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Azores vacation packages
Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about two hours flying time from Lisbon (about 1,500 Km) and five hours flying time from the eastern coast of North America (about 3,900 Km), the archipelago is spread out in the area of the parallel that passes through Lisbon (39º, 43'/39º, 55' North Latitude), giving it a moderate climate, with mild annual oscillation.
The volcanic origin of all the islands is revealed by their volcanic cones and craters. Pico, a volcano that stands 2,351 meters high on the island of the same name, has the highest altitude in the Azores.
The nine islands of the archipelago are divided in three Groups:
The Eastern Group of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, the Central Group of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial, and the Western Group of Flores and Corvo.
The outline of the garden-like islands on the horizons of the sea. Peace and quiet. Flowers in the fields, in the villages, in the houses. The blue and green of dreamy lagoons. A pace of life in which there is time to stop and appreciate living. Art treasures that recall pages of a centuries-long history. Nature in all its original splendour. A meeting with the past involved in everyday life.
Invitations to discover and experience a different world, repeated on each of the nine islands of the Azores.
Light clothes, with one or two woolen pieces for the cooler days or nights, are enough all year round, although in the winter slightly warmer wraps may be necessary. It is better to bring along a raincoat, however, because there are frequent showers followed at once by sunshine "the days of the four seasons" as the Azoreans picturesquely say - above all in the months from October to April.
Discovered or recognized, as some authors state by Portuguese navigators as from 1427, the Azores were populated in the 15th century by pioneers from Portugal, although small groups of Flemings settled on some of the islands. The 16th and 17th centuries made the archipelago one of the anchors of trade between Europe, America and India, and its ports sheltered galleons loaded with treasures.
Important naval battles were fought in the waters of the Azores in that period, while the islands were attacked by corsairs and pirates. The following centuries were calmer, but in 1829 the Azores returned to the pages of history, with the role played by Terceira in the struggle against the absolutist forces and as the base for the liberal forces that invaded the mainland Portugal. The archipelago developed during the 19th and 20th centuries with the introductions of new crops, setting up of industries and progress made with stock-breeding and fisheries. The last few years have witnessed a progressive improvement in the economic and social well-being of the population.
Each of the nine islands of the Azores has an individualized landscape. They have one point in common, however. The presence of luxuriant, exuberant greenery which includes all the colours of the rainbow and is speckled with bright flowers.
Then there are the wonderful lagoons at the bottom of craters. The irregular lands cut by hills and valleys and the flat areas with cultivated fields that look like a chess board. The constant presence of the blue sea which can be seen from the top of a high cliff on Sao Jorge or glimpsed on a level with the vineyards of Graciosa.
A few churches and buildings in which Gothic elements are present stem from the initial settlement period. The 16th and 17th centuries correspond to a golden age, with good examples of religious and civil art and architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque. The following centuries also left an important artistic legacy. The ties with Flanders in the 16th and 17th centuries provided the Azores with an important legacy of Flemish sculptures. Museums in Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel), Angra do Heroismo (Terceira) and Horta (Faial). Sea-birds and various types of birds, including the priolo, a sort of grey bullfinch that is endemic to the region, constitute the most attractive elements of the land fauna. It is in the ocean that the greatest wealth of the Azores lies, with an abundance of hundreds of species of fish and shell-fish and large mammals such as the sperm whale and the dolphin.
The "viola de arame" and other string instruments, together with "testos" or cymbals, steel triangles and drums, mark the time of characteristic dances and songs, some happy and others sad, that express the joy and also the loneliness of a people spread out over nine islands
The Whalers' Museum.
It includes the three original nineteenth-century boat houses, the restored iron-works and a new area designed to house the library. Opposite this main structure a try-works was rebuilt. The plan for the reconstruction of the building, which was highly commended by the Association of Portuguese Architects and the State Secretary of Culture in 1993, was conceived by the architect Paulo Gouveia.
The first exhibition of a collection on the subject of whaling was displayed in a provisional building in 1979. It was the realization of a dream dating back to 1968.
With the official opening of the Museum, installed in the present structures, in August 1988, the Government of the Azores paid a long-deserved tribute to our whaler. This was a decisive step towards the preservation of the memory of an activity which greatly shaped the islanders' lifestyle for over a century.
In 1987 the last Sperm whale was caught in the Azores, by the same traditional process prior to the memorable times of Moby Dick, still using the hand harpoon and lance. The memory of this activity, however, has been preserved in the old stories of the last whalers, whom the poet Almeida Firmino called «Nameless heroes, having one foot landed, the other still at sea» (Ilha Maior, 1968).
The Museum library, specialized in the whaling theme, offers a wide range of reference books and documents fundamental to the research on whaling. In the small auditorium you can also watch some films on whaling in the Azores.
There are various signs of the volcanic origin of the islands, besides the volcanic cone and craters. Deserving special mention are sulphur grottoes, with an underground lake (Graciosa), the volcanic cones of Furnas valley (Sao Miguel), the remains of the Capelinhos volcano (Faial), the sulphur grottoes next the "caldeira de Guilherme Moniz" (Terceira), the basaltic columns of "Rocha dos Bordoes" (Flores) and the grottoes and caverns, some of them hundreds of meters long, on the islands of Sao Miguel, Santa Maria, Pico, Sao Jorge and Terceira.
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