White Azores Villa in the Azores Credit: White Azores
White Azores Villa in the Azores Credit: White Azores

Visiting Portugal is the rage, and Off the Map Travel wants you to enjoy the special charms of its Azores Islands as well as its mainland this summer with its new City Living and Island Living program, available through October 31.

A nine-island volcanic archipelago located in the azure Atlantic Ocean, the Azores offer a diverse array of outdoor activities like diving, snorkeling or swimming in dormant volcanic crater lakes; island hopping to visit volcanic peaks; and enjoying traditional cuisine that benefits from the islands’ geothermal activity. The Azores make up the closest European land to the United States, allowing for an easy mainland-island combination holiday.

Off the Map Travel announces a choice of itineraries to the Azores for Summer 2018, each allowing for an exploration of Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, if desired. Activities in the Azores include a choice of diving around the crater of a dormant volcano, snorkeling and swimming around the crater, and an extended version that includes scuba diving lessons.

Visitors can start their holiday by flying to Lisbon where they can explore the city’s steep, narrow streets, sip on delicious Porto or Madeira wines, and sample some of the country’s famed linguica sausage. They can also add time to visit Lisbon’s historical area, Belem, or overnight at the pretty mountain town of Sintra, for example.

In the volcanic Azores Islands, like San Miguel, you can cook a meal in the ground.
In the volcanic Azores Islands, like San Miguel, you can cook a meal in the ground.

After the mainland visit, a flight to Ponta Delgada Airport on São Miguel Island in the Azores leads to the cliffside White Azores hotel with its dramatic setting over the cobalt waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  Here, the volcano-focused programs begin with both water and land trips to explore the beauty of these geographic formations and the nearby wildlife.

Other possible activities include a guided exploration of the thermal springs of Furnas, on the northern part of São Miguel Island where guests will enjoy the local delicacy of cozido, a meat stew cooked beneath the earth, and visits to the area’s cold springs, thermal waters, and beautiful botanical garden.  When visiting the volcanoes by land, visitors will also view the green and blue lakes set on the volcanic craters.

A visit to view the lakes firsthand is possible as well with a hike to the striking Lagoa do Fogo in the mountains of Barrosa, nearly 2000 feet above sea level, and to the multi-hued lakes of Sete Cidades.

Sea life including parrotfish, eels, octopuses, stingrays, and barracudas can be seen in the clear water of the volcanic crater, and animal lovers will relish the opportunity to view the dolphins and whales that frequent the waters around the Azores on a whale-watching trip on the White Azores’ own boat reserved exclusively for their guests.

Tailor Made Trips

While every Off the Map Travel holiday is tailor-made to suit the requirements of each guest, as an example, a 6-day/7-night itinerary to Portugal and the Azores, including a stay at Hotel Portugal in Lisbon and White Azores in the Azores, is priced from £1925 ($2540 USD per person based on conversion rate at the time of this writing), excluding flights.

 Included are private transfers; a snorkeling trip; a full-day tour of Furnas island with a traditional cozido lunch and visit to the Terra Nostra Park botanical garden, and a stop at the thermal water and cold springs at Caldeiras das Furnas; a full-day Lagoa do Fogo and Sete Cidades trip; and a whale-watching trip on the White Azores’ boat.  Diving can be added to this itinerary, for £70.

Accommodations in Lisbon are at the Hotel Portugal, a luxury property in the center of the city, classically designed in Portuguese white and blue tones.  Guests’ Azores home is the cliffside White Azores in a suite within the remains of the old manor house which once stood on the hotel grounds. White Azores is traditional in feel with stone arches, wine cellars, and classic fireplaces while adding the modern conveniences expected by today’s traveler.

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