This group of nine volcanic islands scattered across the Atlantic are all uniquely stunning, but all share a similarly lush, green landscape and relaxed island attitude. São Miguel is the biggest, and boasts a village of thermal springs and fertile vegetation inside its central crater.
A speciality here is cozido do Portugal (a variety of meats and vegetables) cooked inside the springs. Santa Maria is the most southerly of the islands and provides good surfing off the Praia do Formosa, and similar ribbons of white sandy beaches are to be found on Terceira – the most densely populated of the group – along with historic cathedrals and palaces. The central cluster of islands – Graciosa, Faial and Pico – do a great line in geological wonders, meanwhile, with sulphur caverns, tunnels to gashes in the earth’s crust, and Portugal’s highest mountain, Ponta de Pico.
During the summer, boats operated by Atlantico Line (www.atlanticoline.pt
, +351 296 288 933) connect all the islands, or book a Biosphere Expeditions package (www.biosphere-expeditions.org, 0870 446 0801) to travel by boat tracking whales, dolphins and rare sea turtles.Stay:
Casa Vitoriana are Victorian-era self-catering apartments on the Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel, known for its quaint charm.Rooms from Dhs177-Dhs515. www.casavitoriana.com (+351 296 285 081).