Mark Scrivener, Manager of our travel agents in Bury St. Edmunds, spent seven nights exploring the Azores. These are his highlights from this fantastic experience and some recommendations for fellow travellers to this group of islands…
Destination: The Azores
Operator/Host: Sunvil Holidays
(Hotel names/Ship name): Hotel Royal Garden – Ponta Delgada, Hotel Terceira Mar – Terceira, Hotel do Canal – Horta
Airline: SATA International
Duration: 7 Nights
I had never flown with SATA International before, but they proved to be a good quality airline. There were comfortable, leather seats with good leg room (and I’m 6′ 3″). Full service and meals on board were included and we were given 20kg of luggage allowance.
This is a weekly flight running every Saturday from April to October and departs from London Gatwick to Ponta Del Garda (Sao Miguel). The average flight time is just over three hours.
During the trip, I actually visited 29 different hotels (far too many!) and they each had different styles and qualities.
One thing I did notice was that you often get a smell of damp in them. This, of course, is no fault of their own but down to the fact the islands are stuck out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no protection from the weather.
I would choose to stay in the Hotel Royal Garden in Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel Island) if I went back. It had a bizarre oriental theme going on, but the layout and facilities were perfect for me. Also, it was a very short walking distance to the town centre.
I also loved the Hotel do Canal in Horta (Faial Island) because of the close proximity to the town and the place where whale watching excursions departed from. Also nearby was “Peters Cafe”, which is a great place to eat and is enjoyed by many of the locals.
The Hotel Terceira Mar provided fantastic views, but it was a little out of the way; meaning it was at least a twenty-minute walk to the local amenities.
We went straight in on the first day with a brilliant hands-on excursion called the Azorean Experience, which I would recommend to everyone. This excursion starts at 09.30 and finishes 16.30 and features lots of different activities. I learnt how to drive a horse and cart, milk a cow (and drink it immediately), and make bread. The day includes a big lunch of local produce and an explanation of what you were eating; highly recommended.
We also had the chance to take part in a whale and dolphin watching trip, but sadly we didn’t see a thing! In fairness, the trip would not have gone ahead, as they had no reports of sightings that day but we went anyway to experience it. If this is the case on the day you have booked your trip, they give you the chance to cancel or amend the date, which is good. The sea was so rough and we got soaked!
If you are looking for an educational excursion then I would recommend the Geological History Tour. It was a good full day’s learning about volcanoes and caves and was very interesting.
We spent another full day visiting the botanical gardens and hot springs in Furnas. This included lunch, cooked underground by thermal steam. I did not like the food as it was a little bit overcooked due to high temperatures and smelt a little bit like sulphur.
The highlight of the trip was, without a doubt, the day we spent milking the cow, making the bread and driving the horse and cart. It was all so unexpected and fun to join in. Going inside the Volcano was also a good adventure.
I would say that a holiday in the Azores is not for everyone. The weather is never guaranteed and it’s quite possible that you could have 4 seasons in one day! It’s also worth pointing out that there is very little for younger people to do and anyone wanting some nightlife will be very disappointed. The average age of travellers to this area of the world is 55+.
I went on a 4 Island tour which would be perfect for anyone who likes volcanoes, whale and dolphin watching and flowers (hydrangeas and orchids are everywhere like weeds!). The main reason to go on a holiday like this though is to relax and get away from everything, whilst enjoying a few exciting activities if you wish.
It’s exciting that you can experience somewhere that is totally different and shockingly after only 3 and a bit hours of flying.
Must see? Volcanoes and volcanic lakes
Must do? Azorean Experience excursion
Must try? Whale watching
The Azores are the perfect choice for a luxury holiday or for a couple wanting to spend their honeymoon in paradisiacal surroundings. We can help you organise a similar holiday to the trip that Mark went on, all you need to do is visit one of our travel shops or fill in an enquiry form on the website.