The Azores

i By May 5, 2019 No Comments
The Azores check a lot of incentive travel boxes. For groups in search of a less-travelled destination, the nine-island archipelago in the mid-Atlantic is a little, but not too far, off the beaten path. Its gastronomy is distinctly local but still familiar (seafood, beef, wine, etc.). It offers a solid selection of soft adventure activities (whale watching, hiking) and unique wellness experiences (thermal waters). Its cities and towns are small and walkable. And the climate is temperate year-round, opening up more date options. This three-and-a-half day FAM gave a group of  Canadian planners a good look at what its largest island, São Miguel, has to offer.

PRIMARY FAM HOSTS

AIRLINE: Sata | Azores Airlines 

ACCOMMODATIONS: Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico

DMC: Açoreana: The Azores DMC

DAY ONE – Ponta Delgada &

6:25 a.m. – Overnight Sata | Azores Airlines flight arrives at João Paulo II Airport, which is located a short 10-minute drive from the center of Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel.

7:00 a.m. – Transfer to Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico. Check-in (rooms ready) and individual breakfast at hotel. Widely-regarded as São Miguel’s only five-star property, Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico completed a top-to-bottom renovation in July 2018. It has 140 guestrooms (50 oceanview), including five suites, and three conference rooms. Owner: Grupo Bensaude.

12:00 noon – Lunch at Restaurant Anfiteatro | Modern space in Portas do Mar marina complex. Room features view of the city bay.

1:30 p.m. – Visit Pavilhäo do Mar | 43,000-square-foot exhibition/event venue in Portas do Mar used for concerts, exhibitions and cultural activities.

2:00 p.m. – Walking tour of downtown Ponta Delgada. | Shops, churches, public square, restaurants.

2:30 p.m. – Site visit Teatro MicaelenseBuilt in 1951, this historical landmark was recently refurbished.

3:30 p.m. – Site visit Coliseu MicaelenseMultipurpose facility built in 1917. Recently renovated, it is suitable for larger group functions, dances, awards ceremonies, exhibitions, etc.

4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – Vista do Rei | Travel by mini bus to see island’s famous hydrangea fences and stop at viewpoint overlooking one of Portugal’s seven wonders—two adjoining lagoons, one blue and the other green (Lagoa des Sete Cidades).

7:00 p.m. – Site tour of host hotel and dinner.

(Top of post) View of Atlantic along coast of São Miguel. Photo © Turismo dos Açores. (Gallery) 1. Ponta Delgada rooftops. Photo © Frank Bub | istock. 2-4. Exterior, ground floor lounge and suite, Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico. Photos 3 & 4 courtesy of Bensaude Hotel Collections. 5. Ponta Delgada Marina. Photo © Turismo dos Açores. 6. Old City at night, Ponta Delgada. Photo © Frank Bub | istock. 7. Exterior, Teatro Micaelense, Porta Delgada. 8. View of Lagoa des Sete Cidades (twin lakes) from Vista do Rei. Photo © Turismo dos Açores.

DAY TWO – Ponta Delgada

9:00 a.m. –  Futurismo Azores AdventuresHalf-day whale watching excursion, departing from Portas do Mar.

1:00 p.m. – Lunch, Restaurant Cais da SardinhaTaste local menu with a view over the sea.

2:00 p.m. – Visits to hotels in Ponta Delgada by Tuk-Tuk Azores | Electric power; six people per tuk-tuk

4:00 p.m. – Visit to pineapple plantation

7:30 p.m. – Site tour and dinner at Hotel Azor – opened in 2016; 123 guestrooms; eight meetings/event rooms; an on-site restaurant (Restaurant A Terra Fornaria) with a panoramic view of the marina and capacity of 190 people; and a rooftop swimming pool (7th floor) with Whale Watching Bar. Brand | Discovery Hotel Management

1. Whale tail: More than 20 types of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) can be found in the waters around the Azores. Photo © Turismo dos Açores. 2-4. Exterior, sitting room in Presidential Suite and Royal Garden Bar, Azoris Royal Garden Hotel. Photos courtesy of Azoris Hotels & Leisure. 5-7. Front exterior, guestroom and pool, São Miguel Park Hotel. Photos courtesy of Bensaude Hotels Collection. 8-10. Front exterior, single guestroom with sea view and bathroom, Hotel Marina Atlântico. Photos courtesy of Bensaude Hotels Collection. 11. São Miguel is home to the European continents only pineapple plantations. Photo © Frank Bub | istock.com. 12-14. Exterior, suite bedroom and deck area of rooftop pool, Hotel Azor. Photos courtesy of Discovery Hotel Management. 

DAY THREE: Island Exploration

9:00 a.m. – Departure from host hotel to Furnas

9:45 a.m. –Visit to Caldeiras das Furnas – The Furnas Valley (a volcano crater) is home to boiling water and mud springs as well as mini geysers.

10:30 a.m. – Visit to Casino Terra Nostra, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel – opened in 1935; features Art Deco design; 86 rooms, including five suites, 20 Art Deco Cozy rooms, 41 Garden View Deluxe rooms and 10 Garden Terrace Deluxe rooms; event spaces include lounge in Art Deco wing and Terra Nostra Casino, located across the street. Owner: Bensaude Hotels Collection

11:00 a.m. – Terra Nostra Park Thermal Bath Experience & Gardens Tour – Thermal pools (public and private) are thought to have therapeutic benefits. Minerals in the water include yellow iron. Garden features flora from around the world, which flourish in the rich volcanic soil.

12:45 p.m. – Lunch and site tour –  Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

4:00 p.m. – Tour of Cha Goreanna and tea tasting with (fifth generation) owner: In business since 1883, Cha Goreanna is the oldest and currently only, tea plantation in Europe. It produces black, green and canto teas, all grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, dyes or preservatives.

7:30 p.m. – Farewell dinner at Hotel Marina Atlântico

1. Caldeiras das Furnas: Restaurants and locals cook a traditional stew—Cozida das Furnas— in the Furnas Valley’s bubbling hot springs. 2-4. Exterior, Hortensia Suite (photo © Paulo Goulart) and restaurant in the Art Deco-style Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. Photos courtesy of Bensaude Hotels Collection. 5. Plants pruned in the shape of animals, Terra Nostra Garden. Photo © Turismo dos Açores. 6,7. Private and public thermal baths, Terra Nostra Garden. 8. Fields planted with tea, Cha Goreanna. Photo © Turismo dos Açores.

DAY FOUR

Morning at leisure

12:15 p.m. – Lunch at Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico

1:30 p.m. – Transfer to airport