Portugal : The Azores

Walking in the Azores

Trip code: W07AZ

Guided group walking

7 nights,
twin centre

Level: 3
Stretching

Operated by
Exodus Travels

SUMMARY

  • Operated by our sister company, Exodus
  • Visit and explore three unique islands Enjoy vineyards, volcanoes and coastal views Options to climb Mount Pico on Day 2 and go whale watching on Day 3

WHAT'S INCLUDED?

  • All breakfasts and six lunches All accommodation Tour leader throughout All transport and listed activities Group arrival and departure transfers available

TRIP DESCRIPTION

It is hard to believe 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 three of the most interesting islands, walking through Unesco-listed vineyards, lava plateaux (or fajãs) and sunken volcanoes to showcase the Azores at their best.

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DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

 

Day 1: Start in Madalena, Pico

Arrive at the hotel in Madalena, Pico, our base for the first three nights of the trip. Depending on when everyone arrives, there will be a welcome briefing either this evening or tomorrow morning. Pico is known as the Black Island thanks to the black volcanic earth used to build walls on many of the UNESCO-listed vineyards. It is also home to the highest peak in Portugal, Mount Pico, which stands at 7,713ft (2,351m) and dominates the horizon. Accommodation: Hotel Caravelas (or similar)

Day 2: Walk to the coast on the Caminho dos Burros or take an optional climb to the summit of Mount Pico

We start the week with a transfer to the central highlands of Pico, by Caminho das Lagoas, where we begin our hike. After following a dirt track, we take a path that leads close to the Cabeço do Mistério volcanic zone, formed in 1562-1564 during the longest volcanic eruption since people settled in the Azores. It's common to encounter fog and mist in this zone, and amongst the dense vegetation we may come across endemic species such as the Azores spurge (Euphorbia stygiana). Following the route, we begin our descent to Pico's northern coast, passing through pastures and noticing how the vegetation increases in size as we descend. We continue towards the coast through a forest of acacia and Azores laurel in the Prainha Forest Park until we reach our destination for today, Baía das Canas, where it may be possible to have a short swim (weather conditions and time permitting). Alternatively, today is the perfect opportunity to join an optional challenging trek to the top of Mount Pico. This is a very strenuous six-to-seven-hour climb, which will be led by a local mountain guide. The excursion must be booked in advance of the trip and is always subject to availability and favourable weather conditions (for further information please check the Extra Expenses & Spending Money section of the Trip Notes). Accommodation: Hotel Caravelas (or similar)

Day 3: Optional whale-watching excursion; walk through vineyards on the Vinhas da Criação Velha route

Apart from offering unique walking opportunities, the Azores is among 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 here, with sperm whale the most common. There is also the chance to spot bottle-nose dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, sei whales, Atlantic spotted dolphins and blue whales. 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, always maintaining an appropriate distance. Moreover, during feeding and resting times, we avoid any interference with the natural habitat of the whales. Please note the whale-watching excursion must be booked in advance of your trip. Please speak to your sales representative for more details. In the afternoon, we embark on a largely coastal trail, notable for its scenic and cultural diversity, and which connects the village of Candelária to Areia Larga (part of Madalena town). This trail passes through an area protected by UNESCO for its unique vineyard culture and is one of the most emblematic features of the island. 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 vines grow on the ground and through volcanic rock, rather than supported by a trellis. Our trail is rich in elements associated with vineyard culture such as rola-pipas (carved slopes to enable wine barrels to be slid along the ground to the waiting boats) and relheiras (tracks left by the wheels of ox carts). The path winds from the coast, then inland to circumnavigate hills, and back to the coast, with sections offering beautiful views over the vineyards and the islets of Madalena. We end by walking along the ocean-front until we reach Areia Larga. Accommodation: Hotel Caravelas (or similar)

Day 4: Ferry to São Jorge, coastal walk to Fajã dos Vimes

This morning, we take a ferry (approximately one hour) to the fascinating island of São Jorge. Here, steep-sided cliffs seem to slice through the ocean and fajãs (low-lying areas of lava formed from the subsidence of the cliffs) attract visitors from far and wide. São Jorge is also well known throughout the Azores for producing delicious cheese, one of its main exports. We start in the small village of São João, where we can admire the narrow streets and traditional houses. We then head inland and cross agricultural fields where crops such as grapes, corn and yam grow. As we continue, the farmland gives way to woods of firetree, Australian cheesewood and white wood. Looking back, we can enjoy views of Fajã de São João. On our way to Lourais, the highest point of our walk, we cross the Ribeira do Salto stream, so named for the nearby waterfall that plunges into a pool. We continue our descent to Fajã dos Bodes and on towards Fajã dos Vimes, being sure to stop and enjoy the views across Pico and Faial islands. Returning to the coast, we end today's walk in Fajã dos Vimes, where it's possible to taste a locally produced coffee or visit a handicraft workshop where traditional quilts are made (time permitting). The coffee served at Café Nunes, in Fajã dos Vimes, is well known for having once been the only coffee produced in Europe. The owner of the café has a small coffee plantation behind his house, where the coffee is produced and prepared by his own family. The coffee is organic and has a unique texture and aroma. At the end of the walk, we transfer to our hotel on São Jorge, where we stay for two nights. Accommodation: Hotel São Jorge Garden (or similar)

Day 5: Walk from Serra do Topo to Fajã dos Cubres

Today's walk offers beautiful panoramic views of the northern coast of São Jorge, along with many points of geological and cultural interest. We begin the day close to Serra do Topo wind farm and head north on a path rich with native flora and birds – if we're lucky, we may spot Eurasian whimbrels, São Miguel goldcrests and buzzards. As we descend towards the northern coast, we pass an inviting waterfall where it's possible to stop for a swim. We then come to the Caldeira de Santo Cristo Lake, a protected landscape and place of cultural and scenic interest. Known for the vast number of clams that inhabit the lake, it is an important resting place for resident species and migratory birds. Surfing and bodyboarding have also become popular here, as the lake lies directly next to the Atlantic Ocean. We follow the coast northwest until we arrive at the scenic Fajã dos Cubres, near the church of Nossa Senhora de Lourdes. We transfer back to our accommodation on São Jorge in the afternoon. Accommodation: Hotel São Jorge Garden (or similar)

Day 6: Ferry to Faial, Capelo to Capelinhos walk

This morning, we take a ferry (approximately 2hr 30min) to Faial, known as the Blue Island because of the myriad hydrangeas that bloom during summer. After arriving, we transfer to the island interior and the start of today’s hike, which goes to the volcanic ridge of Península do Cabeço, a site of geological interest with approximately 20 volcanic cones. We follow a path overlooking the coastal village of Praia do Norte, before descending to Furna Ruim, a 180ft (55m) deep lava cave. Continuing through a landscape of Azorean laurel trees and heather, we pass the impressive Algar do Caldeirão cave then take a stairway towards Cabeço do Canto, from which we will enjoy fantastic views of the Capelinhos Volcano. There may be time for an optional visit to the Interpretation Centre (entrance not included, dependent on our arrival time) to learn more about the volcanic eruptions of 1957-58, which changed the shape of Faial. In the afternoon, we transfer to our hotel on Faial, our base for the last two nights of the trip. Accommodation: Hotel Faial Garden (or similar)

Day 7: Caldeira crater walk

Our final walk in the Azores is an impressive circular hike around Faial's iconic volcanic crater, Caldeira. Formed by several eruptions over the last 400,000 years, Caldeira is an important site of geological interest. We start the day's walk at the principal viewpoint of Caldeira, taking a tunnel to the vast interior of Cabeço dos Trinta's volcanic cone, now home to an abundance of natural vegetation including heather and holly. Returning to the trail, we follow a route that circumnavigates the crater, all the while taking in spectacular views into the crater on one side and marvellous coastal vistas on the other. Along the way, it's possible to spot several endemic species including Azorean blueberry and Azorean angelica. We return to our hotel in Faial and the rest of the day is free for you to spend as you wish. Accommodation: Hotel Faial Garden (or similar)

Day 8: End Horta, Faial

We enjoy our final breakfast of the tour before making our return journey home. If you’d prefer to spend a bit more time on the island, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.

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These tour only prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £380.

These flight inclusive prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £380.

TRAVEL DETAILS

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.

To find out more about the travel options available call our sales team on 01606 720199 or email sales@headwater.com

Transportation

Whenever possible, we use private minivans (up to nine seats) for transport on the islands. In some cases (on the smaller Azorean islands), minivans are not available so we use larger buses. Between the islands, we use the public ferry service. Please note, transport for optional activities is not included but will be of the same standard.

Joining Instructions

nKey information Start hotel: Hotel Caravelas, R. Conselheiro Terra Pinheiro 3, 9950-329 Madalena Phone: +351 292 628 550 Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening (usually at 6:30pm), but if you miss it the leader will update you separately Airport: Pico Airport (PIX) Getting to the start hotel The start hotel is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. Your options for this journey are: Take an Exodus transfer Exodus provides one group arrival transfer from the airport, which is timed to coincide with the arrival of a chosen flight from London, UK. You may join this transfer at no extra cost, provided you can be at the airport before the transfer leaves. Speak to your sales representative for the group arrival transfer times or to arrange a private transfer. Make your own way You can reach the start hotel easily by taxi. A cab from the airport costs about €20. On arrival at the hotel please make the reception staff aware that you are part of an Exodus group and they will have more details on meeting with your leader and group. If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative. Catching your return flight There’s a group departure transfer to Horta Airport for customers who Exodus booked onto a chosen flight to London, UK. Please speak to your sales representative if you wish to join. If the group departure transfer does not suit your flight time, speak to your sales representative to arrange an alternative transfer. n

REVIEWS

Fabulous week with an Amazing Guide

A chance to explore 3 different Azorean islands. Good mix of inland and coastal walks varying from lush green vegetation to barren volcanic terrain.

A great hiking programme that showed off the 3 islands we visited at their best (with the exception of the hike on day 2 in the afternoon -I believe you already know about this and the hike has already been removed - it was a shame, as I think for some, it caused some discomfort for later walks). The mix of islands, opportunity to walk/eat together as a group, was a great balance of activities. There was time on a coach/travel every day, however, that was an ok amount of travel, to ensure we got the best of our time there. The Azores are absolutely beautiful and I would recommend this holiday (with a few tweaks). Generally packed lunches were ok, some lovely picnics on part of the route. (one day was poor , the cheese sandwich day, would like to see that improved)

Great holiday but should have been longer. Travellers for this trip need to be fit, prepared for steep climbs and humid weather, 'moderate' is not an accurate assessment of the walks. Admittedly 3 - 4mph is a bit of a give away, that said definitely a trip to repeat, this is a beautiful part of the world.

The Azores are beautiful, especially if you go when the hydrangeas are looking good. This trip is a great way of seeing four islands but, since you stay in only two hotels, you’re not repacking all the time. The accommodation was very good. A smart hotel in Ponta Delgada and a good enough hotel in Horta with each room having a balcony with amazing views of the harbour, Pico island and the sunrise. The breakfasts were pretty good and provided plenty of food before the walks. Both towns have plenty of interest and the nautical side of Horta is great. There were seven of us in the group plus our Sao Miguel guide (Tony) and our four islands guide (Filipe) both of whom were very good. We all got on well. If you’re fit and mobile, and strong enough going uphill and especially downhill, the walks are good exercise and not overly challenging. There’s plenty to see and photograph along the way and each walk is slightly different from the next. The group meals are the lunches with our guides having organised three picnics and three terrific restaurant lunches - local food in Sao Miguel and Pico and very good tuna in Peter’s Café on Faial. In the evenings we generally split into two or three smaller groups. Tip: it really pays off booking restaurants in advance. As The Azores are quite some way away, we decided to stay two weeks and so followed this trip with the self-guided ‘Cycling in the Azores’ on Terciera. So we ended up seeing five of the nine islands.

The weather wasn't very kind to us but we did get out walking on all the days.

Bruno our guide was very good. His knowledge of the islands was excellent and he made every effort to tailor the walks to the group. He also adapted the program when we were unable to visit Sao Jorge because of the earthquake.

Loved the botanical gardens and Lagoa do Fogo (although it was difficult to sit by the lake for very long because of the biting wind). I found the islands we visited very interesting.

I didn't go whale watching in Horta, instead went to the whaling museum (Porto Pim Whaling) and did the circular walk on the hill (Monte da Guia) behind it. Both were excellent alternatives.

The food was very good and the hotels and various restaurants. The accommodation in Ponta Delgada was very good and an excellent location.

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.

Excellent communication!!!
Very attentive professional service👍

5 May 2024

Excellent response time to all my requests and an obvious keenness to make things as easy as possible.

22 Feb 2024

Your representative was very helpful, and suggested some better alternative arrangements to some of those laid out in the holiday plan as laid out in the Headwater brochure and website.

25 Jun 2023


Guided group walking

7 nights,
twin centre

Level: 3
Stretching

Operated by
Exodus Travels

7 nights from £1999

CHOOSE A DEPARTURE

Call: 01606 720199