So I made my way to the Azores, specifically Sao Miguel (or San Miguel or Saint Miguel) Island. Like the Canaries, these islands were a stopping point for many vessels from Portugal en-route to the new world. Or the ships were heading back towards Portugal and would usually make a stop prior to heading to the motherland. Most vessels generally headed towards the capital, Lisbon, as the city had a natural deep harbor and that’s where the Portuguese King was at. That’s why a monument was erected in Lisbon to celebrate all the explorers, captains, and crews who made that journey to become famous and/or rich. The Azores, despite being far from Portugal, were also a great starting point for those who have never traveled far before. These islands are like what the Canary Islands did for Spain – being a supply stop for seafaring vessels.
And now, in today’s times like the Canaries, the Azores have become more of a tourist spot. And yet, both are not that well-visited for some reason except during certain periods such as winter and summer vacation times when the kids are out of school. I think its long distance location from mainland Europe makes it harder for the average backpacker to make that plane trip to go to the islands like the Azores and the Canaries. I think the budget traveler would rather do the bus and train trips to get around continental Europe in order to save money and maximize time spent there instead of going to a bunch of islands. That’s my theory anyways and I’m fine with less people because it means I won’t have to compete with the blobs of people going all over the place.
My taxi driver, however, told me a different reason why the usual tourist crowding hordes don’t generally go to the Azores like they do to the Red Sea resorts in Egypt. The islands due to their position in the Atlantic Ocean don’t get a lot of sunlight and if they do, it’s generally more of the sun-blocking clouds that prevent a full blast of clear, blue sky with complete and utter sunshine. It happens more frequently during the summer time which is when high season is. Due to the lack of sun and lack of natural beaches to hangout, the beach-goers don’t go to the Azores. Only the more nature-wanting people go to the Azores so the islands attract a completely different crowd, almost like more of the polite, respectful ones who know what they are doing and not the ones that come to party and attract constant police attention.
In these islands, the Gulf Stream passes through which gives these faraway distant parcels of land a pleasant climate so people have made these island their retirement homes, kind of like what people do in nice, sunny places of Europe such as Malta, Costa del Sol, Greece, French Riviera, etc. I guess people get tired of being holed in cold, snowy environments where the darkness of the day makes you think that the sun was a faint memory of its actual existence during the winters. Then again, once I arrived in the Azores, it was a cloudy day with some sun but a little warmer than what I would encounter on continental Europe.
Tip: High season is during the months of June through August so expect hotels and restaurants to be crowded as well as the popular tourists spots. Going during the non-high seasons make it nice as the airplane was basically wide-open as I had an entire row to myself!
Tip: Most of the people here speak English which is a relief because I find Portuguese too difficult to learn due to its similarity to Spanish but not quite Spanish. The locals are used to seeing tourists here so it’s almost a requirement to learn and know English.