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The Azores are becoming a popular destination for active travelers, with opportunities to experience big game fishing, hiking, whale-watching, bullfighting, surfing and world-class golf.
Catch your dinner saltwater fly-fishing The waters surrounding the Azores boast a veritable feast of fish and shark. Fish include the Atlantic Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Yellowfin, Big Eye Tuna, Swordfish, Blue Fish, Wahoo and Dorado, while shark species include Hammerheads, Six Gill and Mako. But the Blue Marlin hold a special place of honor--6 out of 10 fishing competition world records were set in the Azores, with the fishers in question catching impressively-sized Blue Marlin. The largest ever caught was 1,189 pounds! White Marlin are also abundant, averaging 65 pounds. Over the years, saltwater fly-fishing has been gaining in popularity in the Azores as it continues to catch on worldwide. The combination of mellow weather conditions in the summer and an abundant supply of good-sized White Marlin make the Azorean waters make for an ideal fly-fishing experience.
Hike up, under, around and through old volcanoes On the island of Faial, the remains of a lighthouse mark the site of a massive volcanic eruption that took place in 1957, gutting the lighthouse, burying a small village and adding more than one mile of new shoreline to the island over the course of a year. Today the area is a nature park, with a hiking trail to the rim of the dormant volcano. Meanwhile, the island of Pico (which means “peak” in English) is the highest point in Portugal at 7,700 feet and also sits atop volcanic terrain. The peak can be seen from surrounding islands on clear days, with its lava cone rising above the massive volcano. The climb up to the summit takes about 3 hours, and the views are well worth the effort. It is, by the way, taller than Mt. Washington. Lava caves run for miles under the islands of Pico, Terceira, Graciosa and São Miguel. These tube-like caves were created by the cooling lava of past eruptions, but today they provide great adventure for a spelunker. Plus, geysers spout in nature parks on several of the islands. At the shore of Furnas Lake on the island of São Miguel, steam hisses out of a dozen geysers, offering a natural “oven” to cook food inside the caldeiras.
Three can’t-miss hikes:
Whether you channel Lance Armstrong or just like to tool around on a beach cruiser, bicyclists of all kinds can find a route or a tour to suit their tastes. You can choose from backcountry roads, a mountain path or a seaside route… or all three in one trip!
Mountain bikers might try some dirt back roads to get into hidden valleys, garden landscapes and tiny towns. A dirt road traces the rim of a caldeira to the “Vista do Rei” (King’s View), overlooking the blue and green crater lakes of Sete Cidades (Seven Cities). You can find guided, week-long cycling and walking tours of São Miguel Island as a new and inventive way to experience the Azores. Tours offer cycling enthusiasts the chance to climb Pico de Vara, the highest point on the island at 3,640 feet. Other routes explore the rugged interior, passing through forests of Japanese cedars, big-leaf hydrangea and wild ginger. On the sunny slopes of the north coast, cyclists can tour Europe’s only tea plantation, dating from 1883.
The Azores were named one of the top 10 whale-watching sites in the world . But whale watching in the Azores doesn’t involve sitting on a dock with a pair of binoculars. Instead, you’ll hop aboard a small, semi-inflatable motorboat that will zip you through the seas in search of Willy and Moby. It's not for the faint of heart… there’s definitely a thrill to this chase! While an experienced guide pilots the boat on water, on-shore spotters, situated high up on the seaside cliffs, keep an eye out for whales while directing him where to go. The good news is, sightings are almost guaranteed considering species in these waters include sperm whales, northern bottlenose, finned, humpback, pilot, Sowerby’s beaked whales and, occasionally, orcas. One of the best times to see any of them is in the spring, when they tend to congregate in the Azores.
Play tag with a bull - it is as dramatic as it is elegant. Considered more a festival of horsemanship than a sporting conquest, the bulls in these fights aren’t killed like they are elsewhere. Instead, the bullfighter, or cavaleiro, stays on his horse and targets the bull with a harmless dart. The rider encourages the bull to charge, the horse charges in return, and – yielding to the rider’s skill – the horse then veers at just the right moment for the rider to place his dart into the bull's back muscle.
While bullfights occur in the ring during equestrian festivals, there might also be some action out on the streets. On the island of Terceira, the locals engage in the odd sport of tethered bullfighting. While six or so men hold onto the bull with a long rope, the "bullfighter" taunts and teases the animal. The bull's horns are capped for this activity. This happens may times each weekend from April to November.