Looking for the Ultimate Adventure? Head to Portugal’s Beautiful Atlantic Islands
The long stretch of coastline traveling all around Europe's southern coast might be full of picturesque spots to fill that perfect summer holiday, however the true gems lie in a group of islands far off the coast of Portugal. With regular flights including budget airlines, these islands are easy to reach and well worth the extra effort to get there. Like nowhere you'll find in mainland Europe, islands like in the Azores archipelago are awash with incredible out-of-this-world scenery and quaint unique coastal towns, all without the crowds you'll find on the mainland. It's remarkable how picture-perfect islands like these have managed to fly under the radar of tourism for so long.
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São Miguel Island
To the east of the Azores islands, São Miguel is also nicknamed 'The Green Island', being covered in flowers and greenery like a number of the other nearby islands. The scenery isn't quite as dramatic as the high-rising jagged peaks on some of the other islands, however it's easily just as picturesque, with a number of beautiful azure-colored lakes and rolling bright green hills that make for some incredible hikes. It's the most popular of the Azores islands, and you'll find a number of quaint towns around.
One of the better known of the Portuguese islands, Madeira has become better known in recent years for its breathtaking scenery. Much of the island is covered in jagged mountains rising up out of the sea, perfect for anyone looking for a little adventure to accompany their summer beach getaway. It's also known as the Island of Eternal Spring, for its cool, pleasantly-warm weather that lasts all year round.
Full of incredible, picturesque natural landscapes from the countless waterfalls and mirror-like lagoons, Flores or the 'Island of Flowers' is a perfect introduction to the abundance of nature found around these islands. Home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and slowly gaining a reputation as an eco-tourism spot, Flores is covered with some beautiful hiking routes where you'll discover secret coves of nature.
From its historic town of Horta to the dramatic green-covered crater of its volcano, there's plenty to do on the island of Faial. Once a major base for whale hunting expeditions, nowadays the island is just used for whale watching instead, with regular boat tours departing daily. The main attraction here is the huge caldeira which sits in the middle of the island with its imposing steep slopes. You can walk around the crater which takes about two to three hours.
It's not quite as easy to get to as some of the other islands around here, however for the incredible scenery it's well worth the trip. This small Atlantic island is mostly just a volcano crater rising up out of the sea, which lends it some beautiful views. Inside the crater there are a number of lakes which complete the stunning scenery here, leading to the perfect photo opportunity.
Home to Portugal's tallest mountain, Mount Pico, this iconic peak can be seen from all around the vicinity and nearby islands. There's a historic vineyard on the island that's well worth checking out too, however the main attraction is climbing the mountain. At 2351 meters high, the climb is no easy feat and usually takes around three hours.
If you're looking for somewhere different for a memorable experience in Europe, there's no better place than these incredible islands. For the best scenery and views, Madeira is unbeatable, but if you've got a little more time then go island hopping around the Azores.