The Azores islands make for the ideal first post-lockdown destination. Safe and sustainable with all the wide-open skies, wild landscapes and spontaneous adventure we’ve been dreaming of…
At the time of writing, the Azores is open to travellers from the UK. Fully vaccinated visitors can enter with a valid EU Covid Digital Vaccination Certificate. Unvaccinated visitors can enter with a PCR test no older than 72 hours or take a test on arrival. Make sure you check the most up to date requirements before travelling.
After months of lockdown, the Azores is the dream place to go to rediscover yourself and your relationship with the wild. On arrival, sea air from the Atlantic rushes around you, blowing away the stasis of the last year and bringing in freshness and invigoration. This is an archipelago where you can fully immerse yourself in adventure.
São Miguel is the largest of the Azores. Rugged coastlines belie sandy beaches, while hot springs hide between volcano peaks. Here you’ll find places to explore without the need for long journeys: a dawn surf, a long trek to a hidden waterfall and a leisurely lunch are all possible within a day. São Miguel has many easily accessible dive sites, with the ‘Dori’ wreck – a World War II shipwreck on the seafloor near the city of Ponta Delgada – a particular highlight.
Head north for surfing uncrowded breaks or enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking on the lakes of Sete Cidades. Inland is Furnas Lake, a sulphuric phenomenon of pale green water and bubbling molten clay. Feel the benefits of Furnas’s geothermal activity at the Poça da Dona Beija hot springs.
To the west of São Miguel is Pico island where you can join a whale watching trip to see species such as blue, fin and pilot whales as well as bottlenose dolphins.
The microclimate of the Azores is like no other: volcanic peaks populated with temperate forests, aquamarine lakes, bubbling hot earth, eclectic flora and biodiverse marine and wildlife. From above, as you fly in, São Miguel looks like a green fragment of moon surface, punched in three places by a trio of volcanic craters – a treat for eyes starved of 3D views after months of online life. Kayak straight into these crater lakes on one day, then canyon down waterfalls and jump into fresh water pools on Flores island the next. Climb Pico Island’s eponymous peak – the highest in Portugal at 2,351m – for lunar landscapes and to feel the volcano’s heat beneath your feet.
Bird watching opportunities abound in the Azores due to its central position in the North Atlantic. The endemic Azores bullfinch can be seen on São Miguel, alongside Bulwer’s petrels, grey wagtails and Cory’s shearwaters, while the islands of Flores and Corvo are both home to migratory birds including the Manx shearwater.
With the lockdown came the closing of restaurants, and many of us have been longing to reacquaint ourselves with the joy of dining out. In the Azores, the eateries have reopened their doors, offering travellers an array of places to refuel after long days of adventure.
The islanders take their traditional dishes seriously: the earth here is so hot it’s become a place of gastronomic pilgrimage. Locals in Furnas bake a stew, cozido das Furnas, under the ground for five hours, hoisting it out at midday for lunch service in the village restaurants. Other local produce includes the black and green tea grown on the archipelago, Pico wines, creamy Azores cheese and some surprisingly exotic fruit including pineapples and bananas.
Along the São Miguel coast near Ponta Delgada, join the locals at the port for lunch in one of the seafood tavernas to feast on fresh fish such as tuna, lapas (limpet clams) and lobster.
Travelling sustainably is made easy in the Azores, which was the first ever archipelago to be certified under the EarthCheck Sustainable Destination program, recognising its commitment to preserving its rich culture and marine ecosystems. The islands have also been considered by European Best Destinations as one of the safest places to holiday for its low number of cases and good preventative measures, making the Azores a perfect post-lockdown getaway, whenever you are ready to visit.
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