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Quench Your Thirst for Adventure in the Azores

Alix M Campbell

Contributor

Do you love visiting places off the beaten path? Are you in search of thrills and experiences in nature? Believe it or not, there are still some places in this world that are not overcrowded, especially if you travel there during the off-season. The island archipelago of the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic is one of these gems, where you can immerse yourself in nature, from relaxing in a geothermal pool to abseiling down a thundering waterfall.

Swimming in a geothermal pool

Hot springs are a major attraction in the Azores, which are of volcanic origin. On São Miguel, the biggest of the islands, you can find three main active volcanic complexes: Furnas, Fogo and Sete Cidades. Thermal springs supply these pools with water of very pleasant temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius. Thanks to essential minerals found in these geothermal pools, you’ll have no problems relaxing and unwinding after a day filled with activities.

The lush vegetation of the islands adds to the mystical vibe you get when immersing yourself in one of these pools. You can visit Caldeira Velha at the north slope of the volcano Fogo, the majestic pool in the verdant Terra Nostra Park, the hidden pool at Poca da Beija or the hot water beach at Ponta da Ferraria for some Atlantic Thalassotherapy, just to name a few.

Please note: Jewellery made of silver and some gold will tarnish in the mineral water, and lighter swimwear can get stained due to the high iron content in the water. Just to be safe, wear some dark, older pieces and take off your jewellery before sinking into bliss.

Canyoning and kayaking

The Azores are a paradise for adventure-seekers. There is no shortage of activities you can immerse yourself in. Whether you abseil down one of the many waterfalls, jump from staggering heights into freshwater pools or slide down water chutes, canyoning offers all of the above. Beginner or already advanced, there are trails for all skill levels.

The island of Flores offers the biggest diversity of trails from easy ones to trails with steep drops. On São Jorge, the difficulty level is higher, as most of the trails can only be accessed by boat. The canyoning trails on São Miguel can be found mainly in the interior of the island and they are not as steep as their counterparts on the other islands.

As far as kayaking is concerned, you can practise this sport in the many lakes of the islands as well as the open sea, depending on the difficulty level you are looking for. This is a great way to observe sea birds and discover hidden caves.

Visiting one of Europe’s oldest tea plantations

When you think of tea plantations, countries like Sri Lanka or India probably come to mind. Surprisingly, the Azores host the oldest and currently only tea plantations in Europe, making your trip to these islands even more special.

The two tea plantations on the island of São Miguel are called Gorreana and Porto Formoso, with the former one growing tea in fifth generation since 1883 and according to original traditions of the Orient. Every year between April and September the green and black tea, which is grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, dyes or preservatives, is harvested by hand.

Soil rich in minerals, the favourable climate on the islands as well as the sea breeze all contribute to the unique flavour of this tea. At Porto Formoso you can also find a museum showing tea production in the Azores from its very beginnings. Guests will see a short video before being shown around the factory, ending their visit with a freshly prepared cup of tea and magnificent views of the tea plantations and the ocean.

Volcano trekking

The Azores with their green pastures and soft hills, picturesque lakes and black basalt headlands towering out of the ocean are a very photogenic group of volcanic islands. One of the best ways to discover these gems is by hiking or trekking. Adventurers can hike many trails that have connected villages and houses along the coastline and enjoy beautiful views along the way.

Sete Cidades on São Miguel, a famous place of legends and myths, houses undoubtedly the most iconic volcanic crater, filled with two stunning twin lakes, the green and the blue one. A trek around this crater offers incredible views as well as the opportunity to spend a day in nature hiking through lush vegetation. If you’re looking for a real challenge, you could try and conquer Mount Pico, a dormant volcano on Pico island, and the highest peak in Portugal with 2351 meters.

Whale watching

The Azores are currently one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world. You can find common, rare, resident and migrant species and spot over 20 different types of cetaceans. The Azorean islands are a unique ecosystem hosting friendly, curious dolphins as well as majestic whales, which make these nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean even more magical.

On a whale watching tour you’ll learn interesting facts about dolphins, whales, turtles, birds and fish, and get to know the local species and their natural habitat as well as their ways of communication, their behavioural and migrational patterns.

Please note: Don’t eat too much food before your boat trip and bring enough water, sunscreen as well as some warm clothing for the trip.

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