Beautiful, lush islands with an abundance of wildlife and marine life and lots of volcanic features (sulphuric pools and grottoes) to delight the kids, the Azores are a great spot to combine whale- and dolphin-watching with island-hopping and exploring. Not quite as much a beach destination as you might expect, this small string of volcanic islands in the Atlantic between Portugal and the east coast of the USA was discovered, uninhabited, in the 15th century, and has been variously occupied and colonised by Spain, Portugal, Flanders and several north African nations, all of whom have left traces in the food, culture and language. Since the 19th century they have been a protectorate of Portugal, and the official language is Portuguese.
Things to do with kids in The Azores
Go whale-watching. Tours from Pico or Faial last about 3–4 hours and are great value. You can even help the local oceanography department by photographing each whale you see for identification. The islands, once dependent on whale-hunting, are converting old whaling stations into museums and old whalers into tour guides.
Enjoy other outdoors activities including swimming near dolphins, kayaking and SUP paddle-boarding, canyoning, coasteering, hiking and biking.
Hire a car and explore São Miguel, the largest and greenest of the islands, with a lovely mix of volcanic peaks, tiny villages and flower-strewn meadows, making it a great place for family walks or picnics.
Visit the extinct volcano on lovely Graciosa – you can climb down to the very bottom of the crater, then treat yourself to a treatment in the Carapacho thermal spa with its family Jacuzzi.
Portuguese food – great seafood, including limpets, octopus and fish chowders – is the speciality of the Azores, although the cuisine differs from island to island. The larger islands offer more beef dishes (the land being large enough to house cows), while salted cod is more of a staple on smaller ones. Excellent cheeses, delicious Portuguese sweetbreads and very good wine are also on the menu.
When to go to The Azores
The Azores are best visited between May and September, when days are warm and generally sunny. September is especially good for wildlife-lovers, with a high chance of seeing sperm whales, bottlenose, common and spotted dolphins and a wide variety of seabirds.
As the islands are so far out in the Atlantic, you should expect showers at any time of year (hence the beautiful flowers and other plants).
Flights to the Azores aren't cheap, the cost of living is fairly low. A two-course meal with wine costs about €18 in a restaurant, less in a café, and a double room in a mid-range hotel is about €90/night.
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Flying time5hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint2.2 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
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