For the ultimate city/beach combo vacation, how about combining a trip to the Azores islands — complete with snorkeling in crater lakes and swimming in thermal springs — with an exploration of Lisbon, Portugal’s enticing capital city? Off the Map Travel’s custom package includes all of these activities and more.
The brand-new City Living and Island Loving program, available through Oct. 31, can start in Portugal’s capital city, perfect for families to wander Lisbon’s steep, narrow streets — or hop on one of its picturesque funiculars, perfect for little or tired legs. Save time to sample the pastel de nata pastry at the famous Pasteis de Belem pastry shop, where the long line is worth the wait; try the linguica sausage and, for mom and dad, taste the local Porto or Madeira wines.
Accommodations in Lisbon are at the Hotel Portugal, a luxury property in the center of the city, classically designed in a Portuguese white-and-blue color scheme. Kids old enough to appreciate beautifully ornate castles will also get a kick out of a daytrip to the mountain town of Sintra, followed by an afternoon at one of the local beaches.
After exploring the mainland, families hop aboard a flight to Ponta Delgada Airport on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. Accommodations are in the White Azores Hotel, located on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
First timers to the Azores might not realize the destination, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic, is the closest European land to the United States.
Providing a fun contrast to the urban charms of Lisbon, the Azores offers enough water sports to keep even antsy teens happy for days. Activities include a guided exploration of the thermal springs of Furnas on the northern part of Sao Miguel Island. Travelers swim, snorkel and even plunge into dormant volcanic crater lakes or, on an extended visit, can take scuba diving lessons.
Marine life in the Azores is plentiful and includes parrotfish, eels, octopuses, stingrays and barracudas, which live in the clear water of the volcanic crater. Families can also keep an eye out for dolphins and whales on a whale-watching trip on the White Azores’ private boat reserved exclusively for their guests.
Landlubbers get a birds’ eye view of the lakes, visiting the volcanoes and hiking to the Lagoa do Fogo in the mountains of Barrosa (nearly 2,000 feet above sea level) and to the colorful lakes of Sete Cidades.
Typical Off the Map Travel vacations are custom-made, but a sample weeklong itinerary to Portugal and the Azores, including a stay at Hotel Portugal in Lisbon and White Azores in the Azores, is around $2,540 per person, not including air.
The rate includes private transfers; a snorkeling trip; a full-day tour of Furnas island with a traditional cozido lunch and visit to the Terra Nostra Park botanical garden; a stop at the thermal water and cold springs at Caldeiras das Furnas; a full-day Lagoa do Fogo and Sete Cidades trip; and a whale-watching excursion on the White Azores’ boat. Diving can be added to this itinerary for about $90.