A mild climate and green mountains are just a four-hour flight away from Boston this fall, in the Azores Islands.
The archipelago of the Azores is the closest point in Europe to New England, just 2,000 nautical miles due east. The nine islands of this Portuguese archipelago were created by dramatic volcanic activity hundreds of millions of years ago, building a landscape that is both unexpected and varied. From the 7,700-foot peak of Pico island, to the blue and green lakes at Sete Cidades on São Miguel, the Azores offers a lush and sculptured landscape that is reminiscent of many places: The green fields and gentle hills resemble Ireland. The baroque cities are like those of the northernPortugal. The mountains and valleys resemble northern California. The geysers and craters remind one of Iceland. Enveloped by the sea, the Azores enjoys a mild climate year-round (between 57°F and 71°F) and is lightly populated with 240,000 inhabitants in 868 square miles.
From seacoasts to valleys, from gardens to forests, the Azores offers a wide range of landscapes to explore on foot. Country hedgerow lanes and open fields lead to extinct volcanic craters. The Azores are best appreciated slowly and on foot, and most islands have designated hiking areas, with maps offered at the local tourism office.
Little used country roads, mountain passes, and seaside roads lend themselves to visitors in search of sweeping mountain and ocean views, waterfalls, and volcanic lakes. Well-paved and graded roads make cycling a pleasure for any experience level. For the more adventurous, dirt backroads lead to hidden valleys, gardens, and tiny towns.
The Azores began as lava million of years ago. Then the winds brought grasses and abit of organic debris. By the time humans arrived there were plants and evergreen forests throughout the islands. Humans brought new plantings, such as the cryptomeria conifer (Japanese cedar) from Japan. All tolled, there are some 800-plus species of plants – only 300 of them are native. Cedar trees, heather, ling, mountain grapes, white wood, ginger, dogwood and the tamujo bush are a few of the local species. The newcomers include the acacia tree, flowering hydrangea and azaleas, camellia, incense and other ornamental plants. Despite their proximity, each island has its own look, feel, and climate. And, thus the fauna can vary dramatically from island to island.