#An oceanic world
Of course, the ocean is omnipresent. Wherever the eye can see the horizon, the sea and the sky merge. The blue of the azure is fringed with the white of the foam. This unavoidable presence fascinates: the impression of infinity is exhilarating. On the one hand, it is continental Europe; on the other hand, the Americas. And in the middle, whales and dolphins are bewitching, which can be admired almost all year round: unforgettable moments of emotion. We will fly, we will take the boat, we will dive or swim, we will taste fish and seafood: the Atlantic is everywhere! It is not by chance that the Azorean company SATA has chosen as its slogan The Atlantic and You...
Green and surprising landscapes :
The Azores flora is the highlight of the show. Walking along a path lined with hydrangeas of a sparkling blue, while here and there some massifs of azaleas and agapanthes, asleep at the feet of high plane trees, breathe in the fresh air of the open sea, is an incomparable pleasure. Almost all year round, the Azores form nine symphonies of the most intoxicating colours and aromas. Extinct volcanoes form a hummocky landscape that offers a wide variety of landscapes. The interweaving of sea and land, the jagged basalt coast, the black sand and natural pools, the volcano lakes, the strange volcanic fumaroles that come out of the ground: the Azores are a delightful natural spectacle that is easy to penetrate. Waterfalls plunge into sunny gorges, green hills alongside flared volcanoes, dense forests set in peaceful lakes, banks full of subtle fragrances open onto a lava flow frozen in a dark basalt tongue. Fertile plains and distant mountains, misty volcanoes and clear cities: at every moment, the senses are awakened.
Volcanoes and their lakes
Tectonic activity is felt everywhere in the Azores! Volcanism has left fascinating traces here: Ponta do Pico, Portugal's highest point at 2,351 m, represents a beautiful ascent with a breathtaking panorama on the summit in good weather; on São Miguel, the fumaroles of Lake Furnas or the crater lakes of Fogo or Sete Cidades are wonderful. On Faial, the Capelinhos volcano was created... in 1958! Nearly sixty years later, it is still a kind of ash desert in the process of sedimentation. In Flores and Corvo, the crater lakes give a landscape of Auvergne or Scotland, hydrangeas and the ocean all around! Marked trails, geographical proximity to towns and villages: these volcanoes and their lakes are ideal for hiking and walking.
Swimming of all kinds
The Azores are not the Balearics: there are no large white sandy beaches and palm trees. But that doesn't mean that swimming is not the number one pleasure in the summer. The ocean is neither too hot nor too cold: 21°C average temperature in summer; even more so in the natural pools, typical of the Azores. These, formed by basalt coastal basins that the ocean tides fill, constitute an unusual and picturesque setting, cleverly arranged by the locals (ladders, easy access...). On São Miguel, Terceira and Santa Maria especially, but also on the other islands, the black sandy beaches also have their charm and originality. There are also the lakes, in short: the water will delight all lovers.
How long will the archipelago remain preserved?
While the absence of large coconut-lined beaches has preserved the archipelago from tourist influx, as in Madeira or the Canaries, it is highly likely that the appearance of low-cost flights to the Azores will change the situation somewhat.A trip to the Azores is still full of authenticity: few tourists come outside the summer season and many are its large open spaces, solitary hiking trails, bucolic and silent roads, peaceful villages, small towns on a human scale and a warm welcome. A real little paradise!
The Azores are well equipped with tourist infrastructure: competent tourist offices on each island, excellent accommodation, numerous and high-quality catering facilities, good car rental service (although it is better to book in summer), and enough tourist service organisations for land or sea activities. Moreover, for both historical and geographical reasons, Azores speak English even more frequently than their fellow citizens on the continent. Although tourism in the Azores remains reasonable, some services may still be saturated in summer and the best establishments are quickly full.
Excellent regional products
Between Pico wine, local beef, seafood, São Jorge cheese and sweet pineapples, the Azores are full of local products, both terrestrial and marine, northern and southern, which are well worth a visit! Very few imports, fresh products, few industrial treatments: the islands are organic before their time, and we will be surprised by the quality of its cuisine.
A rich heritage
There is a lot of emphasis on the natural beauty of the archipelago, but it should also be pointed out that people have perfectly integrated into it. Few contemporary ugliness, simple and bright Portuguese colonial architecture: white villages with beautiful balconies and magnificent gardens, small towns that give pride of place to Baroque and 18th and 19th century architecture. The main cities of the Azores are all worth a visit: Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has many treasures; Horta, the international sea port of call, has a very pretty historic port and a charming old town; Ponta Delgada also has its ancient charm. Not to mention the attractive rural landscapes of the countryside, with cows and hydrangea hedges: the Azores is a land of nature that man has managed to appropriate with balance and respect.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette