The tiny archipelago of the Azores are a set of mystical islands set half way into the Atlantic. After a four and a half hour flight from Porto we catch sight. These tiny pinpricks as seen from the sky belie the grand mountains that lie beneath the ocean. They were created fifteen millennia ago by volcanos and wikipedia tells me that they are taller than Everest if measured from sea bed to tip. I will take its word.
We hired the cheapest car and set to the roads feeling a little weirded out by our location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean but lulled by the familiarity of the agricultural landscape and short motorway as we left the main town of Ponta Delgado and headed north toward our first base in Ribiera Grande.
Ribiera Grande is a quiet town dotted with squares and facing the sea. Our white washed hostel was a light, bright, restoration dream and tucked neatly onto the church square.
The bells chimed each hour throughout the day and night making ear plugs essential, but we couldn’t have loved our accomodation more. Our huge bright private room had traditional french windows and balcony looking out over the square, rooftops and lush hills beyond.
A peaceful white living room with huge windows that caught the angled morning sun was the perfect perch for reading and the modern kitchen opened onto a little back porch with built in barbecue allowed us to feel as though we were at home. After a trip to the supermarket we gorged on delicious Azorean crumpets, toasted with melting butter and apricot jam.
After gathering a few tips from our wonderful hostess, we headed for the hills behind RB to find the viewpoint over Lagoa do Fogo; one of the stunning crater lakes that punctuate the landscape.
On the way back down we passed a tropical forest with natural hot spring baths tucked under the dapped shade.
Other than from other bloggers, we found it difficult to get information on the sights. A lot of our ‘finds’ were stumbled upon or suggested by locals.
The next day we were keen to find one of the most photographed places on the island. The Miraduoro do Canario is a viewpoint over the Lago do Canario. On first try the place was surrounded by clouds and without a view we headed over to the crater rim of Sete Cidades to hike the circumference with the sea on one side and the lake on the other by which time the cloud had passed and we were treated once again to blue skies.
The nearby abandoned hotel can also be explored by intrepid wanderers but be careful of the sheer drops down uncordoned off stairwells. The views from the roof are decent and the spooky atmosphere of the abandoned building was a thrilling novelty.
Next we drove down to the lake where we hired kayaks and continued or exploration. There is a tiny town nearby with a couple of cafes.
If you have time, you can take a trip to the nearby coast and check out the thermal pools in the sea. We couldn’t feel any temperature difference but hopped in anyway, paddled about and headed to the bar for a cold drink.
Did you know that the only tea plantations in Europe are on the Azores? The mazed hedges spin around the hills overlooking the north coast, east of Ribiera Grande and there are gentle walks around the area that give you lovely views of the plantation.
The coast road is littered with stopping points and picnic areas to savour the view. We explored side roads and followed arrows to quiet forests and waterfalls along the north east part of the island.
Dipping down the east coast we followed paths to lighthouses and then up into the hills through misty forests.
Furnas is the main town for hot springs with a modern set of landscaped baths varying in temperature. The rust orange minerals will stain light coloured clothing, dark swimsuits are a must.
In Ponta Delgada we stayed at this hostel, again a wonderful modern, interior designed space with friendly staff and central location near the port.
The US have an navy base on the island with stealth ships parked next to tiny fishing vessels.
The following day we hoped once more to find the famous Miaduro Do Canario free from cloud and our perseverance was justly rewarded. Check out these views.
That is all from the Azores! Ciao!