Most Americans have never heard of Portugal’s Azores. And we don’t totally understand why—with white-sand beaches, active volcanoes, and plentiful surf, the island chain is basically the Hawai’i of the Atlantic. And they’re just a four-hour flight from east coast.
The islands are a bounty of adventure options. But these five are the best.
1. Hike Mount Pico, then drink wine
At 8,303 feet above sea level, Mount Pico is no anthill. It’s the tallest peak in the Azores by more than double, and it’s possible to view pretty much the entire island chain from its summit. Getting to the top of the mountain’s summit crater is a full-day expedition, though, and often takes hikers above the clouds.
The surrounding Pico Island (named for the peak, obviously) is renowned for vineyards. The Criação Velha wine region is the island’s best known, and is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vintners there protect their crops with walls of basalt—a technique that is endemic to the island.
A guided hike of Mount Pico is included in a guided seven-day Azores hiking tour from our friends at Exodus Travels. The trip also spends time at a Pico Island vineyard.