Swimming: Both hotels have indoor and outdoor pools.
Approx 15 -
Minimum Age: 5
Explore Leader, driver(s) plus boat crew.
Family Holiday In The Azores
Details may vary depending on departure date. Please choose
Bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, these little-known volcanic islands rise dramatically from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We spend our time on two of the nine islands, Sao Miguel and Terceira, exploring their jagged landscapes and deep lava caves. We take a boat to search for elusive whales and dolphins and try local cuisine cooked in natural ovens cut out of the ground.
Furnas Valley - Thermal springs, natural ovens and bubbling mud pools
Lagoa do Fogo - Sao Miguel's stunning and highest crater lake
Whale Watching - Boat trip to spot not only whales, but dolphins, turtles, fish and birds
Angra do Heroismo - Lovely UNESCO World Heritage town with a colourful history
Algar do Carvao Caves - Magical underground world of grottoes with stalactites and stalagmites, and a 100m long lava tube
Known even amongst this verdant collection of islands as the Ilha Verde (Green Island), Sao Miguel is the largest and certainly the most diverse of all the islands of the Azores, with a craggy coastline dotted with precipitous cliffs and sandy bays and a central volcanic massif blanketed with a lush covering of vegetation. Basing ourselves at Ponta Delgada, the island’s capital, we spend our first few days exploring this beautiful island and its glorious coastal waters. Once an important trading centre for the export of oranges in the 18th and 19th centuries the delightful old town still retains much of the charm and character of its colonial past, making its narrow streets and squares a delightful place to wander at the end of the day.
Overnight Comfortable Hotel
Dolphin & whale search excursion
Whales and whaling have played an important part in the life of these islands for centuries. The North American whaling fleets first visited the Azores in the 1700s and by the mid 19th century a thriving industry had grown up around the hunting of these gentle giants. Right up until 1985 Azorean whalers were still using traditional open boats and hand held harpoons to hunt. Thankfully these days the pursuit of these cetaceans is a somewhat more eco friendly activity and we will be spending this morning seeking them out with cameras rather than harpoons. Whales and dolphins are attracted to these islands by the abundance of food in the area and in recent years some 25% of the world’s known species have been recorded here, including regular sightings of Sperm Whales and Pilot Whales, as well as Humpback, Orcas and Bottlenose and Risso’s Dolphins. In addition the waters and skies around these islands are home to a multitude of Shearwaters and Terns, Loggerhead Turtles, Marlin and Swordfish, so make sure you bring plenty of film along. Weather permitting, we depart this morning and head along the south coast of the island, towards the small fishing village of Ribeira Quente. Keeping a constant vigil we watch the seas for signs of the rich marine life, before arriving at our destination later this morning, where we disembark and explore, taking a walk around the village or perhaps relaxing on the beach. After an included lunch at a local restaurant we will journey back to Ponta Delgada.
Today we set out to explore a little something of the beautiful landscape of Sao Miguel, as we venture inland by bus and on foot. First we travel to Lagoa das Furnas, Sao Miguel’s second largest lake, where we spend some time walking along the lake shore, stopping to see the natural ovens, where for generations the locals have come to take advantage of the natural thermal activity to cook the famous’ Cozido nas Caldeiras’. Lowering containers of meat, sausages and vegetables into the hot earth, they then leave the dishes to simmer away for some seven hours, returning later to collect the cooked food. Here in the huge hollow of Furnas Valley, diverse volcanic activity has created a remarkable landscape of thermal springs and boiling mud pools for us to wander amongst, before moving on to the botanical gardens of Terra Nostra Park. Originally planted over 200 years ago, much of the garden that we see today was the creation of the Visconde da Praia and his family. Filled now with a profusion of native species, Malesian rhododendrons, canals and over 2500 trees, the gardens are a captivating delight and there will be time to enjoy them and perhaps even take a bathe in the outdoor thermal pool. Lunch affords us the opportunity to try some cozido, after which we will resume our journey of discovery, continuing through this magnificent landscape as we drive via Sao Blas to the tea estates of Gorreana located in the hills of the humid north coast. Founded in 1883 this is the last of the great tea estates that once thrived in these islands and we may have the opportunity to try some of the distinctive local brew before recommencing our journey. A stop at the famous fire lake of Lagoa do Fogo rewards us with an ideal photo opportunity of Sao Miquel’s highest crater lake, before we head back to Ponta Delgada.
Today has been left free to explore at your leisure. You may wish to return to the teeming waters of the Atlantic for a second chance to see up close the magnificent marine life of these islands, with half day whale watching trips and even the opportunity to swim with dolphins on offer (please note this is deep sea swimming). For those wishing to keep to more solid ground you could visit the mythical lakes of Sete Cicades, twin pools of blue and green formed, so legend has it, from the tears of a princess and her shepherd lover when they were forced to part forever. The top of the caldera offer a spectacular view across the emerald and blue lakes and a walk down to the aptly named Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) takes you though a breathtaking landscape down to the village of Sete Cidades (approx 2hrs). For those looking for diversions closer to home, Ponta Delgada offers a trail through the town that takes in much of its colonial heritage. There is also a museum housed amongst the Renaissance and Baroque finery of the old convent of Santo Andre and the town boasts three fine19th century gardens to explore.
Today we plan a morning flight to the central island of Terceira where, on arrival, we transfer to our hotel, based in the old town of Angra do Heroismo. This afternoon we will have time to explore this charming town, with its distinctive architecture, cathedrals and churches. In 1534 Angra was the first settlement in the Azores to receive city status and today it remains one of the finest examples of Renaissance town planning anywhere. It was the Azores’ seat of government until the early 19th century, a legacy of early supremacy that is reflected in the grandiose architecture of its churches and civic buildings. This rich and colourful history, along with the quite sumptuous remains of its colonial past has seen the town attain UNESCO World heritage status, presenting us with a enchanting location in which to base ourselves for the next 3 nights, and an excellent place to spend a relaxing afternoon. A walk through the magnificent public gardens and up to the site of the old fort gives some glorious views over the harbour and the narrow streets of the old town, whilst a small detour via the City Museum will introduce you to some of the town’s fascinating history, as well as one of its finest buildings. You may also wish to visit and walk around Monte Brasil.
Terceira (so named because it was the third island to be discovered by the Portuguese) was first settled in the mid 15th century, going on to become an important stop off point for the Spanish gold ships returning from the New World. We head inland today, to explore the black lava landscapes of the Algar do Carvao Caves, formed from an eruption of Terra Brava, the youngest volcano on the island. The caves are made up of a long lava tube, stretching for some 100m down to a subterranean lake that, depending upon rainfall, can be up to 15 metres deep. Entering this underworld via the chimney of an extinct volcano, we pass through a surreal world of grottoes, stalactites and stalagmites, descending down to the lakes edge. On returning to Angra the rest of the day is free for personal exploration, or some good old-fashioned relaxation.
Our final day in the islands has been left for you to indulge as you wish. A visit to the town of Praia da Vitoria will introduce you to some of the turbulent history between the islanders and the Spanish, as well as the cause of the Liberals over their Absolutist rivals. The town also has a handicraft cooperative and a market where you may be able to find some last minute bargains. Another alternative is to take a bus to the north of the island, to the village of Quatro Ribeira, from where you can take a walk to Biscoitos, exploring the lava pools and stopping for a swim in natural rock pools along the way. The volcanic terrain of the area makes it great wine producing country, famed for its Verdelho wines, and in Biscoitos you can visit its interesting wine museum, before returning to Angra for our final evening.
Please note that from time to time our itineraries may be amended, either for operational reasons or in response to feedback from customers. Please ensure you have read the latest Tour Notes before booking or travelling on your tour.
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