The Azores and Islander Life
The Azores Islands are exactly what I had pictured rural Europe to be. It is a landscape of mountains, endless ocean, free range livestock, an ideal spot for both a relaxed stay and exciting adventures.
I spent three weeks on Terceira Island, and had the opportunity to also travel to Pico Island. It was an experience that I will not soon forget. The world of the islands, from the fresh seafood (everywhere) to the festivals to the beautiful scenery is unique, and well worth the visit. Perhaps what impressed me most though, were the local people I met. Such a rugged and remote locale, one would think, should produce a colder, less welcoming community. From the fresh bread and wine that were delivered daily to my house, to the smiles on the faces of strangers, I was always at home with the Azorean locals.
My trip included beach time, sight seeing, and a lot of activities! We took a ferry ride from Terceira to Pico, where we camped for a couple nights and climbed Mount Pico. Mount Pico, located on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal. Rising some 2351 meters out of the sea, it is an imposing landmark. We began the climb during the night at 2 AM. It took 5 hours up to the top, and when you reach the top, there is another little mountain that is about 30meters high. It’s pure rock climbing from there. From that peak was where we watched the sunrise. The climb was hard, but worth it, and a must for any climbers near the area. Our guide had climbed it 52 times already, notching up another ascent handily while we struggled up behind her.
Great Azores Highlights
The running of the bulls. We watched several displays on the street as well as one on the beach. The bulls are harnessed on long ropes held back by a string of men. Some people get tackled however if they’re not fast enough!
Renting an electric car that took us around the island of Terceira. Stopping at several Miraduoros (or golden views) we took in the beautiful vistas offered up by these amazing islands. While driving around the island, you can see the ocean from almost anywhere so you never get lost. There are also cafes spread around the whole island where you can stop, have a coffee and recharge your e-car.
Festas da Praia. A week-long festival occurring near the beach. It included a parade every night, a massive tent as a dance hall with new bands and DJs every night, and food stalls that offer the specialties of the island.
Whale watching in Pico. We were able to spot 6 different species of dolphins and 3 sperm whales. The ride out to the ocean itself on a speedboat was better than a roller coaster ride.
Sulphur pits and caves. With the physical geography of Terceira consisting of overlapping stratovolcanoes, we had the opportunity to visit some amazing caves and hike through sulphur pits.
The jellyfish! Although not pleasant to get stung by (which I did), it definitely made dipping in the ocean more adventurous. We even spotted an octopus not too far from shore once!
The beaches. The quality of which is undisputed. Coupled with temperate weather, rarely less than fifteen degrees Celsius, they were the perfect way to relax and sleep off a busy day of sightseeing. There were many sand beaches as well as rock beaches amongst the volcanic rocks were in itself a place to sight see.
Summing up Islander Life
The Azores Islands are an upcoming tourist destination spot, one far away from big city life. It’s relaxed pace allows you to embrace the moment as time slows down while you’re surrounded by its abundance of wildlife and nature in the day and stars and cool air in the night. I would describe it in one word as “idyllic.”
Interested in combining island life and adventures? What are you waiting for?
September 12, 2013