Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores offer unique experiences and sights far from tired weekday commutes and the dreary clucking of the office water-cooler. Each of the nine islands that form the archipelago appear like green emeralds against the sapphire sea and visitors can explore everything from calderas to culture and classic charm.
The Azores has been recognised by UNESCO with two heritage sites that each sum up the exceptionality and the charisma of the place. The first of these is the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira. Once an obligatory port of call for ships crossing the Atlantic, this -the largest town on the Azores, today appears as a time capsule from a golden era, when giant ships would anchor around the harbour. Explore the narrow streets that weave the centre of the town together and walk along the seafront where you can visit the stunningly beautiful blue-painted Igreja da Misericordia church. From the harbour, it’s also possible to board a tour boat that will take you out to sea. The waters around the islands are absolutely teeming with marine life and from the boat you might spot anything from dolphins, humpback- and sperm whales to the huge jellyfish known as Portuguese men o’ war, just to name a few.
If you’re more looking for sea adventures up close, the Azores offer plenty of opportunities to go snorkelling and diving, while adrenaline-lovers can get to grips with wind-surfing, jet-skiing and lots of other water-based activities. You can also just choose to stay on the beach and relax, it’s your holiday after all.
Once you have explored what the sea has to offer, you can seek out the adventures that hide inland. The second heritage site that is on UNESCO’s list is the vineyards on the island of Pico. For centuries locals have grown the vines in small stone-clad squares to spare the delicate grapes from the onslaught of the Atlantic winds and the seawater. The result of this process is a delicious and sweet fortified wine that has been favoured by wine enthusiasts from around the world. The island of Pico is also home to the highest peak in Portugal, and along with the various cliffs, crags and calderas, hikers have no excuse not to put on their best boots on the Azores. Climbing to the top of Mount Pico will take you above the clouds, and if staying on this island didn’t already give you a feeling of being far from the routines back home. Gazing out across the Atlantic and the clouds below will definitely be a memory that you will recall in vivid colours for the rest of your life.
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