MADE BY MEMBERS • May 2022
With a year-round subtropical climate, striking volcanic landscape and flourishing food and wine scene, the Azores is fast becoming Europe’s next big dream getaway. As we launch direct flights to the idyllic archipelago from July, Silver Member Karen Edwards explores some highlights…
With a flight time of just over four hours, the Azores is perfect for a short-haul Atlantic adventure. From 2 July until 3 September 2022, we will fly from London Heathrow every Saturday to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island, and, from 10 July until 28 August, every Sunday to Terceira island. Both airports are a short drive from the captivating main cities of Ponta Delgada and Terceira’s Angra do Heroísmo.
Stairway to heaven: Terceira’s dramatic cliffs
You can collect from each leg of the jaunt, starting from 393 points between London and Ponta Delgada and 394 between London and Terceira. You can upgrade from economy to business class using existing Avios through Manage My Booking, depending on availability. Choose from British Airways Holidays’ recommended hotels to collect even more Avios. Still can’t decide? Check out (or check in to) these plush pads…
The Shipyard Angra, Terceira
Free bikes to explore the island, a solarium for every room and a sparkling water feature by the pool: you’d never know this swanky self-catering hotel is a reimagined warehouse. Don’t fancy donning your oven gloves? The Oficina de Esquina (‘corner office’) restaurant is headed up by a maestro from the mainland, and the beef tartare made with local Azorean cuts comes highly recommended.
Angra’s trendy Shipyard hotel is decorated head-to-toe with wicked wooden accents
Hotel Verde Mar & Spa, São Miguel
Sustainability is the name of the game at this Ribeira Grande retreat, just off the surfer paradise of Monte Verde beach. The hotel’s rooftop solar panels power its entire electricity supply, while water from the nearby river is put to use in the bathrooms. Not that you’ll notice these tidy eco-tweaks when you’re reclining on your sea-facing chaise longue, or taking an aromatic, eucalyptus-scented whirlpool bath in the hydrotherapy spa.
Zenite Boutique Hotel & Spa, Terceira
A decadent 18th-century manor house transformed into an elegant hotel, Zenite is the perfect place to combine sightseeing with a dose of luxury. Prints of old sailing charts decorate the original stone arches of the communal areas. For the best view, ask for a room overlooking the ancient city streets of Angra do Heroísmo.
Honourable mention: With nothing but the beautiful briny before you, aqua-themed Pestana Bahia Praia Nature & Beach Resort in São Miguel comes complete with a freshwater swimming pool and inviting shades-of-blue colour scheme.
Mount Pico is twice as high as any other peak on the Azores
Mount Pico Trail, Pico
At 2,351m above sea level, Mount Pico is the highest point on the archipelago. This 11.2km (seven-mile) climb is one of the more difficult trails. However, it’s well worth making the trek for incredible views over nearby Faial and São Jorge islands. Go with a local guide if you’re not an experienced hiker.
Angra Do Heroísmo, Terceira
Built in the mid-15th century as an essential port of call for ships, this blue-hued UNESCO World Heritage Site is a melting pot of cultures. Take a self-guided tour using the ‘My Angra’ app, which provides information about local architecture, art and eateries. End the day with dinner and drinks along the tiled Rua de São João.
Salto do Cabrito, São Miguel
This 8.5km (five-mile) circular trail begins and ends amid the lush vegetation of São Miguel Island’s Ribeira Grande hot springs. The predominantly forest route will take you through laurel, eucalyptus and acacia forests, past the Fajã do Redondo electricity museum and up the steps to the remarkable Salto do Cabrito waterfall.
Honourable mention: The lesser known Biscoitos wine region on Terceira is dotted with unofficial (we won’t tell anyone if you don’t) vineyard tracks.
“Scenic walks, dolphin and whale watching, hot springs, lakes, volcanic craters, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and delicious cuisine... The Azores is the definition of a nature lover’s paradise.”
Hannah Bramich, British Airways Destination Manager
The Cella Bar, Pico
Designed to imitate a rolling wine-barrel, tapas bar Cella offers stunning coastal views over the Atlantic Ocean. Hop on a local flight (or ferry) to Pico, and wake up your tastebuds with locally sourced ingredients – from the trilogy of cheeses topped with tangy jam, to the creamy prawn risotto with Parmesan, and the delightful balance of sweet pineapple in sour redcurrant syrup. Finish with a crunchy popcorn-topped cappuccino.
Barrel roll: designed by FCC Arquitectura, Pico’s wine and tapas joint Cellabar imitates a cask of the finest Portuguese vino Credit: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Rotas da Ilha Verde, São Miguel
Locally adored for its look-what-mama-made veggie dishes, Rotas is simply unmissable. The fondue de queijo (cheese fondue) starter is made to be shared… if you’re feeling generous. As for mains, plant-based foodies will relish the zucchini cannelloni with sweet potato chips and green salad.
Quinto do Martelo, Terceira
Owner Gilberto Vieira showcases an astounding cultural experience that begins with a selection of small plates for your perusal – including garlic-infused olives, yellow lupin beans, corn bread and pickled sea fennel. Next comes the region’s most celebrated feast – a spicy sirloin stew known as Alcatra. Slow-cooked in local Verdelho wine, the succulent dish is Azorean comfort food at its finest.
Honourable mention: Butter-dripped lobster, forkbeard fillets and grilled limpets top the menu at Sabores Sopranos on São Jorge island (take a connection from Ponta Delgada or Terceira).
The pillowy hydrangeas of the Azores are a veritable summer hit
The photo ops
Caldeira do Cabeço Gordo, Faial
While not indigenous to the region, blankets of pastel hydrangeas are found throughout the Azores. Thanks to the natural aluminium deposits and soil acidity of Faial island, the species grows in an indigo blue here during the summer months. Found around the Cabeço Gordo caldera, the blooms are spectacular to photograph.
Vista do Rei, São Miguel
Pick a blue-sky day for an aerial view over one of the seven Natural Wonders of Portugal, Sete Cidades. The parish, home to two shimmering green and blue lakes, is best seen from the Vista do Rei (View of the King) lookout. Then idle along the surrounding walking trails to get hydrangea-framed snaps along the water’s edge.
Salto da Farinha, São Miguel
Tumbling over 25m of rocks and ferns, this tall waterfall looks as if it has been plucked from a fairy tale. Better still, its off-the-beaten-volcanic-track location means you might just have it to yourself. The pool beneath is the perfect spot for pictures – and cooling off after a hike. Think you can go a little further? The nearby viewpoint overlooking the falls is just a five-minute walk.
Honourable mention: The soft sandy beaches of São Lourenço Bay on Santa María island, with its backdrop of stone-wall vineyards.
Five species of dolphin can be greeted in the waters off the archipelago
Whale and dolphin watching
The Azorean waters are brimming with wildlife, with sperm whales and dolphins calling the region home. In spring, humpback and blue whales and Orca can also be spotted as they transit to cooler climates. Futurismo runs daily whale-watching tours from Ponta Delgada marina, and Picos De Aventura launches boats from Angra do Heroísmo.
Bird lovers can spot one of the island’s most famous endemic species – the bullfinch – around the northeastern garden trails of São Miguel. The goldcrest is often seen, too. Endemic and migratory seabirds – from storm petrels to Cory’s shearwaters – frequently take refuge in the cliffs surrounding tiny Corvo island after a passing storm or bad weather.
Scuba diving with manta and devil rays
Between the months of June and October, manta and devil rays abound around the islands. Scuba diving centres are located on several of the islands and specialise in small-group dives. The spectacular sicklefin devil ray can be spotted around Ambrósio Reef and Princess Alice Bank.
Honourable mention: Head to Santa María to experience scuba diving with 10m-long whale sharks.