The perfect combination of adventure, relaxation and charm can be found in São Miguel, the principal island of the Azores. With its botanical gardens and crater lakes, this island brings you back to a simpler time. You can spend days hiking around strikingly blue and green lakes, eat food cooked in boiling water underground or even bathe in thermal springs surrounded by tropical vegetation. The island has everything one could ask for while exploring unknown territory.
Tips while travelling in the Azores:
- Do not plan in advance. The weather can change drastically by the hour as the island is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s best to rent a car and when you have a sunny day capitalize on it and go to some of the lookout points. We went after it had rained and spotted a beautiful rainbow over Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) from Pico do Barrosa (947m), pictured above. Had we been there ten minutes earlier with a tour it would have been fogged over.
- Stay in Furnas, about a 45 minute drive from Ponta Delgada. This is where the island’s regional dish, ‘Cozido”, is prepared. The hotels have both indoor and outdoor thermal spas and excellent restaurants. After hiking up Pico do Ferro (570m) for a breathtakingly beautiful view of Lagoa das Furnas, we couldn’t wait to get our muscles into these thermal pools. We stayed at the Furnas boutique hotel which also has an excellent restaurant.
- Buy snacks from the supermarket. Kitchens are open at select hours meaning if you get hungry between 3 and 730 you’re out of luck.
- Hike a trail with a reward at the end. Yes, all trails on the island are beautiful but some are greater than others, particularly those that open up to crater lakes or waterfalls. For example, Faial da Terra trail leads you through the once abandoned village of Sanguinho, along a stream of water and opens up to Salto do Prego, an incredible waterfall.
- Take the scenic route. Travel along the east side of the island for the gardens. There’s plenty of spots to stop along the way for a picnic or even outdoor BBQ if you have the supplies. Stop at Ponta da Madrugada and Ponta do Sossego on your way to Nordeste, the furthest point on the east side of the island.
We spent one week travelling around the island and it was the perfect amount of time. Since we weren’t quite ready to head back yet we decided to hop on a short flight over to Lisbon for a few nights. Post on Lisbon will be coming out soon! Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
Impressive waterfalls, secluded valleys and stunning mountain peaks surround Lauterbrunnen, the largest nature conservation area in Switzerland. Lauter Brunnen means many fountains, representing the 72 waterfalls in the valley. Staubbach Falls is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe plunging almost 300m. Trümmelbach Falls is hidden within the mountain and can be heard from a distance. Up to 20,000 liters of glacier water falling per second has carved through solid rock sculpting beautiful formations in the mountains over thousands of years. It is a series of 10 waterfalls and a UNESCO world heritage site.
We spent the day climbing 1650m up to Mürren, a cozy mountain village. Mürren is at the foot of Schilthorn, made famous by the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If you don’t have as much time or want to be able to move the following day there are lifts and trains you can take up the mountain. The walk was beautiful with natural springs everywhere containing some of the freshest water I’ve ever tasted! We stayed in cabins to add to the outdoors experience. While in Switzerland we also made sure to have some fondu and their delicious chocolate.
Oh to be out in the country again! The small towns on the Isle of Wight make for the perfect weekend getaway and the best part is, you don’t need a car to get there. We jumped on a bus from London to Clarence Pier and much to our surprise crossed over to Ryde in just 10 minutes via hovercraft. The Hovercraft travel is the quickest form of transportation over to the island but make sure you book your ticket in advance if you plan on traveling at peak hours. Ryde was our base for the trip as it provided direct buses to most points of the island as well as access to all the open bus tours when you buy a 24h or 48h travel pass.
Our first journey was on the Downs Breezer, an open top bus ride. It was a great way to take in the countryside without having a vehicle. The bus stopped at all the major sights along the way with a brief description of their historical significance, we even passed by the most haunted place on the island. The main attraction I was looking forward to was The Garlic Farm, UK’s renowned garlic specialists. We took part in the ‘garlic experience’, trying all of their products and were taught about the many different kinds of garlic, how to grow your own and its medical benefits. We picked up some to bring back with us as well as a tasty roasted garlic mayonnaise. The island has a garlic festival in August every year, my type of place! We took the the bus to Sandsdown beach in the evening for a calming meal overlooking the water.
The following morning we had an action packed day as we crossed to the other side of the island to Needles Park. Unfortunately it had rained, so it was foggy on the water. We took the chair lift down to the beach overlooking the famous multi-coloured sands in the cliffs. From the chairs you get an incredible view! A trip to island is not complete without visiting East Cowes and the Osborne House. This is where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert lived peacefully enjoying their private life. The property contains their own private beach, Swiss cottage and walled garden. Beautiful detailing is found throughout the building from the ceilings to the floor and customized with their initials. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would often give artwork to each other as gifts and the house is filled with original artifacts. If we had more time on the island we probably would have gone for a picnic on her private beach to soak up some extra sun! Perhaps next time…
Today David and I arrived in Denmark to visit Anne, one of my family’s former Rotary exchange students. Her parents picked us up at the airport and took us just outside of Copenhagen to Dyrehavsbakken, the world’s oldest amusement park. It was first opened in 1583 when natural spring water was discovered in Dyrehaven Park. The spring water drew large crowds to the area and in return attracted entertainers and hawkers. Walking around the park in the evening was like being on set in an old movie as the lit up archways, rides and game stalls guided you through the grounds which are surrounded by forestry. It is FREE to enter the grounds and then you pay for the rides you want to try out and games you want to play for a prize. After eating we went on an old wooden roller-coaster, and then one called the Tornado, after convincing David and Anne that it wouldn’t spin that much. It was called Tornado, of course it was spinning!
The property of Dyrehaven is home to thousands of free-ranging red, fallow and Sika deer. I couldn’t believe how many of them we saw as we walked through the trail outside the park. It was the first time I had ever seen a white deer. I felt sorry for it as the poor thing could be spotted by a hunter miles away. The baby deers were walking with their moms and crossing the pathways right in front of us. We also learned about some of the plants of Denmark, one in particular called Braendenaelde (Burning Nettle) that will cause a burning sensation if it touches your skin. It lasts for about 10 minutes then goes away.