Alone in the middle of the Atlantic ocean lie a small group of islands, the tops of huge underwater mountains poking above the waves. These are the Azores, a hidden gem 1,500 kilometers west of Portugal. Only discovered in the 1400s, the islands are known for their relaxed way of life.

The biggest attraction on the islands is hiking, with over 60 trails criss-crossing the islands. You can wander around steep cliffs or around volcanic craters, or up Portugal’s highest mountain – Mount Pico. Flores is perhaps the most beautiful of all the islands, with lush vegetation, forests and waterfalls that seem untouched by humans. While traveling around the islands by boat, keep an eye out for whales, or catch a dedicated whale watching boat to see these incredible sea creatures up close.

The most unusual view on the islands can be found at Sao Miguel from the Vista do Rei. Here you can see two volcanic craters that are now lakes separated by a thin strip of land. The curious thing is that one lake is green and the other is blue. Also on Sao Miguel are the thermal spas of Furnas. Soak away any aches and pains in the warm waters of the pool in the Terra Nostra botanical gardens. The naturally heated waters have also influenced the islands’ cuisine. Cozido is a stew which is left to cook for several hours in the volcanic mud. Book ahead to ensure you get your share!

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Read more on The Azores below with flight options, current weather, maps, and activities to try while you are there.

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