Family Vacations to Azores, Portugal

Family Overview - Azores, Portugal
THE AZORES: Portugal's serene, seldom-seen archipelago (courtesy,

Azores Family Travel Tips

  • Go whale watching.
  • Explore volcanic lakes.
  • Eat food cooked by a volcanic steam vent.
  • View a 980-foot waterfall.

What appeals to many about the Açores (Azores) is their isolation. This is not a place you stumble upon while driving the back roads. The archipelago of nine islands lies in the mid-Atlantic, about 900 miles from Lisbon and 2,330 miles from North America, and stretches over 370 miles of ocean. Beaches aren't the lure either. The coast is often rocky, the waves rough, and the currents strong.

So why travel here? Come for eco-adventures and for the varied natural setting. For the first-time visitor, the Azores unfold as a series of surprises. In these volcanic islands there are mist-shrouded valleys, emerald-green lakes, black-sand bays, fluted mountains, and crusty black volcanic landscapes to explore.

Whale-watching is a big draw as well. Some 25 species of these behemoths arc through the Atlantic just off shore. In prime whale season, May to October, catch sight of sperm whale, one of the earth's largest animals. When a sperm whale hurls its 50-plus-foot body out of the water in front of you and then plunges back into the deep, it's a sight you and your kids will likely remember forever.

The largest island, São Miguel, has the Azores' biggest town and a more cosmopolitan feel than the other islands. Hike the rim of Caldeira des Sete Cidades, which circles two lakes in a volcanic crater. Lagoa Verde, is green, and the other, Lagoa Azul, is blue. Furnas, a village in a caldera, is known for its bubbling mud and hot springs. At Furnas Lake, sample a meal cooked by placing the food into a pot that's lowered into the hot earth.

On Faial, hyrdrangeas edge the fields and the roads, so much so that Faial's nickname is "Blue Island," making this an especially pretty island to hike. Horta, the port town, is popular with yachters. At Ponta dos Capelinhos you can see how tiny plants take root in the earth devastated by a 1958 volcanic eruption.

Flores, the island of flowers, is also known for its many waterfalls that cascade down the mountains. The largest one, at Ribeira Grande, tumbles 980 feet.

Tip: Rental cars are limited so in summer reserve one ahead of time.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 17 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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