Ten Day - Four Island Azores Tour
Upon your arrival in Terceira Island, your driver will meet you at the airport, and take you the 30-minute transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Angra do Heroismo, to your hotel for the next 3-nights. Walk the streets of Angra do Heroismo and feel transported back in time. Its snug harbor is protected by a volcanic cone which made Angra a major staging point for European ships bringing back the wealth of their New World colonies during the 16th to 18th centuries. Climb the hill behind the pretty public gardens for a grand view of the city and the volcanic cone of Monte Brasil.
Meet your driver guide in the hotel lobby for a full day tour of the island. We will have lunch (included) in Praia da Vitoria, a charming town with a main square and a pedestrian shopping street. In the afternoon, drive the mountain road up to Serra do Cume for a view of the rolling, multi-hued green fields, bordered by stone walls and hydrangeas and the harbor of Praia in the distance. Then on to Algar do Carvao, a huge lava tube about 300 feet long with stalactites and stalagmites. Lastly, continue to Biscoitos on the north coast to see the natural lava swimming pools and to visit the wine museum.
You will be transferred by van back to Terceira airport, and then take a short 30-minute flight to Horta Airport on Faial Island. Your driver will meet you at Horta Airport, and transfer you into town, where you will spend the next 3-nights. Many conflicts between colonizing nations (Portugal, Spain, England) took place near Horta. Today Horta is famous for its yacht harbor, a haven for trans-Atlantic yachts and sailboats and the starting point of most of the island’s regatta races. Visiting crews paint the harbor walls with names and pictures of their vessels, so be sure to walk down to the marina and explore this art.
Your driver guide will meet you in the lobby for your half-day island tour. Depart the hotel on the mountain road overlooking the Valley of Flamengos, toward Caldeira, the highest point on the island. Continue north to Capelinhos, site of the last volcanic eruption in the Azores. This 1957-58 event added 2 square km to the island. Earthquakes and ash destroyed much of the west side of the island prompting many islanders to emigrate to North America. The elements are slowly eroding the ash. There is a nearby museum detailing the eruption.
Throughout your time in Faial, you will notice a tall mountain backdrop, Pico Mountain. Today is your chance to visit that scenery. Take a 30-minute ferry trip from Horta marina over to Pico Island. Meet your driver at the ferry dock in Madelena on Pico for a full day tour of the second largest island in the Azores. Pico was an important whaling station and there is a museum showing how islanders took to the seas in open boats in pursuit of the leviathans. An unusual feature of Pico is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of acres of vineyards encircled by small, black volcanic rock walls to protect them from the salt winds and to collect extra heat. Enjoy a typical Pico lunch, as well as a visit to the local vineyards and to the local cheese making company.
You will be transferred by van back to Horta airport, and then take a short 30-minute flight to Ponta Delgada Airport on São Miguel Island. Your driver will meet you at Ponta Delgada Airport, and transfer you into town, where you will spend the next 3-nights. São Miguel, the largest and most geographically diverse of the islands is a perfect last stop in exploring the archipelago. Ponta Delgada is the largest town, as well as the capital of the Azores. Urban sprawl is growing this small town, but the historic center is still very charming. The hotel is well located for walks through the old section to explore the many attractions as well as the marina.
Your driver guide will pick you up at your hotel for your full day trip to Furnas. Upon arrival in the Furnas area, visit the lake and hot springs, and see the holes in the ground where meals are cooked by underground steam. Pots full of various meats, sausages, potatoes, and vegetables are steamed for 7 hours to produce "Cozidos nas Caldeiras" (Caldera Stew). Continue to the charming town of Furnas for a visit and a typical “cozido” lunch. Visit the beautiful botanical gardens of Terra Nostra Park, established in the 18th century, and have the opportunity to swim in the hot springs swimming pool. On your return, visit the island’s tea plantation, the only one in Europe.
Today you will have a half day tour to the western side of the island to one of the most awesome natural sights in the world, the twin caldera lakes of Sete Cidades. The view from "Vista do Rei" (King's View) high on the crater's rim is stunning. Far below, next to the lakes, is the pretty village of Sete Cidades (Seven Cities, named for a mythical kingdom). Descend into the caldera to visit the town. Before returning to Ponta Delgada, stop at a pineapple plantation. The Azores are not warm enough to grow pineapples in the open, but they thrive in the greenhouses with careful cultivation methods.