Thursday, July 19, 2012

Azores – Tranquillity in the midst of the ocean!

Azores is a picturesque Portuguese archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, situated about 1500 km from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and as many as 3900 km from the eastern coast of North America.  In fact, from amongst these islands, the Flores Island, and more specifically, the Monchique Islet on it is regarded as Europe’s westernmost point. Together with the relative isolation that marks these islands, thanks to the distant location from any of the major land masses, coupled with the scenic beauty of the area as well as its development as an exotic yet vibrant tourist destination, Azores has rapidly evolved into a premier and much sought after location for those bitten by the wanderlust bug, from all around the world. If you are on the lookout for a tranquil holiday, away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life in major cities or even in other tourist hotspots, there are few places in the world that can even come anywhere close to Azores.
Getting to Azores
By Air
Thanks to the relative isolation of the islands, coupled with the fact that there is enormous distance separating them from virtually any other location, air travel to Azores is seen to be the most viable. That said you will find flights coming in to Azores from virtually any global destination. Needless to say, flying in from Lisbon would be the most feasible as Lisbon in turn has flights coming in from all the major destinations of the world. In case you are in North America or continental Europe and fancy visiting Azores, then the most feasible and suitable option for you would be to first fly to Lisbon and then take a connecting flight to Azores. Getting to any of the Azores islands by flight from Lisbon or other destinations should not be a problem since all the 9 islands have their own individual airfields.
By Ship
Getting to Azores by ship is another feasible option, provided time is not a constraint for you, not to forget the cost factor! After all, most of the ships coming in to Azores with tourists are cruise ships, in fact luxury cruise ships. Much of the traffic comes in from Lisbon so you should actively check out the cruise liner options along with dates and timings for these ships to set sail for Azores.
Travel within Azores
With the Portuguese administration leaving no stone upturned in developing Azores as a primary tourist destination, transport within Azores, once you are actually there, should be the least of your concerns. There are varied options on offer, whereby whether you are travelling on the same island or getting from one island to another, you should not face any difficulty. In fact, if you are coming on a cruise ship, most of the trips are scheduled in such a manner that they make spaced out halts at each of the islands, whereby you can take in the exotic offerings on every island and then move to the next one, on the same cruise ship that brought you to Azores in the first place.
That said there are many other travel options available as well. Remember that a lot of tourists prefer to come to the Azores on an unscheduled vacation whereby they are not looking at things planned out at every stage. In fact, a lot of such trips are more fun when you discover things by yourself – perhaps with a guide book or an informed local inhabitant there for guidance when really needed!
At the same time, if you are part of a tour group visiting the Azores, you can choose from a wide range of jeep safari tours, car tours, as well as regular coach tours. Additionally, when you come as a tourist who is part of a package tour, it is quite likely that the package would already include a veritable range of travel options such that you would not have to be concerned about the same.
Things to see and do in Azores
Rest assured, thanks to the exotic appeal of the overall setting, there are destinations galore that you would like to see, once you are in Azores.
That said it would be useful to first understand the islands themselves which will in turn allow you to plan your trip suitably (in case you are not part of a package tour). Even if you are, it would give you a better sense of where you are headed.
As we mentioned earlier, the Azores are an archipelago of 9 different islands. These 9 islands are in turn divided into three groups:
  • The Western group comprises of the islands of Corvo and Flores.
  • The Central group consists of the islands of Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial.
  • The Eastern group comprises of the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria.
Within these islands, it would be a fallacy to state that there is one particular island that has more places to see or has more picturesque locales than another. That is the reason we do not recommend any one particular island over another. Instead, we vehemently recommend that you plan your trip to Azores in such a manner that you are able to suitably cover all the islands and see all that each one of them has to offer.
That said another thing that you need to keep in mind is that the tourist potential of Azores has been recognized relatively recently and as a result the locales and types of places that would be recommended to you would also be more contemporary in nature.
That is the reason if you are out for a vacation to Azores; keep your mind open to the possibility of a modern vacation that involves indulging in activities that are more contemporary in nature than otherwise.
Thus your Azores vacation should ideally comprise of numerous golf sessions, stay at some of the most beautiful hotels in the world as well as indulge yourself on probably the finest, most reclusive and yet completely picturesque beaches that you will find in practically any part of the world.
As far as activities are concerned, let us look at them island by island. This is one more reason why it makes sense to have a good idea of the islands themselves that comprise the Azores.
If golf is what you are after, we would actively recommend the Batalha Golf Course on Sao Miguel Island that offers a pristine golf course amidst a simply breathtaking view of the ocean as well as the surrounding hills. Other golf courses of immense significance on the Azores would include the Furnas Golf Course, also on Sao Miguel Island as well as the Terceira Golf Club on Terceira Island.
If birds of the feathered kind are what you would like to watch, head straight to Sao Miguel Island which offers views of some truly exotic birds, many of which you are unlikely to see in any part of the world as they are endemic to this region. Pico Island also offers vibrant bird watching avenues, thanks to the equally exotic species of birds that you will find on the island.
Another activity that you simply must indulge yourself in, while at the Azores, is fishing. Remember that when it comes to fishing for a wide variety of game, there is simply no locale in the world as exciting as Azores. Within the Azores Islands, you could particularly concentrate on fishing either on Sao Miguel Island or on Faial Island. On Sao Miguel Island, you could easily expect to catch game such as bluefish, bonito, mackerel, tuna, barracuda and even shark! Imagine a day spent in catching this game and then the ensuing evening amidst a barbecue of the same game that you caught, amidst your friends and family – did anyone say Nirvana? This just has to be it! On Sao Miguel Island, you could go on board the specialized Shanghai Hatteras boat which is renowned for various deep sea fishing records that it has established in the Azores. On the Faial Island, you could indulge yourself in coastline as well as big game fishing, including trolling for coastal fish as well as the traditional approach of hook and line fishing. Imagine the excitement when you are able to get hold of a truly exotic fish on your hook!!
For a geographical tour of the islands and its exotic composition, a tour of the Sao Miguel Island would perhaps be the best bet. On the other hand, if you are game for some hiking, then consider the Pico Island that offers both walking programs as well as climbing the Pico Mountain which is in fact Portugal’s highest point. Of course, being a volcano, you would not want to be anywhere near the peak when it is in a state of eruption!
As for Jeep Safaris, again you would probably like to go in for the same on Sao Miguel Island which offers jeep safaris on both the eastern as well as the western side of the island.
With an abundant ocean surrounding the Azores on all sides, it is no wonder that activities pertaining to the seas take on centre stage on Azores. Thus, while you are there, you should definitely indulge yourself in sailing which again takes place in a big way on Sao Miguel Island. Other than sailing, you would definitely also like to take a look at the whales that come by the Azores island seas; practically all the islands, in particular Sao Miguel, Faial, and Pico islands offer tours of the sea on fibreglass boats whereby you can easily steal furtive glances of whales in the high seas. For a less threatening and in fact immensely thrilling experience, you must also consider the option of swimming with dolphins on the Sao Miguel Island.
Having described most of the diverse things that you can do while at the Azores, it would probably be amply clear to you that from amongst all the various islands, the Sao Miguel Island definitely holds centre stage; therefore, if you are planning a trip to the Azores, you must ensure that a trip to the Sao Miguel Island is definitely on the itinerary else your trip will most definitely be rendered incomplete!
Food and Stay
With a variety of tourists coming in to the Azores, the local administration has made sure that cuisine from around the world is available here. At the same time, given the profile of tourists which tends to be European in nature predominantly, coupled with the fact that these are Portuguese islands, there is no surprise that Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine forms an integral part of the food on offer. Further, given the relative isolation of the islands from other land masses, coupled with the fact that these are islands surrounded by the seas, it is but natural that sea food is a staple offering here. Thus you can easily expect a wide variety of sea food here, be it different types of fish, crabs, lobsters of unimaginably big dimensions and so on.
Talking about stay, you can be assured that you will in fact be spoilt for choice, with a plethora of hotels on offer. Not only that, there is a wide range, from 4 star to 2 star hotels across each of the 9 islands such that you will not find anything too bothersome on the pocket, while not compromising in any way in terms of the service quality as well as the amenities offered. On Sao Miguel Island, Antillia Apart-hotel, Hotel Bahia Palace, as well as Hotel Avenida are just some of the more renowned 4 star properties. You will find similar hotels of varying costs across all the 9 islands, with no compromise on the service and amenities.
If you are looking for a truly exotic holiday, virtually in the midst of nowhere else but the high seas, then do consider the Azores for your vacation. Remember that everyday life in urban hotspots does take a toll on our overall wellbeing, even if we do not always realize the same; a holiday to places such as the Azores, ensures that we have ample opportunity to retune our mental and physical frequencies! 

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