This itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. The daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in opening hours, flight schedules and weather conditions. Internal flight schedules are subject to change.The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner. The program includes four moderate nature walks ranging in length from 1.3 to 7.7kms.
Funchal, Madeira - 6 nights
Day 1: Saturday 17 May, Arrive Madeira
- Tour commences at 6.00pm in the foyer of the Hotel Turim Santa Maria
- Welcome Meeting in the gardens bar
- Dinner at the hotel
The tour commences at 6.00pm in the foyer of the Hotel Turim Santa Maria in Funchal. We begin with a short welcome meeting in the garden bar. We will then enjoy a dinner served in the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) D
Day 2: Sunday 18 May, Madeira: Funchal
- Levada dos Tornos to Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro (c. 4.7kms, c 2hrs, rated: easy)
- Light lunch at the Tea House, Casa Velha do Palheiro
- Gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro
- Design Center Nini Andrade Silva
- Welcome Dinner at Restaurant DC Atelier
This morning we shall walk the 4.7km levada trail to Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro. Levadas, channels carrying water that is essential for growing sugar cane, were probably an innovation brought about by Iberian Muslims before their expulsion from Iberia in 1609. Along the way we can view several species of endemic flora and enjoy some fantastic views over the Bay of Funchal.
The gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, situated at 500m above sea level, boast some of the most valuable and rare exotic plants on the island. The original owner, Conde do Carvalhal, planted many trees on his estate and laid the foundation of its camellia collection; some of his early plantings survive today. The Blandy family, who acquired the Quinta in 1885, have continued with the garden’s development. We shall enjoy a light lunch at the Quinta’s Tea House before exploring the garden’s rich flora, including its collection of hibiscus and bougainvillea.
In the late afternoon, we visit the Design Center Nini Andrade Silva. This design centre is located in the city of Funchal at the emblematic building known locally as Molhe (Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceição), which was once the island home of Gonçalves Zarco, an early Portuguese navigator and coloniser of the Archipelago of Madeira. Its permanent exhibition is part of the private collection of Madeiran Nini Andrade Silva, world renowned painter and designer. Following our tour of the centre we enjoy a welcome dinner in the Design Center Restaurant overlooking Funchal’s harbour. (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) BLD
Day 3: Monday 19 May, Madeira: Funchal
- Quinta da Boa Vista Orchid Gardens
- Quinta Bom do Sucesso (Madeira Botanical Garden)
- Botanical Garden Cable Car to Monte Parish
- Monte Palace Tropical Gardens
We begin today by visiting the Quinta da Boa Vista Orchid Gardens. The gardens, with Madeira’s best orchid collection, were formerly a 19th-century working estate (quinta), a market garden growing produce to sell to visiting ships. They include one of the last and oldest remaining systems of walled terracing and remains such as a wine press, original storage house and thatched cow house.
We next visit Madeira’s Botanical Garden which is divided into six sections: Madeiran indigenous and endemic species; the arboretum (collection of trees and shrubs); succulents; agro-industrial plants; medicinal and aromatic plants and palm trees and cycads.
After exploring the garden, we shall take the Botanical Garden Cable Car to Monte Parish. The Monte Parish (1565) was devoted to Our Lady of Monte, a devotion originating in the 15th century. After a flood of 1803, the Our Lady of Monte became the patron saint of Madeira and, in 1818, the present church was inaugurated in her honour. Located at the very top of a grand staircase, the church has a twin-towered façade and a large churchyard with a splendid view over Funchal. Monte also has some of Madeira’s most beautiful palaces.
We shall explore the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens located in Quinta Monte Palace which forms part of the José Berardo Foundation. The gardens contain over 100,000 plant species including azaleas, heathers, different trees, a wide variety of ferns and a valuable collection of cycads. There is also an area devoted to Madeiran flora, displaying several species of the Macaronesian Laurisilva, in addition to other endangered species. Placed along the garden’s walkways are panels of azulejos, which represent one of the most important tile collections in Portugal. (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) BL
Day 4: Tuesday 20 May, Madeira: Funchal – Ponta do São Lourenço – Funchal
- Optional walking tour of Ponta do São Lourenço (c.6kms, c. 3hrs, rated: moderate)
- Mercado do Lavadores, Funchal
- Orientation walking tour of Funchal incl. the Igreja do Colégio, Casa-Museu Frederico de Freitas and the Convent Santa Clara
- Municipal Garden of Funchal & Wine-tasting at Blandy’s Wine Lodge
This morning there will be an optional 3-hour walk along the dramatic Ponta de São Lourenço (‘Point of Saint Lawrence’), the easternmost point of Madeira. Its rocky terrain is covered with herbaceous vegetation. Since 1982, the headland has been a nature reserve, dedicated to the conservation of its endemic plants including Matthiola maderensis, Echium nervosum and Andryala glandulosa and fauna – birds, insects and molluscs. One animal seen here is the Monachus monachus, a particular seal.
Funchal (pop. 111,892) has been the capital of Madeira for more than five centuries. Its name derives from the Portuguese word funcho (‘fennel’); the suffix ‘-al’, denotes ‘a plantation of fennel’. Those who discovered the island remarked upon the proliferation of wild fennel there. Funchal was first settled around 1424 by João Gonçalves Zarco. Its strategic location made it an important port. Its productive soils attracted more settlers. During the second half of the 15th century, the sugar industry expanded significantly along Madeira’s south coast, and Funchal became its main centre. During the 16th century, Funchal became an important stop-over for caravels travelling to the Americas. Around 1500, the settlement gained churches, a cathedral, a hospital and customs house. In 1508, it was elevated to the status of city by King Manuel I of Portugal, and in 1514 Madeira’s bishopric was headquartered in Funchal. In the 17th century, the city suffered from corsair and privateer attacks; the military architect Mateus Fernandes III consequently strengthened its defences. The wine industry appeared during the early settlement period and took the place of sugar exports when Europe began to import cheaper sugar from the New World and Africa. In the 17th century viticulture benefitted from English investment. It produced a new urban class which lived in newly created districts. Three-storey homes developed, with an intermediary service floor, a floor for storage and wine-cellars, and sometimes a tower to monitor shipping in the harbour. Monasteries also became key players in the wine industry. During the 19th century diseases attacked the vines, forcing some growers to find hardier strains.
On our return to Funchal there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the Art Deco Mercado dos Lavadores (farmers’ market), serving the island’s best fresh food. We then take an orientation walk of the city of Funchal visiting the 17th-century Igreja do Colégio. Dedicated to St John the Evangelist, this Jesuit church features a spectacular interior decorated with tiles and some of Portugal’s finest examples of gilded carving. We also visit the house museum of Frederico de Freitas and the 15th-century Convent Santa Clara which features floor-to-ceiling azulejos tiles and a courtyard garden. We end the day with a short walk through the Municipal Garden of Funchal to Blandy’s Wine Lodge for a traditional wine-tasting. (‘Have some Madeira, m’dear’!) (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) B
Day 5: Wednesday 21 May, Madeira: Funchal – Ribeiro Frio – Santana – Funchal
- Santa da Serra Environmental Education Camp with Raimundo Quintal
- Ribeiro Frio Levada trail to the Vereda dos Balcões (c. 3kms, c. 1hr, rated: easy)
- Thatched Houses of Santana
- Lunch at Quinta do Furão
We start the day with a visit to Santa da Serra Environmental Education Camp with Raimundo Quintal, author, documentary film maker, researcher at the University of Lisbon’s Centre for Geographic Studies (Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning) and leader of the team that created the Funchal Ecological Park. Raimundo founded the Friends of Funchal Ecological Park Association and has been chairman of its board since 2002. He has also been scientific coordinator of the refurbishment project of the José do Canto Botanical Garden, in Ponta Delgada, since 2013.
After studying the Laurisilva reforestation program with Raimundo, we visit the UNESCO biosphere site of Ribeiro Frio known for its botanical garden and trout farm. This is the starting point for our short levada walk to the Vereda dos Balcões (lookout) which offers superb views over the deep valley of Ribeira da Metade and the dense Laurisilva forest. On days when visibility is good, you can see the island’s central mountain chain with its highest peaks: Pico do Areeiro (1817m), Pico do Gato, Pico das Torres (1,851m), Pico Ruivo (1861m) as well as the Penha d’Águia rock formation. The path we take is surrounded by Madeira mahogany (Persea indica), Madeira blueberry (Vaccinium padifolium), and Madeira orchids (Dactylorhiza foliosa), as well as exotic deciduous trees like English oaks (Quercus robur) and London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia). We may also view chaffinches (Frigilla coelebs maderensis), the smallest bird of the Madeira forest.
Next, we drive to north eastern Madeira to Santana (pop. 8,800) whose name derives from the small 16th-century Chapel of Santa Ana. The casas de Santana are thatched multi-coloured houses found only in this town. The people of Santana produce bordado da Madeira, the island’s best embroidery.
After lunch at the Quinta do Furão, occupying a stunning location on cliffs above the sea, we take a scenic drive along the Northern Coast and return to Funchal. (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) BL
Day 6: Thursday 22 May, Madeira: Funchal – Curral das Freiras – Câmara de Lobos – Funchal
- Eira do Serrado viewpoint
- Curral das Freiras (Valley of Nuns)
- Lunch in Câmara de Lobos
Today we drive to the centre of the island to the Eira do Serrado viewpoint at an elevation of 1,095 metres. It offers a stunning panoramic view over the picturesque parish of Curral das Freiras which is surrounded by majestic mountains. We then visit the Curral das Freiras (‘Valley of Nuns’). Originally it was called Curral da Serra (‘corral of the mountains’) because of its extensive pastures. Its name was altered when the lands became the property of the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara (1492 – 1497). It has a rich architectural heritage, including the lovely Igreja do Curral das Freiras (church). We sample some of the chestnuts harvested in this remote parish.
We shall enjoy lunch at the picturesque port town of Câmara de Lobos. (Overnight Funchal, Madeira) BL
Furnas, São Miguel Island, Azores - 2 nights
Day 7: Friday 23 May, Madeira – Ponta Delgada – Furnas (São Miguel)
- Fly Madeira to São Miguel
- Geothermal pools, Lake Furnas
This morning we transfer to Madeira airport to fly to São Miguel, the largest and most populous island in the Azores archipelago. On arrival we take a short scenic drive along the south coast to the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel which sites right on the edge of the famous garden of the same name. Dating back to 1775, the hotel is located in the perfect spot to explore Lake Furnas and its geothermal pools. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Furnas, São Miguel) BD
The Azores archipelago is composed of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. The archipelago is orientated in a west-northwest to east-southeast direction. The nine major Azorean islands cluster in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600km. The islands, of volcanic origins, emerged from what is called the Azores Plateau, a 5.8 million km2 area that bridges the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as well as the Terceira Rift, the Azores Fracture Zone and the Glória Fault. They lie above the triple junction of the North American plate, the Eurasian plate and the African plate. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351m. The islands’ climate is mild due to the presence of the Gulf Stream. The main city of the Azores is Ponta Delgada. Islands cultures, dialects, cuisine, and traditions vary considerably, because they were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries. The archipelago’s main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock, fishing and tourism.
The islands were known in the 14th century; parts of them appear in the Catalan Atlas (1375). In 1427, they were rediscovered by either a Fleming or Portuguese captain. Portugal claimed the islands. Gonçalo Velho Cabral established colonies on Santa Maria and then on São Miguel (1433-1436). In 1443 São Jorge was already inhabited but active settlement only began with the arrival of the noble Flemish native Wilhelm Van der Haegen. By 1490, some 2,000 Flemings lived on the islands of Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge and Flores. They were refugees from the Flemish struggle against Spain. The remainder of the unoccupied islands were settled from 1439. Settlers planted grain, grape vines, sugar cane, and grew domesticated animals, such as chickens, rabbits, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. They built houses and established villages. Many early settlers were Portuguese Sephardic Jews fleeing the inquisition. In 1522 Vila Franca do Campo, then the capital of São Miguel, was devastated by an earthquake and landslide that killed about 5,000 people, and the capital was moved to Ponta Delgada, which received the status of city in 1546. In 1943 António de Oliveira Salazar leased air and naval bases in the Azores to Great Britain, a key turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, enabling the Royal Air Force, the U.S. Army Air Forces, and the U.S. Navy to provide aerial coverage in the Mid-Atlantic gap. This helped them to protect convoys and to hunt hostile German U-boats.
Day 8: Saturday 24 May, São Miguel: Furnas
- Terra Nostra Gardens & Thermal Water Pool with Head Gardener Carina Costa
- Picnic lunch on the banks of Lagoa das Furnas
- Parque da Grená
- José do Canto Woodland Garden
- Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre (CMIF)
Terra Nostra Park is nestled within a volcanic crater, dormant since 1630, with its own particular climatic conditions. The air temperature varies between 10 and 16º C in the winter, and between 20 and 25º C in the summer. Relative air humidity throughout the year is high, sometimes reaching a maximum of 80 to 92%. This is mainly due to the fact that Furnas is located at a considerable altitude and is rich in vegetation. There are numerous hot springs, fumaroles (vents in the earth that emit gas and steam) and natural warm swimming pools throughout the small town including the Ochre mineral rich thermal lake next to the hotel.
We begin this morning with a tour of the Terra Nostra Gardens led by Carina Costa, who works with her father Fernando Costa to manage the gardens. Highlights of the oldest botanical garden in the Azores archipelago include well-tended camellias, a fine collections of cycads, palms, native flora; bromeliads, orchids, the bluest of hydrangeas and over 300 different species of ferns including an abundance of luxuriating tree ferns.
We drive down to Lagoa das Furnas, where gurgling thermal pools line the path to a cooking area. Here, large pots of cozidos – local vegetable and meat stew – are lowered underground for six hours of low, slow heat cooking in the volcanic soil.
Then we visit the recently opened Parque da Grená which consists of 18 hectares of forest. A boarded walkway through the forest takes us past a waterfall and the ruins of an 1858 manor house.
Following a picnic lunch on the banks of the Lagoa das Furnas, we take a walk around the José do Canto Woodland garden. José do Canto (1820-1898) also founded the botanical garden in Ponta Delgada. Established in the mid-19th century, the garden features a camellia walkway, Fern Glade and the charming Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitóras. Dedicated to Our Lady of the Victories, the chapel was erected by José do Canto following the terminal illness of his beloved wife. W also visit the award-winning Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre (CMIF) which is dedicated to disseminating the history and evolution of the Furnas Volcano and the protection of the lagoon’s ecosystems.
We end the day with some free time to explore Furnas village which features thirty springs, each of differing temperatures and mineral compositions. You may also wish to swim again in the hotel’s thermal waters. Tonight, we enjoy dinner at Terra Nostra Restaurant. (Overnight Furnas, São Miguel) BLD
Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island, Azores - 2 nights
Day 9: Sunday 25 May, São Miguel: Furnas – Ribeira Grande – Caldeira das Sete Cidades – Ponta Delgada
- Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
- Gorreana Tea Plantation
- Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre, Ribeira Grande
- Restaurant Alabote, Ribeira Grande
- Ribeira Grande walking tour
- Scenic drive stopping at Vista do Rei, Caldeira das Sete Cidades, the miradouro of Cerrado das Freira, Visa do Rei, Carvao & Lagoa do Canário
This morning we depart Furnas and travel to the north coast, making a brief stop at the Miradouro do Pico do Ferro for fine views over Lagoa das Furnas. Our destination is the Gorreana Tea Plantation, the oldest, and currently only, tea plantation in Europe. The family has cultivated tea here since 1883, preserving ‘oriental’ traditions over five generations. The 50-hectare estate manufactures different varieties including green tea, black tea, orange pekoe tea.
Following a short visit to the terraces and factory, we transfer to Ribeira Grande, where we visit the Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre, a liquor factory turned into a stunning contemporary art centre. We enjoy lunch at Restaurant Alabote, with stunning views over the ocean. Then we take a walking tour of the town including the landmark bridge of eight arches and garden.
The Sete Cidades Massif consists of a central volcanic caldera and lake-filled cones which surround the crater in the extreme western part of the island. This volcanic zone is defined by several spatter cones and lava flows, now predominantly covered by dense vegetation and pastures. The caldera is almost circular and evolved from 36,000 years ago. With a perimeter of 12km and a diameter of 7km, the caldera formed from a crater that collapsed during a gigantic prehistoric eruption, its present shape having been created during a tremendous eruption in 1445. Within the crater lies three small lakes and two large lakes: the Lagoa Verde with crystalline green water and Lagoa Azul with striking blue water, that are separated only by a narrow land bridge.
This afternoon we stop along the trail the starts at Vista do Rei viewpoint and ends in the parish of Sete Cidades. Along the way we pass the Cumeeira da Caldeira das Sete Cidades (Caldeira’s highest point), the Caldeira Seca, the beautiful Sete Cidades lakes and the grand western coast of São Miguel. The trail runs through a zone classified as Protected Landscape, ensuring its biodiversity through the conservation of the natural habitat.
Then we take a scenic drive to Ponta Delgada stopping at the miradouro (viewpoints) of Cerrado das Freira, Visa do Rei, Carvao & Lagoa do Canário. The evening is at leisure in Ponte Delgada. (Overnight Ponta Delgada, São Miguel) BL
Day 10: Monday 26 May, São Miguel: Ponta Delgada – Caloura – Ponta Delgada
- Ponta Delgada Walking tour incl. harbour, Igreja São Sebastião
- Jardim Botânico António Borges, Ponta Delgada
- Private garden designed by Erik Dhont, Caloura. (by special appointment)
- Special lecture with local volcanologist Adriano Henrique Gonçalves Pimentel
We spend the morning exploring Ponta Delgada which lies on a volcanic area composed of the Picos Region and Sete Cidades Massif. The Picos Region extends from the shadow of the ancient volcano of the Água de Pau Massif to the area around the Sete Cidades caldera. Ponta Delgada (‘Thin Cape’) is the largest municipality (pop. 68,809) and economic capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores. It was not always the capital. In c. 1450, Villa Franca had for many years been the centre of the island’s economic and social life and seat of the local government. Then, in 1522, an earthquake and landslide devastated the provincial capital, destroying many of the buildings and killing several people. Ponta Delgada became the only centre with the infrastructure to support the Azorean bureaucracy and assume Villa Franca’s important economic links. Eventually, it was elevated to status of city, during the reign of King D. João III by a decree of 2 April 1546. In the 19th century Ponta Delgada prospered through citrus exports to United Kingdom and the growth of foreign-owned businesses in the historic centre, many of its merchants were Jewish. Ponta Delgada experienced a ‘greening’ with the creation of the gardens of António Borges, José do Canto, Jácome Correia and the Viscount of Porto Formoso and the construction of many of the ornate homes/estates. With the growth of the mercantile class Ponta Delgada became the third largest town in Portugal.
This morning we take a walking tour of Ponta Delgada visiting the port’s harbour. We also visit Ponta Delgada’s main church, the Igreja São Sebastião (Church of Saint Sebastion). Constructed between 1531 and 1547, the church combines Gothic, Manueline (Portuguese Renaissance) and Baroque elements. We also visit the botanical gardens of António Borges.
After lunch, we travel to Caloura to visit a private garden recently designed by Belgian landscape architect Erik Dhont. The garden (which used to be a vineyard) is located on a cliff surrounded by sea on all sides. Scattered throughout the terrain are several themed gardens such as a pleasure garden with a vast collection of proteas flowers, a jungle garden which evokes the botanical abundance of tropical vegetation, an ornamental kitchen garden and a ‘sea garden’ with, among others, bromeliads, agaves, and agapanthus. There is also a new vineyard which pays homage to the history of the place.
We return to Ponta Delgada and end the day with a special lecture by volcanologist Adriano Henrique Gonçalves Pimentel, Senior Technician in charge of monitoring the volcanic and seismic activities at CIVISA – Azorean Seismovolcanic Surveillance and Information Centre. Adriano Pimentel introduces us to the unique geology and volcanic activities in the Azores islands. (Overnight Ponta Delgada, São Miguel) B
Flores Island, Azores - 2 nights
Day 11: Tuesday 27 May, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island – Flores Island
- José do Canto Botanical Garden, UNESCO World Heritage garden, Ponta Delgada
- Fly São Miguel to Flores
- Dinner Pôr-do Sol, Fajãzinha village
This morning we stroll through the José do Canto Botanical Garden, occupying some six hectares in the centre of Ponta Delgada. The UNESCO World Heritage designated garden was developed by José do Canto (1820-1898), a member of the Azorean landed gentry. The trees planted in this garden developed into huge specimens due to the richness of soil and clement climate. Among them are remarkable specimens of metrosideros, ficus elasticas, araucarias. Among the park’s buildings are the Chapel of Saint Anne (17th Century), the Manor (18th Century), the Victorian green house, and the Neo-Classical Palace (20th Century).
Then we fly from São Miguel Island to Flores Island.
Isolated Flores Island (pop. 3,907), located in the Azores Western group, is 143 km² in area and, together with its neighbour Corvo, lies within the North American Plate. Flores was discovered in 1452 and first named São Tomás (St Thomas Becket). The Flemish nobleman, Willem van der Haegen, explored and began to develop Flores and Corvo (1480-1490) and the island became permanently populated during Manuel I’s reign (1510); settlers cultivated grain and vegetables. For centuries, inhabitants lived in isolated parts of the island, visited by vessels trading whale oil, butter and honey as well as by caravels on their way from the Americas to Europe. Flores was frequently raided by pirates and privateers, including Sir Walter Raleigh. From the 1760s to the early 20th century, American whalers hunted sperm whales in the waters of the Azores, and many of the islands’ inhabitants were recruited as whalers.
During the summer, the island is covered with thousands of hydrangeas with large blue or pink flowers. The name Flores (‘flowers’), is thought to derive from the many yellow flowers of Cubres that adorned the sea cliffs at the time of Portuguese discovery. Geomorphologically, the island is composed of two parts: The Central Massif, a central plain with seven maar structures (a low-relief volcanic crater that forms when magma contacts groundwater to produce a steam explosion), and the Coastal Periphery, including the coastal zones, cliffs, ancient beaches, and the coastal shelf. Flores has deep valleys and high peaks, the highest being Morro Alto (914m). Pico da Burrinha, Pico dos Sete Pés and Marcela are other high mountains. Flores has several inactive volcanoes; Caldeira Funda last erupted in 1200 BC and Caldeira Comprida in 950 BC. Its Águas Quentes are hot springs of boiling sulphurous water. There are also some 20 waterfalls where the Ribeira Grande (river) drops from a height of 300 metres, some waterfalls plummet directly into the Atlantic Ocean.
For the next two nights we stay at Aldeia da Cuada. Tonight, we enjoy a group dinner at Restaurant Pôr-do Sol, in the village of Fajãzinha. (Overnight Farmstay: Aldeia da Cuada, Flores) BD
Day 12: Wednesday 28 May, Flores Island
- Coach tour of Flores including Lagoa Rasa, Funda, Negra and Comprida
Today we take a coach tour of the island, past magnificent lakes: Lagoa Rasa, Funda, Negra and Comprida. These lakes occupy the aforementioned volcanic craters. (Overnight Farmstay: Aldeia da Cuada, Flores) BLD
Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira Island, Azores - 2 nights
Day 13: Thursday 29 May, Flores – Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira
- Poça da Ribeira do Ferreiro Waterfall Trail (c. 1.3km, uphill walk, rated: moderate)
- Fly Flores to Terceira
This morning we take the trail to the Poça da Ribeira do Ferreiro (also known as Poça da Alagoinha or Lagoa das Patas). Along the way we pass rich vegetation between high cliffs, down which, descend a dozen waterfalls to form the lagoon. For the next two nights we stay at Aldeia da Cuada, where we have dinner.
This morning we fly to the island of Terceira. Terceira (pop. 56,000) is one of the larger islands (396.75 km2) of the Azores Archipelago. It has the Azores’ oldest city and past capital, Angra do Heroísmo which, after 1536, became a key-port of call by ships bound for south America; it remains the seat of the Azores’ Supreme Court. A small number of hypogea (caverns) suggest that settlement on Terceira that may date back 2,000 years. A document of 1439 attributed its ‘discovery’ to the Portuguese Gonçalo Velho Cabral; the name ‘Terceira’ alludes to the fact that it was the third island to be discovered. Its first settlers were from northern Portugal and Flanders; they settled in the island’s north.
Other 15th-century colonists were from Madeira, or were slaves from Africa, new (converted) Christians and (converted) Jews. They exported wheat, sugar-cane, wood (for the dye industry) and wood (for naval construction). By the 19th century, new products, including tea, tobacco and pineapple, were exported. Today, the island’s economy relies on livestock and dairy-based products. Its two main ports are at Angra do Heroísmo and at Praia da Vitória.
Terceira is crossed by fissures and faults. It is composed of several extinct volcanoes. Dormant Santa Barbara volcano, known as the Serra de Santa Bárbara, is its highest peak (1,012 metres). The island consists of four overlapping stratovolcanoes, tall, conical volcanoes composed of one layer of hardened lava, tephra, and volcanic ash. These cover a deeper geologic structure called the Terceira Rift, which is a triple junction between the Eurasian, African and North American tectonic plates. The volcanic structures rise from a depth of over 1,500 metres from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Eruptions date from about 370-380,000 years ago. The collapse of the earliest volcano over time has created a fertile plain. Other early eruptions date to 270,000 years ago and to 111,000 years ago. Later eruptions date from 9000 to 1000 years ago; there are still active volcanoes at the island’s centre, and explains why most settlements are on the coast.
The western part of Terceira is more heavily forested than the eastern part, due to the prevailing westerly winds bringing increased precipitation to that side, resulting in forests of Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica). Other geomorphological areas include the plains of Achada, the mounts near Santa Bárbara, the small lakes of Lagoa das Patas and Lagoa da Falca. Most of the island is ringed by coastal cliffs about 20 metres high. Away from the coast, Terceira has a wild and hilly landscape, and much of the interior of the island is a nature reserve.
Angra do Heroísmo (pop. 35,402), arguably the most important of the Azores’ three capitals; founded in 1479, it is the seat of the bishop of the Azores. Its port is made up of two natural basins protected by a series of hills. Its gridded plan, typical of colonial cities, was skewed to account for prevailing winds. The city’s 400-year-old São Sebastião and São João Baptista fortifications are particularly notable. Its status as the seat of the bishop contributed to the monumental character of the city’s central zone, where the cathedral of Santíssimo Salvador da Sé, the churches of the Misericórdia and Espírito Santo, and the convents of the Franciscans and the Jesuits were all constructed in the Baroque style. Despite a devastating earthquake on 1 January 1980, the town’s central zone has preserved the better part of its monumental heritage and its original vernacular architecture, and remains a homogenous urban ensemble. (Overnight Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira) BL
Day 14: Friday 30 May, Terceira: Angra do Heroísmo – Boscoitos – Algar do Carvão – Angra do Heroísmo
- Scenic route to Boscoitos
- Algar de Carvão Reserve (Volcanic cone incl. 300 steps, duration: 90 min)
This morning we drive to the north coast enjoying spectacular scenery passing natural swimming pools and lands compartmentalised by plots, small parcels delimited by stone walls protecting vineyards.
This afternoon we visit the Algar do Carvão (Cavern of Coal). This ancient lava tube or volcanic vent is directly associated with the four large volcanoes (Pico Alto, Santa Bárbara, Guilherme Moniz, and Cinco Picos) grouped along a basaltic fissure zone that transects the island from northwest to southeast. The cavern is situated 583 metres above sea level and is 40.5 hectares in extent. The cavern’s mouth consists of a 45-metre vertical passage to the interior. From a ramp of debris and gravel another decline leads down to the clear waters of the interior rainwater pool, approximately 90 metres from ground level and as deep as 15 metres. The cave itself is remarkable for its silicate stalactites. The Algar is populated by a rich plant tapestry, that covers the mouth of the cone structure, including various endemic species. (Overnight Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira) BL
Horta, Faial Island, Azores - 4 nights
Day 15: Saturday 31 May, Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira – Horta, Faial Island
- Walking tour of Angra do Heroísmo UNESCO World Heritage town
- Palácio dos Capitães-Generais: Guided tour of Palace & Gardens
- Miradouro da Serra do Cume
- Fly Terceira to Faial
This morning we do a guided walk through Angra do Heroísmo. The city’s 400-year-old São Sebastião and São João Baptista fortifications are particularly notable. Its status as the seat of the bishop contributed to the monumental character of the city’s central zone, where the cathedral of Santíssimo Salvador da Sé, the churches of the Misericórdia and Espírito Santo, and the convents of the Franciscans and the Jesuits were all constructed in the Baroque style. Despite a devastating earthquake on 1 January 1980, the town’s central zone has preserved the better part of its monumental heritage and its original vernacular architecture, and remains a homogenous urban ensemble.
We then enjoy a guided tour of the impressive Palácio dos Capitães-Generais (Palace of the Captians General). The palace location was originally occupied by a Jesuit seminary, but for four centuries served as the seat of the first unified government of the archipelago, as the Royal Palace of Pedro IV and Carlos I of Portugal, and as headquarters of the Military Government. It is now the president of the Azores’ headquarters and the meeting place of the Governing Council of Terceira Island. We finish the morning program at the Museum of Angra do Heroísmo. Since the 60s the town’s museum has been housed in the Convento de São Francisco, which dates to the 17th century and has a cloister and church of serious scale. It takes you through the Azores and Portuguese colonial history.
Mid-afternoon, we drive to Miradouro da Serra do Cume, a lookout from which you can enjoy a panorama of the bay of Praia da Vitória and the interior of the island, with fields separated by walls constructed of volcanic stone known as ‘patchwork’. Then we drive to Terceira airport to take our flight to Faial Island.
Faial lies close to the tectonic divide between the Eurasian and North American Plates. The island is approximately 173 km2 and formed along a transform fault with significant volcanic activity extending from the mid-Atlantic Ridge to the Hirondelle faults. This same fault bisects the remainder of the Central Group of Azores islands along a west-northwest to east-southeast orientation. The island’s current landmass is dominated by the crater of its central stratovolcano with relatively gently sloping flanks, showing little signs of major erosion. This caldeira (caldera) is almost circular, 2000 metres perimeter, with a 400-metre depth below the summit of Cabeço Gordo (almost 570 m above sea level). Its centre has water marshes, thickets, and minor cinder cones, and is surrounded by almost vertical cliffs carrying diverse vegetation, both endemic or invasive. (Overnight Horta, Faial) BL
Day 16: Sunday 1 June, Faial Island: Horta
- Whale & Dolphin Watching expedition by zodiac (3hrs)
- Afternoon at leisure
- Cory’s Shearwater night visit
We spend this morning on a 3-hour whale watching expedition. Travelling by high-speed zodiacs, and led by a marine biologist, we hope to view a number of species of whales and dolphins. Altogether there are about 80 species of whales worldwide of which 25 species have been sighted off the Azores. The mid-Atlantic location of the volcanic islands of the Azores causes great upwellings of cold water currents from the ocean depths which meet the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, producing nutrient-rich waters. Sperm whales are the resident species and most frequently sighted. They live in the waters around the islands all year round. The main ‘season’ runs from April all the way through the summer to October and during these months different species pass by the Azores on their migratory paths. The most frequently sighted species of dolphin include bottlenose, Atlantic spotted and common dolphins.
Lunchtime and the afternoon will be at leisure, allowing you to explore Horta. Located at the most northern limit for some bird species, the Azores are an important resting and nesting place for many migratory bird species. One of the most characteristic is the Cory’s shearwater, Calonectris borealis; 80% of the world’s population nests within the archipelago. This evening, accompanied by a local biologist, we visit one of their nesting grounds. (Overnight Horta, Faial) B
Day 17: Monday 2 June, Full Day excursion to Pico Island
- Return Ferry from Horta (Faial Island) to Madalena (Pico Island)
- Full day excursion visiting the South Coast and Pico’s UNESCO Vineyards
- Cella Bar
- Museo do Vinho incl. boardwalk over the vineyards
Today we take the ferry to nearby Pico Island. This, the second largest of the Azores Archipelago (447 km2), is dominated in its north-west by the 2,341-metre-high Pico Volcano. Further south and to the east are the remnant of earlier cones. At the centre of the island is the Achada Plain, an axial zone comprising spatter and lava cones along a mountainous ridge filled with lake-filled craters, dense scrub and forests. Pico is particularly famous for its lovely vineyards, so much so that the ‘Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture’ has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Viticulture here dates back to the 15th century. Each vineyard is divided into plots (currais) protected by walls (paredes, murinhos). These walls are built with basalt blocks that have been weathered and broken up and stacked without mortar.
We shall visit the Museo do Vinho and follow a boardwalk over the vineyards. We will have lunch in a local restaurant. We also enjoy some wine at Cella Bar. Its highly innovative architecture, created by Portuguese firm FCC Arquitectura and interior designer Paulo Lobo, comprises two buildings, a remodelled barn with volcanic stone walls, and a bulbous timber extension conceived as a cross between a whale and a wine barrel. The design team aimed to create a building that refers to the history of the island but that also demonstrates contemporary forms of construction. In the late afternoon, we return to Faial. (Overnight Horta, Faial) BL
Day 18: Tuesday 3 June, Faial: Caldeira & the Capelinhos
- Monte da Guia (photostop)
- Faial Caldera
- Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras
- Praia do Norte
- Calderas at Capelinhos & the Volcano Interpretation Centre
- Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant
Today we take a coach tour of Faial. We begin with a short stop at the Monte da Guia lookout which provides a spectacular view over Horta city and the surrounding coastline. We shall then visit the awesome Faial Caldera. The Nature Reserve of the Caldera of Faial occupies the rim of the grand central caldera of Faial, its steep cliffs, and interior. We shall visit another lookout, the Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras, which allows magnificent panoramic views of the island’s coast.
After lunch, we shall view the calderas at Capelinhos and visit the Volcano Interpretation Centre that has an educational and scientific mission. It has a set of displays focused on the Capelinhos Volcano eruption (1957-8) and the formation of the archipelago, and also the various kinds of volcanic activity in the world; there is also a display showing the history of Azorean lighthouses. This building was constructed underground, so it wouldn’t interfere with the pre-existing landscape that was formed by the 1950s eruption.
Tonight we enjoy a farewell group dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Horta, Faial) BLD
Day 19: Wednesday 4 June, Faial Island: Horta – Lisbon
- Late afternoon flight from Horta to Lisbon
This afternoon we fly from Horta to Lisbon where our tour ends mid-evening. B