The Azores are a mixture of worlds gathered on nine islands in the Atlantic Ocean. In one day from the African savannah you miraculously appear on a Norwegian lake, and the Mediterranean vineyards turn into lifeless lunar landscapes. Colossal volcanoes rise in the background, and you can count the package tourists on your hands here. These are Azore islands, and the time has come to tell, what sailing yacht enthusiasts can do here.
Watch the whales
Whalers were often searching for prey from the local shores in the previous times. This day boats are sailing here, too, but now people wish exceptionally to spot the sea giants.
And there are plenty of them here. From April to October, sperm whales swim around the islands. In April-May, blue whales, fin whales and sei whales show their backs out of the water. And in October, it is time for calm humpback whales. At the moment your vast boat turns into a tiny small vessel in comparison with the giant swimming past. You have to experience that at least once.
Eat food cooked on a volcano
On the San Miguel island, the residents of the Furnash village cook food without any stoves or ovens. They bury the stew pots in the volcanic soil, and the food is slowly being cooked there all day. Meals here must be ordered in advance, preferably the day before arrival. Gourmets from all over the world come here: after all, this is the only volcanic stew on the planet.
Seasoned travellers recommend walking near the Furnash village. Not far from it, sulfuric streams are boiling out of the ground. It seems that the floor is about to fall, and everyone will fall into a crack filled with lava. But people have been living in the valley since the 17th century, so there’s no need to fear for life here. You can get here via Ponta Delgada, main island port.
Swim in thermal pools
The Azores have plenty of geothermal sources because of the volcanoes. The most picturesque of them is Ponta da Ferraria.
This undistinguished basin is washed by sea waves in frozen lava flows. Hot volcanic springs flock here, making the water unsuitable for swimming. But at high tide, the water mixes with the ocean and cools to 30ºC. It’s a perfect temperature to relax in the big natural bath with the ocean view.
Visit the lakes
There are many lakes on the Azores, and some islands look more like Scottish landscapes than a southern resort. One of the most picturesque places here is Sete Cidades. Two blue lakes hide in the crater of an extinct volcano immersed in bright green vegetation. They are united by a small strait which you’ll definitely want to cross by the tiny bridge.
Other amazing lakes of the Azores are the large Lagoa do Fogo, created for sunset photos, and Lake Capitão under the Pico volcano which reminds African savannah. The best option to inspect them for one trip is to book the yacht rental on the Azores and to sail through all the islands with lakes.
If you come to the Azores, you must taste the local seafood cuisine. Restaurants here get most of the ingredients right from the ocean.
‘Lapas' sea dishes are very popular here. These are small clams collected on rocks by the sea, served usually with butter, garlic and a slice of lemon. The biggest ones are found on the islands of Flores and Corvo. Lapas live only in the Azores, and it is difficult to resist the temptation to taste them at least once.
Explore the caves
Have you ever dreamed of getting inside a volcano? On the Terceira island, there is a giant Algar do Carvão cave, covered with moss. Feels like you walk through a giant pipe to reach the crater of an extinct volcano that looks like a stadium with a piece of blue sky above your head. In another underground pass, you can find a large underground lake with crystal clear water.
There are a lot of caves in the Azores, especially on Pico Island, which has the largest volcano. Just hire a guide to make sure that the cave, where you want to go, is safe.
Do you like Portuguese wines? The best of them are made in the Azores — in particular, on Pico Island. Black basalt soil here gives excellent yields. The travellers in the 16th century even were complaining that the locals did not have enough water, but there was always wine for sale.
The local vineyards are like labyrinths because of the quaint stone walls. They protect grapes from the harsh sea breeze but don’t give shade to help the grapes ripen in the sun. Inspections of labyrinths are likely to finish with wine drinking on the veranda with the volcano view. You should not miss that.
Climb the volcano
The height of the Pico volcano on the island with the same name is 2351 m (it is considered to be the highest point of Portugal). From the sea, the volcano is visible from afar, and it directly attracts you to its summit. The peak of Pico is often covered by clouds, but if you are lucky with the weather, a whole world opens around you there. As if you climb to the edge of the Earth and look at the rest of the planet from above.
If you don’t want to climb too high, find a yacht charter in Horta town on the Faial island, and sail to the Capelinhos volcano. In the colourful world of green islands, you will find a place from which all colours have been removed. This grey-black lunar landscape had emerged in 1958. Then, Capelinhos suddenly appeared next to the island, spewed a couple of lava flows and fell asleep. Since then it is one of the most beautiful places in the Azores.
Run from the bulls
There is fun on the Terceira island called ‘Tourada à corda'. In the Azores season, from May to October, bulls run every day for the fun of the natives on the town streets.
Here is the best plan. Take a boat for rent on the Azores. Moor to Terceira in the Angra do Heriosmo port. Ask the locals where ‘Tourada à corda' will perform today. Arrive at the place. Buy yourself a cold beer and bivana — a hot sandwich with meat. Then climb higher, find a convenient place to observe on the wall or roof of someone’s house — and watch the locals running from the bulls. Or vice versa.
In the Azores, you can explore the depths of any island. Here you can spot the blue shark, one of the fastest fishes, meet a giant manta stingray or watch octopuses on the seabed. Due to its volcanic origin, unique fish species live here under the water, found anywhere else in the world.
There’s quite a lot of ships sank off the island’s coast: the Azores used to be a transit point on the way from India to Europe. The local depths with the wrecks of ships of different epochs and species sometimes look like a maritime museum. And sailing enthusiasts in the Azores have access to them.
It is convenient to travel from island to island in the Azores: each city has its own harbour. You just moor and go for an adventure. You will definitely get to your special island in such a way, which will cause you a storm of emotions and the desire to come here again. Perhaps, next season.