Trek on Europe's undiscovered volcanic archipelago
Step into otherworldly landscapes, ecological wonders and geological diversity unlike anywhere else on earth with this gentle walking tour led by Naturalist and renowned guide Madalena Patacho through the treasures of Portugal’s remote Azores islands. While Madalena has led tours across the globe, it’s truly sharing her passion for the treasures of her homeland and people that she looks forward to the most. She will immerse you in the history, culture, cuisine and biodiversity of this emerald green archipelago and this particular region is a world leading example of sustainable tourism by both land and sea. Enjoy volcanoes, hot springs, vineyards, beaches, whale watching, historic botanical gardens, tea plantations and – even opt to spend a day and pilgrimage to climb Portugal’s Mt. Pico if you dare.
With food so incredible it’s worth the trip; enjoy wines from vineyards just down the way, mouth-watering seafood, mind-blowing local cheeses, farm fresh produce and sustainable seafood fresh from the sea – Madalena cannot wait to share with you all the jewels of the Azores.
Madalena grew up surrounded by Portugal’s maritime history in Belém, where she dreamed about exploring the oceans. Her love for the sea led her to study marine biology and receive a master’s degree in Natural Resources Management, specializing in Ecotourism. After graduating, Madalena moved to Príncipe Island, off the west coast of Africa, and worked with local communities on the implementation of a responsible tourism project.
Madalena’s biggest passion is traveling the world and connecting with different cultures, exploring the wilderness, and embracing local experiences. Since graduating, she has traveled to Central & South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Arctic. When she is not on an expedition exploring the world, she is a naturalist at the aquarium, Oceanário de Lisboa, raising awareness on ocean conservation and biodiversity.
Visit and explore four unique islands
Enjoy vineyards, volcanoes and hot springs
Walk around the tranquil waters of Lagoa do Fogo
Optional whale watching on the free day
7 nights 4-star hotels, all rooms en suite
5 days guided walking; 1 free day
Group normally 4 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs
Altitude maximum 2351m (on optional ascent of Mt. Pico), average 500m
Travel by internal flights, private minivan and boats
Countries visited: Portugal
All breakfasts and 5 lunches
All transport (incl. internal flights) and listed activities
Whats Not Included
Single accommodation (available on request)
Visas or vaccinations
5Days of Walking & Trekking
Moderate: 5-6km/3-4miles an hour
Low altitude; good paths with some uneven terrain and steep ascents
11 km / 6.8 miles
10 km / 6.2 miles
12 km / 7.5 miles
Fly to Sao Miguel island; transfer to hotel in Ponta Delgada.
Start Ponta Delgada.
Start Ponta Delgada.
Walk around Lake Furnas; afternoon visit to Terra Nostra Botanical Gardens and tea plantations.
We start the week with a transfer to Furnas where we walk around the crater lake. Here food is sometimes cooked by the heat of vents after it has been buried in sealed pots in the baking earth. This traditional Azorian way of cooking is known as 'Cozido das Caldeiras' and will be served for lunch. In the afternoon we head into the Terra Nostra botanical gardens where we have time to admire exotic flowers and trees from all over the globe. Amongst the trees and bushes a series of aqueducts leads thermal spring water to a pool in the centre of the gardens, where for centuries people have been bathing in its medicinal waters. On the return to Ponta Delgada we stop off at the tea plantations of Gorreana where we observe the plantation, the factory and taste some of the local teas.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Morning flight to Faial; visit to Scrimshaw Museum and trek from Trupes do Capelo to the Capelinhos volcano.
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for a short flight to Faial Island, known as the 'blue island' because of the large quantity of hydrangeas that bloom during the summer months. After landing, we transfer to Peter's Café Sport, a traditional resting point for many sailors braving the Atlantic crossing. Here we will be guided round one of the largest Scrimshaw (carvings done on bone or ivory) collections in the world. The variation in designs of this 19th century art form, so synonymous with the Azores due to their whaling heritage, provide a varied and interesting experience.
After lunch, we take a short transfer to 'Trupes do Capelo', the start of today’s short hike. This trail is a wonderful example of the great ecological and geological diversity that characterizes this Natural Park. The trail finishes at the dramatic Capelinhos Volcano that rises steeply from the sea and features a number of unique formations. It was these that resulted in the construction of the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre. This is essentially a museum and study centre set up to show visitors how the volcano, and indeed the whole archipelago, was formed. In the late afternoon we transfer to our comfortable hotel, our base for the next three nights.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day trip to Pico; walk through UNESCO heritage site of the Santa Luzia Vineyards or take an optional climb to the summit.
Taking the ferry to Pico offers us a chance to take in the size and scale of Mount Pico. At 2,351m it is Portugal’s highest peak and dominates the horizon on our approach. Pico is also known as the ‘black island’ thanks to the black volcanic earth used in the construction of the walls of many of the UNESCO-listed vineyards for which it is known.
Once on the island, we head out on our first walking tour of the Santa Luzia Vineyards. Azorean vineyards are a sight to behold. Built to protect the vines from the harsh sea winds, they amount to row after row of black horseshoe shapes that score the lush green coastline. What is more impressive is how the vine grows on the ground and through volcanic rock, rather than supported by a trellis through soil.
Alternatively, if you prefer to use your time in Pico to join an optional challenging summit trek to the top of Portugal's largest mountain, then today is the perfect opportunity to attempt this! This is a very strenuous 6-7 hour climb which will be led by a local mountain guide and is always subject to availability and weather conditions (for further information please check the Extra Expenses & Spending Money section in the Trip Notes).
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Ferry to Sao Jorge; trek to explore the Faja dos Cubres; evening return to Faial.
From the harbour on Horta we take a ferry to Sao Jorge Island or the 'brown island'. Crossing times can vary between 1.5hrs and 2hrs 20 minutes depending on the time of year, and last minute schedule changes are not uncommon. This is by far the longest day in the itinerary but is well worth it to visit the fourth island of the trip. Sao Jorge is fascinating visually. Its steep sided cliffs seem to slice through the ocean, however it is the Fajas (low-lying areas of lava that were formed from the subsidence of the cliffs) that it is most famed for. Sao Jorge is also well known throughout the Azores for producing delicious cheese, one of its main exports. Shortly after arrival in Velas we transfer to the start of the walking tour from Caldeira do Santo Cristo to Faja dos Cubres. After arriving at Faja dos Cubres we then take a transfer back to Velas and across the channel back to Faial. (approx. 2.5 hours walking, distance 10km).
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Free time for optional whale watching excursion; evening flight to Sao Miguel.
As today is a free day you have the chance to try out many of the other activities that the Azores have to offer. Apart from offering some unique walking opportunities, the Azores is perhaps one of the best places on the planet to spot whales and dolphins. There are 80 species of whale and dolphin and 25 of them have been sighted off the coast of the Azores, with the most common being the Sperm Whale. There is also the chance to spot Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Sei whales, Atlantic spotted dolphins and the holy grail - the Blue Whale.
If you choose to go on an excursion, you will have the chance to observe the behaviour of these wonderful creatures and learn more about their habitat with the help of the knowledgeable local experts on board. We observe strict protocols regarding interaction, maintaining the appropriate distance at all times. Moreover during feeding and resting times we avoid any interference with the whales’ natural habitat. This afternoon or evening we will take a flight back to Ponta Delgada.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Morning transfer to Praia; trek to Lagoa do Fogo; afternoon visit to Sete Cidades to the Vista do Rei.
After breakfast we head into the lush centre of Sao Miguel to Barrosa's mountain where we get a sense of why this island has earned its nickname the 'green island'. Today's final walk begins with a short but steep uphill section and continues following a 'levada' (small water channel) close to which you will find some well preserved species of endemic Azorian flora. The highlight of this walk is arriving at the viewpoint over the Lagoa do Fogo, one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the entire Azores network. We stop at Caldeira Velha waterfall for a well earned dip in its warm waters, in the afternoon we drive to Sete Cidades, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. From Vista do Rei we are rewarded with breathtaking views of tranquil lakes, blue hydrangeas bordering the crater rim that contrast with the steep sides of the crater.
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There are no specific health risks.
Eating and Drinking
All breakfasts and 5 lunches are included.
Breakfasts are buffet style with a variety on offer including bread, jams, cereals, and tea and coffee. Some of the lunches provided are picnic style, whilst others are taken at traditional restaurants where we can sample some traditional dishes such as the Cozido das Coldeiras. In the evening, the leader will recommend local restaurants that serve traditional Azores food, which can be a selection of meat or fish with vegetables and potatoes or rice. Vegetarians are well catered for in Azores as long as the hotels are advised in advance.
Is this trip for you?
This is a moderate walking trip (activity level 3).
These moderately graded walks are either fairly easy medium-duration walks or harder but shorter walks. Walking hours stated are given as guidance only. Timings stated exclude lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of our group. The paths we use are generally flat and well maintained however some of the routes cross rougher terrain with longer ascents and descents. Some of the paths are quite narrow and stony underfoot and require walking in single file. On some occasions you will be walking on more coarse volcanic rock, so it is advisable to be comfortable walking in more durable walking boots, which are recommended for this trip. The area is also subject to rain and high winds at any time. On departures in May and September, it is best to bring warm clothes in case of colder weather.
If you decide to attempt the optional summit trek to Pico, please note this is challenging and involves 1,120m of elevation gain. The terrain is uneven and rocky so good walking boots are essential and walking poles are recommended.
Please note that the internal flights are included in the trip and booked by Exodus. As inter-island flights are operated by small planes with limited capacity, we can't guarantee that the whole group will be allocated on the same flight. If alternative travel arrangements are necessary, you will be notified of these upon booking.
You may find our Fitness Training Guide a useful reference: http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/pdf/Exodus_WT_Fitness_Training_Guide.pdf
Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.
During the week our nights are split between two fantastic 4-star hotels*. In the heart of Ponta Delgada is the Hotel Marina Atlantico. Right on the sea front, this new hotel is ideally located to explore the capital of the Azores and offers a modern twist in a traditional part of town. On Faial we use the excellent Hotel Horta. Affording spectacular views towards the neighbouring island of Pico, this hotel with garden and pool is within walking distance to the harbour and is the perfect place to relax after a day’s walking in and around the surrounding islands.
* For the 10th September 2022 departure, the 5* Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico will be used in Ponta Delgada.