If I tell you that there is an archipelago of nine insanely beautiful islands, full of endemic species, where you can go up and down the volcanos, walk through the fields of tea, enjoy thermal springs, observe 26 different whale and dolphin species, all of that, and much more, here, in Europe... Would you believe me? I know, it sounds too exotic for a European destination. But, in fact, there is a magical archipelago like this. It’s called the Azores and it's the best kept secret of Europe. The Azores archipelago is situated in the middle of the Atlantic ocean - some call them the Hawaii of the Atlantic. The nine volcanic islands are about 1,500 km away from continental Portugal, and about 3,900 km away from North America.
Although they often appear on the most beautiful archipelagos in the world kind of top lists, they are still not a well known destination. I first heard of Azores ten years ago, when I moved to Portugal. At that time I didn't know any single (even Portuguese) person who had visited it. The flights were too expensive, and the destination was too rural to go as a tourist. Portuguese people I got to speak back then talked about it as a faraway paradise that they may never visit. Then I made a friend who was from Azores. The way she spoke about her islands, how green and blue, how calm and beautiful they are, made me promise myself: one day I am going to visit! Not long after, Ryanair launched its first routes to the Azores, and so there I was, going on my first out of many trips. I have kind of already crisscrossed those islands, but still I can hardly wait to go again.
Visiting all the islands at once can be difficult for two reasons: flying from one to another is not cheap, and going around by boats can take a lot of time. When you see them tiny on a map, it does not look like it, but in fact, they extend for more than 600 km. Alternatively, you can visit them per group, as the archipelago consists of three main groups. There are Flores and Corvo in the western group; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the central group; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef in the eastern group.
And... how to get there, you might be asking yourself. There are several options. Ryanair operates direct flights from London-Stansted and Frankfurt to Ponta Delgada. You can also fly directly from Porto or Lisbon (with Ryanair, TAP or Sata). TIP: Sata Airlines offers one connection flight in the first 24 hours after the landing!
If you would like to discover better the best kept secret of Europe, look for the other stories about each group of the islands.
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