STORY AND PHOTOS BY RODNEY TUGWELL
This winter, Azores Airlines will connect Toronto to the Portuguese Island of Terceira (non-stop weekly service) in addition to 4x weekly service to Ponta Delgada. Passengers visiting the Azorean Archipelago are able to get to this magnificent destination in just over five hours flight time aboard the new A321neo. The aircraft can transport up to 190 passengers and provides a high level of comfort on the medium-long haul routes. You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to be canyoning, cycling, hiking, soaking in natural hot springs, sailing, surfing, diving, golfing, bird watching, tasting amazing typical cuisine, and whale-watching. Azores Airlines is the first Portuguese airline to connect Canada with Portugal using the A321neo.
Laid out across the Atlantic, the Azores is made up of nine major islands. Flores and Corvo to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, and Santa Maria to the east.
The Azores are often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe, or Europe’s Best-Kept Secret and are an autonomous Region of Portugal. It is practically impossible to visit the Azores and not be completely amazed by every single thing you lay your eyes on. National Geographic considers this archipelago as one the the most beautiful and sustainable destinations in the world. https://www.visitazores.com/en
Terceira, located in the central group of the Archipelago, is home to the Azores’ oldest city, Angra do Heroismo (population approximately 36,000), a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1983) steeped in history and capital of the archipelago. Located just 15 minutes from the airport, this niche place is lined with cobblestone streets, churches, forts and gardens.
THREE PERFECT DAYS IN TERCEIRA
Day 1 – With an early morning arrival and a quick transfer to the hotel, there a few hours to rest before taking a walking city tour of Angra Do Heroismo (2-1/2 – 3 hours). This is a unique urban circuit which highlights the Sé Catedral de Angra do Heroísmo, Teatro Angrense, Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, Jardim Duque da Terceira (Public Garden) and Igreja da Misericórdia.
Day 2 – A full-day tour around the island with Azores Getaways will take you around the south, east, north and centre parts of Terceira Island. Tour highlights include stops at Monte Brasil, Salga Bay, São Sebastião church, Serra do Cume viewpoint, Praia da Vitória, the ancient volcanic caves of Algar do Carvão, and the Wine Museum. The tour also includes lunch at a traditional restaurant where you’ll have the chance to try the beloved local dish of Alcatra de Carne (pot roast cooked slowly in a traditional clay pot). https://azoresgetaways.com
Day 3 – A day to enjoy an activity of choice, or a visit to the award-winning Queijo Vaquinha dairy farm & creamery to meet the happy cows of the Azores, and a tour of the factory for a behind-the-scenes look at the process of cheese from start to finish. Meeting the “vacas felizes” (happy cows) that produce the dairy, and trying your hand at milking a cow and feeding adorable baby cows is simply amazing.
What your clients can expect when visiting Terceira:
• Culture – Terceira is the third stop of the archipelago recognized by Portuguese navigators in the early 1420s.
• Gastronomy – The cuisine of Terceira is marked by alcatra which comes from the the term “alcatre” the Portuguese word for “rump” which is the preferred cut of meat to pot roast. The Best of Terceira tasting menu at QB Restaurant is a delight to the pallet. Also check out the dinner with live Fado at the Hotel Pousada.
• Lifestyle – There is a Wine Museum in Casa Agricola Brum (Brum Agricultural House). A visit allows one to enjoy a taste of some of the best wines and liquers from the Azores.
• Nature – Truly, the destination is a travellers’ dream for nature lovers with the Atlantic’s mild winter climate – The islands of the Azores never get too cold or too hot which makes it a great destination to visit at most times of the year. During the winter months, the average temperatures can hover around 14C, while in the summer months 22C.
• Azorean Hospitality – Be sure to check out the Bensaude Hotel Collection. https://www.bensaudehotels.com/en/
THREE PERFECT DAYS IN PONTA DELGADA
Ponta Delgada, on São Miguel Island is the capital of the Azores archipelago (population approximately 50,000).
Day 1 – Embark on an adventure for the entire family! Whale watching is a unique experience, which offers the opportunity to see the great mammals of the oceans in the deep blue waters of the Azorean sea. The activity is carried out by a professional team of skippers, lookouts and biologists, who can answer all questions and provide information on the marine life. https://picosdeaventura.com
Day 2 – SÃO MIGUEL EAST TOUR with Pure Azores. Discover Furnas, a fascinating town located entirely inside a volcanic caldera. Explore the most active geothermal fields of the Azores, full of boiling springs and smoking pools. Taste the famous “cozido,” a local stew cooked buried in the warm volcanic soil. Marvel with the view from Pico do Ferro over Furnas lake. Reach Senhora da Paz, a secluded chapel in the mountains with an amazing view over Vila Franca do Campo town. Be dazzled by the beauty of Ribeira dos Caldeirões waterfall. Be inspired by the impressive high cliffs on the northeast of the island. https://www.pureazores.com/en
Day 3 – SÃO MIGUEL WEST TOUR with Pure Azores. Enjoy breathtaking views of Sete Cidades, the main postcard of the Azores, that you simply can’t miss. Get inspired by the untouched natural beauty of Fogo Lake, a crater lake surrounded only by wild vegetation. Discover Caldeira Velha, a unique place of thermal activity and iron-rich waters. Explore the west and north coasts of the island, with their impressive cliffs, volcanic rocks and surf beaches. https://www.pureazores.com/en
What your clients can expect when visiting Ponta Delgada:
• The thermal water pools in Furnas are well known for their hydro-thermal resources. There are various springs of natural carbonic water, iron-water pools and waterfalls.
• While the official language in the Azores is Portuguese, most people involved in tourism speak English. Not to be missed is the chef’s tasting menu at the five-star Azor À Terra, the menu includes four courses with a carefully selected wine pairing for each dish.
• The cost of living in the Azores is reasonable. Despite being a remote location and a strong euro, the Azores are easy on the pocketbook.
• There are two golf courses on the island, both certified and recognized internationally. The Furnas Golf Course (40 km from Ponta Delgada) is a par 72 course with 18 holes. The Batalha Golf Course, 10 minutes from Ponta Delgada, is a par 72 course with 27 holes.
• A trip to the Azores would not be complete without a visit to the pineapple plantation. In the pineapple greenhouses, it takes two years to raise a pineapple from flower to fruit. While far from tropical climate, the rich organic soil is perfect for growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables.
Combine the Azores with a visit to the mainland:
Key to the strategy of Azores Airlines is the Stopover Azores Programme. Flying Azores Airlines, you can break the journey from one to seven days to see “two destinations for the price of one.” Touching the Azores provides an opportunity to hike to the rim of an ancient volcano, admire crater lakes of emerald green or deep blue, sip wine grown in lava fields, dine in a seaside village, or watch the sunset over the Atlantic before heading to mainland Portugal to discover the cosmopolitan cities of Lisbon and Porto. For more, go to https://stopover.azoresairlines.pt or visit https://www.azoresairlines.pt/en.