Ten Reasons to Visit the Azores
The Azores (or more specifically, Sao Miguel, the only island out of the nine that we visited) are up there with Iceland as one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. As you can probably tell from Instagram, I have absolutely tons of content to share and I'm excited to write about how we spent our time there. I realise, however, that not everyone has heard of this secret paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so I thought I'd first share ten reasons why everyone should add the island of Sao Miguel to their bucket list.
We first heard of the islands when I was researching whale watching spots in Europe. The Azores had me at 'regular blue whale sightings', but alas, luck was not on our side. Our five days on the island were met with choppy seas, making any chance of a whale watching boat trip impossible. Whale watching isn't the only thing Sao Miguel has going for it, however. Here are ten other reasons to book a flight.
THE HOT SPRINGS
There's nothing quite like submerging your body in naturally warm water, and Sao Miguel certainly has its fair share of hot springs. I'll go into more detail in subsequent posts, but there are three separate areas on the island where you can soak in thermal waters including in a rock pool connected to the ocean, in a lake in the middle of a tropical garden and the incredible hot spring pictured below, which just may be my favourite place in the world.
When I showed my photos to my friends and family, the first thing that everyone picked up on was how green everything was. Whether we were trudging through a tropical forest or on the top of a mountain, thick foliage surrounded us. The vegetation was an amazing mix with tropical plants such as palms and ferns brushing up against pines. Everything was green, aside from the colourful floral bushes that lined the paths and the roads.
There are three large crater lakes and a scattering of smaller bodies of water on the island, and while we didn't get to see them all (literally 'see', as the thick fog completely obscured our view at times), what we did catch a glimpse of was mesmorising. I love water anyway, but looking down from above at volcanic craters filled with sparkling blue water was really something special.
Due to their isolated location, everything seemed to be homegrown in the Azores. We visited a pineapple plantation just outside of the capital, Ponta Delgada and delighted in admiring the small and sweet spiky fruit tucked away in their greenhouses. I previously had no idea that this was how pineapples grew!
The cuisine on the island was one of the best I've ever experienced, speaking as a seafood junkie. I tried octopus for the first time (pictured below, a thousand times better than it looks!), gorged on hue prawns every night and basically lived off seafood tapas for the five days that I spent on the island.
Even with that persistent mist lurking around, we managed to glimpse some of the island's most enchanting views. Not only can you drive to the tops of the mountains to gaze down at the craters below, but a slow drive around the island rewards you with some of the best coastal views I've ever seen. If you're into landscapes, you can't help but fall in love.
OK, so the waterfalls aren't quite as epic as in Iceland, but there's still a few little gems scattered across the island. The combination of cascading water and lush greenery made me feel like I'd been transported across the world to somewhere like Hawaii.
I didn't expect to be blown away by the architecture on the island, but there were a few modernist and brutalist gems scattered around. In particular, the changing huts were all striking, perfectly contrasting against the landscapes with their angular designs. And wait until I share my photos of the abandoned brutalist hotel!
After bankrupting myself in Iceland last year, it was a breath of fresh air to explore a country where we weren't scared to order a coffee and could actually enjoy a few drinks. The (local and delicious) wine was around 1.50 Euros a glass, tapas ranged from 3-6 Euros a dish and the even the hot springs only charged a small entrance fee. It's the perfect place to head if you're looking for a budget holiday but can't stomach the thought of a holiday resort.
BECAUSE NO-ONE ELSE IS THERE YET
The best bit! The Azores are, for now, relatively untouched by tourism with no high-rise hotels or holiday resorts in sight. Yes, we went in May, so chances are it will be busier in the peak summer months, but it was so serene to explore a place on your own without other tourists elbowing you out of the way and encroaching into your shots.
All photos my own