The Azores: Like Hawaii in the Atlantic

Hot springs abound in this far-flung Portuguese archipelago
São Miguel, Azores
São Miguel, Azores
There’s a tendency to head for the tried and true when it comes to Europe. Flights to Paris, Rome and Prague are popular, but chances are high that you’ll look across the aisle and spot the client you thought you were taking a holiday from. Instead, play it safe and go somewhere yet to be overrun by tourists. The best part about the Azores islands? The deeper you dive into them, the better you’ll feel.

Deep (São Miguel) – Start in Ponta Delgada, the archipelago’s capital and only true city. In the São Pedro district, ocean views, vibrant murals and black and white mosaic sidewalks of offer plenty of photo-snapping moments. The Hotel Marina Atlantico keeps you in the heart of things and close to the popular Azorean steak lunch at Alcides Restaurant. Pop in for picnic staples at the local market and then run away to Furnas. The hydrangea lined route will keep the camera clicking, especially as you pass the volcanic steamed pits used to cook the local Cozido — a mix of meats and root vegetables. Then spend your days at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel: renowned for its outdoor, therapeutic geothermal mineral baths and 12-hectare gardens.

Deeper (Pico) – It’s well worth the extra flight to Pico to get that “different planet” feel. Book into the large rooms at the Aldeia da Fonte eco-hotel and spend your days dipping into the natural swimming pools along the Atlantic Ocean, touring the rocky landscape and admiring the unique vineyards that produce the islands’ award-winning whites (best when sipped at Ancoradouro Restaurant). The more adventurous will enjoy touring the caves at Gruta das Torres, hiking Pico Mountain or boarding a zodiac for whale watching.

Deepest (Faial) – From Pico you can hop on a ferry to neighbouring Faial. The crater at its centre offers magnificent views, and in the port town of Horta you can explore the tiny parks and stunning architecture or catch up with locals over a signature G&T at Peter’s Café Sport. For a unique dining experience head to Genuino’s. Decor is inspired by its namesake owner’s solo sailing trips around the world, and he is often on site ready to bend your ear with a tale.

Heather Greenwood Davis is a lawyer and freelance writer.  Reach her at www.globetrottingmama.com.