Beija-Flor: Beautiful Handmade Portuguese Crafts in Porto
written by Gabriella Opaz | 21st March 2018
The Azores is a lush, green archipelago of nine very distinct islands that was discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the beginning of the 15th century. Moored in the mid-Atlantic, the islands were created from fire and brimstone, and their rich volcanic past – and present – still heavily dominates the landscape. Although the islands are perfectly safe, the earth beneath the soil is still very much alive and often you can feel its breath.
Your exotic five day tour will explore the largest – and one of the greenest – of the nine islands, São Miguel: where quaint architecture belies hidden crater lakes, steaming hot springs, gentle ocean swells and jaw-dropping views. And like much of mainland Portugal, the landscape and weather are completely unpredictable, but that only adds to its charm.
Starting from the capital of Ponta Delgada, you’ll visit native pineapple plantations and climb to the top of Mirador do Rei (King’s Belvedere) just above Sete Cidades where you can take in forest-clad cliffs, majestic fields and above all else, the glorious twin lakes. In the Furnas Valley, you’ll bathe in one of the 20 bubbling hot springs, take in the volcanic botanical garden, savor earth-fired stew called Cocido, and canoe the glassy waters of the crater lake. Finally, you’ll have a leisurely hike up Monte Escuro that offers spectacular views of Fogo Lake.
For the nature or botanical lover, get ready to explore one of the most undiscovered natural wonders in Europe.
“It’s not easy to plan a wine trip, especially for a group that expects a high level of wine communication, education, and experience. Ryan Opaz and the team at Catavino exceeded all expectations in my first visit to the Douro. The knowledge base they represented, the contacts they have, and the professionalism they exhibited is of the highest caliber. Beyond that, and possibly most importantly, Ryan was simply a blast to travel with.”
Your private driver will pick you up at Ponta Delgada Airport and will escort you to your luxury hotel. This newly built five star hotel provides stunning views over the bustling marina and dazzling blue sea. Today is yours to relax poolside with an ice cold drink or dine in their elegant a la carte restaurant renowned for its first-class cuisine. If you’re antsy for a bit of exploration, we can equally suggest a cozy tavern famed for their seafood including: tender octopus, blood red tuna steak and grilled mussels.
From your luxury hotel, your English speaking guide will escort you to Fajã de Baixo to visit the vast pineapple plantations dotting the landscape. These glass houses create the ideal environment for these spiky, bulbous fruits to gain their sweet, juicy interior used not only in Azores cuisine but in refreshing liquors as well. Next up, the Vista do Rei village viewpoint near Sete Cidades to view the undulating valley before descending deep into the interior. At the base of the valley, visit the majestic green and blue lakes, that tell of an unrequited love between a princess and a shepherd. Continue by the exuberant lush-green vegetation surrounding “Carvão” lake in route to Ribeira Grande where you can enjoy lunch. If you’re a diehard tea fan, this tour can also include a visit to the only plantations in all of Europe. Take in the rolling tea fields sloping into the sea, then tour the factory to see its vintage equipment at work and sample signature orange pekoe and green tea varieties. Otherwise, continue towards “Lagoa do Fogo” to reach the very top of Caldeira Velha, where you’ll admire the magnificent view of the “Lagoa do Fogo” (Fire Lake), the one lake in the island in which you encounter nature in a pure state and view of the island at an altitude of 900m. Return to Ponta Delgada.
Your private transport will meet you a stone’s throw from your hotel where you and your English-speaking guide will travel to Furnas Lake. After a leisurely morning canoeing the lake, watch the huge metal stockpots rise from the earthen holes, where your lunch has been cooking since early morning in the geothermal heat. This traditional Portuguese stew, known as cozido, cooks inside the volcanic soil creating a rare, culinary experience. After your belly is filled and content, head towards Terra Nostra Park for a guided visit. This is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens of the 18th century, where you can explore various species of flora from around the world – not to mention a stunning view! Following your stroll, end your day in one of the twenty thermal baths dotting the landscape.
Meeting your English-speaking guide at the hotel, cruise to the “Monte Escuro” volcano that soars 780m above sea level, where you’ll begin your nature walk. As the trail continues the scenario gently alters, allowing for breathtaking views over the Island and the magnificent Fogo Lake. The walk ends by the church of Nossa Senhora da Paz, a pilgrimage site offers additional views of Vila Franca do Campo and the islet of Vila Franca. If you’re photographer and a trekker, you’ll adore this day!
As today is your last day to take a quick dive in the sea, read poolside or simply savor the salty air, take the most out of every moment you have. And when time comes, let your personal driver handle your heavy bags packed tight with sumptous treats to share with family and friends, take you to the airport. Should you need more help on your Iberian travels, know we’re always here to help!