A lush archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal, are a paradise for lovers of adventure, nature, and breathtaking land (and sea)scapes.
Here, life moves slower, colors are brighter, and people seem happier, hidden away from the trappings of a fast-paced world.
Time is not a luxury that many of us seem to never have enough of. Here, time passes slowly, ticking to the sound of the waves, the song of the birds, and the stride of the passing cows.
On the Azores, there is one cow per every two people. Needless to say, the cheese made here is spectacular, and the wine made from the UNESCO vineyards of the Pico volcano has nothing to envy that of Italy.
Words such as magical, breathtaking, and extraordinary don’t do these islands justice. You’ll have to see for yourself.
Like every place in the world, beyond their unmatched beauty, what makes the Azores so special are the people. No face you meet is unfamiliar; every one of them greets you with the biggest smile and generously offers their wondrous tales to us curious travelers.
Below are just a few of the incredible people we met while researching and travel-designing our upcoming small, curated trip to the Azores.
Take Paula, a biologist who shared her story of how,, after living all over the world, from the US to New Zealand, she moved back to her homeland of São Miguel to discover the correlation between the locals’ use of geothermal volcanic water and the scientific properties that make it so beneficial to the human body, and in doing so became a tea and water sommelier. Among other discoveries, she was the first one to understand why the water from the Furnas hot springs turns purple when making traditional black tea. Determined to keep these traditions alive, she applied for a concession to transform the ancient hygiene bathhouse of Furnas into a teahouse where people can now gather to enjoy special teas and learn about this ancient tradition that is so important to Azorean heritage.
Or Elisabete, an animated second-generation Azorean in her 60s who told us the tale of how, after living on a ship for five years (as Captain herself, no less), sailing from the fancy shores of Marina del Rey, CA, to the shimmering coast of Brazil, she decided to return to the Azores and dedicate her life to rural tourism, welcoming visitors to the incredible Adega where she so proudly hosts and cooks and entertains them with her tales, unmatched humor and passion for the island as well as driving them around in her hybrid, pearl-colored taxi.
We also had the pleasure of spending a night at the accommodation created by Senhor Jorge, former Secretary of State of Macau (a previous Portuguese colony in Asia). He shared stories of life in Macau and how, as a second-generation Azorean, he decided to move back to São Jorge after the death of his mother, to trace his father’s roots and create a beautiful jungle retreat dedicated to his Azorean heritage. After working as a university professor of law for most of his life and serving the Portuguese government in Macau until December 20, 1999, when the sovereignty of the colony was transferred to China, he left his stressful city job behind and retreated to the São Jorge hills where the only sound waking him up in the morning is that of the birds.
Benedita, an ambitious entrepreneur, told us of how her life transformed when she moved from mainland Portugal to the island of Pico to pursue her dream of creating beautiful spaces in which to host people, and how she masterminded a handful of Pico’s most unique and authentic accommodations. Adega de Fogo, a former distillery that she turned into a tastefully restored 6-bedroom villa features beautiful interior design features furniture from local craftsmen, and includes wine from the island and traditional liquor made right down the street. One of the highlights of her vision is the sun deck with the infinity pool offering the most beautiful frame for the majestic peak of the Pico volcano.
Rafael (Pico Island, Azores) and Franco (Argentina), the two young chefs in their 20s who run the kitchen at Azores Wine Company, will without a doubt enter the Michelin guide before long. They told us about how they combine their passion for culinary excellence with the most local products, visiting their favorite dairy farms each morning to buy fresh milk that they turn into yogurt and caramelized butter, how they adapt their grandmothers’ recipes, and how, after a long night shift in the kitchen, they still manage to go spearfishing in the early morning to catch some of what ends on the creative and delicious plates that they serve up in the evenings.
Carminda and her sister Alzira are some of the last women in the archipelago still practicing the ancient craft of Azorean weaving. They told us, laughing, that they work 12 hours a day, and even then the day seems short because they find such enjoyment in what they do! They love this craft so much, there was such easy camaraderie between the sisters, and their passion shows in every piece they craft.
Nilton and Steffi met when she traveled from her native Belgium to the corner of Pico island where he was raised. Bonding over their shared love for wildlife, heritage, and the natural environment, they started collaborating as Pico mountain guides and now offer a variety of fascinating tours of the island. They shared stories of life on the island, the slow-paced rhythms of winter in the middle of the Atlantic, and their impressive near-daily hikes of the volcanic peak during the summer.
When you travel to the Azores these are some of the faces that you will encounter, just a few of the stories you will hear, and a selection of the many strikingly warm and welcoming people that you will meet. We cannot wait to share it all with you!
Rich, meaningful, memorable travel awaits you in the Azores! Join Life Beyond the Room for a magical Azorean journey July 26 – August 5 2024.
Click here to learn more and register for our Azores Group Trip.
This post was co-written by Karen Costa Hattaway, Life Beyond The Room’s Founder & Travel Designer and Athena Corcoran-Tadd, Local Manager • Portugal