5 Reasons To Visit The Azores In Portugal
As a parent, your job is to raise your child to be an informed member of the global community. This means bringing them face-to-face with cultures and environments different from their immediate surroundings. One of the easiest (and our personal fave) ways to do this is through travel. After our recent trip to Hawaii, we’re trying to figure out where to aim for next. One intriguing possibility is the Azores – but why visit the Azores?
Chances are good, you don’t even know what (or where!) they are! (I didn’t at first!) But they look like a fab vacation destination for families with school-age kids, on up through tweens and teens. Here’s why:
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1) They’re tropical, European, and conveniently close!
Especially if you live in the eastern part of the United States!
I’ve flown cross-country with my kids before; NOT FUN.
I’ve also flown from the mainland to Hawaii. Also a long haul. On our recent family trip to Hawaii, my mama (who lives on the East Coast) flew 6,000 miles and 12 hours to get there!
The Azores are sometimes called “the Hawaii of Europe,” and for good reason. They’re far offshore – almost 1000 miles west of Portugal – but still Portuguese territory (and thus part of the European Union). This means they’re almost 1000 miles closer to the United States than the rest of Europe! A direct flight from Boston via the Azores’ own airline is only about 4 hours. And as of May 2018, a major US airline started offering direct flights from NYC.
And speaking of “the Hawaii of Europe,” it’s important to note another factor that separates them from, say, locales in Florida or Mexico where you may have honeymooned (or perhaps spent spring break in your 20s):
2) Because they’re not Party Central!
Maybe back in your single days you hung out in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Perhaps you honeymooned in Acapulco. No doubt you were surrounded by lots of other college kids and/or romantic couples.
Now imagine bringing your tweens and/or teens on a family vacation to one of those destinations. And introducing them to all the adult beverage consumption and public displays of affection that can go along with a trip to such destinations.
Are you cringing yet?
The Azores are QUIET in comparison to more popular tropical tourist magnets for North American travelers. In fact, they’re one of the best-kept secrets around. (For more information on tourism in the Azores, you can visit this site here.)
So if you’re looking for a calm retreat from the chaos of daily life, with plenty to do and fewer crowds to fight while doing it. you can’t get much better than the Azores. Which gets to my next reason they’re a perfect family-friendly spot to visit:
3) There’s so much to see
Let’s face it, extinct volcanoes are cool. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t find them fascinating. In the case of the nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores, the volcanoes left behind a whole lot more than the islands themselves.
In particular, the Azores are loaded with volcanic pools, geysers, and hot springs. As well as stunning waterfalls cascading off the cliffs that volcanic crater edges leave behind. Any one of these sights is memorably beautiful. A place with plenty of each to explore is downright amazing. How’d your kids like to tell their friends at school that they swam at the base of a waterfall, or soaked in a hot tub created and maintained by Mother Nature?
4) There’s so much to do
And if hot springs and waterfall swims aren’t enough to pique your interest, you’ve got loads of other options. As with the Hawaiian Islands, each island of the Azores has its own unique character and identity, so it’s worth visiting as many as you can during your trip. That way, you can explore them all. (And heck, while flying inter-island is reasonable, the ferry is even cheaper – and would be an adventure in and of itself for my girls!)
What sorts of things can you do besides swim and soak? There are plenty of parks to visit. And beaches for sunbathing and swimming. There’s also loads of hiking opportunities. My girls and husband were thrilled with the bits of hiking we got to do on our recent Hawaiian trip, so I know they’d love to check out the incredible views and landscape features while hiking in the Azores. (For a complete guide on hiking in the Azores, you can visit this site here.)
And that’s not all. There are vineyards to visit and mountains to scale; the Azores are home to Portugal’s tallest peak. You can check out the flora (including massive ferns) and fauna (it’s a great place for birdwatching). You can visit historic villages, or learn the more recent history of the U.S. air base there (it played a pivotal role as a WWII refueling stop for American planes). You can partake of the products of the local cheese industry. You can even go horseback riding or whale watching.
5) From the people to the prices, you’ll want to return
Even when I traveled with my family when I was a child, we preferred visiting places off the beaten tourist path. We really got to know the local people and culture that way. Moreover, because there weren’t so many tourists in these places mucking things up for the locals, we often found that the regular residents were super-friendly and hospitable, compared to more traditional “tourist” destinations.
The same is true of the Azores. Because it’s quieter and not as well known, residents really go out of their way to take care of their visitors. A homestay or Airbnb stay will give you even more opportunity to experience this firsthand.
And one of the best parts? Compared to other tourist destinations, those who’ve visited the Azores say it’s ridiculously inexpensive. This makes family trips to the Azores not only family-friendly, but also incredibly budget-friendly.
Have you visited (or even heard of) the Azores before? If so, was it worth the trip? If not, are you now considering it for your next family vacation? Let us know in the comments!
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