Azores

The Azores truly are the last outpost of Europe on the way to or from America. These pretty little Portuguese islands sit out in the Atlantic, some nine hundred miles west of Lisbon. The next nearest port of call is Bermuda, some eighteen hundred miles more to the west.

All told, there are nine islands in the group, but the biggest and most visited is Sao Miguel. The capital is Ponta Delgada, a surprisingly busy town of around 70,000 inhabitants. It is easily walkable, with a pretty seafront promenade, and it has numerous cobbled squares surrounded by flower lined streets filled with outdoor cafes that are very typical of the mother country itself.

For some good people watching and lazy dining, you might want to check out the waterfront at Marina Pero de Tieve. But the real beauty of Sao Miguel lies out of town.

The island is essentially volcanic in nature, and you should definitely see the stunning, twin flooded craters now known as Sete Cidades. Seen from above, one of these appears to be blue, and the other one green. Both are connected by a bridge. You might also want to check out some of the spectacular hot, volcanic springs that sprout up all over the island. One of the best is to be found at Caldera Velha.

Such beautiful landscape cries out to be explored, whether by canoe, bike, or simply by taking a trail hike through this remote, lush and fragrant landscape. And if nature really is your thing, this is one of the best spots in the world to savour world class whale watching from any of the rocky outcrops that festoon the edges of the island. And, if sunning yourself is on the agenda, you will find some expansive beaches, mainly of black volcanic sand, curving around the edges of numerous bays.

For something truly different, you could take in all this natural magnificence with a spot of paragliding. The views- especially above those incredible twin lakes- are truly the stuff of legend.

Cruise ships invariably dock in the heart of Ponta Delgada itself. A recently opened new cruise terminal, the Portos do Mar (Gateway of the Sea) links the port to the main town, via a newly laid promenade. This new berth can accommodate even the very largest cruise ships. From here, it is a pleasant, ten minute walk into the town of Ponta Delgada itself.

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