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.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted to our website, so that people can make an informed decision based on past experiences before heading off on holiday. We don’t edit the reviews, the only thing we do is proofread them and alter any typos, where necessary, to ensure they are easy to read for everyone. All reviews will be published (except in certain extreme circumstances), and a member of the Headwater team will respond to any constructive criticisms/comments under the reviews, at their discretion. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
A varied and memorable experience of some of the spectacular Azores, aided by an enthusiastic and well informed guide, Walking with good company was very enjoyable, and just the right level of exertion for us. My only slight reservation was the amount of time spent to do with air travel, given that this was only 7 days in total
The Azores are just wonderful; superb sights and experiences. The accommodation was very good and the travelling well planned (though two flights were delayed). In my opinion though too many islands are visited in just one week and the inter-island travelling is significant. There is enough to do and see on Faial and Sao Miguel for a month let alone a week.
Beautiful landscapes especially in early July when every lane and road, every hillside and field margin is decked in hydrangeas. The local guide went over and above the call of duty and introduced us to the best of Azorean hospitality and local fresh food in little cafes and restaurants or family homes that we would never have found ourselves. The two boot grading suggests tougher walking than it really is. The walking was quite easy but the travelling between islands by plane and boat was exhausting and in the first half of the week most of us were shattered and couldn't even remember what island we were on! Exodus who run this holiday, rate it at 3/10 for walking difficulty which is a more accurate reflection of difficulty levels.
The Azores Triangle trip was full on, non stop, apart from the free day on the Tuesday. We joined the Exodus group, who were International with mixed activity abilities. Very challenging walking. The itinerary was changed according to the weather conditions, to accommodate us holiday walkers. It became a joke ' wonder what Bruno will change today ' It was a friendly group who gelled very well, looking out for each other. Could have done with extra days stay to recover. Loved the holiday, thank you.
The Azores are beautiful and unspoilt islands and walking is one of the best way of seeing them.
Unfortunately it was the tour leader's first tour in the Azores as a leader and the handover from the last guide did not appear to have been carried out in a polished and full way. Although Kristaps grew in confidence through the week the practical arrngements for the Monday for the holiday were not terribly customer friendly - I will be writing a short note about this to you for you to share with Exodus.
Otherwise both hotels were very good and the islands are a delight as are the Azorean people.
The grading of the holiday made it sound easier than it actually was. The actual package was delivered by Exodus and there was not enough information about the level of difficulty presented by the terrain. Also there was very little information about what was actually involved in some of the optional activities.
The last day's activity included a substantial lunch and a farewell dinner which most people felt was too much. It would have been better to have this programme the previous day so that the farewell dinner could be properly enjoyed on the last evening!
An enjoyable introduction to the Azores
After a two year wait to visit the Azores I was not disappointed. The islands are stunning, everyone is friendly and help to make the most of your stay there. The walks were of interest and not too long or arduous and the vistits to local attractions added an extra insight to the life there. For anyone wanting to go somewhere a little bit different, away from the crowds, the Azores are the perfect place.
Enjoyable way to explore the Azores, however if I had known it was an Exodus trip I would have booked direct to gain more certainty on booking details.
This was the first time that the trip had run. In general it was another excellent Headwater holiday; the link up with Exodus worked much better than I had anticipated. There was no cutting back on Headwater's standards. The Azores present a challenge; 4 islands in a week means many complex transfers. Inevitably there are some aspects of the programme that could, and perhaps should, be changed for the future. This includes the basic question of whether to try and reach 4 islands in a week and the detail of some of the days. I'm sure your agents are already discussing this.
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:
For further details, or to check availability, speak to our sales team on 01606 720199 (we open again 9am Monday) or complete our holiday enquiry form (we'll contact you at a time that's most convenient for you).
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
Due to the tailor-made nature of our holidays, we need a little more information in order for us to check availability for Walking in the Azores. Simply complete the form below (fields marked * are mandatory) and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and an accurate price. Of course there's no obligation, but if you do wish to proceed with a booking they will be on-hand to assist you throughout the process.
Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 01606 720199 to discuss your requirements in more detail (we open again 9am Monday).