The Azores archipelago (Portugal), the best kept secret of Europe, stretches for more than 600 km in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. It is divided into tree groups of islands: the western one (Flores and Corvo Islands), the central one (Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial Islands) and the eastern one (São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef). As these islands are unknown to most of non-Portuguese people around the world, I've prepared an introduction with a short description of each one of them.
Let's go west! Corvo (the Island of the Crow), considered by UNESCO to be a World Biosphere Reserve, forms, together with the island of Flores, the Western Group of the Azores archipelago. With an area of only 17km2 and 20km of roads this volcanic island is the smallest of the nine. The best way to spend a day here is to hike around the volcanic-crater-turned-lagoon Caldeirão, to visit the Environmental and Cultural Interpretation Centre and of course, to talk to as many as possible out of the 425 inhabitants of the island. They like meeting visitors and will gladly tell you some fantastic stories of living in the most isolated corner of Europe, and legends of Barbary coast pirates that twice attempted to disembark in a small bay of Corvo.
Just an hour long boat ride away is Flores (Flowers) Island. Due to its isolated location, and the fact that it's not too big (crossing the island lengthwise takes only 35 minutes by car), not many tourists come its way. Just like in Corvo, here too you should come if you search for serenity, silence, and close contact with nature. Although it's not easy to decide, lso Poço da Ribeira do Ferreiro (aka Alagoinha) is probably the island's main attraction and one of the best kept secrets of Portugal. It consists of dozens of small waterfalls that crash down from a mountain full of vegetation to a lake that mirrors all the surrounding beauty. Locals say that the place is often called the Garden of Eden and the reason is obvious. Once you are here, you immediately think that the place doesn't even look realistic, but rather like a scenery designed for a fairytale. TIP: take a good pair of walking shoes, as you will have to hike for 20 minutes to reach the place.
When visiting Flores, make sure you also visit a small, turquoise lake called Poço do Bacalhau. For those who like hiking, there is a 7km long route that begins near the viewpoint over the Negra and Comprida lakes. While walking, you will notice many of the species endemic to Azores, such as buckthorns, junipers, and peat moss. The trail is linear and not easy. It takes 3h to complete the 7km route, but on the way you get to see many different lakes. The best part comes at the end - you get to swim next to a 90 metre high waterfall.
Besides, there are seven lagoons in Flores, each one with a descriptive name. You will find a shallow lagoon, deep lagoon, dry lagoon, white lagoon, long lagoon, and others.
To get to know other groups of islands, look for the related stories. See here the general story about the Archipelago.
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