Guest Author - Julie Fredrick
If you love the idea of island travel but are looking to do more than just laze on a beach, the Azores Islands may be ideal. The Azores Archipelago, located off the coast of Portugal, offers travelers a remote, off the beaten path travel destination full of eco adventures for young and old alike. Although politically part of Portugal, these remote islands are very different from the rest of the mainland.
Europe’s westernmost territory is a compilation of nine volcanic islands scattered across the mid-Atlantic, about 1,500km west of Portugal and 4,000km east of New York. The Islands cover an area of some six hundred kilometers in length and a land area of 2.333 square kilometers. The Azores are divided into three groups of islands; The eastern islands of Sao Miguel, the largest of the nine, and Santa Maria; the central group consisting of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial; and the westernmost and most remote islands of Flores and Corvo.
Many people consider Sao Miguel to be the most beautiful island in the Azores. Typically, it is the starting point for most travelers. Referred to as the “green island” for its fertile soil, Sao Miguel is the most diverse, with its tobacco fields, lush forests, prairies and tea plantations. It is the largest island in the archipelago, and contains over half of the Azores population. It also contains the only university and International airport.
Most people travel to the Azores as an extension of their trip to Portugal. There are no scheduled boat connections; one must fly from the mainland—about an hour flight. Due to the vastness of the area, the distance between islands and the diverse topography, it would be extremely difficult to experience all that the archipelago has to offer on one trip.
A wide array of adventures is available to suit any taste. Faial and San Miguel Islands offer coastline and big game fishing, with several charters from which to choose.
With 227 species of birds in the archipelago, bird watching is very popular.
The Azores have three world-renowned 18-hole golf courses, two in Sao Miguel and one in Terceira. Advance booking is recommended.
Caving, hiking and Jeep safaris are popular pastimes foe the more adventurous type.
For those who prefer their adventure on the water, whale watching, sailing and swimming with dolphins are all options. Advance booking is strongly advised.
For a comprehensive tour of the nine Azores islands, book a nine-day/eight-night cruise. International bids are awarded for only one company that can offer interisland cruises. For the next several years, that company is Transmaçor, and the only sailing for 2010 is April 22, so if you want to plan an interisland cruise that encompasses only the Azores, book far in advance.
If you wish to travel at your leisure between the islands, there are flights and/or ferryboat services between all of the islands.
If you are looking for a low-key eco-tourist destination in Europe that offers enough to keep you active, check out the Azores Islands.
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