Things to Do in Azores
Nature lovers will find plenty to marvel at in the Azores, but the otherworldly volcanic landscape of São Miguel Island’s Sete Cidades is one of the archipelago’s most magnificent natural wonders. The massive caldera has two lakes: one blue and one green.
The Pico do Carvao viewpoint is a popular lookout spot on Sao Miguel, the largest island of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Travelers will find panoramic views of both the northern and southern coasts of the island, including a string of volcanic cones that run from Ponta Delgada to Ribeira Grande.
Standing just over 2,600 feet high (800 meters high), Pico do Carvao also provides splendid views out to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as of several surrounding lakes, including Lake Carvao, Lake Canario and Lake Rasa. The area is quite green and flush with Japanese cedars and tree ferns and is often visited on day trips from Ponta Delgada.
The islet of Vila Franca do Campo is a designated nature reserve formed by an ancient volcanic eruption off the south shore of São Miguel—the largest of Portugal’s Azores islands. Whale-watching cruises voyage in the waters beyond, while swimmers and snorkelers explore the nearly perfect circular lagoon in the islet’s sunken crater.
With its gurgling streams, cascading waterfalls and bursts of colorful Hydrangeas, the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park (Parque Natural dos Caldeirões) shows off the natural beauty of the Nordeste region to its best. It’s also idyllic spot for adventurous hikers, with rock-cut paths winding through the mountains, rainforest trails to explore and endless photo opportunities along the way.
The park’s main draw is its beautiful series of waterfalls, framed by the looming cliffs and lush rainforest, and offering the ideal terrain for canyoning and rappelling activities. The waterfront is also dotted with historic water mills, many of which have been restored and repurposed. Look out for the fascinating Ethnographic Museum housed in one of the mills and the old miller’s house that now serves as a handicrafts shop.
With its startling blue-green waters fringed by forested-hillsides and dotted with hot springs, fumaroles and bubbling mud pots, the crater lake of Furnas Lake (Lagoa das Furnas) is one of Azores’ most enchanting natural wonders. Located in one of Furnas’ two ancient calderas, the lake offers the opportunity to explore a volcanic landscape up close. Hiking and canoeing tours are popular ways to get around.
As well as soaking up the other-worldly scenery, a tour to Furnas Lake is best combined with a visit to the nearby Terra Nostra thermal springs, famous for their mineral-rich waters, and a stop at Furnas village, where you can taste local specialty,cozido, a meal cooked up on sizzling-hot volcanic soil.
An ancient volcanic zone that has been active for more than 100,000 years, Furnas is a hotbed of thermal activity. The lush area has been attracting spa visitors seeking the water’s healing properties since the 19th century. Close to three active volcanos, citizens of the Portuguese parish use the hot springs, geysers, and other hotspots for a variety of activities—including the cooking of a traditional meal of vegetables and stew underground, called cozido. Heated by the volcanic steam, the dish can take up to seven hours to prepare.
Towns sit scenically in and beside large calderas or volcanic craters. There are more than 30 different hot springs, each with their own varying temperature and level of volcanic activity. The heated thermal mineral waters and mud baths are thought to still have therapeutic properties. Furnas makes up one of several small towns on the largest and most populated island of the Azores. There is also a beautiful lake in Furnas that is worth seeing.
One of the least-populated islands in Portugal’s Azores archipelago, Faial is a lush volcanic outcrop that rises from a remote stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. Its caldera is surrounded by flower-dotted meadows and pretty port towns, where luxury yachts and whale-watching cruises maintain rich maritime traditions.
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