There are few sandy beaches in the Azores. They are mainly located on the islands of Santa Maria, Faial and San Miguel, in other areas the beaches are covered with solidified lava. But this shortcoming is often compensated by the picturesque location of the hotels. Many of them are located on the rocks or on the slopes of the coastal hills in such a way that the windows offer a majestic view of the ocean. Almost all hotels, including city ones, have outdoor pools.
In 1995, the Azores received an EU award for the conservation of pristine nature and the development of ecological tourism.
Many wild corners of nature have been preserved on the archipelago. There are tourist routes on each island. One of the most interesting places to visit are relic forests that once covered the entire archipelago. The largest relict forests in terms of area are preserved on Terceira on Mount Caldeiro de Santa Barbara (Caldeira da Santa Barbara) and in a small area between the peaks of Juncal, Pico Alto and Serra do Labaсal in the central part of the island. The forests on Caldeiro de Santa Barbara are located above 800 m and are often covered with clouds. Primary meadows also grow on this mountain. However, these areas are quite difficult to get to. The relict forests on the island of San Miguel are the easiest to reach. They are located in the east of the island and occupy an area of about 600 hectares.
According to Etaizhou, the most popular ecotourism destination in the Azores is whale and dolphin watching. Coastal waters are inhabited by different species of dolphins: Atlantic bottlenose, gray dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Atlantic striped dolphin. Swimming with dolphins is organized from June to October. Whales appear in coastal waters in May and June. There are 23 species of whales in the Azores region, which is one third of all whale species in existence. Sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, attract the most attention. Females and calves of sperm whales live in warm waters of latitudes slightly south of 40 o. Pico Island is located just in this area. Male sperm whales prefer the cooler waters of the Arctic and Antarctic. During the mating season, they travel to warmer latitudes to mate.
Many ornithologists and bird watchers come to the Azores.
The Azores are quite popular among diving enthusiasts due to the unique volcanic landscapes and diverse fauna. Many species of marine life are represented in the Azores, such as parrot fish, gray electric stingray, gray grouper, barracuda, octopus, needlefish, large lobsters. It is possible to organize special short (from one day) tours to observe rare marine life.
On the island of Pico is the village of Punta Topo, the surrounding waters of which have been a natural park for 20 years. During this time, diving and fishing were prohibited here, so the reefs and their inhabitants are well preserved.
In the Azores, you can take part in dives that allow you to watch whales in the open ocean (whale watching).
The main attraction of the Azores is its nature. Here you can see craters, volcanic lakes, waterfalls, hot and sulfur springs, a natural park (on San Miguel). In the Azores many cultural monuments have been preserved. During the six centuries the Portuguese spent here, many events took place, and all of them left some memories of themselves – monasteries, chapels, fortresses, names of streets and even cities.
On the Azores, which are of volcanic origin, you can see magnificently beautiful lakes in the craters of extinct volcanoes, hot springs spouting from the ground, black rocks from solidified lava, caves. On the island of San Miguel is the crater Sete Cidades, next to which there are several beautiful lakes.
On Terceira it is worth seeing the Algar do Carvao cave. This is a lava tube 100 m long, which was formed after a volcanic eruption that occurred 2000 years ago. The cave contains many stalactites and stalagmites made of quartz that has been dissolved in lava. At the end of the cave, an underground lake was formed from rainwater. Depending on the season and the amount of precipitation, its depth can reach 15 m. Not far from the cave there is a sulfur spring, which is best visited early in the morning – during the day the sun heats up the dark rocks.
The main attraction of the island of Pico is the volcano of the same name. Its height above sea level is 2351 m.
Flores is famous for its volcanic lakes located in the craters of volcanoes. There are 7 lakes on the island in total. It is better to visit them in summer and spring, as the rest of the time they are covered with fog. Lake Funda or Verde, with small sandbanks and shores framed by dense vegetation, is considered the most beautiful. The remaining 6 lakes – Branca, Seca, Comprida, Rasa, Lomba and Funda das Lajes – are also very picturesque.
In the southeast of Graciosa, you can descend into the crater of the volcano, at the bottom of which there is a large cave Furna do Enxofre. There are many thermal and sulfur springs in the crater, several of them are located right in the cave. It has a dedicated area for barbecues and picnics. The best time to visit the cave is from 11:00 to 14:00, when the sun shines through the entrance and illuminates the entire space.
A jeep safari is organized on San Miguel Island. The trip is carried out in Land Rovers with English-speaking drivers. You can choose a route along the western or eastern part of the island. There are several stops along the way, during which you can admire the surrounding landscapes.