The Atlantic Ocean Azores archipelago, though a part of Portugal, feels a world away from Lisbon or Porto. The pre-eminent capital city of Portugal in fact is more than 1,500 km away. The coast of Newfoundland, Canada is almost as close in the other direction, believe it or not. Doubtful? Just look at a map or ask a cod fisherman.
With only 250,000 people, relative remoteness from the continental coastlines is precisely the allure of the Azores. While indeed far-flung, the Autonomous Region (one of only two in Portugal, with Madeira) is a wonderful tourist destination, with rich, endemic culture, beautiful topography, mild weather, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
These ten must-see attractions help make the nine islands of the Azores worthwhile.
10. Lagoa das Sete Cidades
Lagoons and small crater lakes dot the Azores archipelago, with Lagoa das Sete Cidades on São Miguel Island one of the most superb. The lagoon is actually made up of twin freshwater volcanic lakes. Low, dense cloud cover saturates the site with a spectral, otherworldly effect.
9. Scrimshaw Museum
Scrimshaw is handiwork made out of the teeth, bones, and baleen of whales. The Azores was once a prominent domain of whalers and indeed, the legacy of the once-vibrant Atlantic Ocean industry is told on the archipelago over and over. With that in mind, the Scrimshaw Museum in Horta, on the island of Faial, is superb and inside world-famous Peter Cafe Sport too.
8. Lagoa da Fogo
The Água de Pau Massif on São Miguel Island is truly one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the Azores, if not Portugal as a whole. The nerve center volcano includes the ominous Lagoa da Fogo, or Lake of Fire, with all the inherent lava formations you can photograph.
7. Museu Carlos Machado
This wonderful ethnographic and natural history museum in a former São Miguel convent is first-rate. Exhibits pertinent to the evolution of the Azores cover sculpture, jewelry, folk art, toys, porcelain, and much, much more.
The village and municipality of Corvo span the entire island of the same name. With a small area of 17 km2, Corvo is perhaps the most bucolic spot in the Azores. The island has a proud history of agriculture and fishery, both still vital to this day, and feels strongly rooted to tradition. If only we could obtain a CreativeCommons photo to show you …
5. Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
A marvelous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture refers to a distinctive brand of viticulture on the slopes of Ponta do Pico. As the top summit in Portugal, let alone the Azores, the volcano is supreme and dominates the island of the same name. A visit should include heritage manors, cellars and small port landmarks.
São Miguel Island checks in with another must-see gem, this time in the form of nonpareil caldera thermal waters. The stratovolcano and municipal parish of Furnas is world famous for geysers and curative hot springs, courtesy of crater lake Lagoa das Furnas.
Flores Island is 143 km2 of sheer beauty, thanks in no small part to a vast bloom of indigenous flowers (hence the name). A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the gorgeous island also offers delicious, traditional gastronomy and quaint village landscapes. Once again, however, no CreativeCommons photo is available as of yet.
A small parish in Horta, Faial Island, Cedros is home to just over 1,000 people. Culture and tradition draw many more annual visitors, however, because of superb landmarks like the Museu Etnográfico dos Cedros, Casa do Capitão, and Church of Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
1. Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo
The linchpin UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Azores, the old town of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira is extraordinary. Eminent points of interest range from the Fortaleza do Monte Brasil to the Palacio dos Bettencourts, Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Guia to the Castelo de São Sebastião.