At first you may think these islands are small and a couple of days will be enough to visit the entire island. You are so wrong! There are so many things to do on this island that I would suggest staying at least 5 nights. If you intend to do activities like trekking, canoeing, diving etc. then 7 nights are the minimum I would recommend. Given the size of the island you can do a lot in a day since distances from one place to another are usually a couple of minutes. However if you are into photography each stop will entail around 30 minutes. A good advantage is that you are not very likely to bump into traffic or other tourists. This is the most ‘touristic’ part of the island and you may find some visitors on the Miradouro do Boca do Inferno trek or the viewpoints over Sete Cidades lake. However this is nothing when compared to what we are used to when we say touristic.
PS. all the photos as good as they may look can never do any justice to the beauty of the places we visited. It would require a medium to convey all the 5 senses together and that has not yet been invented.
Below is our plan to visit the western part of the island which can be visited in one day starting early in the morning and ending the day with sunset in Mosteiros.
Here are some curious facts our local guide told us about the islands:
In the Azores there are more cows than people! The major industry is farming here and hopefully it will remain like this for long.
I have never seen such a huge quantity of flowers in my life; hortensias in particular. You can find them along the streets, as dividers between fields in valleys and highlands! They are everywhere, however they are not indigenous. They have been imported here and the weather conditions here are so favourable that they started to grow out of control.
The lakes of Sete Cidades, literally ‘Seven Cities’, saw their name creation after the first explorers who visited here thought they were so big that seven cities could fit in. These lakes are in volcano craters, no wonder the surroundings are so fertile and vegetation is so lush.
Not a lot of young people live in the Azores. Most of the Azoreans work in farming and you may still meet a former whale hunter, like we did in Sete Cidades. Whale hunting was a very important industry in the past and in fact there are still remains of whale factories. Whales are still an important source of income as nowadays the Azores are one of the best places in the world to go for whale watching.
Volcanic activity is highly present and there is a constant reminder of this. In beaches like Ferraria where you can take a bath in the Atlantic Ocean in waters as hot as 36 degrees Celsius, thanks to the hot springs that feed the natural swimming pool that has formed here. Volcanic rock is also used for construction and the white paint that is used for the houses creates a picturesque effect that merges well with the surrounding greenery. Moreover the colour of the cliffs and the rocks contrasts with that of the blue sea creating landscapes that are jaw dropping!
Food is the biggest surprise we had. I was expecting to find natural beauty in abundance and although I was in awe at each viewpoint we stopped at, I was expecting this. However I did not expect to find such delicious food. Our local guide (thanks Daniel) took us to the best restaurants in the island, the ones that are not on Trip Advisor, where food is genuine and where local farmers go to eat. It is like eating at home. Main dishes here are based on meat and dairy products (given the abundance of cows) as well as fish and seafood. Freshness and genuinity of products is always guaranteed and the tenderness of the meat as well as the fresh sea smell sea of the fish are a proof for that!