There are few “off-beat” destinations as unusual and as accessible as the Azores, and this autumn the archipelago offers ideal conditions for active pursuits – from world-class whale watching, diving and surfing to big game fishing, canyoning, golf, cycling and kayaking.
Hidden in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores can be reached in less than four hours direct from London Gatwick. Its lush landscapes and deep waters will remain warm (average highs of 23 °C) this autumn, attracting an array of underwater wildlife and providing ideal conditions for adventure activities.
1) World-class autumn surfing
The Azores offer consistent conditions all year round, but for truly world-class surfing visit in the autumn when ground and wind swells can reach an impressive 15 feet. Santa Barbra Beach on Sao Miguel Island, one of the best surfing locations in the archipelago, offers uncrowded surfing spots and conditions for all ability levels. The area will also host the Azores Eurosurf Championships (13-21 September) and the Azores SATA Pro Surfing Championships (2-7 September). Other popular surfing beaches can be found on Santa Maria Island, and Sao Jorge Island, where reef breaks provide long and tube shaped waves.
2) Big game fishing
This autumn, the Azores Big Game Fishing Tournament will take place off the historic city of Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island between 13th and 15th of September. The archipelago’s waters, in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, are home to some of the world’s most impressive big pelagic fish, which can be found just a few miles from the coast. These include the prized Atlantic Blue Marlin, the Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna, Dolphin-fishes, Blue & White Marlin and occasionally Yellow Fin and Swordfish. In terms of size, these fish are giants and 6 out of 10 world records for the Atlantic Blue Marlin have been achieved here.
3) Go in search of whales
2014 marks 30 years since the last whaling factory closed on the islands, and this autumn travellers can go in search of the 25 cetacean species commonly seen in the Azores, one of the world’s top whale watching destinations. RIB boats depart from the islands of Sao Miguel, Pico and Faial, offering the chance to see these beautiful creatures play at the surface of the ocean. The Loggerhead, Sperm, Fin and Atlantic Whales, as well as Bottlenose and Common Dolphin, are commonly seen in September and October. Special displays and exhibitions can also be found at the Lajes Whaling Museum on Pico Island and the Porto Pim Whaling Museum on Faial Island.
4) Canyoning in lush autumn landscapes
Ever wondered what it would be like to cascade down a waterfall? Until the end of October, the Azores boast ideal conditions for the sport of canyoning, which requires thrill-seekers to cascade down waterfalls, climb over volcanic rock formations, walk, run, wade, abseil, boulder hop and swim through volcanic landscapes, subtropical fauna, caves, lakes and waterfalls which tumble into the ocean. The islands’ landscapes are breathtakingly dramatic and differ greatly – from towering volcanoes and waterfalls to dramatic coastline and crater lakes. Routes vary in difficulty, with the most advanced circuits on the island of Sao Miguel, and more relaxed routes on the islands of Sao Miguel and Sao Jorge.
5) Dive for diverse pelagic sea life
The Azores’ deep oceans offer a vibrant underwater world of pelagic fish and volcanic formations ideal for divers of all levels until the end of October. Dive day or night through clear waters in sandy or volcanic sea beds, in caves and in shipwrecks. Mild ocean temperatures and world-class diving sites provide up-close encounters with creatures including manta rays, morays, stingrays, dusky groupers, comb groupers, wrasses, parrot fishes, trigger fishes, breams and damselfishes. The 1st European Championships of Underwater Photography will also take place from Graciosa Island this autumn (3-8 September).
Other active pursuits on offer this autumn include canoeing, golf, paragliding, mountain biking, hiking, trekking and walking, sailing, stand up paddle boarding and horse riding.