With nine wild islands hidden in the heart of the Atlantic, the enchanting Azores is perfect for an active honeymoon, and Alexandra Gregg explains why
Far-flung, volcano-sculpted, peaceful yet wild, the Azores has been likened to a real-life Atlantis. Each of its nine Portuguese-owned islands has something to brag about, so picking the perfect landmass for your honeymoon or romantic break can be tricky.
Santa Maria was discovered first, in 1427, and is the warmest, averaging 24°C in summer. Neighbouring São Miguel is the largest and most populated; from the cobbles of its capital, Ponta Delgada, it's a quick commute to volcanic crater lakes, craggy coastlines, valleys fit for horse riding and thermal springs. Terceira is just as fascinating; don't miss the UNESCO-listed Angra do Heroísmo, once a crucial trading port.
To the west is Pico, dominated by the active 2,351m Pico Alto, Portugal's tallest mountain. Water babies might prefer to whale-watch, kayak and dive off Faial. For relaxation, try tiny Graciosa or São Jorge; the latter produces tasty cured cheeses. Flores and Corvo are the furthest west and are both picturesque and underdeveloped.
But whichever island you choose, there's no shortage of things to do in this offbeat region. Its lush landscapes and deep waters remain warm well into the autumn, attracting an array of wildlife beneath the waves. Try these activities to kick-start your post-wedding trip:
The Azores offers consistent conditions all year round, but for truly world-class surfing visit in the autumn when ground and wind swells can reach an impressive 4.5 metres. Santa Bárbara Beach on São Miguel is one of the best surfing locations in the archipelago, offering empty surfing spots and great conditions for all ability levels. Other surfing-friendly beaches can be found on Santa Maria and São Jorge, where reef breaks provide long and tube-shaped waves.
As one of the world's top whale-watching destinations, the Azores offers sightings of 25 different cetaceans. RIB boats depart from the islands of São Miguel, Pico and Faial, from which you can hope to spot these beautiful creatures as they play and frolic on the ocean surface. The loggerhead, sperm, fin and Atlantic whales - as well as bottlenose and common dolphins - are commonly seen in September and October.
Ever wanted to cascade down a waterfall with your loved one at your side? Until the end of October, the Azores boasts great conditions for the sport of canyoning, which calls for thrill-seekers to rappel through waterfalls, climb over rocks, and abseil past volcanic landscapes, subtropical fauna and caves. From towering volcanoes and waterfalls, to dramatic coastlines and crater lakes, canyoning is a great way to see the best of the Azores' diverse topography. Routes vary in difficulty, with the most advanced circuits on São Miguel and more relaxed routes on the island of São Jorge.
A vibrant underwater world of pelagic fish and volcanic formations exists around the Azores, ideal for divers of all levels. You can take the plunge day or night up until October, navigating clear waters, volcanic sea beds and shipwrecks. Mild ocean temperatures provide up-close encounters with creatures including manta rays, morays, stingrays, dusky groupers, comb groupers, wrasses, parrot fishes, trigger fishes, breams and damselfishes.
Where to stay? For ocean views, stay at Quinta das Amoreiras - Casa do Arco, an apartment in São Miguel. From £44pn.
Getting there? SATA International flies non-stop from Gatwick to Ponta Delgada between 5 April-18 October. From £338 return; flight time 3hrs 40mins.
Image: Sao Miguel - courtesy of Visit Azores.
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