Europe's Best Kept Secret
Nine Islands and eight islets make up the Azores archipelago, a lush green natural paradise dotted with charming towns and villages, and chock full of stunning views, beautiful coasts and lovely countryside. Thankfully far from Europe’s pulsating holiday party resorts, the Azores have a quieter, more relaxed pace of life and a friendlier, warmer local population. Since the Azores have not been extensively developed for tourism, they are among the most truly unspoiled destinations in Europe. The islands are made of volcanic rock, so most of the coastlines are splendidly rocky, though there are a few sandy beaches on the islands of Santa Maria, Faial, Terceira and São Miguel. The waters are warm and teeming with fish, which attract huge numbers of whales and dolphins. This makes the Azores one of the top three whale watching destinations in the world. Though the climate of the Azores is mild and wetter than the rest of Portugal, giving the islands their lushness, each island can be said to have its own micro climate and experiences quite varied weather patterns. Still, the Azores has plenty of sunshine, especially in the summer, and benefits from the Gulf Stream, providing the Azores with warmer waters than elsewhere in Portugal. Accommodation options range from hotels and very nice (yet affordable) guesthouses to holiday villas and camping in designated camp grounds.