Island silhouettes like scattered gardens on the horizon of the Atlantic, peace and tranquillity, flowers in the meadows and fields, in villages, in homes, the green and blue colour of fairy-tale lagoons, a mysterious message from bygone centuries, unique and fascinating nature and the endless ocean.
That’s the Azores.
The archipelago is made up of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a two-hour flight from Lisbon. They are an autonomous part of Portugal, which means that during your stay you will remain in the Schengen Area. The advantage of this is that you will have no travel restrictions, insurance is lower and the local currency is the euro. The Azores are a unique combination of a subtropical and oceanic climate, meaning that temperatures are never too hot or cold. Summertime water temperatures are 24-24 °C. The Azores offer an enormous number of natural wonders and unique sites.
PICO ISLAND – Located 17 km from the island of Sao Jorge and 7 km east of the island of Faial. Pico is 42 km long and up to 15 km wide. It has an area of 447 km2 and is the second largest island in the archipelago; the island is home to roughly 15,000 permanent residents. Mount Pico towers above the the southwest part of the island. This 2,351 m volcano with a distinct shape and mystic atmosphere terrified the locals most recently in the 16th century, leaving behind hardened lava flows up to 10 km away. Pico Island is the geologically youngest part of the entire archipelago. The last volcanic activity was recorded in 1963 as an underwater eruption on the northwest coast of the island. The typical black colour of the volcanic soil covered with lush growth is a reliable guide along the jagged coastal cliffs and across the entire island.
WHALE SAFARI – the Azores are a permanent or temporary home to 80% of the world’s cetacean species. It is nearly certain that you will encounter sperm whales, permanent residents of the archipelago, as well as humpback and minke whales. Large numbers of smaller species can be seen, including pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and many others. And with a little luck, you might even encounter killer whales on their migratory journey. It is not unusual to see up to five cetacean species on one safari. The safari takes place on speedboats with special safety seats. Speed is essential on the safari so that divers can be quickly transferred to the sites where cetaceans are currently present – information is provided by ‘whale watchers’ monitoring the sea from several ‘white towers’ on the coasts of the islands.
Swimming With Dolphins – With their playfulness and jumping in front of the boats, large schools of various species of dolphins seem to beckon guests to put on their masks and fins, take a camera, and join in their frolicking. Experiences from meeting face to face with these beautiful mammals in their natural environment will stay with your forever. The same boat used for the whale safari is also used for swimming with dolphins.
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS - You can believe everything they say! You have the opportunity to visit a fantastic (and in the European part of the Atlantic entirely unique) place where you will discover the secrets of ocean predators – blue and mako sharks. A two-year effort has revealed where and how to observe these amazing creatures in their environment so that the safety of both divers and sharks is ensured. We successfully return to sites where you are almost sure to encounter blue sharks; divers have seen mako sharks on seven of our last ten attempts. Diving with sharks is appropriate only for those with AOWD certification and more than 50 logged dives.
DIVING – The volcanic nature of the islands directly ensures that diving around the islands is an entirely new experience. A large number of bizarre lava formations connected with a wide range of labyrinths and caves populated by large species of ocean fish create entirely different underwater scenery than what you are accustomed to from dives in classic coral waters. Perhaps the only similarity is the visibility, which is up to 30 m here. In the warm waters of the Gulf Stream you can also see well-known species of coral creatures, such as parrotfish, weevers, rays, groupers, octopus and moray eels. Divers can look forward to large schools of several types of tuna, mackerel, Atlantic blue marlin, swordfish, hammerhead, grey and mako sharks, and even ocean sunfish. The majority of dives are made from a boat at sites on the southern and southwestern sides of the island. There are rocky islands, underwater cliffs, caves and walls. There are also many diving sites accessible from the shore, and these are especially ideal for less experienced divers. Thanks to the sharply falling volcanic bottom, even these dives are very rich in ocean life. The most remote location is known as ‘Princess Alice’. This underwater mountain, rising from a depth of several hundred metres, ends just thirty metres below the surface of the sea. It is home to an enormous number of ocean species of fish and rays, and sharks and whale are occasional visitors. If until now you thought a metre-long tuna or barracuda was a big fish, just take a good look around the underwater panorama of Princess Alice. Be sure to keep your mouth tight on your regulator!
SWIMMING AND ATTRACTIONS – Located near the marina and about 10 minutes by foot from our accommodations is the town beach and pool with complete facilities, including a restaurant. But if you prefer quieter areas, there are many lagoons and bays formed by the volcanic rock. Motor boats, inflatable boats, mountain bikes and cars can be rented at the marina, and it is also possible to book horseback rides.
HIKING, BKIKING AND CLIMBING MOUNT PICO – The Azores are a hiker’s and biker’s paradise. By foot or by bike, you will always return from a trip around the island with incredible experiences. Cliffs, gorges, mountains, valleys, lagoons, all wrapped in lush greenery, flowers, arborvitae, cypress and Araucaria. Even without a camera, the views that open up along the way will stay with you forever. More experienced mountaineers should not miss the opportunity to climb Mount Pico. At a height of 2,351 m, the mysterious volcano shrouded in the clouds is a challenge for even hardcore climbers. The view from its summit offers a fantastic panorama of the entire island, including the other islands in the middle group of the archipelago. The ascent typically begins at 1,200 m, and the climb to the peak takes 3-5 hours, depending on one’s condition. We recommend taking along a qualified guide.
WHALING MUSEUM – The location of the Azores and enormous pods of whales fuelled the development of the whaling industry over the centuries. At the height of the slaughter, thousands of whales were killed each year. Pressure from international organisations and Portugal’s accession to the EU brought an end to the commercial hunting of these amazing creatures. The last sperm whale was killed in 1980 and since that time the whale population has grown significantly; the only ‘hunting’ permitted today is with a camera. In the town of Lajes in the southern part of the island you can visit the unique whaling museum. Exhibits over an area of 800 m2 include a former whaling boat from the 19th century, weapons, stuffed animals and collection mapping the history of whaling in the Azores. The historical buildings constructed in the American whaling style of architecture also includes the original forge, library and archives. A museum documenting the whale processing industry is located north of the town of Sao Roque. Three buildings from the original whaling factory from 1949 offer a realistic look at the production of oil, bone meal, fertiliser and vitamins, which were made from the fat, meat, bones and livers of sperm whales.
BLACK VILLAGE AND WINE-MAKING MUSEUM – Endless walls of black lava stone running perpendicular and parallel to the coast over 987 ha in the northern part of the island protect thousands of small vineyards from the wind and seawater. The other stand-alone stone buildings and cellars form the unique ‘Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture’ historical complex, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. The vineyard landscape also includes the Museum of Wine in the northern part of the town of Madalena, which can be easily reached by foot from the town centre. The original Carmelite building serves today as an exhibition space documenting the traditions of wine-making in the Azores, with permanent exhibits of period stone presses, vessels and tools, as well as cellars with the very expensive and specific ‘Wine of Pico’.
GRUTA DAS TORRES CAVES were discovered in 1990 and are quite young from a geological perspective. They formed 500-1,500 years ago as the result of volcanic activity and today 5,439 m of interconnected corridors and tunnels with a maximum height of 15 m are known. This remarkable lava cave system is located on the western slopes of Mount Pico. Thanks to their size and recent discovery, the caves boast several endemic species of flora and fauna. Approximately 500 m of the genuine volcanic core are open to the public.
FAIAL ISLAND – Neighbouring Faial Island is easy to reach by ferry from Madalena. In less than a half an hour you will land in the town of Horta, which is famous for a port frequented by yachters from all over the world. The paintings they leave behind on the walls and ground in the port testify to their past and present. A local superstition holds that a sailor who does not leave a picture behind will never reach his destination. Monte da Guia and Espalamaca both provide beautiful views of the town.
Other points of interest on Faial Island:
Caldeira – A crater 400 m deep and 2 km long is lined with clumps of hydrangeas, ferns, juniper trees and endemic beech trees. This formation is regarded as a protected nature reserve.
Vulcao dos Capelinhos – Although a volcanic eruption occurred here in 1957, be sure to visit the site, which also features photographs capturing the eruption.
Varadouro – A zone of thermal baths and also an ideal place for swimming.
The third 18-hole golf course in the Azores has been under construction on Faial Island since 2008.
Guests stay in a family apartment house roughly 10 min. from the port in Madalena on Pico Island. The facility offers 2-4 bed rooms, suites, a common living area, furnished kitchen for group stays and a terrace where guests can grill.
weeklong stay: CZK 19,900 (EUR 740), non-divers CZK 13,600 (EUR 510)
10-day stay: +75 Eur/person
Price valid for early booking
5-15 September 2017 (possible flight change +/- 1 day)
other dates: May–October (for groups of 10 or more, individual dates with a Czech guide in the price can be booked)
The price of the weeklong stay includes:
7 nights accommodation, 4 dives with guide, including tanks and ballast, 1 whale safari (including non-divers), 1 swim with dolphins with rental of suit and ABC (for non-divers) and 1 dive with sharks
The price of a 10-day stay includes 10 nights accommodation and the same features as the weeklong stay
The price does not include:
flight (we arrange the flight, but the price fluctuates with the date and the amount of time booked in advance, c. CZK 11,000-16,000, EUR 410-600), other meals (kitchen available, supermarket 6 min. from the apartments, restaurants in town, pizzeria in marina), extra activities, trip insurance.
Extra dives can be purchased directly at the site for EUR 40/dive. The Princess Alice site is 45 miles from the island and is not included in the basic dives. The dive trip to Princess Alice is a daylong trip with 2 dives and refreshments. It is appropriate for advanced divers as well as snorkelers. Activities that do not take place or those which guests do not participate in cannot be refunded. Do not forget to bring along proof of insurance, your diving license and appropriate gear (shoes, gloves, surface marker buoy, lamp). Short diving suits are not recommended. Flight passengers are usually permitted to carry 20 kg without extra charge.
Preliminary itinerary for diving trip to the Azores:
Day 1 – Departure from Prague to Lisbon or other destination for the first night.
Day 2 – Flight to the Azores, transfer to accommodation.
Day 3-7 – 4 dives, whale safari, swimming with dolphins, diving with sharks (scheduled according to conditions and weather).
Day 8 – Free-time activities.
Day 9 – Departure from islands to Lisbon, tour of city, possible stopover on Terceira Island.
Day 10 – Arrival in Prague.
On the 10-day trip, the departure flight is on Day 12.
Photos from our trips to the Azores: