Exploring the Azores

Exploring the Azores

A blend of thrilling adventures and serene nature, Visit Azores Association tells us more about this spectacular region

What distinguishes the Azores as a unique destination for travellers interested in outdoor activities and nature exploration?

Adventurers, explorers, adrenaline-seekers – we are your favourite destination all year round! Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are the first archipelago in the world to become certified as a sustainable destination under GSTC criteria. Why? Because regeneration is the word of the day for these 9 volcanic island destinations. You can expect exuberant nature, incredible landscapes, and untouched lands on all islands. The authenticity of this territory is internationally recognized through different designations, being one of the few places on Earth that overlap UNESCO designations – 2 World Heritage Sites (Angra do Heroísmo city and the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture), 4 Biosphere Reserves (Graciosa, Corvo, Flores, and Fajãs de São Jorge), 13 Ramsar sites, and 1 UNESCO Global Geopark. Each of the referred designations covers different territorial areas, occurring only the overlap of 2 or 3 designations at every given point, which brings great challenges that reflect the need to create synergies and articulated management systems. Of course, this set of attributes makes the Azores the perfect playground for anyone seeking adventure! So many tails to explore, by foot or bike, spelunking, canyoning, bird watching, whale watching, diving, snorkelling… But if you are looking for a calmer trip, and just want to reconnect with nature, the Azores are simply perfect to relax and enjoy the silence. Turn off from daily life stress by bathing in the natural thermal waters or by sipping our Pico wine.

Could you provide more details about the variety of nature and experience-based activities available in the Azores?

The Azores offer a variety of experiences both on land and at sea, where you will feel at home and partake of the Azorean experience. A day in the Azores can involve a canyoning experience in the morning, where you experience the adrenaline of descending streams with ropes, a mountain bike ride along trails between mountains and lakes, and immersive hikes that take you into the heart of

the Macaronesia forests. Are you an ocean lover? On the surface or underwater, there is no shortage of experiences in the ocean. The sea offers you surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and whale- watching where you can observe the immense marine biodiversity of the Atlantic. Immerse yourself in our culture and traditions, discover our old stories about pirates that invaded these islands sometimes and how we, Azorean people, became one of the most resilient folks in the world.

What transportation options are available for travellers to reach the Azores, and how accessible is the destination from various locations?

We are a sustainable destination, so if you come, please come with time, because you can only get here by plane or boat. Between islands, we have Azores Airlines operating with several flight options available. Take the opportunity to visit the triangle with time; you have the canal cruise – Atlanticoline – with several connections available between the islands of Pico, Faial and São Jorge. Don’t forget Flores Island and spend a few nights in Corvo – the smallest island in the Azores. We promise that you will have a unique experience, on an island with just 400 inhabitants, as the true nature of the Azores is first and foremost the Azorean people.

How does the Azores’ focus on sustainability impact the local community, and what efforts are in place to ensure the preservation of resources for future generations?

We are the first archipelago in the world to achieve international sustainability certification according to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria. This means that we adopt a set of environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability criteria that are verified by third-party auditors every year. In this continuous process, everyone’s involvement is essential. That’s why we have sustainability teams across the islands – our sustainability champions – committed to implementing solutions and best practices at a local level. Everyone works together towards a common goal, and this work is visible through the monitoring of sustainability indicators. Businesses, non-governmental organizations and public entities work every day to make this archipelago more sustainable, in a process of continuous improvement bringing benefits to the community, in a regenerative way. That said, the Regional Government of the Azores is now working on the Circular Economy pathway, the Roadmap to Zero Carbon 2050, and it is finishing the process of achieving 30% of Marine Protected Areas in the Azores. Due to all these efforts, Graciosa Island is a role model in energy efficiency and it can sometimes operate only with 100% wind energy, 7 of the 9 islands have achieved zero waste, and 99.9% of the freshwater resources are potable and have premium quality.

What are the sustainability goals for the next year?

We want to achieve Gold certification as a sustainable destination next year. In order to achieve this goal, we are committed to increasing the benefits for the Azoreans, as tourism is only good if it is good for the locals. We will keep promoting capacity-building actions and workshops related to sustainable business management in all islands. Counting the 256 companies that have received training, we want to double this number and have more businesses do well while doing good. We will also do more awareness-raising actions with young people on all islands, public consultation actions with the local community, and disseminate the adoption of good sustainability practices in companies in the Tourism sector.

Further information – www.visitazores.com