Jürgen Keil
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Azores Islands

This document is about my impressions of every island I've visited during my visit of he Azores in spring 1999. Some of the opinions I had has changed in the meantime, means for example that I was disappointed by Terceira when I was there but my opinion has changed since then. Now I think that Angra is special and for sure worth a visit. Another example is Pico. When I was there I had constant rain for about a week. There was not much I could do. I attempted to climb the mountain three times. But it was too wet and slippery so that I failed. That was disappointing too and I hurried up to go to Faial. But now I think that Pico is an impressive island with nice trecking opportunities. So don't take my opinion too serious (as I do).

Terceira

My relation to Terceira is somehow difficult. When you arrive there on the Airport and take a taxi to Angra you will see the beautiful landscape of the eastern part of the island that has been destroyed by attempts to build industrial plants. Most of the industrial buildings are rotten and give an impression of Terceira (and the Azores) that for sure is wrong. When you have a look at the impressive capital of the islands Angra Do Heroismo then your opinion will change. It is a nice place to stay.
I had a wonderful time staying at the Youth Hostel that is a few kilometers to the west of Angra, located at a small harbour. There is also a tidal pool. There are nice walks in the western part of the island.

São Jorge

São Jorge is the simply the best island of the archipelago for trecking and walking. The island is shaped like a needle and streches from west to east. It's northern and southern coast are separated by an impressive mountain range. Most of the inhabitants live on the southern coast. The northern part is less inhabited, usually wetter and has almost no beaches. The mountain descends directly into the sea and builds an impressive scenery. A good place to build up your tent was the Urzelina campsite. Excellent walks start in Velas and go to the Lighthouse on the western cliffs. The tour I liked most was to climb the summit of the Pico Esperanca and then descent to the northern coast visiting the Fajas (small villages that seem to be glued to the coast). Have a look around when you're on Pico Esperanca. If the weather is good you can see Pico, Faial, Terceira and Graciosa. By the way: the busses that go along the southern coast were the only one on the Azores that were in time. On every other Island they didn't show up or were extremely late every time I tried to use them.

Pico

I had trouble with the weather on Pico because it rained cats and dogs for about a week when I was there. My attempts to climb the mountain failed three times because it was too wet and slippery. But now I think that Pico is an impressive island with excellent trecking opportunities. I think it is a good idea to take your Mountain Bike with you. I've found so many times on my walks that it would be an excellent idea to do them by bike.
Another good idea is to visit the buildings of the whale industry. Also Pico is the best place for whale watching.

Faial

Faial lies only a few kilometers west of Pico. Some say that the summit of Pico can be best seen from Faial and that's true. Faial is best known for it's harbour in Horta. Usually every boat that crosses the atlantic ocean stops here for repair. Because of this Faial has a good infrastructure for tourists. You'll find hotels, restaurants, cafes, public showers and laundries here, almost everything you'll need have if you've spent more than one week in tent waiting for the rain to end (like I did). José (the "Peter" of Peter's Cafe Sport) will help you trying to find an affordable accommodation.
Faial was the first island where I have been offered to buy drugs. Be careful of your luggage and money because it came to my ears that some of the tourists ("sailors") steal to be able to buy drugs.
But nevertheless, the caldeira is worth a visit. You must be lucky to have a look inside because usually it is filled and covered with clouds. Another beautiful walk is to visit the lighthouse in Capelinhos and then walk back to Horta.

Flores

This was definitely the most beautiful island on my trip to the Azores. The people, the landscape covered with flowers, caldeiras, waterfalls everything was nice. I cannot say much about Flores except that I think it's the first choice when visiting the Azores. A trip to the Azores without visiting Flores lacks the most impressive part. By the way: if you're on Flores visiting the Hotel/Restaurant Argonauta is a must especially because of the meals.

São Miguel

São Miguel is the largest island of the Azores and has the most vulcanian activities for example boiling springs (in Furnas) and hot waterfalls (near the geothermic power plant). The enormous Caldeira "Sete Cidades" is one of the main tourist attractions. We did a beautiful walk from the Bretanha (north/west) into the Caldeira and visiting the small caldeiras to the east of Sete Cidades with excellent views on São Miguel. In the eastern part I can suggest to stay on the camping ground of Nordeste. When we were there the ground was overcrowded because of a rock music festival. In the eastern part I can suggest you to visit the Serra da Tronqueira. Furnas is famous for it's boiling springs, but I've found the Terra Nostra Park founded by Sir Thomas Hickling to be most impressive. Although it belongs to the Terra Nostra hotel it is open to the public. A minimal entrance fee is required. Don't forget to bring bathing clothes and a towel with you, because the fee includes visiting the thermal bath.