Introduction and a Brief History of the Azores Archipelago
The Azores Archipelago is a region of Portugal which is comprised of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They lie around 930 miles (1500 km) west of Lisbon in Portugal, and 2400 miles (3900 km) from North America.
The nine islands were formed through seismic and volcanic activity in the Tertiary geological period, and geologists believe that the first island broke the surface of the water some eight million years ago. Santa Maria is believed to be the first island to form, and Pico the last.
In recorded history, there have been 28 volcanic eruptions, 15 terrestrial and 13 submarine. The last significant volcanic eruption was in 1957 and occurred off the coast of Faial. Though the region was formed through volcanic activity, some of the islands such as Santa Maria have never experienced a volcanic eruption.
The Azores region is unique in many ways. It is not just its geological formation and structure which provides interest. Tourism, together with fishing and farming is a vital and key industry to the region and as a result, the islands have a good mix of activities, site seeing, and adventure.
Whales and the Azores have a long and well established connection. Industrial whaling was a key industry and started around the 13thcentury and ran to 1984 in the twentieth. There are good museums that show the history and importance of industrial whaling to this part of Portugal, which is now happily extinct in the region. The Azores people have a much better relationship with whales, and offer some of the best way to see a whale in the world.
Whales are naturally attracted to the Azores Archipelago as it provides a natural source of food for these wonderful and mighty animals. Whale watch organisations have seen over 20 different species in the Azores region and this is around 25% of the total number of known species of whale. Sperm whales together with short finned pilot whales are regularly seen, and bottlenose, common, spotted, and striped dolphins are also regular visitors. Blue whales, the largest animal on the planet have also been seen.
The whale watching season runs from May – October though whales are regularly spotted all year round. Whale watching tours are a strong industry in the Azores and finding and booking a tour is straight forward and easy, and many tour organisers state that a traveller or tourist will see 6-7 species per tour. It is not uncommon to spot other exotic creatures such as turtles and sharks.
The Azores region is rated in the top three whale watching destinations in the world.
Swimming with Dolphins
In much of Europe swimming with dolphins in captivity is illegal. The Azores region however, has dedicated companies that will take you out to the ocean where wild dolphins are known to swim. They claim that 97% of the time people that sign up to the tour will have a chance to swim with dolphins. If this is a dream of yours, swimming with dolphins in the wild will be an authentic, unforgettable experience.
Gruta das Torres Lava Cave
Gruta das Torres is the largest lava cave from the thirty lava caves situated in the Azores. The caves have been formed through volcanic lava flowing and cooling in underground rivers of Magma. The Gruta das Torres is particularly impressive due to its size which has been documented as being 3350 metres long, but as parts remain unexplored it is estimated to run at 5200 metres. It is located at the lower western slope of Mount Pico, the highest mountain in the Azores area, which is located on Pico Island. As with Gruta das Torres, 28 of the 30 lava caves are located on Pico Island.
To explore the lava cave and subsequently the inside of a volcano, a visitor centre has been established. Tours are via a guide, where you will be issued with helmets and lights.
The tour allows travellers and tourists a chance to see 450 metres of the cave and will explain how the different rock formations were established as they take you deep inside a volcano.
Walking boots are recommended for this unique and amazing adventure.
Wine Tasting in Madalena on Pico Island
Wine is a famous commodity on Pico Island, and tasting this beverage is accommodated in Madalena. Most of the wine comes from the Azores is made at Cooperativa Vitivincola da Ilha do Pico in Madalena. The region produces fortified verdelho wines, as well as regional and table wines.
If wine is something you like then you must also vest the World Heritage Wine Country Sites in Lajido,Cabrito and Madalena
The nine islands of the Azores are Santa Maria, Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo. Many visitors believe that they can explore each island every day. Such is the range of activities and adventure the Azores region offers, which this is found to be a common misconception.
The Azores lends itself to adventure, and hiking, cycling, and swimming in rock pools fit the rugged landscape and changing scenery of the islands exquisitely.
Azores holiday and vacation rentals, are available as are a range of hotels.