Dreaming of your next vacation destination? Wanting something that’s a bit exotic and unexpected? If you’re looking for outdoor activities, inspiring natural beauty, thrilling new adventures, a fascinating history with global impact, and a culinary scene that exploits the impressive range of local ingredients, all while being affordable — head to the Azores, the lesser-known autonomous region of Portugal.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is just a four hour direct flight from Boston or New York. With a year-round temperate climate and breathtaking scenery, the Azores should be high on your list of island vacation destinations. Comprised of nine islands, this volcanic archipelago is truly a hidden gem. Here are four tips for getting the most out of spending a week in what is being called one the most beautiful places in the world.
1. The Azores is divided into three regions and there are 3,370 miles between the most northerly island, Corvo, and the most southern island, Santa Maria. By focusing on the Central Group, which includes Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Flores, Pico and Faial, and adding São Miguel of the Eastern Group, you’ll experience the diversity and beauty of these islands, which are easily accessible by ferry or short plane ride.
2. While all of the islands offer outstanding outdoor activities (hiking, swimming, snorkeling and diving, horseback riding, fishing, biking, boating and sailing, and sunbathing by a natural or man-made pool, if you so desire), each island has a distinct personality.
3. The time of year you choose to travel will provide a very different experience. Summer is peak season, but it’s also the hottest and most humid time on the islands. Late spring is the best season for the magnificent indigenous and imported flowers that have found their happy place on these islands, while fall provides a beautiful transition season with fewer tourists. The winter months are still mild and the island is even more affordable in the off-season, but may be too cold for water activities.
4. If you visit in the spring or fall, be aware of the changing weather that will impact your outdoor activities. Trips to the top of the mountains to view the scenery should be planned for afternoons as the mornings can be quite foggy.
VisitAzores.com provides detailed information about each island as well as things to do, weather conditions, and even live cameras to give you current information on conditions at some of the most visited sites on the islands. Also, download their apps to your smartphone for mobile information and guides during your visit.
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