The Azores. A group of islands halfway out across the Atlantic and part of Portugal. A paradise island escape, but was surprised that it was just a short 3.5 hour flight from Gatwick, London!
My first island to hop to was Pico, part of the central group of these stunning isles. The first sighting was stunning, my jaw dropped as I saw it first hand. The volcano, Ponta do Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, the highest point of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, rising up in the centre, a true sign of the magnificent adventures and sights to come.
Where should I start? A day of discovery. Of course by foot, along the coast.
The island’s nickname is Black Island. Anyone that has been will know why. Past volcanic eruptions and dried lava flows have created a landscape that is compelling to see. All the way down to the coast you can see in the patterns of rock the flowing motion and drop off into the ocean creating sea views so unique.
I was fascinated that such a landscape became habitable. You cannot escape seeing how from early Portuguese settlers it became a thriving land of vineyards. All along the coast I could see old vine fields surrounded by volcanic walls. The volcanic earth had created a land to be developed into a unique cultural industry for wine growth. They are thankfully preserved as a UNESCO heritage site. An unforgettable trail to walk. Views out to the ocean, blue on blue. Old vineyards for miles and miles standing amongst the black rock creating lasting photographic memories.
Of course looking up and inland you can see the peak of the mountain or clouds helping it play hide and seek in a special way. Every five minutes you can view up there and want to take a picture of the new view.. A peak I want to get my legs up… soon!
The buildings, especially around the North coast are a tribute to the rock. I myself come from areas in the UK that have buildings made of local rock, limestone, slate, sandstone etc. But here, the drystone walls, churches and houses rise up made of volvanic rock. Mastery and quaintness all rolled into one.
I was in Portugal and the eating here is a fantastic reminder of how they love their food and create each dish with taste beyond taste. In the Pico town of Madalena I sat for a local dish… seafood was a natural choice and had what I can describe as the best octopus dish I have ever had, honestly. The herbs, garlic and olive oil with the meat was just… perfect.
A day was not enough to do everything on offer here, I could have hiked for miles, alas I needed to move onto another isle, but, I shall be back, boots on, ready to explore more and hike up and down. Plus I want to see more of the great lakes that adorn the mountainside. See a packed isle of Paradise.