Saturday, 31 December 2016

Wishes for 2017

On this last day of the year, we wish you a promising 2017 with tailor made trips and many other good things!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas

TravelTailors's team wish you a merry christmas! 🎅 🎄

Thursday, 22 December 2016

2017 Michelin Stars in Portugal

Nine new Michelin Stars in Portugal for 2017! Let’s add those to the existing 14, and we have some excellent fine dining across the country.  One star chefs earning a second star this year is Ricardo Costa at The Yeatman in Porto, and Benoit Sinthon at Il Gallo d’Oro in Funhcal. They join the “two star club” with existing members José Avillez of Belcanto in Lisbon, and Hans Neuner of Ocean and Dieter Koschina of Vila Joya in the Algarve. New single stars have been awarded to Rui Paula at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova and Vitor Matos at Antiquum in Porto, Henrique Sá Pessoa at Alma and Alexandre Silva at Loco in Lisbon, Sergi Arola at LAB in Sintra and Luís Pestana (under the signature of Joachim Koerper) at William in Funchal.  Miguel Laffan earns back a star for L’And in Alentejo.  Retaining their one star for another year are: Pedro Lemos at Pedro Lemos in Porto; André Silva at Casa da Calçada in Amarante, Joachim Koerper at Eleven and João Rodrigues at Feitoria in Lisbon; Miguel Rocha Vieira at Forteleza do Guincho in Cascais, and Rui Silvestre at Bon Bon, Willie Wurger at Willies, Henrique Leis at Henrique Leis, and Leonel Pereira at São Gabriel, all in the Algarve. See below for more details and contact information for the 20 Michelin Star restaurants of Portugal 2017.

Largo do Paço
Hotel Casa da Calçada - Amarante 
Chef: André Silva
ONE STAR. Just minutes away from Porto in northern Portugal is this cozy restaurant tucked away inside the elegant Casa da Calçada hotel. In the past year, Chef André Silva has taken the reigns of the kitchen from Vitor Matos. Chef André won the Nobre Young Chef Trophy in 2007. He was invited to by Matos to join the Largo do Paço kitchen in 2009. And, he was named Portugal Chef of the Year in 2013. Silva’s cuisine is traditional Portuguese with contemporary creativity. Regional ingredients change with the season, meaning you need to return again and again. Book in advance and ask for the eight-course Largo do Paço menu, or the 11-course Prestige menu. 
Largo do Paço, 6, Amarante, Douro Valley
Reservations: +351 255 410 830 
Learn more: Largo do Paço website

Chef: Vitor Matos 
ONE STAR  Chef Matos has a passion for the use of the freshest seasonal products harvested from the region. His cuisine leans towards Mediterranean influences, embracing both traditional and contemporary techniques. Matos started out studying confections and pastries in Neuchâtel., Switzerland, and later worked his way through the kitchens of some of Portugal’s top hotels, such as Vidago Palace and Tiara Park. He earned his first Michelin star while head chef at Largo do Paço in Amarante. His high-quality cuisine is enhanced by stunning views over Porto from the refurbished 19th century.
Quinta da Macieirinha. 
Rua de Entre-Quintas 220, Porto
Reservations: +351 22 600 0445 
Learn More: Antiqvvm Website

Casa de Chá da Boa Nova 
Chef: Rui Paula 
ONE STAR Rui Paul is one of Portugal’s most beloved and respected chefs. Known for restaurants DOP in Porto and DOC in Douro, Paula also hosts Portugal’s Master Chef. And finally, Paula receives recognition for his masterful work at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova. Paula takes inspiration from the restaurants location overlooking the ocean to create amazing Portuguese dishes with fish and seafood. Popular dishes are coastline fish and lobster stewed rice, cataplana of fish and shellfish and salted bass. Three themed tasting menus are also available. 
Avenida da Liberdade Leça da Palmeira, Matosinhos Porto 
Reservations: +351 932 499 444 

Pedro Lemos 
Chef: Pedro Lemos
ONE STAR Pedro Lemos may be new to the list of Michelin star chefs, but he is not new to foodies in Porto. His popular restaurant in the Foz do Douro or Porto has been pleasing guests and generating praise since its opening in 2010. Lemos’ cuisine is inspired by memories of his grandmothers: one working the fields in Bragança; the other selling fish at the markets in Matosinhos. These simple and genuine cuisines of land and sea, blended with his own innovative techniques and creativity, make for a unique gastronomic experience. Menu items, therefore, range from devil fish and octopus, to rabbit loin and roasted lamb. Tasting menus are available. 
Rua do Padre Luís Cabral, 974, Foz do Douro, Porto 
Reservations: +351 220 115 986 
Learn More: Pedro Lemos website

The Yeatman 
Chef: Ricardo Costa
TWO STARS Within the first year of opening, the restaurant at the Yeatman Hotel earned its first star; and just a few years later, its second.  All credit must be given to Chef Ricardo Costa, formerly of Largo do Paço (see above). At the Yeatman, Costa puts his own contemporary spin on traditional Portuguese dishes. Yet, the Michelin judging panel may have also been swayed by the extraordinary views from the dining room that stretch across the Douro River to the cityscape of Porto. Or, perhaps they were impressed with the selection of 25,000 bottles of old and new world wines in the Yeatman wine cellar. Most likely, all are reasons to rank this exquisite restaurant among the world’s finest. 
Rua do Choupelo (Sta. Marinha), 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto 
Reservations: +351 22 013 3100 
Learn More: Yeatman Website


Alma – Lisbon 
Chef: Henrique Sá Pessoa 
ONE STAR  Alma (Portuguese for “soul”) is a restaurant created from the passion of Portuguese celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa. The mantra of Alma is “to serve much more than a meal: we serve emotions, identity, knowledge.” With this in mind, the team, headed up by Sá Pessoa prepares Portuguese cuisine straight from the heart fused with Asian-inspired techniques. Having trained in acclaimed kitchens as Evo Santi Santimara in Barcelona, El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona and Tippling Club in Singapore, Sá Pessoa considers his travels as the greatest influence over his cooking. 
Rua Anchieta 15, Lisbon 
Reservations: +351 213 470 650 
Learn More: Alma Website

Belcanto – Lisbon 
Chef: Jose Avillez TWO STARS José Avillez received his first Michelin star while head chef at the historic Tavares restaurant in Lisbon. His career has since skyrocketed with books, TV appearances and a flurry of restaurant openings across the country. Yet, his own personal pride and joy is Belcanto. Avillez refurbished this historic building and designed a menu that has won him much acclaim and two Michelin stars. Avillez likes to say, “each dish tells a story and stirs the emotions of those willing to try it.” And with names of dishes like “the Garden of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” “Dip in the Sea,” and “Suckling Pig Revisited,” we can’t wait to experience his book. 
Largo de São Carlos, 10, Lisbon 
Reservations: +351 213 420 607
Learn More: Belcanto Website 

Chef: Joachim Koerper
ONE STAR Set high on a hill in Parque Eduardo VII, this sophisticated and contemporary restaurant features beautiful views of Lisbon. In the kitchen, Chef Joachim Koerper prepares Mediterranean cuisine that can be described as “luminous and elegant, modern and innovative.” Koerper, who has worked in such noteworthy restaurants as Moulin de Mougins, Guy Savoy, L’Ambroisie and his own Girasol, prides himself on his philosophy of keeping it simple. Locally grown, fresh and natural ingredients are the basis for his harmonious dishes. 
Rua Marquês Fronteira (within Parque Eduardo VII), 1070-051 Lisbon 
Reservations: +351 21 386 22 11 
Learn More: Eleven Website

Feitoria at Hotel Altis Belêm 
Chef: João Rodrigues
ONE STAR The theme of modern Hotel Altis Belém is the heritage of Portugal’s global discoveries. This concept carries over into the kitchen of Chef João Rodrigues. His unique take on Portuguese cuisine involves embellishments of exotic flavors and textures found in former Portuguese colonies in South American, Asia and Africa, such as hamachi salad marinated with prunes, radish and fresh aromatic herbs, and roasted Royal pigeon with mushroom, summer truffle and rich salsify sauce. Tasting menus of three and five courses allow diners a choice of gastronomic discoveries. Yet, for something very special, make reservations 48 hours in advance and ask for the chef’s “Creative Menu.” 
Doca do Bom Sucesso,1400-038 Lisbon 
Reservations: +351 210 400 208 
Learn More: Feitoria Website

Fortaleza do Guincho – Cascais
Chef: Miguel Rocha Vieira 
ONE STAR The stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean from this former 17th century fortress transformed into boutique Hotel Forteleza do Guincho are reason enough to visit this restaurant. However, it’s the extraordinary cuisine of Cascais-native Miguel Vieira that receives a star. At 19, went to London to train in gastronomy at the prestigious cooking school “Le Cordon Bleu”. Afterward, Chef Miguel worked in numerous venues across England, France and Spain before opening Costes restaurant in Budapest, earning the first Michelin Star for Hungary. The cuisine at Forteleza do Guincho is traditional French, with local Portuguese flavor, and now, with the added creativity of Chef Miguel. 
Estrada do Guincho, Cascais 
Reservations: +351 214 879 076 
Learn More: Forteleza do Guincho Website

LAB – Sintra 
Chef: Sergi Arola 
The small 22-seat restaurant is intimate, yet an ideal showcase for the fine art and flavor of Chef Sergi Arola’s cuisine. Mentored by renowned chef Adriá Ferran, Arola has made a name for himself by leading the kitchens at Hotel Miguel Ángel in Madrid and Hotel Arts in Barcelona, as well as his self-named restaurant Arola already at Penha Longa. He adds this star to the two Michelin stars he has collected for Gastro restaurant in Madrid. At LAB, three tasting menus and à la carte selections offer innovative and emotional gastronomy. For oenophiles, LAB has more than 550 labels from around the world. Penha Longa Resort, 
Estrada da Lagoa Azul, Sintra 
Reservations: +35 1 219 249 011 
Learn More: LAB Website

Loco – Lisbon
Chef: Alexandre Silva 
ONE STAR In the last decade, Chef Silva has wound his way around Portugal hitting numerous culinary milestones. His studies ranged from kitchen and pastries, to F&B Management and molecular gastronomy. He was at Lisbon’s Bocca restaurant before winning TV’s Top Chef for 2012. He opened the restaurant at the exclusive Alentejo Marmóis Hotel and later became Executive Chef at the trendy Bica do Sapato. At Loco, Silva embraces “micro seasons” by selecting local organic products at the peak of freshness, to prepare Portuguese cuisine using experimental and innovative techniques. 
Rua dos Navegantes 53-B, 1200-730 Lisboa
+351 21 395 1861 
Learn More: Loco Website

L’And Vineyards 
Chef: Miguel Laffan 
ONE STAR  It is no surprise to followers of Miguel Laffan that he has achieved a star for his superb cuisine at the L’And Vineyards and Resort. Laffan’s inspirations are Luso-Asian and Mediterranean cuisine prepared using fresh local produce with a nod to traditional Portuguese flavors. Dishes such as red mullet and squid “açorda,” and roasted tenderloin pork from Alentejo, accompanied by cauliflower gratin with asparagus, peas and black sausage pudding, express his love for the region. Having trained at Forteleza do Guincho (above), Les Jardin des Ramparts and Le Clous de la Violette in France, Laffan no doubt is on track to lead L’And to international acclaim. L’And Vineyards Resort. 
Herdade das Valadas, Montemor-o-novo 
Reservations: +351 266 242400 
Learn More: L’And Vineyards Website


Bon Bon – Carvoeiro 
Chef: Rui Silvestre 
ONE STAR Not a surprise to fine dining aficionados in the western Algarve, Bon Bon has had their attention for the last couple of years. Now, Michelin agrees. The guide awards the recognition to the cuisine of young Chef Rui Silvestre, stating in the press release “interesting” kitchen “surprised by the technical level,” and, “based on selected raw materials and cutting-edge dishes, with distinctive flavors and careful presentation. “. 
Urb. Cabeco de Pias, Carvoeiro 
Reservations: +351 282 341 496
Learn More: Bon Bon Website

Henrique Leis – Almancil 
Chef: Henrique Leis 
ONE STAR This Swiss-chalet inspired restaurant provides an ambiance of sophisticated elegance and rustic charm. It is the perfect setting for the mastery of Brazilian Chef Henrique Leis who embraces French cuisine enhanced by flavors of his South American homeland. Having set his roots in the Algarve in 1993, Leis is now a gastronomic leader in the region. Seasonal menus can include creations such as noisettes of venison with poivrade sauce and chestnut bonbon, and duo of red mullet and sea scallops with celeriac mousseline. The extensive wine list is equally impressive. 
Vale Formoso, Almancil 
Reservations: +351 289 393 438
Learn More: Henrique Leis Website 

Ocean Restaurant at Vila Vita Parc – Porches 
Chef: Hans Neuner 
TWO STARS Having trained with Michelin star chefs in Berlin, Hamburg and Mallorca, Austrian Chef Hans Neuner was hungry for a star of his own. In 2006, he arrived at Ocean Restaurant in the beautiful VILA VITA Parc resort and immediately set out on his mission. He began utilizing innovative haute cuisine techniques on fresh, locally-produced food products. Within three years, Neuner earned his star, and two years later is was awarded with a second star. Season dishes such as Miral Pigeon with blackberry, chicory and black walnuts, and John Dory served with “burned” artichoke, zucchini flower and rock octopus, have the gastronomy community singing his praises. Neuner’s “culinary moments” come in four-, six- and seven-course menus. 
VILA VITA Parc, Alporchinos, Porches 
Reservations: + 351 282 310 100
Learn More: Ocean Website

Sao Gabriel – Almancil 
Chef: Leonel Pereira 
ONE STAR For years, the classic cuisine of São Gabriel impressed the palates of guests and critics, and always placed the restaurant on the list of Portugal Michelin stars. In 2013, São Gabriel changed owners and Algarvian-native chef Leonel Pereira took over the kitchen. His training at the Alain Ducasse Academy, Le Nôtre and the Institute of Culinary Arts, lead him to positions at the Hotel Quinta do Lago, Niko in Paris, Cipriani in Venice, Alexandra Palace in Switzerland and Panorama at the Sheraton Lisbon.  Helming the kitchen at São Gabriel, Pereira’s “creative and contemporary cuisine” has brought a fresh new attitude to the tried-and-true establishment, as well as earning Michelin recognition. 
Estrada Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago, Almancil 
Reservations: +351 289 394 521 
Learn More: São Gabriel website

Vila Joya at Hotel Vila Joya – Galé 
Chef: Dieter Koschina 
TWO STARS In addition to being honored with this Michelin distinction, Austrian Chef Dieter Koschina’s Vila Joya has been selected as one of San Pellegrino’s “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” He credits this recognition to his staff’s dedication to a high level of excellence in technique and service, as well as use of the freshest ingredients from regional farms and sea. Although, ultimately, it is Koschina’s innovative European cooking techniques that win over the hearts of guests and pallets of critics. His guinea fowl is stuffed with black truffles and artichokes, roasted goose liver is served on a broccoli purée with smoked eel, and Portugal’s emblematic bacalhau is confited and paired with beetroot coulis and yogurt. Vila Joya is located in the multi award-winning 
Vila Joya boutique hotel. 
Praia da Galé, Galé, Albufeira 
Reservations: +351 289 591 839
Learn More: Vila Joya Website

Willie’s – Vilamoura 
Chef: Willie Wurger 
ONE STAR German-born Willie Wurger has left a trail of Michelin stars across the Algarve. Since he arrived in the early 1980’s, Wurger cooked at La Reserve, the first restaurant in the Algarve to be designated with a star. He followed with seven years at São Gabriel, contributing to the star designation it has today. And, since 2000, Wurger has helmed his own restaurant in Vilamoura, which has been awarded a star every year since 2006. His specialty is cuisine from central Europe, and he prides himself on his hand-made seafood ravioli in a Vermouth cream sauce, pan-fried saddle of monkfish on mustard crème-sauce with potato-mousse, and lemon crème in sugar basket with berries. The restaurant is quietly tucked away behind the Hilton Resort in the residential area of Vilamoura. Rua do Brazil, 2, Vilamoura 
Reservations: +351 289 380 849
Learn More: Willie’s Website


Il Gallo d’Oro at the Cliff Bay Hotel 
Chef: Benoît Sinthon
TWO STARS  French born Benoît Sinthon credits his Italian grandmother for awakening his passion for cooking. From his days in Marseille, he mastered the art of Mediterranean cuisine. After stints at several European restaurants, Sinthon settled at the Cliff Bay and quickly reorganized the kitchen of Il Gallo d’Oro. Four years later, his efforts paid off with a Michelin star. Distinguished dishes include: Foie Gras Triolgy with bicolor pear compote and 10 year Blandy’s Madeira Wine verdelho jelly; Langoustine XL, with couscous of cauliflower and mango, granny smith apple and wasabi; and Premium Wagyu Filet, accompanied by veal cheek confit, black truffle juice. Il Gallo d’Oro is a formal dining room (gentlemen wear jackets) with superb ocean views.
The Cliff Bay Hotel, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Reservations: +351 291 707 700 
Learn More: Il Gallo dÓro Website

William Belmond Reid’s Palace 
Chef: Luís Pestana 
Executive chef Luís Pestana is at the helm and Michelin Star chef Joachim Koerper is responsible for the direction at this fine dining restaurant at the iconic and exclusive Reid’s Belmond Palace. Modern European cuisine prepared with innovative flavors and contemporary techniques is provides a “wow factor”. Cannelloni of foie gras with Madeira wine, chocolate and coffee financier, and pear chutney, rivals the lobster with cauliflower textures, beetroot and caviar. Tasting menus from €77-168, or order a la carte. 
Estrada Monumental 139, 9000-098 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 
Reservations: +351 291 717 171 
Learn more: William website 

Source: Portugal Confidential

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Five Portuguese destinations among the "100 most valuable in the world"

Fátima (29.º), Guimarães (59.º), Braga (62.º), Sintra (89.º) and Coimbra (91.º). These are the Portuguese cities among the list Best Value City Index 2017, from Trivago. This ranking was based on over 175 million ratings made by travelers from around the world, combined with the average price of cities, to rank the most valuable destinations in the world for 2017.

In this value-for-money inventory, Mostar, a city of Bosnia and Herzegovina destroyed during the Balkan conflict and whose historic center and old bridge were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005, ranks first, followed by Novi Sad (Serbia) and Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) - to complete the top ten destinations are Suzdal (Russia), Lviv (Ukraine), Eger (Hungary), Oradea (Romania), Pécs (Hungary), Safranbolu (Romania).

For countries with more entries in the list, Portugal comes in fifth place, together with Romania (which has two destinations in the top 10) and Russia (one destination in a fourth place). Italy leads (11 destinations), followed by Spain (8) and Hungary and Poland (both with 7).

Trivago's Best Value Index is created using an algorithm that combines Trivago Hotel Price Index (THPI) - which shows the average price of double rooms around the world - with the reputation of the accommodation. The opinions were gathered in over 200 websites available in Trivago. Only hotels with more than 50 ratings were considered.

Source: Fugas

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Portugal: Europe’s Most Compelling New Food Destination

Not too long ago, all the chatter about the Douro Valley, the flourishing wine region in northeastern Portugal, revolved around its velvety reds and austere beauty. The conversation is slowly changing, however, now that word is getting out about the unexpected excellence of the region’s cooking, which is humble, hearty and newly creative. ​

As I first discovered many years ago during a weekend of wedding banquets I attended, there’s always been some superb food to be had in the Douro River Valley. Back then, just about the only way to taste it was to be invited home for a meal by a local. To be sure, Porto, the seaside city at the mouth of the 557-mile-long Douro (most of which crosses Spain, and the historic center of the region’s Port trade, has long had a few good restaurants. But in the wine towns upriver, the genteel old Port-producing families mostly entertained among themselves, and gastronomic extravagance for their vineyard workers was pretty much limited to communion, marriage and harvest-day feasts.

During the last decade, however, the Douro has emerged as one of the most compelling new food destinations in Europe, with a growing roster of standout restaurants. These range from cutting-edge tables to cozy country taverns. Some of the credit for the growing interest in Portuguese cooking goes to a few high-profile chefs outside the country, including Nuno Mendes in London (Taberna do Mercado, Chiltern Firehouse) and George Mendes—no relation to Nuno—in New York City (Aldea, Lupulo). But most of the ardent new proponents of Portugal’s palate still live there. Take Porto native chef Rui Paula, 49, the granddaddy of the Douro’s restaurant revolution. He learned to cook from his grandmother in the Douro Valley town of Alijó, where his family is from. Mr. Paula now owns three well-regarded restaurants in the region, including Restaurante DOC on the riverbank in the village of Folgosa, and his newest, the Casa de Chá da Boa Nova in a seaside suburb of Porto.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Friday, 2 December 2016

This other Eden: the Azores, Europe's secret islands of adventure

For in-the-know travellers, the Azores have long represented a beckoning blip on the radar of possible destinations. Recognition from Unesco and other organisations has helped that blip to pulse more brightly over the years.

But most people still know little, if anything, about this far-flung archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic. And yet it is hard to imagine a place better suited to nature lovers, fans of adventure sports, or anyone looking for a beacon of sustainability.
As if that wasn’t tantalising enough, there is a new reason to visit this autonomous region of Portugal: restrictions on air routes to the Azores recently eased, which means more carriers, more choice and cheaper fares for travellers trying to reach this other Eden.

The exposed tips of vast underwater mountains, the Azores lie on the nexus of the European, American and African tectonic plates, and they bear witness to the forces forever shaping our planet. This is a world of fumaroles, mudpots and scalding springs; of caverns, columns and grottoes formed from once molten rock; of blue lakes ringed by forests of laurel and cedar, and green pastures patterning the slopes of calderas.
Unesco designated three of them (Graciosa, Flores and Corvo) as biospheres, and the archipelago also contains 13 Ramsar sites (important wetlands) and over 30 Blue Flag beaches. Combine mineral-laden soil with a subtropical climate surrounded by Gulf Stream-warmed waters, and the result is a crucible for life.

Thankfully, Azoreans seem intent on preserving their treasures – the built environment covers just five per cent of the land; the rest is a patchwork of protected areas and marine reserves. The regional government aims to produce 75% of the islands’ energy from renewables by 2018.
Little wonder then that last year the Azores were named as the world’s top destination for sustainable tourism by Quality Coast, a European Commission-supported certification programme. In fact, it is the only place in the world to receive a Platinum Award, the organisation’s highest accolade.

Adventures at sea

Whale watching
The Azores are best known for whale and dolphin watching; the archipelago is a pit stop or home for about a third of the world’s species of cetacean.
Year-round residents include sperm whales, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Many other species (including blue whales – the largest animal in the history of the planet) pass through on migration routes.

Well-organised tours run from the larger islands and go to great lengths to whale watch responsibly. A code of conduct governs how many boats can congregate near a whale, the direction from which they must approach the animals, and how long they’re allowed to shadow them.
Not so long ago, of course, people came armed with harpoons rather than cameras. Whale hunting – introduced by Americans in the 18th century – played a part in the Azorean economy until as recently as 1987. In one of many ironies, the vigia (watchtowers) once used for hunting these leviathans now help to steer tourist boats to their quarry. The Whalers’ Museum on Pico ( and the Whaling Station at Porto Pim on Faial tell the story of the industry and its demise.

Nutrient-rich water welling up from the deep – or rather the life it supports – is what attracts the whales; this is also what makes the Azores one of, if not the, best diving locations in the Atlantic. Warmed to between 17C and 24C, the seas truly teem, and visibility reaches 30 metres between May and October.
The kaleidoscope of species – from yellowmouth barracuda to devil rays, loggerhead turtles to slipper lobsters – arises from the extraordinary range of habitats. Wrasse, damsel fish and moray eels dwell in the coast’s jade-green bays; marlin, tuna and shark swirl around the peaks of barely submerged volcanoes; jacks, bonitos and grouper patrol the walls of underwater cliffs; more delicate life forms shelter in caves formed from lava tubes; and countless other species take up residence in the shipwrecks cluttering the seafloor.
All the islands apart from São Jorge and Corvo have accredited dive centres offering excursions and equipment hire (

The mild weather, warm water and variety of the coastline also make the Azores a year-round destination for watersports.
The attractions for sailors are obvious and Azorean harbours host a calendar of regattas and events. Horta, the main town of Faial, is the cosmopolitan centre of this transatlantic traffic, and its marina has become an open-air gallery of murals painted by superstitious crews before they depart on their voyages.

Over the last decade, word of the Azores’ consistent, crowd-free surf has spread; Santa Maria and São Miguel have reliable beach and point breaks; aficionados, meanwhile, head to the fajãs (flat land at the foot of cliffs) of São Jorge, where the Atlantic crashes upon reefs to create longer, tube-shaped waves.
The conditions also make for great windsurfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and other water-based activities, while those seeking something more restful can always take a dip in one of the swimming holes formed by lava as it cooled flowing into the sea.
Adventures on land

Anyone remotely interested in geology will be in their element. The islands’ topography speaks of their volcanic origin in dramatic fashion, but there is more to see than just craters and cones; cave systems, rock formations, hot springs, and further ‘mistérios’ (mysteries, the name given to lava-covered patches of land) await investigation.
The Capelinhos volcano that surged up from the seabed off Faial in 1957 is one of the best documented sites in the world (; the interpretation centre beneath its now abandoned lighthouse does a superb job of explaining the Earth’s occasional convulsions.

On Pico, you can descend into one of the world’s longest lava tubes, the Gruta das Torres (, to inspect rare stalagmites of lava, as well as bizarre forms resembling benches, balls and lengths of rope.
Aside from a beautiful lake, the parish of Furnas on São Miguel has crowd-pleasing volcanic activity, including fumaroles and mudpots; Azoreans use the thermal heat to slow-cook their traditional cozido, a stew of meat and vegetables, under the ground. Try it, pig’s ear and all, at the art deco Terra Nostra Hotel (, then slip into the thermal pool in the adjacent botanical gardens.

At 7,713ft, Mt Pico is Portugal’s highest mountain. If conditions are right, the three-hour climb to catch sunrise or sunset is the Azores’ premier hiking experience; however, it faces stiff competition with about 60 marked trails crisscrossing the islands ( brochure shot par excellence, the twin crater lakes of São Miguel’s Setes Cidades are the focus of several routes. The two-hour trip from the Vista da Rei viewpoint to the caldera’s floor is a good primer to Azorean walking, but a hike down to the shore of mist-obscured Lagoa do Fogo has the edge.
Composed of a sheer-sided ridge, São Jorge is a hiker’s daydream, but those whose eyes are forever drawn to the edges of a map should probably look to far-flung Flores, the westernmost point of Europe, a real-life Jurassic Park praised for its beauty even among Azoreans. And they should know.

Other adventure sports
Fans of adventure sports might find themselves paralysed by indecision, such is the choice on offer.
The many waterfalls cascading into ravines make for world-class canyoning. Between them, São Miguel, Santa Maria, São Jorge and Flores have more than 50 equipped routes, from small drops for beginners to hair-raising descents for pros.
Horse riders and mountain bikers are well catered for, and both forms of transport fit the islands’ eco-friendly ethos. São Miguel, Terceira and Faial have stables, and you can hire bikes on São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, with trails ranging from ultra-technical tracks to gentle lakeside circuits.
The Azores have also hosted a paragliding festival for the past 20 years ( The rims of São Miguel’s craters make for ideal take-off points, and there can be no better way of appreciating this fantastical landscape than from above.

Source: Lonely Planet