Our travel to the Azores has come to an end and so this last part is a little overview of our experience there, and things which may be useful to know if you’re planning a trip.
The Azores are beautiful; the landscapes are rolling green, rugged interiors, black, jagged edged and surrounded by the deepest, heavenly blue of the Atlantic.
All nine islands would appear to be similar in landscape so maybe don’t expect a dramatic contrast between them. However it’s said that they do all have an individual charm, and distinctive features which thereby make them unique. Sao Miguel and Terceira gave us two quite different experiences.
- We hired a car for Sao Miguel. We had a Smart fourtwo from local company Luso, via Economy Car Hire. The company dropped the car at our first hotel and we returned it to the airport. It was much needed for those trips to the volcanic lakes, Furnas and so much more. The island roads are windy in places, punctuated by stretches of motorway and wide A roads, but they are also relatively quiet, and you can trundle along at your own pace. Locals will whip past you if you’re in the way but it didn’t feel pressured. We didn’t hire a car on Terceira as we took a jeep tour and also taxis, but you may want to. Shop around for some good deals.
- If you’re looking for haute cuisine, you may be disappointed. We had a very different experience from the mainstream I guess due to John’s vegan diet, but from what we experienced and learned, the best restaurants whilst very good for the islands, are not going to necessarily provide you with the kind of menu, ingredients, culinary skills or presentation you may find on the mainland. The food is hearty, traditional, seasonal honest grub. I would say go with modest expectations of the food and hopefully allow yourself to be surprised. Tripadvisor is a good starting point for research.
- Talking of vegan, then it would be worth considering self catering. Veganism is relatively new to the Azoreans although it’s starting to filter through. The staple vegan offering we found at those very traditional meat and fish based restaurants, was a plate of lettuce, tomato, rice and boiled potatoes. The Azores don’t do salads above and beyond iceberg and tomatoes. But there is one specific veggie / vegan restaurant in Ponta Delgada, Rotas da Ilha Verde and one on Terceira, Corinha de Coracâo in Praia da Vitoria. We found soya milk in most larger supermarkets and some soya products (steaks, sausages etc). There are whole food shops too. Previous blogs outline some of the successes! We took picnics, cooked evening meals and had a couple of good meals out and so were really happy overall. There are reasonable veggie options in most restaurants and I also got to try some really good fish in a couple of places!
- The cost of living is cheap compared to the UK. Beer, wine, meals etc are approx 40% less. There are ATM’s everywhere so I took little cash and just used my card for payments (widespread use of debit cards) and withdrew cash as needed.
- The is fairly widespread use of English there but do learn some basic Portugese; it’s just courteous and good to do! There will be appreciation for your efforts, even for saying ‘Obrigada’ rather than ‘thank you’.
- We had some fantastic weather but there is a saying that the Azores experience four seasons in one day and this is true. It never got really cold, but we packed for rain, showers and chilly evenings and experienced the lot, but it was mostly incredible heat and glorious sunshine.
- Allow yourself to relax; the pace of life is chilled out, unhurried and easy. It took a few days to adjust! Don’t expect party islands – it’s not going to happen. When we stayed in Praia, we got as close to a buzzing nightlife as we could wish for, a group of beach bars and a good local crowd late into the night and this was great. I would recommend Praia over Angra if you want buzzier evenings and beachy days. We really enjoyed it there.
Finally – Go. Go soon. It was a wonderful experience. We crawled down lava tubes, swam in thermal sea pools, volcanic crater lagoons and thermal waterfalls, plunged the depths of volcanoes, gasped at the landscapes, sailed alongside dolphins, ate, drank, were merry and got a tan. Treat yourselves – you won’t regret it…
Volcanic Lakes and Rainbows blog
Thermal Pools and Calheras blog
Volcanos and Lava Tubes blog
We’ve combined our stretch in the tranquil Azores with an end of trip spin to Lisbon to fill up on some nightlife, galleries and shopping! More to follow on all that…..
Bristol to Lisbon return with Easyjet
Lisbon to Ponta Delgada with Ryanair
Ponta Delgada to Terceira with SATA
Terceira to Lisbon with TAP Portugal
Praia da Vitoria (Terceira) – Atlantida Mar Hotel Junior suite with kitchenette. All rooms have sea views, quiet, immaculate, great breakfast, swimming pool, short stroll to centre of town.