BP On The Ground: Unique Private Experiences In Portugal's Azores Islands
Private adventures in Portugal are becoming increasingly popular among travelers seeking luxury travel to spectacular cultural and natural wonders. Despite the destination’s growing popularity, it is still possible to enjoy unique, immersive experiences away from the crowds.
In a recent action-packed research trip – and as part of our mission to find beautiful, off-the-beaten-path destinations that boast breathtaking natural landscapes, epic outdoor adventures and unique cultural experiences – two of our Travel Experts explored the lesser-visited Azores Islands.
The Azores are an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, around 930 miles west of Portugal. They are an autonomous region of Portugal with stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and unique culture.
Here, they offer an insight into the different private experiences they are looking forward to sharing with travelers who embark on our luxury tour to the Azores.
São Miguel Island, The Azores
Our journey began on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populated island in the archipelago. Like the rest of the Azores, the island’s unique landscape is shaped by volcanic activity and boasts volcanic craters, hot springs and geysers. São Miguel Island’s unique landscapes make it a haven of outdoor adventures.
Outdoor Adventures: Pico de Carvao Hike
We started our tour of the Azores with a hike to Pico de Carvao, a natural landmark boasting scenic views of Sao Miguel’s rolling hills, lush vegetation and stunning coastline. Its picturesque panoramic views were a prime example of the island’s lush natural beauty.
On route, we enjoyed views of one of the region’s most iconic features: Lagoa das Sete Cidades. These two twin lakes – Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) and Lagoa Verde (Green Lake) – are situated within a volcanic caldera. From the Vista do Rei viewpoint, we were able to admire views of both lakes and their different colors.
During our time in São Miguel, we stayed at WHITE, a boutique property with nine luxury suites and two private villas, all of which boast ocean views.
A charming hotel located on a seaside cliff with a pool overlooking the ocean, WHITE offers a comfortable space with a charming home-away-from-home feeling. Their onsite restaurant was a highlight of our stay here; we got to savor local flavors in dishes using some of the best products from the Azores.
Natural Wonders: Volcanic Vents & Hot Springs
There are endless natural wonders located across the Azores, however one of the highlights of our Azores tour was visiting Lagoa das Furnas and witnessing the fascinating geothermal activity nearby.
As we walked around the lake and the surrounding area, we witnessed volcanic vents, hot springs, fumarole and geysers. One of the most memorable experiences was our traditional lunch in the village of Furnas. Here, we tried “cozido das Furnas” which is a local speciality of meats and vegetables cooked using traditional Azorean cooking methods: lowering a cauldron into the volcanic vents in the ground.The geothermal heat slowly cooks the food, infusing it with unique flavors.
In the afternoon, we visited the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden, which features an impressive diversity of plants and exotic trees.
Faial, The Azores
The second leg of our Azores tour took us to Faial. Faial is known for its stunning natural beauty, volcanic landscapes and rich marine life. It is also home to several natural reserves and protected areas which offer opportunities for hiking and exploring the island’s diverse landscapes.
Natural Beauty: Natural Reserve of the Caldeira of Faial
Before our short ferry to Pico Island, we stopped in Faial to visit the Natural Reserve of the Caldeira of Faial. The reserve was established to protect and preserve the unique natural and geological attributes of the area.
As we enjoyed a privately guided tour of the reserve, we learned about the vast flora and fauna endemic to the Azores and the wide range of animal species too. Its an important area for biodiversity conservation and a great spot for birdwatching!
Outdoor Adventures: Capelinhos Volcano
While in Faial, we visited the outstanding Capelinhos Volcano and the dramatic landscapes that surround it.
The Capelinhos Volcano became a prominent geological and historical attraction after its most recent eruption that occurred between 1957 and 1958. Despite being relatively short, the intense eruption dramatically reshaped the landscape of the island.
While the area around the volcano is characterized by rugged and barren landscapes, covered with ash and lava, it is possible to see where the new land was created. The contrast of landscapes is beautifully unique. We learned more about the history, the geology and the effects of the eruption at the incredible Capelinhos Interpretive Center.
At the top of the volcanic cone, you’ll find a lighthouse that has been preserved and serves as a symbol of the eruption.
Its historical significance and unique landscapes made this activity a highlight of our Azores itinerary.
As we journeyed across the island, we stopped at various viewpoints to take in the spectacular natural settings that surrounded us. No matter the angle, the views of the Azores never disappointed.
Pico Island, The Azores
Our journey in the Azores continued on Pico Island. Pico Island boasts UNESCO-recognized vineyards, fascinating lava fields and rugged coastlines. The island is named after Pico Mountain, its highest volcanic peak which can hiked during a special expedition.
Historical Insights: Whaling Museum
We continued our journey with a short ferry to Pico Island to begin the last leg of our private Portugal tour.
First, we visited the Whale Museum. While commercial whaling is no longer practiced, the island’s whaling heritage is an important part of the island’s history and identity and the museum documents this.
Outdoor Adventures: Dolphin & Whale Watching
Pico Island has rich marine biodiversity and is known for its world-class whale watching; you can witness various species of whales and dolphins in the surrounding waters. When visiting the Azores, you might see Sperm Whales, Fin Whales, Blue Whales, Humpback Whales and Beaked Whales, as well as different species of dolphin.
During our private whale watching tour, we learned about the biology and behavior of the whale and dolphin species before having the opportunity to listen to their vocalizations using a hydrophone (an underwater microphone).
Culinary Experience: Cheese And Wine Tasting
As we journeyed in the direction of Criação Velha, we stopped at the Azores Wine Company for a private wine and cheese tasting. The Azores Wine Company is known for producing Azorean wines and cheeses with unique flavors.
Unlike mainland Portugal, which uses plenty of sheep’s and goat’s milk, the cheese in the Azores is produced from cow’s milk. The archipelago is also responsible for at least 50% of Portugal’s cheese production.
Some of the wines given to us in the private wine tasting were made from grapes grown in the volcanic soil of the islands, resulting in distinctive undertones. While the selected, locally produced cheeses were all carefully curated to compliment the flavors of the wine. Throughout the experience, the sommelier provided an insightful insight into the history and production methods of both the wines and cheeses.
This was the perfect set up for the next part of our journey to Criação Velha…
Natural Wonders: UNESCO Volcanic Vineyards
The charming village of Criação Velha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its historically significant vineyards and wine production.
The region’s distinctive method of viticulture – of growing grapes in enclosed stone-walled pots with volcanic soils – contributes to the distinctiveness of the wines it produces.
Here, we enjoyed a trek through Lajidos de Vinha, a protected vineyards area, where we witnessed wine cellars, old oxcart tracks used to transport wine barrels, and incredible views of the vineyards and surrounding landscape.
Step Off The Beaten Path In Portugal
The activities and experiences in the Azores can be adjusted to the wants and travel preferences of each group; there are also more islands to discover.
With each research trip we embark upon, we broaden our expertise in the countries we operate. Our research process allows us to keep up-to-date with the latest, unique experiences and allows us to establish and build strong relationships with our team of guides, experts, locals and scholars on the ground.
For more information on our luxury Morocco tours, contact one of our travel experts today.
Tailor-Made Itineraries To The Azores
Discover the best natural wonders in Portugal’s Azores Islands with a bespoke, luxury tour…