About midway between Boston and mainland Portugal sits the Azores, a collection of nine islands scattered over several hundred nautical miles. The closest point to Europe from the United States, the Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal, and just four hours by plane from Boston.
The Azores are some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Not surprisingly, they have earned accolades for their exceptional travel and tourism experiences:
- The National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations named the Azores as the world’s second-most appealing islands destination
- One of 10 Best Values, USA Today
- Top 10 Places for Whale Watching, Sherman’s Travel
- Top 10 Islands You Never Heard Of, Budget Travel
Visitors find plenty to see and do here, with a wide range of lodging and restaurants well-integrated across the wild and green landscapes that make up the islands. The Azores are also the perfect spot for the adventurer. Water sports, yachting, fishing and whale watching are widely available. Equally popular are horseback riding, cycling and hiking.
On the island of Faial, the remains of a lighthouse mark the site of a massive volcanic eruption that took place in 1957, gutting the lighthouse, burying a small village and adding more than one mile of new shoreline to the island over the course of a year. Today the area is a nature park, with a hiking trail to the rim of the dormant volcano.
Meanwhile, the island of Pico (which means “peak” in English) is the highest point in Portugal at 7,700 feet and also sits atop volcanic terrain. The peak can be seen from surrounding islands on clear days, with its lava cone rising above the massive volcano. The climb up to the summit takes about 3 hours, and the views are well worth the effort. The peak is taller than New Hampshire's Mt. Washington.
Lava caves run for miles under the islands of Pico, Terceira, Graciosa and São Miguel. The cooling lava of past eruptions created these tube-like caves, and today those caves provide great adventure for a spelunker.
Hot springs spout in nature parks on several of the islands. At the shore of Furnas Lake on the island of São Miguel, steam hisses out of a dozen hot springs, offering a natural “oven” to cook food inside the caldeiras.
Azores Airlines, part of the SATA Group, has connected New England with the Azores and mainland Portugal for more than 35 years.