Clear, unpolluted water surrounds Portugal's nine green Azores Islands, a longtime rest stop for trans-Atlantic sailors. Hiking, fishing, watersports and golf are among the attractions of this unspoiled and remote destination.
Most visitors stay on Sao Miguel, the largest and most populated island. Allow five days to see its highlights. The green and blue lakes at Sete Cidades are the stuff of postcards, and there are plenty of other lakes on the island. Thermal springs abound, especially in Furnas, where pots of cozido are cooked in the steaming ground. Tropical gardens and tea plantations are also popular with visitors, as are the natural swimming pools.
The central group of islands consists of Sao Jorge, Terceira, Faial, Pico and Graciosa. Horta in Faial is a colorful harbor and popular stop for sailors. Pico is famous for and named after its mountain, the highest in Portugal, visible from Horta and a seemingly irresistible challenge for hikers. The white wine from Pico is pretty good, but avoid the red.
Flores and Corvo are the two most remote islands and therefore the least visited. Both have stunning landscapes but can be shrouded in fog, as can the other islands.
The view of the lakes on Sao Miguel and the cobblestoned streets and old quarter of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira are worth the trip.
The islands are located about 900 mi/1,460 km west of mainland Portugal and can be reached by plane. There are ferries between most of the islands. http://www.visitazores.com.
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