The Azores: The Hawaii of the Mid-Atlantic
by Nuno Pimental
All nine islands of the Azores Archipelago are volcanic origin and are located in the North Atlantic, scattered along a 375 mile stretch of ocean from Santa Maria to Corvo. Nearly 300,000 people live in this island territory that covers roughly 1500 square miles, distancing 1,000 miles from mainland Europe (Portugal) and 1500 miles from the North American continent (Canada).
The islands of the archipelago are divided into three geographical groups: the Eastern group, comprising Santa Maria and São Miguel, the Central group, including Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, and the Western group, made up by Corvo and Flores.
This remote archipelago simply abounds with adventures; it is, in fact, the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic. It has world-class whale watching, sailing, diving, hiking and canyoning; excellent surfing and other watersports; and rich opportunities for on horseback, or on bikes. The landscape itself is a wonderland of seething mud pots, fantastical caverns, and vivid crater lakes that speak of a volcanic origin.
With liberalization of the airline industry making the islands more accessible than ever before, the Azores look well-placed to finally capitalize on their vast potential as a world-leading example of sustainable tourism.
Food and Drinks
Although there are some common tastes on the Azorean cuisine, each island’s recipes have their own imprint. Therefore, during vacations, visitors can discover all the nuances of Azores through a gastronomic tour.
Fish such as tuna, blue jack mackerel, chub mackerel, forkbear, red porgy and swordfish are commonly served. Freshness reigns on grills, stews, roasts or in fish broths. There are lobsters, mediterranean slipper lobsters, crabs, spider-crabs and barnacles. Limpets are served grilled with molho afonso sauce, or are cooked in rice or mashed bread. The island of São Jorge is the only island that offers clams.
The Azorean beef benefits from a protected geographical indication, with some dishes being prepared from it, such as the alcatra (rump) from Terceira island, boiled beef, and regionally-flavored steaks. Liver sauce cracklings and sausages are must haves, whilst linguiça can be the main course if served with taro root, and blood pudding an appetizer if complemented by pineapple.
A special dish called cozido das furnas, made with various meats and vegetables, is cooked by the geothermal heat in a pot that is placed under the ground. Some delicacies are common during the Holy Ghost Festivals, such as the sopa do Espírito Santo (soup of the Holy Ghost) and the massa sovada (Portuguese sweet bread). The bread known as bolos lêvedos, typical from Furnas, is served at any time throughout the whole year.
The cheese Queijo de São Jorge is at the top of the list of tasty dairy products, with skilled hands and ripening time being the secret for a myriad of tastes and textures. Everything starts with fresh cheese that is served with pimenta da terra (red pepper mash). When cheese is served for dessert, it can be complemented by bananas or husk tomato jam (the husk tomato is known for its exotic and perfumed flavor).
In addition to bananas and apples, the Azorean climate favors exotic fruit such as the strawberry guava and the cherimoya. The pineapples and passion fruit of São Miguel have earned the right to wear the seal of denomination of protected origin. Pastries whose origins can be traced back to convents stand out among the cakes and sweets that are typical of each island and are a pleasant surprise given their names and flavors.
Wine is produced on the islands of Pico, Graciosa and Terceira, but now from different grapes and complementing the once famous verdelho wine. Beer, soft drinks, fortified wine, fruit liqueur and brandy complete a diversified offer. Tea is planted on the island of São Miguel, adding another exotic taste to the pleasures of the Azorean cuisine.
Atlantimagia is a tour group that offers its clients high-quality service, with 24-hour support from arrival to departure, to guarantee that clients have an unforgettable vacation without any worries. Working with the clients, they’ll design itineraries tailored to clients desires. From organizing activities, managing hotel accommodations, flights, tours and transfers, the company will provide the best solutions to suit everyone’s needs, whether its a group or an individual.
For more information, visit Atlantimagia.com. See ad, page ??.
Nuno Pimentel is responsible for image and communication from Atlantimagia Tours Inc to promote the Azores destination where he was born, lives and wants to help and build an audience to get an unforgettable experience in the mid-Atlantic islands. For more information, visit Atlantimagia.com.