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Trip Report Just Back From The Azores - Stop Looking for Atlantis I Think I've Found It

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The legend of a lost Utopian civilization of great mariners lost in time, has spurred exploration of the ocean's depths for decades. I think it's time to look above sea level - the islands of The Azores, off the coast of Portugal, have jaw dropping pristine beauty and a lifestyle right out of Al Gore's how to live green handbook. I've just returned from a 10 day tour, visiting the islands of Sao Miguel, Pico and Faial - each island dazzles, and the Azoreans couldn't be more welcoming. Rather than recount our day to day itinerary (put together by AzoresExpress.com), let me tell you 10 reasons why you should put The Azores on your 'must see' list:
#1 They are close to the USA - our non-stop flight out of Boston took 4 1/2 hours. They are in fact the closest European land fall from the east coast of the USA. They have been a stopping off spot for mariners crossing the Atlantic since Columbus' time.
#2 The climate is warm all year round thanks to the gulf stream bringing warm currents up from the Caribbean.
#3 Package tour prices are very reasonable. Most of the year you can put together a one week package for about $1,000 per person including air.
#4 Everyone speaks English and Portuguese (probably German as well). Most of the folks we met have relatives in Massachusetts or Rhode Island (or they have lived there themselves). They like Americans! And, we felt safe everywhere we roamed.
#5 The scenery is stunningly beautiful with black volcanic cliffs fringed with white crashing waves, vivid green hillsides dotted with grazing cows, white washed fishing villages with terracotta roofs, pristine mountain lakes and waterfalls. I could go on and on - but you get the picture - just gorgeous, pristine and interesting.
#6 They are living the "green" lifestyle we've all been grasping for. Cows graze contentedly on the mountainsides - never in need of a barn because it doesn't get cold, and the farmers come to them for milking. They produce their own organic wine, figs, fruit, cheese, meats, tea, pineapples and then there's the fresh FISH - wow.
#7 Power for the islands comes from thermal electric plants, wave harnessing outposts, windmills, and yes, some diesel as well.
#8 Flowers, flowers, flowers EVERYWHERE. These island literally explode with color. In April we were treated to miles and miles of azalea bushes in full bloom. In mid-summer hydrangea bushes pop all over the hillsides and along every road. We saw whole hillsides covered with wild nasturtiums and painted daisies. Glorious.
#9 The Tourist Bureau (Azores.com) has charted hundreds of hiking trails throughout all nine islands. Hikers and bikers take to the trails all year round.
#10 There is a terrific ferry system for traveling from island to island. From May to October you can book passage on the ferries and take your rental car with you. Three islands, Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge are within sight of each other and make for a great triangle visit. Stay on one island (Faial would be my pick) and then take a day ferry to the others. Or visit Sao Miguel, the capital, staying both in the city of Ponta Delgada and in the thermal town of Furnas, then ferry across the bay to Santa Maria Island to visit its beautiful beaches.

No matter which islands you select you can't go wrong. Visiting The Azores is like stepping back in time to a simpler age when caring for the land and helping out your neighbors, guided everyone's aspirations. We totally loved our trip and encourage you to think about visiting the Azores before this technology age changes everything!

If you'd like to read more about our day to day activities and see some pictures, you can find my full trip report at http://www.wickedgoodtraveltips.com/?p=1617
Happy Travels!

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