Azores Express, the vacation company of the Azores Islands airline SATA, is offering six-night fall and winter packages to the mid-Atlantic islands, which represent the closest point in Europe to North America.
Just four hours’ flying time from Boston, SATA’s only U.S. destination, the Azores enjoy a mild climate year-round, with temperatures staying in a narrow range between 60°F and 80°F.
A Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are about 930 miles (1,500 km) west of Lisbon and about 2,400 miles (3,900 km) east of the east coast of North America. Some of the Azorean islands in fact represent the peaks of several of the tallest mountains on the planet, as measured from their bases at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Azores – which form one of two of Portugal’s autonomous regions, the other being the Atlantic island archipelago of Madeira, northeast of the Azores – are among the more affordable destinations in Europe, according to Azores Express. The company’s hotel and air packages give travelers the opportunity to explore five different islands while staying at one of 24 hotels.
Four hotels are offered on the island of Terceira, two on the island of Faial, one on the island of Santa Maria, one on the island of Pico, and 16 on the island of São Miguel.
All packages depart from Boston’s Logan International Airport and include round-trip, nonstop air travel in economy class, six nights lodging and daily breakfast. Flights to João Paulo II Airport (named after Pope John Paul II) on the island of São Miguel depart and return on Tuesday and Fridays and passengers can upgrade from coach to SATA Plus Business-Class for a few hundred dollars each way. Kids under six stay free, and pay only a child’s airfare.
The Azores Express/SATA packages cost $719 to $1,299 per person, before tax and are available through September 30, 2011. Availability depends on your choice of hotel, the islands you wish to visit and travel dates. To book travel, call 800-762-9995 or visit www.sata.pt for more details.
Among the islands of the Azores are:
● São Miguel: With its crater lakes, geysers, and seaside villages, São Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores and its João Paulo II Airport (PDL) is where all flights from Boston land in the fall, winter and spring. With easy access to the airport and major roads, Ponta Delgada is a good center from which to make day trips to the island’s rugged coastline. Visitors can also explore mountain crater lakes or visit the steaming thermal lakes and tea and pineapple plantations in the interior of the island.
● Terceira: Terceira’s lively and historic main city, Angra do Heroísmo, has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and has ample cultural offerings. The north coast offers black lava cliffs and a wine museum.
● Pico: Meaning “peak” in Portuguese, Pico is characterized by the steep volcanic mountain that often rises above the cloud cover. Visitors can climb to the 7,700 foot summit, the highest point in Portugal, or stay closer to sea-level and sample Pico’s signature wine, which is known for carrying just a hint of lava.
● Other islands: Two of the other islands offered by Azores Express are Faial, whose capital is Horta and which is known for harbors often filled with yachts from around the world; and sunny Santa Maria, known for having some of the best beaches in the Azores. The Azores archipelago has many other islands and its two westernmost islands, Flores and Corvo, actually lie on the North American plate.
The Azores islands were created by volcanic activity millions of years ago, which created a dramatic and beautiful environment. From the black lava cliffs of the island of Terceira, to the mountain Lake of Fire on São Miguel, the Azores offers an intensely green and sculptured landscape.
The National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations recently named the Azores islands as the world’s second-most-appealing islands destination in its fourth annual Destination Scorecard survey. A panel of 522 experts reviewed conditions on 111 islands and archipelagos. The Azores received the commendation of “Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so”.
Azores Express (part of the SATA Group) connects New England with the islands of the Azores. Year-round flights are available from Boston, with connecting service to Lisbon, Porto and Madeira.
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