10 days/9 nights. Visit the islands of Terceira, Faial, Pico and Sao Miguel. Sao Miguel is the most geographically diverse and arguably the most scenic, Terceira boasts the historic and colorful town of Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Faial was an important staging port for ships traveling between the Americas and Europe and is now a stopover for modern yachts and sailing vessels. Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, dominated by its great volcanic summit, is ideal for a day's exploration of its unusual landscape and small villages. All sightseeing tours are by private car with English speaking driver/guides.
Day 1 - Terceira
Transfer service from Terceira airport (aka Lajes) to Angra do Heroismo, about 24 kilometers away. 3 nights at Hotel Terceira Mar (4 stars) in Angra. Terceira translates as "third," as itwas the third island to be discovered in the Azores archipelago. It's also the third largest in size. Walk the streets of Angra do Heroismo and you will feel transported back in time. Thismuseum quality city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's snug harbor is protected by a volcanic cone which made Angra a major staging point for European ships bringing back the wealth of their New World colonies during the 16th to 18th centuries. In Angra, ships formed convoys to Europe as protection from pirates. Climb the hill behind the pretty public gardens for a grand view of the city and the volcanic cone of Monte Brasil.
Day 2 - Terceira
Full-day tour of Terceira. Your driver/guide will meet you in the hotel lobby for a full day tour of the island. Depart by the south coast to Praia da Vitoria via Porto Judeu, a small fishing village. Then stop at Sao Sebastiao and its 15th parish church. Nearby is an "imperio," a small chapel that is characteristic of the towns in the Azores. Imperio are central to the religious festivals of the Holy Ghost (Espirito Santo) popular throughout the Azores. These festivals are of medieval origin but are now seldom seen in mainland Europe. Terceira boasts the most colorful imperio. Praia da Vitoria is a charming town with a main square and a pedestrian shopping street. Time for lunch (not included) in Praia. Take the mountain road up to Serra do Cume for a view of the rolling, multi-hued green fields, bordered by stone walls and hydrangeas and the harbor of Praia in the distance. Then to Algar do Carvao, a huge lava tube about 300 feet long with stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is open June 1 through September 30. Continue to Biscoitos on the north coast to see the natural lava swimming pools and to visit the wine museum. Return to your hotel by way of the typical villages of Altares, Doze Ribeiras and Sao Mateus.
Day 3 - Terceira
Free day at leasure. Angra do Heroismo is a wonderful city to explore on foot. Take a taxi to Monte Brasil for a panoramic view of the city and follow walking trails past several old fortresses and a castle.
Day 4 - Terceira to Faial
Arrival transfer service from the airport to hotel. 3 nights at Hotel do Canal (4 stars) in Horta with daily buffet breakfast included. Since their discovery in the 14th century, the Azores Islands have played an important role as a staging and victualing point for ships crossing the Atlantic, an enviable location for nations with New World colonies. Many conflicts between colonizing nations (Portugal, Spain, England) took place near Horta. Today now peaceful Horta is famous for its yacht harbor, a haven for trans-Atlantic yachts and sailboats. Visiting crews paint the harbor walls with names and pictures of their vessels.
Day 5 - Faial
Faial tour. Your driver/guide will meet you in the lobby for your half-day island tour. Depart the hotel on the mountain road overlooking the Valley of Flamengos, toward Caldeira, the highest point on the island. Continue north to Capelinhos, site of the last volcanic eruption in the Azores. This 1957-58 event added 2 square km to the island. Earthquakes and ash destroyed much of the west side of the island prompting many islanders to immigrate to North America. The elements are slowly eroding the ash. There is a nearby museum detailing the eruption.
Day 6 - Pico
Full-day tour of Pico. Transfer service this morning to the Horta ferry terminal for the 30 minute trip to the island of Pico. Pronounced “Peak” by Azoreans, the translation is exactly that: a mountain peak. Meet your driver at the ferry dock in Madalena on Pico for a full day tour of the second largest island in the Azores. The island is dominated by the great bulk of Pico mountain. Islanders make good use of the black volcanic rocks to build houses and walls in a distinctive fashion. Pico was an important whaling station and there is a museum showing how islanders took to the seas in open boats in pursuit of the leviathans. Fortunately, tourists are now the only ones who go to sea to see the many species of whales in the islands. An unusual feature of Pico is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of acres of vineyards encircled by small, black volcanic rock walls to protect them from the salt winds and to collect extra heat. Return to Maladena in the afternoon for the ferry trip back to Horta.
Day 7 Faial to Sao Miguel
Transfer service from your hotel to the airport for the short flight to Sao Miguel (flight not included in price), the largest and most geographically diverse of the islands. Upon arrival in Ponta Delgada, you will be transferred to your hotel, Hotel Talisman (4 stars) for the next 3 nights with daily buffet breakfast. Ponta Delgada is the largest city as well as the capital of the Azores. Urban sprawl is beginning to set in but the historic central part of the city is still charming. The hotel is well located for walks through the old section. Enjoy the day at leisure.
Day 8 - Sao Miguel
Full-day tour of Furnas. Your driver/guide will pick you up at your hotel for your full day trip to Furnas. Just outside of Ponta Delgada, the rural life of Sao Miguel dominates. Depart along the south road passing the village of Lagoa for a viewpoint at Caloura. Continue to Vila Franca, once the capital. Upon arrival in the Furnas area, visit the lake and hot springs, and see holes in the ground where meals are cooked by underground steam. Pots full of various meats, sausages, potatoes and vegetables are steamed for 7 hours to produce "Cozidos nas Caldeiras" (Caldeira Stew). Continue to the charming town of Furnas for a lunch stop (lunch not included). Visit the beautiful botanical gardens begun in the 18th century (entry fee not included) with the opportunity to swim in the hot springs swimming pool. Cross the island to the north coast, stopping for a fine view of both the south and north coasts from an interior highland. On the way, you will visit a tea plantation, the only one in Europe. Return to your hotel about 5:30pm.
Day 9 - Sao Miguel
Half-day tour of Sete Cidades. After meeting your driver/guide in the hotel lobby, head west to one of the most awesome natural sights in the world, the twin caldeira lakes of Sete Cidades. The view from "Vista do Rei" (King's View) high on the crater's rim is stunning. Far below, next to the lakes, is the pretty village of Sete Cidades (Seven Cities, named for a mythical kingdom). Descend into the caldeira to visit the town. Before returning to Ponta Delgada, stop at a pineapple plantation. The Azores are not warm enough to grow pineapples in the open but they thrive in the greenhouses with careful cultivation methods. Afternoon free in Ponta Delgada.
Day 10 - Sao Miguel
Check out in the late morning. The hotel will store your baggage for you. Day free for last minute shopping and sightseeing in Ponta Delgada before your transfer to the airport. An optional half-day morning tour to Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake) with a stop at a ceramics factory in the town of Lagoa is available.