounge to escape the hustle and bustle of the airport and also to relax.
The taxi from the airport to my hotel was a 10 minutes and cost Euros 10. I stayed at the 4* Azoris Royal Garden on a Bed & Breakfast basis, which I can highly recommend. The location was superb, a 10 minute walk through cobbled streets to the main town of Ponta Delgada. The hotel provided a tranquil environment with a beautiful Japanese garden with water features and seating areas, plus an outdoor pool area and elegant public areas. Restaurants and bars were close by, all of which served fresh appealing food with impeccable service at extremely affordable prices.
Although I travelled in October, the climate was around 22 degrees dropping to 18 degrees in the evening. In fact, the Azores has a mild climate year round (15 degrees in the winter and reaching 25C degrees in the height of summer) making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities such as walking, whale watching, kayaking and jeep tours.
I would recommend hiring a car to explore the island, driving is on the right. You can travel between the islands by boat, however it is not always recommended as the distance between most of the islands would mean that the majority of your day is spent travelling. The exception would be the central group of islands, Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge which, due to their close proximity, are only a short ferry crossing from one other (between 30-90 minutes). However, inter-island flights are possible although they did appear to be on the high side.
Whilst I did not take advantage of the whale watching, those on the convention who did were certainly not disappointed and took some incredible pictures. I was informed that 24 of the planet's 80 species of whales and dolphins have been sighted off the coast of the Azores. During the summer months (Jul-Aug) migratory species including pods of baleen whales, pilot and beaked whales, Atlantic-spotted dolphins, striped dolphins and turtles pass the islands. Whereas, in winter and spring (Oct-Jun), species of baleen whales such as fin whales, sei whales, humpback whales and blue whales are likely to be seen.
I would recommend the island of Sao Miguel as an ideal island for an introduction to the Azores. There is plenty to see and do during a week long stay drive to the fabulous volcanic crater lakes, visit a pineapple factory and tea plantation, bathe in a thermal hot pool in Furnas' botanical park, swim with dolphins, play a round of golf, bike rides, bird watching – plus much more. As an interesting two centre holiday I would suggest 3 or 4 nights in Lisbon and then the remainder of your holiday on Sao Miguel.
They are one of those untouched destinations. Visit now, before they change.