Tag Archives: portugal

Falling in love with Azorean waterfalls.

It’s usually the case that if an area is volcanic, wet and not too cold, then there are going to be lots of waterfalls. Take, for instance, Iceland, Hawaii, Kamchatka, the Faroe Islands – and other places that have temporarily slipped my mind.

And the Azores are no exception. On the island we’re exploring – San Miguel – there are several waterfalls worth seeing; we had time to see two of them.

I. Salto do Cabrito – a picturesque double waterfall. On the internet, the water looks crystal clear, but we got there just after it rained, and the water was anything but clear. We decided to skip having a swim and just enjoyed the view :)

You can drive almost right up to this waterfall, and can go down a cool little path, alongside the pipe to the local mini-hydroelectric station. I recommend approaching it from above.

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Aquatic tour of the Azores.

And now for another installment about the Azores.

But this time with a difference: what NOT to do in the Azores.

It’s probably not worth going to watch the whales in June, despite the fact that it’s advertised as a ‘must’ for tourists. We fell for it a little … And we only saw one part of one whale – namely, the dorsal fin of a sei whale. After two hours of chasing, that was it as far as Azorean whales were concerned. If it’s whales you’re after, check out my Antarctic stories.

But there were some revelations! I saw my first Portuguese man o’ war! This is a very poisonous jelly-like thing with a bubble on the surface of the water, which is not that deadly for humans, but leaves nasty burns on the skin (look for pictures of victims yourself – it makes me feel a bit squeamish even describing it).

Note, this is not a jellyfish! It’s a colony of different organisms in a symbiotic relationship that’s designed to cause pain and death to anything in its vicinity. Read the wiki page at the link above, it’s amazing. It’s worth it just for bizarre phrases like gonophores, vestigial siphosomal nectophores and gastrozooids with tentacles!

Anyway, here’s a Portuguese man o’ war for you, swimming next to our boat:

But no whales, killer whales, dolphins, or penguins. Even the flying fish seemed to have flown south. I had to take photos of homo sapiens instead. There were plenty of them ->

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Flickr photostream

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Azorean volcanism.

The Azores Islands – and that includes its biggest and best, São Miguel Island – are, as mentioned, very volcanic. Rumblings, steamings, smokings, stones flyings, even sometimes lavas flowings. Re the latter though – it’s been a while since there’s been any of that – the last eruption was around 300 years ago (in the westernmost part of the island). Between the rare appearances of lava, the fumarole activity on the islands is constant and busy – just how we like it: bubbling mud and hot springs.

The largest fumarole site is at Furnas, which I mentioned earlier. Of course, these aren’t as grand as the fumaroles in Kamchatka (Mutnovka) or New Zealand or in fact many other places, but they are still gurglingly impressive.

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Azorean calderean – but no swimmean.

The parks and botanical gardens of the Azores I’ve already told you about. Now for something else no less important – the islands’ volcanisms; in this post, about two of them – the Sete Cidades Massif and Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire).

Volcanism No. 1 – the Sete Cidades Massif – a stratovolcanic complex made up of a volcano, a caldera, and a lake in the caldera:

The caldera has a complex structure. It is some 5km in diameter (imagine the eruption involved to create that!), and inside it there are seven partly destroyed and very overgrown younger volcanic cones. Sounds amazing? Looks amazing! ->

Read on…

Azoresome!

There are just nine Azorean islands, and we visited just one of them – São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous. We were told by locals that this is the most interesting of all nine – so we settled for just it – to keep things simple; however, this one island we investigated and examined and inspected rather exhaustively and from top to bottom so I think it’s fair to say we’ve ‘done’ the Azores experience by and large ).

As mentioned yesterday, the Azores sit where three tectonic plates meet in the Atlantic Ocean; accordingly, the Azores are as volcanic as any islands can possibly get. The climate here is comfortable: an oceanic-subtropical thing going on; the sun does actually burn hotter than… jalapeño, but it doesn’t get too crazy hot because of the cooling effect of the surrounding ocean. The temperature of the ocean is practically always around 20°C, while that of the air wavers between 15°C in winter to 25°C in summer. And it rains a lot too. So, in all, what do we have? Volcanic, super-fertile soil + a pleasant, moist subtropical climate = yep, more green than you can shake a… Saudi flagpole at – everywhere.

Read on…

Ah – the Azores.

Been a while, I know…

Too busy traversing the planet to put fingers to keyboard. But in the meantime much has happened that needs reporting on and pics shown of – so it’s time for some catch-up…

First up – a few posts about the Azores, where I ended up unexpectedly on business the other week.

The Azores: another amazing place on the planet: green volcanic isles at the place where three of the largest tectonic plates (North American, Eurasian and African) meet amid a vast ocean – they’re bound to be something special. And they are. Especially their… flowers!

Now, any regular reader of these here blog pages will know I often mention and present pics of various plants and trees, but very rarely of flowers. Well that all changes here. This post is mostly all about flowers; in particular – the hydrangea.

Why? Because flowering hydrangea plants are literally everywhere. This was first pointed out to us by the driver of the taxi from the airport – kind of as a warning, so we wouldn’t be too shocked. These white, blue and purple flowers line roads and parking lots. They even act as hedges between fields (to keep cows from straying into neighboring fields), and they blanket-cover parks and botanical gardens – everywhere:


Read on…

Seashells and a hotel on the seashore.

After staying the night in a hotel recently in the town of Cascais just outside Lisbon, I just had to put fingers to laptop to tell you about it. I’ve seen quite a few hotels in my time, but this is one of the few I’ll never forget…

Please meet the Fortaleza do Guincho. It’s simple, it’s classy, it’s cozy, it’s modest. A boutique hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant (we ate in the local greasy spoon fish fork, which deserved a Michelin star too:). In short: lovely lodgings.

But this hotel gets a whole blogpost dedicated to it not for any of the above-mentioned niceties. Instead, it comes down to the hackneyed real estate buying threesome: location, location, location. For this heavenly hotel is located right on the coast of the Atlantic – almost in it, in fact. The ocean’s literally outside your window. The sound noise of the waves crashing against the shore… it’s almost hypnotic – and can lull you into a doze-cum-meditation before you can say ’40 winks’ or ‘om’. Incredible. I want to go back already!

This is how it looks from up above:

Fortaleza do GuinchoSource

And this is what it looks like down on the ground:

portugal-hotel-2Just like the palaces here… unusual, unique architecture :)

portugal-hotel-3The cliff theme continues

Read on: View to the left, to the right and from my room…

A palace, a castle and a cape near Lisbon. 

Last week we had another free afternoon in Portugal. Naturally, we made the most of it.

On our way to Lisbon airport we made a quick detour off the highway to take in another two interesting Portuguese places of interest.

They’re not quite as monumental as the cliffs we saw on the southern coast of the country, but all the same they’re still worth a look. The first place, real close to Lisbon, is the town of Sintra (and its Pena Park). The other is the western-most point of Europe – Cabo da Roca – approx. 20km from Pena.

Pena Park is actually the grounds of Pena National Palace, perched high up on the top of a hill here (500 meters above sea level).There are various different touristic tidbits to check out in and around the grounds, but the main two are the palace itself plus Castelo Mouros – Castle of the Moors – another hilltop-located ancient construction (and the cooler of the two).

portugal-sintra-cabo-de-roca-1Pena National Palace

Read on: Summer residence of the Portuguese royal family…