The following article is written by Julians sister Sarah. After a long time waiting to leave to the Azores, she and her husband Chris left towards the paradise for nature-lovers. What they did was hiking, enjoying the fresh fish and crest to breath-taking viewpoints. Here Sarah shares her Azores travel tips with you, have fun!
When you are planning a trip to the Azores you should not be deceived by the famous “Azores High”. The weather is often volatile and it changes between sun and rain within an hour. The inhabitants of the Azores sometimes say that you can see all four seasons in one day. While traveling in July and August the most consistent weather can be expected as well as in early fall where you will see blue skies often. Due to the quick changes between sun and rain, weather- and water-proof clothes that dry quickly are recommended. Beside rain the climate is often very humid thus fast-drying clothes are a big plus for longer trekking.
What are must-sees on the Azores? My article will cover the biggest island “Sao Miguel”, as I unfortunately haven’t visited the other islands. The most important first off: I deeply fell in love with the island and will certainly come back. In our time on the Azores we stayed in Ponta Delgada, the biggest city on the Azores, which is still not big and not hectic at all. For me there was no such thing as a “Highlight” but still: the island impressed me. Thus, the following is not a ranking on what I would recommend doing, but more a list with things I really liked.
1. Visit the Smoking Springs of Furnas
The smoking hot springs are very famous and locals cook their food often in the constantly boiling, sulphur-smelling small lakes. Really impressing to see what mother nature can do even though I never got used to the smell of rotten eggs. What I liked better: the botanical gardens in Furnas. Entrance fee: 8 Euros per Person. The size and variety of trees and bushes is impressing and wonderfully built pools invite you for a relaxing swim (included in the entrance fee). Unfortunately, we didn’t find the in the Internet promised lockers, but majority of people just leave their belongings lying around, as you trust each other here. So: Think of your swimming shorts!
The bus from Ponta Delgada leaves daily twice and roughly takes one hour and stops at the botanical gardens. A taxi to Ponta Delgada costs 35 Euros and leaves directly beside the church.
2. Hiking around Seite Cidades
In our time at the Azores we did an impressive hike to the famous lakes of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde and left to our starting point with the bus from Ponta Delgada (3 Euros per person / goes twice daily). Driving into the middle of nowhere, we got excited. Somewhere in the tiny village of Seite Ciadades the bus driver opened the doors: End station, please get out. And there we were. In the middle of nowhere, no idea where we are, finding ourselves standing with another handful of tourists without any orientation surrounded by a breath-taking landscape. On the main road, we walked a couple of minutes and have been very happy to have a guide showing us the directions during our 12 kilometres hike. Through jungle and stopping at a couple of viewpoints we have been impressed by the green mountains surrounding us (all mountains are active volcanos). Walking hill up steeply, looking at the beautiful scenery we had tears in our eyes as we have never seen something like this before. The trial let us to a viewpoint from which you can oversee the lakes Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, which shines in green and blue light if you are lucky with the weather. Unfortunately, we haven’t been lucky with the weather. The higher we got the more fog was lying on the mountains and cold winds forced us to close our jackets properly. Once we arrived on the highest viewpoint (a real tourist hotspot for the Azores with a hot-dog booth) we hardly saw anything. As we already saw impressive highlands on our way up, we haven’t been disappointed at all.
We continued our trip alongside a pink tree-lined path on which we did not have a great view anymore caused by thick fog. The prevailing mood while trekking through the thick fog and cold winds has been very special and the mysterious feeling comes back when just thinking about it. Once we arrived back in the village a waiter in a bar called a taxi for us to Ponta Delgada (there are two bars). We paid 20 Euros for our way back including an amazing chat with a warm-hearted taxi driver. We never had the feeling of getting ripped off and everybody tried their very best to communicate in English. All locals we talked to have been friendly, proud of their island and happy that we are visiting.
3. Enjoy local dishes, fresh fish and good wine
Ranging from fresh fish to other regional products, cheese, meat and marmalade – you can enjoy amazing food (and cheap) on the Portuguese island. As almost everywhere in the world, you will save money when you eat local dishes and there is no reason not to do. In the end the bills are always lower as in a German restaurant, for example. In Ponta Delgada, we especially liked the cute Tavern “Taberna Acor”. Here you can choose from a great variety of cheese and meat plates with delicious bread, which is plenty to eat for two people for just 10 Euros. A bottle of the house whine is 8 Euros, which is also super delicious. Usually the waiter serves a bottle and checks when you want to pay how much you drank, which you then get charged for. Tip here: Try the wine that is grown on the highest mountain of the island, “Pico”.
You can eat fresh fish literally everywhere very well. It’s fresh as it couldn’t be any fresher. We always asked which fish got caught in the night before and tried this one. Recommendation here: “Cais 20”, directly at the promenade from Ponta Delgada. The restaurant served the by far best fish we had in our lives.
4. Hiking “Lagoa do Fogo” – The fire lake
An unbelievable beautiful and exhausting hike that brings you to crater lake, 600 meters above sea level. Our friendly travel guide dropped us off at the starting point and we started the ascent. Again, we started our hike in the middle of the jungle and have been happy about the fog and wind, as the hike might not have been very enjoyable in tropical heat. A varied hike alongside the idyllic Leyada (water conduit). We found ourselves in fogged highlands and the screams of the seagulls intensified the feeling of the unreal. The lake is supposed to be turquoise blue but at that day it was hardly visible and not as pretty as we read prior our trip. You could get the impression that the hike was disappointing or not nice due to the bad weather, but this is by no means correct. We were privileged to enjoy the very special mood all alone. As soon as we arrived at the starting point again, our guide picked us up and brought us, together with our tired legs to Caldeira Velha.
5. Relax at Caldeira Velha – Hot springs and a waterfall
This has been on our list after the hike. In the middle of the beautiful jungle you will find this pretty area where you can observe boiling sulphur springs, take a bath in ferrous pools or relax in warm pools. The entrance fee is 2 Euros. Employees are extremely friendly and nobody locks their belongings, you remember, you trust each other here.
This is a small selection of my “Azores travel tips”. My advice: Don’t stress yourself. In this point, we can learn a lot from the locals. Everybody takes their time. If it’s in the supermarket at the cashier or at the airport, nobody stresses out. Back in Germany the stress and the hectic pretty much shocked me. So, better skip one point and take some of the relaxation back to your everyday life. One day we have not been able to leave the hotel due to heavy rain but yes, you need to plan one day for this when you are on the Azores, make use of that day and do not have a bad feeling wasting a day.