The Azores are comprised of an archipelago of nine islands in the Atlantic Ocean midway between Boston and Morocco. Officially called the Autonomous Region of the Azores, the Azores is technically a part of Portugal and they share the Portuguese culture. The island got its name by being the third Azorean island discovered. The Portuguese decided to colonize it after it passed “the goat test”. They released goats on a small separate part of the island and came back after a few years to see if the goats were still alive. If so, they figured it was habitable.
But back to booking the trip. Every once in a while, the travel bug bites. We had recently returned from our Australian adventure and needed a trip to look forward to. My cousin/travel partner texted me a TravelZoo deal. Could that really be the price? My cousin and I texted each other back and forth.
We watched the dates sell out over the hour.
Should we do it?
Oh let’s! Wait, where’s the Azores? Lemme check. It’s an island chain in the mid-Atlantic. Never heard of it. Okay, let’s do it.
The Travel Zoo package by Azores Getaways was a 6-night package that included airfare, lodging and breakfast for under $700? SOLD.
So why was it so cheap?
We were off peak season. It rained about half our trip and the seas were too rough for water activities, such as whale/dolphin watching and kayaking
We learned that the Portuguese government is subsidizing part of the tourist cost to promote tourism to the US. Guess what? It’s working. Every American on the tour that I talked to would book again.
What you’ll need before you go:
Passport (At this time of this post, no visa is required, however, this may be changing with the EU’s requirements for Americans traveling in Europe)
Euros: the island was very credit card friendly. I took less than 200 Euros and had some left over. Always order your currency in advance to get the best exchange rate, but if you forget or run out of time (like I did), you can exchange in the International Terminal at Boston Logan Airport.
Portuguese Language: Actually you don’t NEED Portuguese as most people speak English, but trying to speak a foreign language will go far in terms of making friends and being a gracious guest in a foreign country.
I didn’t need a data plan or wifi kit since the island, surprisingly, had quite a lot of free WIFI, including our hotel.
TIP: use a credit card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee
The Slanguage Booksare my favorite way to be able to kinda sorta communicate as fast as possible. And that view is right off our room’s balcony.
Azorean Airlines is a small airline with old planes. My cousin and I glanced at each other when we boarded. The first class section still had ashtrays in the armrests…but most importantly, they flew us safely to Terceira.
Arrival is pretty standard. You wait in line, blurryeyed, to get through Immigration and then sail through Customs. As part of our Azores Getaway package, we stayed at the Hotel do Caracol just outside of Angra do Herismo which is about a ten-minute walk from downtown Angra. We were offered a hotel upgrade but declined since the other hotel wasn’t on the water. As landlocked mermaids, an ocean view is required. Our hotel was most definitely NOT a luxury hotel, but the view was gorgeous.
We upgraded to a Sea View room which I highly recommend. There was some confusion at first at our upgrade, which we paid for in advance and the hotel didn’t have a record of. It was all sorted but do keep a handy copy of all of your confirmation numbers for hotel, upgrades, activities, etc.
We woke each morning watching the sun rise and hearing the waves lapping at the rocks.
The Hotel do Caracol had an ample breakfast buffet each morning with an international clientele. While I sat at my ocean view table nursing a cup of coffee (okay, three cups. Don’t judge me.), I listened to a thick British accent talk about the football season in Europe and an Irish accent lamenting over Donald Trump’s environmental policies.
The European breakfast was quite a spread – croissants, sausages, European breads and marmalades. And the cheeses. Oh the fresh Azorean cheeses!
Ugh. Jet lag makes you feel groggy, fuzzy and like you’re sleep walking. You’re actually no-sleep walking. We arrived around 7 am after about a 5 hour flight but couldn’t check into our hotel until 2 pm.
If you have the option to add an Early Check In to your hotel arrival, do it. A shower and a nap will make you feel human again.
If you didn’t arrange for Early Check In, the other option is breakfast, espresso and a walk in the sunshine.
As you drive across the island, you’ll notice that Calla lilies spring up from the green fields along volcanic stone walls that divide up the pastures. It’s a bucolic paradise that hasn’t changed too much in hundreds of years.
Terceria may have been named Third Island, but it could have been renamed Cow Island. These are the happiest cows on earth. Which is good because there are twice as many cows as humans. The island has no predators, the grass is green and lush and the cows are chillaxin’ with views like these that stretch for days.
On our second day on the island, we did a full day bus tour through Azores Getaways. There are pros and cons. We made friends with other travelers, the bus is comfortable and spacious, but you have a busload of people to accommodate at each site.
Our third day, we did a custom tour with Juca from Trilhas Azores for a morning of epic hiking. I highly recommend spending a couple days with Juca. He took us along the Algarve Trail that ridges the northern coastline, winding through cow pastures, volcanic rock and vistas like this one.
If you find yourself in Terceira (and I highly recommend you do find yourself here), schedule beforehand to have Juca take you around the island. There’s nothing better than riding with a local who wants you to have the best possible time and who happens to be a professional photographer. I’ll delve deeper into the outdoors activities of Terceira in my next post.
How to Book Your Azorean Getaway
My cousin and I booked this deal through a TravelZoo offer by Azores Getaways. I paid for my own airfare, lodging and meals. Since then, I have become an affiliate with Azores Getaways because the trip was so epic. It’s a beautiful European experience only 5 hours from Boston. Who knew?! Book directly with Azores Getaways and they’ll handle the airline and lodging arrangements for you. You’ll also have the opportunity to add tours and activities.
NOTE: When booking, be aware of Daylight Savings Time. We had booked before the time change occurred in the US so our flight left an hour later than our original flight documents stated.