- Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best. John C. Maxwell
Travel to Azores (Açores), Portugal
I could probably name a hundred reasons why you should travel to the Azores. The Azores are nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Because they are so remote, mass tourism is non existent and nature is unspoiled. I never saw so many greens in my life! The hills and mountains are covered with grass, Japanese Cedars, Hydrangeas, Ginger Lilies and many other trees and flowers. The contrast with the blue of the sky and the lakes or ocean is incredible!
The number of waterfalls on the Azorian islands is countless. Sometimes you have to do some serious hiking to reach them, but the views are always worth it! If you’re not into hiking; no problem. There are many waterfalls just a few meters away from the road. But I do recommend to search for the hidden ones. You can even swim at some of the waterfalls!
If you don’t like cold water you can try the hotsprings. The hotsprings are a delight to swim in. Especially the thermal pool of Furnas. The pools are surrounded by palms, ferns and conifers of a subtropical Atlantic forest, which makes it so surreal!
Yes, you can also find geysers at the Azores! The difference with Iceland is that these geysers are surrounded by tropical vegetation! I thought it was very fascinating to see the geysers at Furnas, which is situated at the crater of one of the most active volcanoes of the Azores! Knowing that the heat comes from deep under the ground, makes it a little scary!
No mass tourism
Never in my life have I heard such silence. The only thing I heard at many places was the sound of nature; the wind through the trees, a waterfall, birds… not people, cars, airplanes,… what a relief! I often found myself in places without anyone else around. No waiting for a spot to take a picture, no loud tourists who scare away animals, no waiting for a table at a restaurant. Just perfect!
The locals are so sweet and helpful! They even helped without asking. Example: at the airport of Faial there were no taxis when I arrived (can you imagine?). There was an old man sitting on a bench and he just grabbed his phone and called the taxi company to say there were 2 girls that needed a taxi! He said: “10 minutes”! This would never happen in Belgium! Also at the little towns with the tiniest streets, people were signing when we could turn with our car! I thought it was great to be in a place where everyone says hello to everyone! Also the tourists were different from others. Everyone said hello and had respect for the islands.
I needed to get used to the small roads, the non existent sidewalks, and the uncertainty whether a certain food product would be in store the next day or not (depended on delivery and the weather). At Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel there were some shops and restaurants but don’t expect a big city. It still was really small and quiet. It was the only town with a shopping mall, which wasn’t too big, but had a food corner, shops like Zara and a huge super market (I think the whole island shopped there). I needed to adjust a little at the beginning but I loved the charm of these small towns with their cute little churches and squares. I even stumbled upon a few young guys who played bag pipes in the street at night. Everyone followed them and was smiling.