O Arquipélago dos AçoresThe Azores ArchipelagoExploring the lost islands of the Atlantic

azores photographer

Oh, the beauty! Oh, the majesty!

I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but the things we’ve seen on Azores often defied belief! This is our attempt at recording the breathtaking experiences from a small volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

We flew in from Lisbon and started the week long adventure on Flores island, westernmost point of European ‘land’.
After a 3-day bad weather spell which closed the airport (air strip), we had the luck of just flying in pretty bumpy (instead of being diverted back).

lisbon at night João Paulo II Airport

On our way there, we flew over many other islands from the archipelago, some of which we even saw occasionally through the low clouds. Here is the volcano on the Pico island. And when I say ‘volcano on the island’, I actually mean that the volcano is the whole island. It’s one of few vine-growing regions in Azores, so you can see vine growing all the way up the volcano.

Pico island volcano Poço Do Bacalhau waterfall, Fajã Grande

Flores is… breathtaking. To put it mildly. We nicknamed it ‘the island of waterfalls’. Let’s start with the disappearing Poço Do Bacalhau waterfall, just above our house, where wind turns the crashing stream of water into drizzle over the village. And yes, it’s odd seeing a 300 meter waterfall just as you open your bedroom window in the morning.

Poço Do Bacalhau waterfall in Fajã Grande

There is water in all its forms everywhere — lakes, streams, rivers, waterfalls, rain, fog, clouds and ocean, anywhere you turn. Combined with temperate climate and volcanic ground, this creates abundance of flora like nothing we’ve ever seen. Every little piece of ground is covered with plants growing over other plants.
Something has to power those hundreds of waterfalls — and that’s the weather. It changes from hour to hour to every possible extreme. Flores is in the middle of the Atlantic, after all, and being the westernmost island of the Azores, it’s beaten like a nutshell by the might of waves and winds of the open ocean.
Flores island vista Baía de Alagoa Baía de Alagoa, Fazenda De Santa Cruz Fazenda De Santa Cruz

Everything here is stunning, even ordinary things. Case in point, this little farm, sitting alone above the sea. And this is the road leading to that farm (photo below), which is a home to just a few cows. Covered in rose petals, it looks as if it’s waiting for some princess to pass through. We drove all the way down just to make sure a luxurious hotel wasn’t hiding there somewhere. It wasn’t. Just a few cows.

Cedros Ilhéu de Alvaro Rodrigues Ilhéu de Alvaro Rodrigues Flores, Ilhéu de Alvaro Rodrigues forest stone path, Flores island

Starting upon this stone path, which reeked of Indiana Jones movies, we didn’t know what to expect. Probably a waterfall?

forest stone path forest stone path Flores island waterfalls

As we climbed, the forest turned into a clearing and we saw first peeks of what turned into and endless cascade of Riba do Ferreiro waterfalls pouring into Lagoa dos Patos. I started counting them and… quit after 20, when I realized many waterfalls split into smaller ones on their downhill race to the lake.

Ilha das Flores Cachoeiras lagos Flores island waterfalls, Lagoa dos Patos Riba do Ferreiro Cachoeiras

Needless to say, it took us two hours to be able to let go and just stop shooting already. We slowly came to grips with the fact that some things are just too majestic to be done justice on a simple photograph. Or a thousand photographs.

Lagoa dos Patos lake animated panorama Lagoa dos Patos panorama Ribeira Grande Cachoeiras

As we were leaving, we run into another disappearing waterfall… or in this case, circulating. The wind was blowing it sideways into a slanting rock which diverted it upward, creating a full circle of water.

Ribeira Grande Fajã Grande cascata

Here’s a series dedicated to the might of Atlantic ocean. Shot in Fajã Grande, westernmost European settlement… with a few waterfalls to the side, of course. Because, why not?
And this volcanic pebble beach (below)… those pebbles are the size of basketballs! (Which makes the waves 3 meters high, yes.)

Atlantic ocean waves Atlantic ocean waves on a volcanic beach wave crashing in the rocks Atlantic ocean waves on volcanic pebbles ocean waves at sunset waves at Fajã Grande

Next day, the wind and waves were just as unrelenting.

volcanic rocks beaten by waves wet ocean rocks Flores road miradouro vista

Each village has a viewpoint like this, this one overlooking Fajãzinha. The village sits on a river formed by all those majestic waterfalls seen hiding just beneath the clouds.

Fajãzinha Ribeira Grande Cachoeiras

Higher parts of the island were always reliably under fog and clouds, without exception. We were told it should clear by July. Probably.

flowers on Açores mountain stream on Açores lowland river Riba do Ferreiro mountain pastures

Another one of those village viewpoints, or miradouros. This one over Ponta Delgada. (not to be confused with other Ponta Delgadas on other islands)

Ponta Delgada on Flores view steep ocean cliffs Ilha do João Martins Ponta Delgada volcanic beach and cliffs Ponta Delgada lighthouse

Roads were beautiful, empty and pure joy to drive around. It’s a shame our car couldn’t keep up — the clutch was half burnt out from steep ascents all over the island and the engine wasn’t feeling too well either.

walking path near Fajã Grande Santa Cruz Das Flores Santa Cruz Das Flores lighthouse fishing boats on the coast Santa Cruz Das Flores beach panorama Flores airport FLW

Time to leave Flores. After being closed for further two days, the airport opened just in time for us to fly off to the São Miguel island, part of the eastern group. After a bit of island-hopping (plane acts as a local bus on Azores), we arrived to Ponta Delgada. A different Ponta Delgada.

flight from Flores to São Miguel, Açores Miradouro De Santa Iria, São Miguel Miradouro De Santa Iria, São Miguel

São Miguel is much more populated than Flores and also more mellow regarding climate and relief — but it still has relatively wild weather, high volcanic activity and steep cliffs by European standards. Below is one of the volcanic lakes, Lagoa das Furnas, which includes sulphur fumes and boiling springs. They can cook your dinner in them, or you can slowly simmer yourself, whichever you prefer. We tried the latter and left beautifully bronzed.

Lagoa das Furnas panorama volcanic hot springs Furnas Lagoa das Furnas miradouro Capelas boat art installation

We stayed in the Capelas village, which had a beautifully dramatic coastline and charming streets. (And terrible restaurants, all three of them.)

Capelas rock formation Capelas volcanic beach Capelas sunset on São Miguel Solar do Conde hotel Solar do Conde hotel Solar do Conde hotel Capelas building detail with palms Capelas building detail colorful stone road in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel road in Caldeiras, Furnas

Lagoa do Fogo, a lake we were lucky enough to see. They told us that most of the days in the year it’s too foggy here to see anything.

Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel Lagoa do Fogo treetops in Caldeiras forest in Caldeiras, Furnas Cascata do Salto do Cabrito, São Miguel Furnas palms common dolphin and fin whale in the waters around Ponta Delgada, São Miguel

Ahhhh… Nothing like surfing at dusk on a black sand volcanic beach in Mosteiros, with whales and dolphins never far away…

Mosteiros black volcanic sand beach stargazing at Capelas airplane at Ponta Delgada airport eastern tip of São Miguel island

We’ll end this part of the story with a few shots of the Atlantic ocean, and pick it up in Lisbon

Atlantic ocean from an airplane


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