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Azores, Portugal

Whale-watching, Bullfights, and Volcanic Hiking in the Azores -Oh my!

The islands of Faial and Pico are great for hiking. In Faial, the area is a natural park, and there is a hiking trail to the rim of the dormant volcano.

Meanwhile, Pico (“Peak”) is the highest point in all of Portugal, built on volcanic explosions that are visible in the island’s wild landscapes, soaring peaks, and black cliffs that drop into the sea. The climb up to the 7,700 foot summit can take up to three hours, and the views are worth it. On clear days, the peak can be seen from surrounding islands, with its lava cone rising above the massive volcano.

Whale-watching in the Azores is different than in the U.S. – often meaning a trip out to sea in a small semi-inflatable motorboat in search of the largest mammal on the planet. The islands were named one of the top ten sites on the planet for finding the marine giants. Experienced guides offer insights into the lives of these creatures and, best of all, seeing a whale is almost guaranteed due to a system of spotters along the local mountainsides who radio the boats with the position and number of whales. Local whales include sperm whales, northern bottlenose, pilot, sowerby’s beaked whales, and occasionally orcas.

Bullfighting in Portugal is a festival of horsemanship, elegance, and drama – and unlike in Spain, the bull is not killed. In a Portuguese bullfight a cavaleiro, or rider must place a dart into the bull, delivered by drawing the bull to a charge.