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14. Açores
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From the nine islands, there is not one that won’t stun you. An expanse of green, lagoons, and waterfalls, all nestled against the Atlantic. The Azores archipelago is a unique experience. From nature to gastronomy, there is a world to be discovered between Santa Maria, Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo.It’s not in New Zealand, it’s in Portugal. It may be hard to believe, but the truth is that there is no landscape in Azores that does justice to any photograph or postcard that can be shown. Everything is more impressive than it seems, more beautiful than imagined. Starting with Sao Miguel, the largest island in the archipelago. It is here that you’ll find one of the biggest symbols of Azores, the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, the largest lagoon in the entire archipelago, which impresses with its variation of colors (one lagoon is green and the other blue). There are several viewpoints to take in the scenery, the most famous of which is Vista do Rei, a must-stop for anyone in Sao Miguel. On clear days, you can see the Lagoa das Sete Cidades on one side and the Feteiras area on the other. This is where the Monte Palace Hotel is located, abandoned since the 1990s and now sought after for many photography sessions.

Taking in the scenery is an essential part of a trip to Azores, no matter which island you visit. There are viewpoints everywhere, beaches by the sea and rivers, impressive gardens and forests. There are cows that seem to roam free and don’t be surprised because they live happily grazing, and producers who tell their story through quality products.Whatever happens, don’t forget that “the origin of Azores is engraved in the 1766 volcanoes that exist in this archipelago, nine of which are still active,” as highlighted by Tourism of Portugal. And why is it important to remember this? Because that’s what makes places like Caldeira Velha or Terra Nostra Park special, where else can you immerse yourself in natural pools and hot water puddles flowing from the rocks? It’s also the seismic activity that makes the Furnas stew an unforgettable meal, cooked underground.

However, it is on the island of Pico that you can have the experience of climbing the volcano. Pico Mountain, the third largest volcano in the Atlantic and the highest mountain in Portugal, is 2351 meters high. The climb to the top is intense and not easy, but the panoramic views are unique and rewarding. The most challenging part is actually the descent, which ends up taking longer than the way up. Faial, which can be seen from Pico, is reached by a quick boat trip, and the guarantee is that the landscape remains green and stunning, much like all the other islands, in fact.

To fully explore the archipelago it takestime or several trips. While it is true that Sao Miguel, Pico, and Terceira are usually the islands that stand out on the radar, none should be left out, not even Corvo, the smallest with an area of only 17.1 km2 and less than 400 inhabitants – you’re unlikely to find a more special adventure.