Nine lush islands make up the Azores archipelago, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean approximately 1,500 kilometres west of Lisbon. The largest, São Miguel, commonly known as the “green island,” offers the most breathtaking views.
São Miguel is home to the international airport and the city of Ponta Delgada, which hosts the annual Mardi Gras celebration Carnaval and where the Azores’ first Pride parade was held, in 2012.
Carnaval will take place March 1 to 4, 2014, and will feature parades, pageants, lively music, colourful costumes, handmade masks and floats — and a delicacy of São Miguel, with street vendors selling a type of fried sweet dough called malasadas.
The third annual Azores Pride Week is scheduled for Aug 25 to 31, 2014, with the Pride March to be held Saturday, Aug 30. For more information, visit the Azores Pride’s Blogspot page and Facebook page.
The main attraction on São Miguel is Lagoa das Sete Cidades (aka Lagoon of the Seven Cities). Best viewed from the Vista do Rei lookout, these twin lakes — one green and the other blue — are situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. Another must-visit is the town of Furnas, known for its thermal springs.
The charming and quaint towns of São Miguel, especially in Nordeste, the northeastern part of the island, offer some of the best views on the island.
The islands are best travelled by car, which allows tourists to stop often to visit small towns and villages, meet locals and, perhaps, savour the delicacies of a home-cooked Portuguese meal.
SATA Airlines is offering travel packages for Carnaval starting at $1,349 per person (air and six nights’ hotel, including tax, double occupancy) and includes a Jeep tour of the Furnas Valley. Non-stop flights from Boston are just four hours. All packages are per person and include roundtrip airfare between Boston and the islands, six nights’ lodging and all breakfasts. For more information and reservations, contact SATA at 800-762-9995 or online at sata.pt.
— with files from Armando Mendonça