It is hard to believe that the Azores are part of Europe. Born from the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, this lush green archipelago of volcanic islands is a far cry from continental Portugal. Each of the nine islands has its own characteristics, from steep craters to abundant wildlife to sites of historical interest. All, however, are best explored on foot. We visit four of the most interesting islands, walking through UNESCO vineyards, lava plateaux (or 'fajas') and sunken volcanoes to showcase the Azores at their best.
Start Ponta Delgada.
We start the week with a transfer to Furnas where we walk around the crater lake. Here food is sometimes cooked by the heat of vents after it has been buried in sealed pots in the baking earth. This traditional Azorian way of cooking is known as 'Cozido das Caldeiras' and will be served for lunch. In the afternoon we head into the Terra Nostra botanical gardens where we have time to admire exotic flowers and trees from all over the globe. Amongst the trees and bushes a series of aqueducts leads thermal spring water to a pool in the centre of the gardens, where for centuries people have been bathing in its medicinal waters. On the return to Ponta Delgada we stop off at the tea plantations of Gorreana where we observe the plantation, the factory and taste some of the local teas.
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for a short flight to Faial Island, known as the 'blue island' because of the large quantity of hydrangeas that bloom during the summer months. After landing, we transfer to Peter's Café Sport, a traditional resting point for many sailors braving the Atlantic crossing. Here we will be guided round one of the largest Scrimshaw (carvings done on bone or ivory) collections in the world. The variation in designs of this 19th century art form, so synonymous with the Azores due to their whaling heritage, provide a varied and interesting experience.
After lunch, we take a short transfer to 'Trupes do Capelo', the start of today’s short hike. This trail is a wonderful example of the great ecological and geological diversity that characterizes this Natural Park. The trail finishes at the dramatic Capelinhos Volcano that rises steeply from the sea and features a number of unique formations. It was these that resulted in the construction of the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre. This is essentially a museum and study centre set up to show visitors how the volcano, and indeed the whole archipelago, was formed. In the late afternoon we transfer to our comfortable hotel, our base for the next three nights.
Taking the ferry to Pico offers us a chance to take in the size and scale of Mount Pico. At 2,351m it is Portugal’s highest peak and dominates the horizon on our approach. Pico is also known as the ‘black island’ thanks to the black volcanic earth used in the construction of the walls of many of the UNESCO-listed vineyards for which it is known.
Once on the island, we head out on our first walking tour of the Santa Luzia Vineyards. Azorean vineyards are a sight to behold. Built to protect the vines from the harsh sea winds, they amount to row after row of black horseshoe shapes that score the lush green coastline. What is more impressive is how the vine grows on the ground and through volcanic rock, rather than supported by a trellis through soil.
Alternatively, if you prefer to use your time in Pico to join an optional challenging summit trek to the top of Portugal's largest mountain, then today is the perfect opportunity to attempt this! This is a very strenuous 6-7 hour climb which will be led by a local mountain guide and is always subject to availability and weather conditions (for further information please check the Extra Expenses & Spending Money section in the Trip Notes).
From the harbour on Horta we take a ferry to Sao Jorge Island or the 'brown island'. Crossing times can vary between 1.5hrs and 2hrs 20 minutes depending on the time of year, and last minute schedule changes are not uncommon. This is by far the longest day in the itinerary but is well worth it to visit the fourth island of the trip. Sao Jorge is fascinating visually. Its steep sided cliffs seem to slice through the ocean, however it is the Fajas (low-lying areas of lava that were formed from the subsidence of the cliffs) that it is most famed for. Sao Jorge is also well known throughout the Azores for producing delicious cheese, one of its main exports. Shortly after arrival in Velas we transfer to the start of the walking tour from Caldeira do Santo Cristo to Faja dos Cubres. After arriving at Faja dos Cubres we then take a transfer back to Velas and across the channel back to Faial. (approx. 2.5 hours walking, distance 10km).
As today is a free day you have the chance to try out many of the other activities that the Azores have to offer. Apart from offering some unique walking opportunities, the Azores is perhaps one of the best places on the planet to spot whales and dolphins. There are 80 species of whale and dolphin and 25 of them have been sighted off the coast of the Azores, with the most common being the Sperm Whale. There is also the chance to spot Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Sei whales, Atlantic spotted dolphins and the holy grail - the Blue Whale.
If you choose to go on an excursion, you will have the chance to observe the behaviour of these wonderful creatures and learn more about their habitat with the help of the knowledgeable local experts on board. We observe strict protocols regarding interaction, maintaining the appropriate distance at all times. Moreover during feeding and resting times we avoid any interference with the whales’ natural habitat. This afternoon or evening we will take a flight back to Ponta Delgada.
After breakfast we head into the lush centre of Sao Miguel to Barrosa's mountain where we get a sense of why this island has earned its nickname the 'green island'. Today's final walk begins with a short but steep uphill section and continues following a 'levada' (small water channel) close to which you will find some well preserved species of endemic Azorian flora. The highlight of this walk is arriving at the viewpoint over the Lagoa do Fogo, one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the entire Azores network. We stop at Caldeira Velha waterfall for a well earned dip in its warm waters, in the afternoon we drive to Sete Cidades, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. From Vista do Rei we are rewarded with breathtaking views of tranquil lakes, blue hydrangeas bordering the crater rim that contrast with the steep sides of the crater.
End Ponta Delgada
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.
Here at Headwater we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can continue to develop, and where necessary improve, our services and ensure our holidays continue to be the best they can be. As this is a relatively new holiday, we don't yet have any customer reviews available from our customers, but here are the comments that have been received from previous Exodus travellers.
A really lovely trip to The Azores. A packed itinerary with whale and dolphin watching and exploring the island landscape, which is one of a kind! We saw tropical dolphins, playful bottle nosed and common dolphins and the small striped dolphins. Some played around the boat racing with us across the waves. We saw pilot whales and the magnificent sperm whales. It was a rigid inflatable boat so we were close to the water and it was both fun and exciting.
This is a short but packed easy walking trip guided by the brilliant knowledgeable and fun Bruno. From the lush heights overlooking lakes and craters to swimming in natural thermal pools to whale watching this trip has it all. Bruno’s enthusiasm for his country and love of his job meant he was totally engaged with the group. He probably would have crammed more into the itinerary if time had allowed. The islands of the Azores are stunning and have to be walked to be fully appreciated .
I've been to Portugal before, and was looking forward to experiencing another aspect of this country. This was my first trip with Exodus, and it was very impressive, start to finish. The daily outings, meals together, hotel choices, etc. were A+. Each island was unique and physically beautiful. The walks took us to places off the beaten path, which was exactly why I selected this trip.
You can be confident that our pricing includes all the standard requirements of your holiday and many additional extras. Always ensure that you are comparing like for like when booking your holiday.
This 7 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts and 5 lunches
All transport (incl. internal flights) and listed activities
Internal flights (for all bookings, land only and flight inclusive)
Arrival & departure transfers for group flights
How to book:
We do not currently have departure dates and prices available on-line. The season may have ended for this tour, or we are still in the process of adding these details to our website. Please contact us for further details.
This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
7 nights 4-star hotels, all rooms en suite
5 days guided walking; 1 free day
Group normally 4 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs
Altitude maximum 2351m (on optional ascent of Mt. Pico), average 500m
Travel by internal flights, private minivan and boats