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The Azores – the Archipelago Experience

Azores – Europe's westernmost frontier
 
With stays on three different islands – and the option to visit a fourth – this self-guided walking holiday serves as a great introduction to the archipelago. Scenic, varied walks reveal unique volcanic landscapes, and, to complete your experience, a whale-watching trip is included.
The Azores – the Archipelago Experience. 14 nights
The Azores – the Archipelago Experience. 14 nights
 

Holiday information

 

A walking holiday in the Azores

The Azores, some 800 miles west of mainland Portugal, remain one of Europe’s most impressive and least-discovered outposts. This extraordinary archipelago has historically formed a vital link between the Old and New Worlds, with a distinctive history and culture. The fusion of vivid green landscapes and dramatic volcanic scenery lends them a unique feel, and culturally, too, the mix is fascinating – striking Baroque churches built by the pioneers, bustling ports, great religious festivals.

On this two-week holiday, you visit São Jorge, Faial, Pico and São Miguel, on all of which walking is by far the best way to discover their volcanic landscapes and lush vegetation. 
You will see pockets of ancient laurisilva (laurel forests), tropical plants, hydrangeas and cedars, and to fully show you the great scenic variety, we suggest walks in different corners of the islands, all accessed using your hire car in the case of São Miguel, or taxis on the other islands.

After landing on the main island São Miguel, the holiday really begins when you fly north-west to the most picturesque island, São Jorge, characterised by its fajãs – fertile plains by the sea framed by steep slopes and planted with crops and fruit trees – and by the chain of mountains that runs the entire length of the island. Further west still, Faial may be one of the smallest islands, but is one of the best known because its harbour, Horta, has traditionally been a port of call for ships crossing the Atlantic.

Beyond the handsome port is an equally beautiful island, with a varied coastline and hedges of blue hydrangeas. So different are the east and west sides, however, that they could be two different islands. Its neighbour, Pico, earns its name from its distinctive mountain whose summit, at 2,351 metres, is one of the highest in the Atlantic. Beneath it are densely wooded lava flows and groves of cedar and laurel. Finally, you return to São Miguel, the largest and most varied of the islands, making it a great place to spend a few days exploring its crater lakes, hot springs and mist-shrouded peaks.
 
Gallery
 

Itinerary

The key to Inntravel holidays is flexibility. You can start on the day of your choice, and are free to add extra nights. Take your pick of our suggested walking routes for each island as the mood takes you.
  • The average maximum daytime temperatures and monthly rainfall relate to the nearest weather station and are intended as a guide only.

    The Azores' location in the Atlantic makes for changeable weather, characterised by wet winters and bright, temperate summers. June and July are the best months for flowers.
    Average temperatures and rainfall
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    °C 16 16 16 17 19 21 23 25 24 21 18 17
    mm 135 110 106 72 56 39 32 41 84 114 133 124
  • Arrival in  Ponta Delgada, São Miguel
    Night 1: at Hotel do Cólegio (where you spend one night).
    As your first night’s accommodation is on the day of travel, Day 1 is your first day of exploration.
  • Choice of routes on São Jorge: 9km to 17km
    A one-hour internal flight takes you to São Jorge, where you stay for four nights at the Casa do António in the island's capital, Velas. While you are here we offer the following four walks, of which you will have time for three. All of them start with a taxi ride (included), and the taxi driver will collect you from your hotel at 9.30 each morning, at which point you can decide which walk to do that day (he will be happy to offer advice as to the best option as regards the weather) and arrange a time to be picked up at the end of the walk where necessary.

    Fajã dos Cubres: 9km, 4.5hrs; ascent 160m/descent 845m
    This memorable linear walk explores the eastern side of the island. Starting high on the central ridge, it descends through a beautiful valley to reach Fajã da Caldeira do Santa Cristo – a remote coastal village accessible only on foot or by sea. This village is home to a salt-water lagoon which is the only place in the Azores where clams are found – a real local delicacy! The second half of the route then traces an undulating coastal path to reach the hamlet of Fajã dos Cubres.

    Fajã do Ouvidor: 17km, 5.5hrs; ascent 325m/descent 1075m
    This long but enjoyable linear route follows a broad cinder track east from Pico das Caldeirinhas, passing through a fascinating landscape of volcanic cones and calderas. You have the opportunity to climb Pico da Esperança, the highest point on the island, before descending gradually through farmland. You then have a final steep descent on a cobbled path to reach the coastal village of Fajã do Ouvidor, where your efforts are rewarded with the opportunity to swim in some beautiful natural pools.

    To Velas: 12km, 4hrs; ascent 120m/descent 875m
    Also starting from Pico das Caldeirinhas, this undemanding linear route leads west along the spine of the island, commanding excellent panoramas along both the southern and northern coasts to the other islands of the archipelago. The final section winds steeply down into Velas on a forest path, and you enjoy lovely views over the town before emerging in its centre.

    Foral dos Rosais Lighthouse: 11km, 3.5hrs; ascent 220m/descent 350m
    This gentle circular walk begins in the pretty forest park of Sete Fontes on the island's north-western tip. Your path meanders through green pastures, affording views of the neighbouring island of Graciosa, to reach the ruined lighthouse of Foral dos Rosais. Return by a more southerly route, with views of Faial and Pico dominating the horizon.
    The route to Faja dos Cubres
  • Travel to Faial
    At the end of your stay on São Jorge, you catch the ferry to Faial (ticket included), where you spend three nights at the Pousada Forte da Horta in Horta.
  • Choice of routes on Faial: 10km to 19.5km
    We provide notes for three routes:

    Ten volcanoes: up to 19.5km, 7hrs; ascent 600m/descent 1430m
    This iconic walk reveals scenery unlike any other explored on this holiday. After taking a taxi to the starting point (40mins – pay locally), you walk halfway around the rim of the central caldera before descending on a broad cinder track to reach a levada (water channel) which you follow first through farmland, then through jungle-like woodland. The vegetation becomes increasingly sparse as you near the volcanic "badlands" formed during the eruption of 1957/58, and the excellent volcanology centre. Take time to visit before returning to Horta by taxi (pay locally).
    For a shorter day, you can join the route at a later point, but still enjoy the same dramatic finale.

    The beach of Almoxarife: 10km, 3.5hrs; ascent 370m/descent 355m
    This pleasant, shorter walk starts from Horta itself and ascends into the hills on quiet country roads before following hydrangea-lined paths down to the black-sand beach of Almoxarife, where you can swim. Return by taxi (pay locally).

    Pico: 13.5km, 4.5hrs
    We highly recommend taking a day trip to Pico on the regular inter-island ferry (pay locally). Pico is dominated by its conical, volcanic peak, the highest point in Portugal, and the reason the island got its name. While you are on Pico, we suggest that you visit the fascinating Gruta das Torres lava tunnel (advance booking required), then enjoy a walk through the UNESCO-protected wine region back to Madalena, the small capital where the ferry docks. In Madalena, there is a small wine museum, in a former monastic vineyard, and it is also possible to visit the local wine cooperative for a tour and tasting.
    The 'ten volcanoes' route on Faial
  • Travel to São Miguel
    You fly back to São Miguel, where you collect your hire car and drive to the north coast, to stay six nights at the Solar do Lalém, in the coastal town of Maia.
  • Choice of routes on São Miguel: 3km to 12km
    We include a half-day whale-watching trip during your time on São Miguel. For your other days, we offer a wide selection of walking options, both close to the hotel and farther afield.

    Walking routes in and around Maia:

    Around Maia: 3km, 1hr; ascent/descent 60m

    Leading from the hotel door, this short circular route is the perfect introduction to São Miguel’s scenic northern coast. Take time to explore the village and tobacco factory museum (one of the oldest on the island and well worth a visit) before joining a footpath that runs along the headland and back into Maia.

    Praia do Viola: 6km, 2.5hrs; ascent 240m/descent 420m
    Starting from Maia, this route heads east along a delightful coastal path, passing a series of ruined watermills before reaching the black-sand beach of Viola. Test out the waters before retracing your steps. For a more challenging day, there is the option to continue farther along the coast (add 5.5km, 2.5hrs).

    Chá Gorreana: 3km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 170m
    A 10-minute drive from the hotel brings you to Chá Gorreana – Europe’s oldest remaining tea plantation. Wander through the neatly manicured terraces where the tea is grown, and afterwards pay a visit to the 19th-century factory to witness the Victorian machinery in action!

    Fenais de Ajuda: 5.5km, 2.5hrs; ascent/descent 300m
    This short but demanding circular route begins in the hamlet of Fenais de Ajuda, 15 minutes by car from Maia. After initially following a quiet country lane, the undulating route descends to the coast to reach a lovely waterfall and pool. You return to Fenais through peaceful woodland, ascending steeply at times.

    Walking routes further afield (30-60 minutes' drive from hotel)

    Furnas Lake: 9.5km, 3hrs; ascent/descent 270m

    Starting in the spa town of Furnas, this easy walk winds through open meadows and mixed woodland, passing steaming bubbling hot springs to reach a low-level crater lake. Make your way around the volcanic shores of the lake before returning to Furnas, where we recommend a visit to the beautiful botanical gardens (pay locally). 

    Sanguinho Valley: 4km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 250m
    One of our favourite routes, this short but adventurous ‘jungle’ walk traverses the densely forested Sanguinho Valley, crossing streams and rivers to reach a secluded waterfall. In summer, the displays of flowers are fantastic, with acacias, banksias and yellow ginger lilies lining the trail. To return to your car, head back down the valley on a different path. 

    Fire Lake: 11km, 4.5hrs; ascent/descent 390m
    The target of this circular walk is the 'fire lake' of Fogo, so named as the 1563 eruption that formed the crater it occupies caused a bright glow visible for miles around. You approach the lake via the island’s southern slopes, walking alongside a levada and through ancient forested landscapes to reach its shores. Enjoy wonderful views of the lake’s azure-green waters, before descending to your car along the same route. 

    Janela do Inferno: 7.5km, 3hrs; ascent/descent 275m
    This varied circular route further explores the southern slopes of the island, passing through farmland and entering a secret valley of tunnels, aqueducts, waterways and the ominously named Janela do Inferno (‘window to hell’), a small waterfall bursting from the rockface. 

    Sete Cidades: 12km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 440m
    Beginning at the Vista do Rei viewpoint, this unmissable circuit reveals the twin crater lakes of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, the iconic images of the Azores. As you follow a cinder track around the edge of the vast crater rim, you are treated to spectacular views across the lakes and to the sea beyond. From the ridge, descend to the village of Sete Cidades and the clear blue waters of these famous lakes. 

    The Serra Devassa: 4.5km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 165m
    An excellent extension to the Sete Cidades circuit or a pleasant option in its own right, this gentle route winds through open moorland and offers great views down to the west coast. You walk around two small crater lakes where there is the chance to swim, and you can also explore a number of other smaller lakes nearby. 

    Exploring by car
    Most of the walks are accessed by car, giving you the opportunity to see and explore many different parts of the island en route to each region. However, there are many opportunities to visit places without walking: we provide notes for two driving tours which take in some of the island’s best sights, such as the crater lakes, bubbling springs and steaming fumaroles of the south, and the more remote far eastern end of the island. You can also enjoy visits to Europe’s oldest remaining tea estate, or to one of the many pineapple plantations selling a wide variety of products made from the unique Azorean pineapple. And wherever you go, keep your binoculars handy – the islands are home to many rare endemic bird species and passing migrants that make landfall here.
    The shores of Lake Fogo
  • Half-day excursion included
    The Azores are set in one of the world’s most important areas for marine mammals. Your half-day excursion with Terra Azul explores the waters off the south coast in search of sperm whales, pilot whales, dolphins and turtles. We normally book this for your third day on the island so as to give you the opportunity to repeat the boat trip free of charge if no cetaceans are spotted first time around.
    Whale-watching tour
 

Accommodation

You stay in four very different hotels on three outstanding islands.
 

Options to extend or shorten your stay

 
Prices & travel options
All prices are in £ sterling (GBP). If you'd like to see what they equate to in your currency, use the converter.
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  • 14 nights: 01 May - 30 September 2019

    Start any day (via Lisbon) | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    1 - 28 May £1695 £770
    29 May - 20 June £1795 £840
    21 June - 6 July £1895 £915
    7 July - 29 August £1975 £980
    30 August - 8 September £1895 £915
    9 - 16 September £1795 £840
    3rd & 4th person discount -£230
    Single traveller supplement £230

    Includes accommodation, meals and services integral to the holiday as described, plus walking notes and maps, but no travel from the UK, nor any connecting travel from the airport unless stated below.

    Price includes: taxi Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) airport to hotel on arrival day; taxi hotel to Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) airport & domestic flight São Miguel to São Jorge on day 1; ferry São Jorge to Faial on day 5; domestic flight Faial to São Miguel on day 8; 7 days' category C car hire (eg Ford Fiesta or similar with manual transmission) while on São Miguel

    Book your flights through us and we'll find the best route and times to suit you. Please contact us to find out more about our flight booking service. We can also book connecting travel - see below.

  • Room upgrades (£ per person per night)

    Hotel do Cólegio
    Superior: 01 May - 30 Sep 2019 £5
    Casa do António
    'Tower' with harbour view: 01 May - 30 Sep 2019 £8
    Solar do Lalém
    Suite with small balcony: 01 May - 30 Sep 2019 £20

    Extra nights (£ per person per night) in a double or single room

    Solar do Lalém price includes an additional day's car hire
    Solar do Lalém (B&B) Double room Single room
    01 May - 30 Jun 2019 £90 £135
    01 Jul - 30 Sep 2019 £100 £155
  • RECOMMENDED AIRPORT(S):
    São Miguel (latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time are flexible)

    Travelling from the UK

    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Lisbon. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    Outward route Airline
    Gatwick - Ponta Delgada (Nordela) Azores Airlines (SATA),  TAP Air Portugal 
    Gatwick - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) TAP Air Portugal 
    Gatwick - Ponta Delgada (via Porto) TAP Air Portugal 
    Outward route Airline
    Heathrow - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) TAP Air Portugal 
    Outward route Airline
    Stansted - Ponta Delgada Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Manchester - Ponta Delgada Ryanair 
    Manchester - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) TAP Air Portugal 
    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Lisbon. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    This list of flight options should be used as a guide only, and you should check each airline’s website for current routes, frequency and schedules. Not all flights operate daily, and may not run for the entire season. You should also heed the latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time stated in the connecting travel section, as it may not be possible to arrange connecting travel outside these times. Please do not book your flights until we have confirmed your accommodation to you. Alternatively, our expert reservations team will be happy to offer advice and to make flight bookings for you. We charge £30 per person for our flight booking service (£50 for India and Nepal). Your flights are then covered by our package-booking conditions, which give you greater protection in the event of delay or cancellation, as well as providing ATOL cover.

What is included
  • 14 nights
  • 6 picnics
    14 breakfasts
  • route notes and maps
  • whale-watching excursion
  • 7 days' category C car hire on São Miguel
  • flight São Miguel to São Jorge
    flight Faial to São Miguel
  • ferry São Jorge to Faial
  • transfer from airport on São Miguel & São Jorge
 
Reviews

If you've experienced this holiday first hand, why not write a review?

We are keen for as many customers as possible to review their holiday. To make it easier to do so, we include a specific review section on our post-holiday questionnaire, and this is what we publish here, unedited. Read our full review policy >

 

FAQs

If you have any questions relating to this or any other Inntravel holiday, our friendly travel experts will be happy to help. You might also find our General FAQs section helpful.
  • We’ll send you route notes and maps 2-3 weeks before your holiday. The route notes not only contain directions to get from hotel to hotel, but also include practical information about places of interest and eateries along each route, plus cultural information about the area. If/when you are moving between hotels, you leave your luggage in reception as you leave, and it will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation, meaning that all you need to take with you are a camera, sun cream, drinks, food and waterproofs.

    For more detailed information, see our walking holidays in Europe page.
  • We can book a wide range of airlines and routes from the UK. As well as being more convenient for you to book all elements of your holiday together, it also means that we’ll accept liability for your travel arrangements, so if things go wrong, such as the airline going bust, we’ll make suitable alternative arrangements for you. For Europe and Morocco, there’s a £30 booking fee per person (£15 for children aged 2-11). For India and Nepal, the booking fee is £50 per person. More information on flights >
  • We can’t book flights that originate outside the UK, but if you wanted book your own flights to London (or elsewhere in the UK), we can make all onward travel arrangements (including flights) from there. Alternatively, if you are booking your own flights to an airport in continental Europe that’s appropriate for your holiday, we can book onward rail travel and/or taxis. More information about how we can tailor holidays for customers outside the UK >
  • Since our holidays are self-guided, we recommend calling us for a chat about your plans before making a booking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve booked with us.
    The price panel shows the supplement for a single room and also the single traveller charge (this covers (luggage) transfers and other costs which are usually shared between two people).
  • Once you’ve decided on your exact itinerary (our travel experts will be happy to offer advice), you need to provide us with your party’s details, either by phone or via our booking form. At this point we also ask you to pay a deposit so that we can secure a room for you immediately on confirming availability with the hotel(s). If it turns out that we can’t secure the accommodation for the holiday you’ve requested, or offer an acceptable alternative, we’ll refund your deposit promptly and in full. After booking your accommodation and other key elements, we'll then book your travel (or you can do so if you’re making your own arrangements) and send you a Booking Confirmation and Invoice.
  • Yes, it’s something we insist on, even for holidays in the UK. The vast majority of holidays go smoothly, but when things go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right. Buying a new pair of walking boots after your suitcase is stolen mightn’t seem so bad, but the bill for being airlifted down from a mountain with a broken leg or flown home while still recovering from an illness or accident can cost tens of thousands of pounds.

    You don’t have to buy our policy (if you live outside Europe you’ll definitely need to make your own arrangements, as the policy is only for UK and EU residents), but you do need to make sure that you’re covered for medical emergencies and repatriation. We also recommend that you are covered for other eventualities, such as cancellation and loss of luggage and passports.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you are in possession of the correct travel documents, with the correct validity. If you’re a UK citizen, you need a full British passport to travel to Portugal, Madeira and the Azores, but not a visa (if you are travelling after 31 October 2019, see the Brexit question below for more information). If you are a citizen of another country, you’ll need to check requirements with the national embassy or your own consulate.

    Current information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found through the following NHS link: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/ You must make sure you have adequate insurance cover for illness, accidents and repatriation (see the insurance question). UK citizens should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) by applying at a Post Office or at www.ehic.org.uk. The EHIC allows reciprocal health care but should not be seen as a substitute for travel insurance. EHICs may cease to be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • The official language is Portuguese. The currency is the Euro. Portuguese time is the same as GMT/UTC. It uses Daylight Saving Time, so in summer is on the same time as BST.
  • Even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it’s been confirmed that flights will continue as normal and that you won’t need a visa to go on holiday (the limit on stays is 90 days). What you will need if there’s no deal is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your arrival (extra months added because you renewed your passport early do not count) and adequate travel insurance to cover you for accidents and illness in case reciprocal health deals are suspended. If you are driving while on holiday, you will probably need an International Driving Permit (plus a Green Card if you are taking your own car to Europe). More information >
  • The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides up-to-date, country-by-country travel advice, as well as information on security, local laws, passports and visas for UK citizens.
    If you live outside the UK, see our essential travel information page for a list of relevant websites.
Last fetch time is : 7/22/2019 3:44:17 AM