>>>The nine adrenaline islands
Photo: ©Nuno Sá

The nine adrenaline islands

Famed for its whale watching, the Archipelago of the Azores is one giant adventure playground where you can do sport on land and in the sea and air.
T
he islands of the Azores are home to one third of all of the world’s species of whales and dolphins, not to mention the biggest fish on the planet: the whale shark. In all, 24 species share their habitat with five species of marine turtle and about 600 different types of fish. Such underwater biodiversity is an irresistible lure for divers hoping to swim alongside these marine giants.
Santa Maria is the most popular spot for whale sharks, while blue sharks can normally be spotted around Condor Bank, about 10 miles from Faial Island. As for the manta rays, they are frequent visitors to both, between them the most biodiverse parts of the nine islands forming this archipelago, located in the middle of the North Atlantic and a two-hour flight from Lisbon.
You can also go on cycling routes accompanied by local guides.
Photo: ©Turismo dos Açores

In your element

The Azores boast a mild climate for most of the year. This is also true under the surface of the water, where temperatures remain between 16 and 20°C. From June to October, you will find the ideal conditions for diving, with visibility reaching 30 metres.

But, the native fauna is not the only reason to go for a dive. The remains of several shipwrecks are “parked” on the seabeds here. Among them is the Dori, which took part in D-Day, during World War II. Just a short distance from the port of Ponta Delgada port, this ship, which sank in 1964, is the best-known attraction of the Azores scuba diving circuit, lying only 20 metres below the surface.
The contrast between the dramatic volcanic landscapes and peaceful coasts, combined with a mild climate, makes the Azores the perfect place for other sports, like surfing, canoeing, sailing and paddle surfing. You can surf off each of the nine islands, although the point breaks at Santa Maria and São Miguel and the reef breaks at São Jorge – home to the longest waves in the whole archipelago – are the best known. Its location has historically made the Azores a popular stop-off for sailors, and it is currently an important port for international regattas. In total, the nine islands have more than 1,000 moorings. Water sports can also be enjoyed on the inland waters of the Azores as well as along the coast. The lagoons and volcanic craters are ideal for canoeing and paddle boarding.
Wetsuits or semi-dry suits are recommended for scuba diving in the Azores.
Photo: ©Turismo dos Açores

Relaxation among so much adventure

For those not wishing to squeeze into a diving suit, other options are available on the surfasse, including watching wildlife from a boat. Whales, including sperm whales, and dolphins are easily spotted. In fact, tour operators will give you your money back if you are unlucky and fail to spot anything in the water.

Pico is the second largest of the islands. Its name, which means peak, is entirely appropriate since it’s home to the highest point in Portugal (2,351 m) and this mountainous landscape is perfect for hiking and climbing. The Azores are also well suited to sports that take place on terra firma. There are myriad cycling routes, although some are quite technical and you will have to tackle them on a special mountain bike. What’s more, there are over 50 hiking trails, most based on the old paths the natives used to follow to travel around their island home. Three of the nine islands have the right conditions for canyoning: São Miguel, São Jorge and Flores, with the last of these home to the most challenging waterfalls.
Fogo lake is in the crater of Água de Pau volcano on São Miguel island.
Photo: ©Clube Asas do Atlântico
If you go paragliding, you will be able to see the volcanic landscape from up on high. São Miguel island has ideal conditions for “flying”. This is where the Asas Club holds the Asores Paragliding Festival, whose 22nd meeting will take place from 16 to 20 August 2016. A true tradition and one that shows that the Azores are much more than the name of an anticyclone: they are 100% adrenaline.

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