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Awesome Azores: Archipelago Offers Adventure, Luxury

by Carley Wade

Jan 9, 2018

Paop | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

Climbing through cliffs and rappelling down waterfalls. The heart-pounding thrill of watching a bull run by you in the street. Ooohing and ahhing as your small boat chases a pod of dolphins in the Atlantic. This is all within a day’s adventures in the Azores, the archipelago once under Portuguese rule that’s now mostly autonomous — and still under the radar as far as a great family destination. From new seaside luxury hotels to plenty of activities and unique microclimates that provide tasty farm-to-table fare, there’s a lot going on in a little space on these nine islands.


There are a couple of ways to get there, and it’s now easier than ever from the East Coast. Although there are more options during the summer, direct flights are offered year-round on both TAP Air Portugal (to larger islands Sao Miguel and Terceira), and on Azores Airlines. Both of these larger of the chain’s nine islands are worth exploring, particularly Sao Miguel, which welcomed its first 5-star luxury resort in 2016, the Azor Hotel, right on the waterfront in Ponta Delgada. The rooftop’s infinity pool is great for cooling off, as is the lobby ice cream bar, where kids can delight in unique flavors like coconut and anise. Don’t miss out on an included morning smorgasbord featuring locally made spreads and cheeses, either, including the yellow pumpkin jam unique only to the Azores.

Mountain landscape, hiking trail and view of lakes, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

© Boule13 | Dreamstime.com


The hotel is just a quick walk from Picos de Aventura, a one-stop shop for all of the capital’s fun. Whether it’s a simple whale watch, or canyoning, which includes strapping on a wet suit to hike up cliffs and then rappel down the waterfalls, there is something for all ages and ability levels.


It’s also worth heading a bit further inland and checking out the iconic Lagoa das Sete Cidades, magnificent green-blue lakes nestled in the crater of a dormant volcano. Book a fun Jeep “safari” to bounce over sometimes-rugged roads—you won’t have to worry about a scratch on your rental!—and sit back and enjoy the ride as your guide navigates to the crater past emerald hills lush with hydrangeas and rolling farmland that produces some pretty fine produce indeed. Paired with the bounty of the sea at family-owned restaurants like Saca Rolhas Taberna, where the daily catch is always to die for and the wine mostly from Portugal’s Douro Valley, no one will leave hungry.


More of a meat eater? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of that, too, and one of the most treasured local dishes, cozido, is a must-do. This steaming plate of hearty beef and vegetables is cooked with geothermal energy in Furnas, a resort parish with botanical gardens at the Terra Nostra Hotel, which also offers outdoor geothermal pools accessible for just a few dollars if you’re not a guest.


Angra do Heroismo, Terceira Island, Azores

Angra do Heroismo, Terceira Island, Azores. Photo:Eyewave | Dreamstime.com


Grab dessert on the island of Terceira, where the pasteis de feijão almond tarts are worth the trip alone. They’re easy to find in Angra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site city that was an important port for trade in the 15th century and today is dotted with pastel-colored homes and winding cobblestone streets leading to the shore. And if it’s shore you like, your family is in luck at Terceira Mar Hotel, since each guestroom, common area and indoor and outdoor pool offers up views of the Atlantic. Local guide Miguel Mendonça of TuriAzores will even pick up your brood on site for activities like horseback riding, hiking, hot air ballooning or the unique local running of the bulls in the streets (not to worry, though, the beasts are returned back safely to the farms they came from).


Recent dad Mendonça is great with kids and local insights, including where all Terceira island families spend their Sunday dinners — even grabbing yours a hard-to-nail-down reservation months in advance at Ti Choa.


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