Portugal offers the traveller a wide diversity of landscape, customs and gastronomy. With so much to explore on the mainland, many people forget the Portuguese “Pearls of the Atlantic” so close by. The Azores and Madeira. These islands are havens of natural beauty and wonderful destinations to get away from it all, explore and have an adventure of your choosing. Full of huge landscapes, wildlife and activities they have something for everyone and make a unique family holiday.
When we think of the Azores, the island of São Miguel may immediately come to mind with its lagoons of Fogo and Sete Cidades, its Terra Nostra Park and its famous stew from the Furnas region. It is undeniable that the island of São Miguel is beautiful, but the truth is that each of the 9 islands that make up the Azores archipelago are different and deserve to be visited. In particular São Jorge Island, Corvo Island, and Flores Island.
São Jorge in the Azores is a charming balcony located in the Atlantic Ocean with its iconic and seductive peak of “Pico”. On a full moon night, the canal water sparkles and the Pico summit provides a dramatic backdrop of scenery. The island of Sao Jorge is known for its cheese, but everything about the island is truly moving: its beauty and its people. It is a remote, peaceful island, without luxuries, which excels in simplicity, rustic charm and offering a connection with nature.
For many people, Sao Jorge island is yet to be discovered. The great option is to rent a car and go on an adventure with our guidance and contacts. You can visit the village of Velas, the Sete Fontes Forest Park and the former Vigia da Baleia (Whale Watcher) in Ponta dos Rosais. Also the village of Calheta, the Poça de Simão Dias, and the Fajãs – especially Cubres and the Caldeira de Santo Cristo. We also recommend the coastal plains which are almost absent from human presence, and that are part of the UNESCO Biosphere Heritage.
Accommodation options are few and simple but we really recommend spending a night in a Fajã, for example, at Casa da Lagoa. It will be one of your fondest memories to stay within this community and spent time with the wonderful local people.
You spend just three days to visit Flores Island, but we guarantee you will want to stay longer. The island has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is worthy of every mile covered to get there. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the Azores Archipelago. Flores Island offers great biodiversity and many waterfalls, all in idyllic settings. Flores offers the visitor craters, large ravines, cliffs, lakes and streams which all define the landscape. There is also an excellent view from Flores Island across to Corvo Island. A great option again is to rent a car to discover the Island armed with our tips and suggestions for insider access. Here’s what you will not want to miss: Poço da Ribeira do Ferreiro, considered the most beautiful place on the Island; the Rocha dos Bordões; the seven lagoons; Fajãzinha, Fajã Grande, and Poço do Bacalhau. You’ll also have to take a dip in Salema’s Natural Pools.
On Flores Island in the Azores, the accommodation is simple, cosy, welcoming and picturesque. This is the case of Aldeia da Cuada which is a restored village. Aldeia da Cuada completely preserves the original architecture of the houses, streets, walls, agricultural threshing floors, and haystacks, and has a great restaurant.
From Flores Island, we can take you by boat to visit the small island of Corvo. Corvo offers peace and security, breathtaking scenery, and superb walking trails, as well as being a destination of choice for birdwatching. If you stay only one day you will be able to see the main points of interest, but you will need a couple of days to get to know the true essence of the island: its people.
The Island of Corvo in the Azores only has 7 km of paved road, so get ready to walk (or take a taxi, for longer distances.) A must-see is its Caldeirão, which occupies almost half of the island, and whose interior is partially occupied by ponds and agricultural fields. The village of Vila do Corvo is the centre of everything that happens on the island. Most people choose to make Corvo a full-day tour from Flores, but if you would like to stay longer, you can stay overnight at the friendly Guest House Comodoro.
Portugal’s other “Pearl of the Atlantic” is, of course, Madeira Archipelago. Madeira is best known for the beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear ocean water of Porto Santo, for its incomparable Laurissilva forest, for the houses of Santana, and for the beautiful New Year’s fireworks. The island of Madeira is for everyone and for the whole year: it is sea and beach, mountains and walking trails, haute cuisine and popular establishments. Natural, genuine and unforgettable.
All trips to this island must begin in Funchal. One day is enough to discover and experience the best there is in this city, namely the Monte cable car, the basket cars, the Mercado dos Lavradores, the historic area around Santa Maria Street or the magnificent gardens. Again we recommend that we rent you a car so you can explore and go around the island. You can’t miss the magnificent Cabo Girão, the Curral das Freiras, the Pico Areeiro and Pico Ruivo (the highest peak on the island), Santana and its traditional houses, the São Vicente Caves, the Ponta de São Lourenço, and much more. We will send you on your way with all the best tips and contacts. You may also want to try a jeep safari around the island, a boat tour for whale watching, or a hike one of the famous levadas.
On Madeira there is accommodation for everyone. If you prefer luxury hotels, we recommend the Savoy Palace, with excellent service and a fantastic rooftop pool. If you like small hotels, Castanheiro Boutique Hotel will be perfect for you. If you’re looking for something a bit different, why not try the Soul Glamping or the Calheta Glamping Pods? We can work with you to select the best possible accommodation for your taste, style and type of experience you are looking for.
If you are interested in a tailor-made adventure and travel experience in Portugal, The Azores or Madeira please get in touch and we would be delighted to work with you to craft the perfect trip.
For more information why not refer to our Portugal Destination Guide.