Day 1 Terceira
We started our trip to the Azores from Amsterdam (Schiphol). Our first stop is the island Terceira.
We had chosen an individual trip with a rental car and booked the hotels through Kras.
The flight took about 4 hours and upon arrival, we were immediately treated to a fresh rain shower. The weather on the island is very unstable. Rain and sunshine interchange in a blink of an eye. At Terceira airport, where no border control was visible, we joined the queue to receive our guidebook from the travel company.
Next: pick up of the rental car. As always, the rental company tries to sell an upgrade or extra insurance that you don’t need. After going through the hustle we finally received the car keys and drove to the hotel.
The 4-star Hotel Terceira Mar is situated at a beautiful location. It’s a nice hotel and the rooms were spacious, clean and the beds excellent. After clearing the suitcases we went out for lunch. Unfortunately restaurants would only open at 8 p.m. but we couldn’t wait that long and went to Burger King for lunch, sorry for that.
After this we drove to various places including the fishing village (São Mateus da Calheta) to explore the island. It appears that the local villages are very quiet. In the evening we went back to the hotel where we had dinner. Because it was a “long” day we went for an early sleep.
Day 2 Terceira
During our second day on the island of Terceira we drove across the island. We made a stop at Biscoites, Praia Da Victoria, Santa Barbara and more. We were still surprised by the sudden weather changes during the day. A little higher into the mountains, we ended up in a gray and foggy landscape with lower temperatures and even rain. The roads were tricky and sometimes we had to be very careful to avoid all the pits.
The most notable stops today: Algar do Carvão and Furnas do Enxofre. Algar do Carvão is a mysterious crater rim that descends 100m where you reach the bottom of the crater pipe. A visit was only possible after 1400 o’clock, so we had to return in the afternoon.
Luckily, in Terceira all sights are located at a very short distance to each other. Furnas do Enxofre is a kind of small nature reserve where the volcanic activity can still be clearly observed by the sulfur fumes. This location certainly requires a good pair of hiking boots because the paths are quite muddy because of the fog and humidity. A raincoat is also not a luxury.
Day 3 Horta
The last day on Terceira we started with a nice breakfast in our hotel and then placed the luggage in the car because today we flew to the second island: Horta. After check out, we drove to São Sebastião to take a look at the half-15th century church: Igreja de São Sebastião. This church is known for its only fresco on the island. These frescos have perished due to the humid climate and are still being restored so that the remains are preserved.
We hardly ever visit a church at home, but when we are on holiday, we always take a look at the local church. Strange, right? After we had a look around the church we drove to the airport for our flight to Faial (Horta).
The flight had a 45 minute delay. Luckily the flight to Horta would take less than 30 minutes. After arriving at the airport we picked up the new car and after a short drive we arrived at Hotel Horta.
First impression was that the previous hotel appealed to us just a little more, but the rooms are fine. So flip flops on and off to the port. The quay is equipped with numerous very nice murals. Then towards Peter Sports Café (were gin is among other things their specialty). I enjoyed a nice cold beer and my girlfriend Sylvia a special kind of gin. After this we had a delicious meal where I had the prawn curry and without a doubt this was the tastiest meal so far for me. Sylvia had a black spaghetti with a kind of cream sauce with shrimp and it was also delicious. As a starter we had a local cheese (melted) with green and black olives and bread, which was also excellent. For dessert we both had a nice glass of red wine. For us food lovers this was heaven.
Day 4 (Caldeira – Capelinhos) Horta
After breakfast we got into the car and drove to Caldeira. This is an impressive crater with an infinite number of shades of green. We were lucky to have good weather conditions and a good look into the crater. The weather again is very changeable today. Less than 15 minutes later it was foggy and 20 minutes after that the sun came out again.
The bottom of the Caldeira is 400 meters deep and you can also see some remains of the crater lake there. At the eruption of the Capelinhos volcano in 1957, the lake became “leaked” due to cracks in the rock. We took a walk around the entire crater. A walk of about 3 hours with pretty tough climbs and slippery descents. Along the way we came across some wild mountain goats, very nice to see. The walk of about 8.5 kilometers requires a good pair of hiking boots and certainly a warm vest against the cold. The number of walkers this day was not that bad, but you don’t have to worry that you will walk there alone. After a 3-hour walk, we went looking for something to eat.
After lunch we got back in the car and drove to the volcano the Capelinhos which in 1957-1958 changed the area during an eruption into desert-like area. The falling ash destroyed the source of income for many people and thousands emigrated to the US. Part of the new 2.4 square kilometer territory was swallowed up again by wind and waves, but the former lighthouse is a little further inland to its first floor in the ashes. It is very windy around the lighthouse and several times we were sandblasted by the ashes.
Day 5 Horta (Faial)
With sore legs from yesterday’s brisk walk on the Caldeira, we took it slow today. We went to visit some small villages to sniff some local history and it soon became apparent that we completed a trip around the entire island. At the end of the afternoon we went to the beach where my girlfriend had a nice swim in the sea and was completely happy with a few nice fish that swam around her. I myself had only stood with my feet in the water because I didn’t really feel like swimming in the sea today.
At night we went for a second-time dinner to Peters Café Sport. At one point a gentleman asked if he could use the two free places at our table because all the other tables were occupied. A moment later his traveling companion appeared. The guys were from Austria and Switzerland. Both were unknown to each other but had booked the same diving holiday and were therefore each other’s diving buddies to be. They extensively talked about their diving experiences and the Swiss man had been diving all over the world and this was probably his last diving holiday because he had seen it all. He wanted to spot a certain shark here in the Azores to complete his bucket list. Very nice to get into conversation with strangers this way, not even knowing the names of both of them afterwards.
Tomorrow we have to leave the rental car at the port and we will sail to the 3rd island of our trip, the island of Pico. If I am not mistaken, it is also known for its wines and we do not mind that at all!
Day 6 from Horta to Pico
Today we leave from Hotel Horta. Thank goodness! The bed is rock hard and my girlfriend’s bad back doesn’t like that. After breakfast we have some time to spare. My girlfriend is reading her book and I am updating the travelogue. Around 11.30 am we leave for the port and make the ferry crossing to the island of Pico. Once again we pick up a rental car and then head for the hotel.
Day 7 Pico
Yesterday, when we picked up our rental car just around the corner from the hotel and tried to close the doors, the remote control refused. We went back to the office but they didn’t have a spare key. So they had to exchange the car and we were upgraded to a Renault Scenic. A bigger car and on this island with all the narrow and winding roads not very handy but I must say we have driven it wonderfully and luckily did not experience too much trouble with the size of this car.
Later that day we drove to Mount Pico, a vulcano. You can go by car only halfway. After that you have to walk. If you want to go all the way to the top you must first register. This 7 hour climb is only suitable for the more experienced climbers. We had a look around and then drove on to a small crater lake. It was quite foggy in this area and I shot some nice black and white photos.
Next we drove to a cave that only can be visited under supervision. We were told in a less friendly tone that there was only room after Friday. Bummer, because we are traveling to the next island tomorrow.
So we drove to a kind of wine museum and there we could see the exhibition and afterwards taste the famous dessert wine from Pico. We are both wine lovers but this wine was really not tasty and certainly not worth 25 euros the bottle. After that we drove back to the crater lake to see if the fog had disappeared. It was gone and we took some pictures. It was around 5:30 pm and drove back to the hotel because we were getting hungry. After freshening up we went to eat at Caffe 5 “Cing” where we also went for lunch in the afternoon. The food was delicious!
Day 8 São Miguel (last island)
The morning started a bit hectic because we were mistaken in the departure time. Fortunately, it is only a small island and we were at the airport within 20 minutes. After returning the car it was time for breakfast. We thought we could get some after the security check, but there was nothing except a candy machine and some soda. So, we ended up with KitKat for breakfast.
It was a small plane (only 40 people) and so the check-in went fast. After a short quiet flight (about 45 minutes) we landed at São Miguel. Check in at our hotel was only possible after 2 p.m. There was no other option than to leave our suitcases and explore the area. In the meantime, we were getting very hungry and went for lunch in a small cafe. After strolling through the streets, we saw a sign that said “farmers market”. Of course, we got curious and followed the sign. The offered fresh products, including fish, fruit, vegetables, but also honey, jam, etc. We thought it would be nice to get some vitamins and bought a fresh pineapple, some nectarines and plums. The farmers market can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. We ate the pineapple at the harbor and then walked back to the hotel to check in. The room is beautiful, spacious and smells very fresh!
After a small wardrobe change, we left for Lagoa Das Fornas, about 40 minutes from our hotel. Unfortunately, it started raining cats and dogs upon arrival and after some waiting, we decided to drive on to Poca Da Dona Beija (thermal baths of around 30 degrees.) There was a big line at the entrance and it was already very busy inside. So in the end we decided not to enter and went back to Lagoa Das Furnas. Luckily the weather had cleared up a bit, so we decided to take a walk along the lake. It is a long walk and along the way we saw the wood sculptures and at the end the sulfur springs. Stew meals are prepared in the nearby soil by burying a kettle in the thermal soil. After this we drove back to the hotel and from there we went for dinner in the city.
Day 9 São Miguel
Today have to get up earlier then we used to, because we go whale watching.
We had already booked this trip at home (Azoreswhalewatch.com) to be sure of a place on the boat. We were well on time and just before the briefing was started it was stated that the weather at sea was too bad and no whales were spotted. Whale watching companies use spotters on the coast who will first check if the weather is good and whether whales can be seen. If the weather is good and no whales have been sported by them, the boat will still sail out. (whales are spotted for 75% and dolphins for 90%)
Because it could not take place today, we had to move the trip to tomorrow afternoon and hopefully the weather gods are with us. Instead we left for Lagoa Do Fogo, but we were unable to reach it. Both the navigation in the car and GoogleMaps on the phone could not give us an exact location because every time it was indicated that it was only a 30 minute drive, it suddenly turned out to be very far away from us and because we already had quite a few kilometers of considerable bad roads (potholes in the road), we again had to look for an alternative.
This was Caldeira Velha, the natural thermal baths. This is a “park” where you had to pay an entrance fee and it was pretty busy. In the travel guides they pretend that this is unspoiled nature and that is partly true, but it has been made into an attraction for tourists. It was so busy that we did not really like to go into the water with a lot of other tourists. Our next stop was Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões. Here you can find several beautiful waterfalls and these can also be photographed well without a tourist walking in front of your camera. After this we drove on to the pilgrimage chapel Nossa Senhora Da Paz and from there back to the hotel. By the way, it was raining almost all day…
Day 10 São Miguel
We were looking forward to this day because we had booked a canyoning trip at Fun Activities Adventure. At 9.30 am we had to gather at the parking spot, this was the assembly point for several outdoor companies where they met their customers.
While we were waiting, I spoke to a man who happened to be from the Netherlands too and would join our group. This guy was doing a study trip for his work (travel advisor) with different hotel visits and also this excursion. Meanwhile the other participants arrived and the two instructors also. After a brief introduction they started to unload the materials (wetsuits, belts, shoes and helmets) and soon we were all dressed up and ready to leave for our first challenge.
The instructors were super friendly and had every pleasure in guiding us. Jokes were interspersed with serious instructions for a safe performance of this sport. Again it was great and Sylvia and I have certainly pushed our limits with some spicy jumps in the deep. The adrenaline screeched through our bodies. I was especially proud of Sylvia because the last jump from the rocks was pretty scary and after some encouragement from the whole group, Sylvia dared to jump. Also, a big compliment to the instructors who very calmly and emphasized that she only had to jump if she wanted to. After this three-hour excursion we drove back to our hotel to take a quick shower and then immediately went on to whale watching.
When we arrived at the harbor it turned out to be beautiful weather over there and the conditions for whale watching were excellent. Not much later we were sailing on a Zodiac boat and it was great.
We sailed for almost 3 hours and saw various sperm whales and lots of dolphins. It is great to see these animals in their natural environment. I didn’t take pictures, because it was almost impossible. The whales were viewed at an appropriate distance and the dolphins, which literally swam under and next to the boat, were far too fast for taking a good photo. It was a really great day.
Terra Azul thanks for this amazing experience. In the evening we visited the same restaurant as yesterday and after an alcoholic drink the bed was tempted to dream away.
Day 11 São Miguel
After breakfast we packed our bags and checked out one last time this trip. On or last day we visited a tea plantation. I think the only one in Europe. We walked through the “factory” where the tea leaves are being processed. In the plantation it was unfortunately not possible to take a tour. Taking photos outside did not really work out because less than 5 minutes after arrival everything closed in the fog and it started to rain again. After drinking a cup of tea, we went to another location. Over there, again almost no visibility due to the fog. Not the end of an amazing holiday we hoped for. But time was running out and we had to go to the airport. Bye-bye Azores.
We hope you enjoyed reading our experience and if you have any questions please contact us.
Greetings Sylvia and René
Some reviews hotels and restaurants: https://goo.gl/maps/M28s8y5mo5v7ZECSA
In the near future I will publish some more photos here on my blog and in my portfolio.
Editor: Dirk (thanks)