Checklist: The Azores, Portugal

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High peaks, lush rolling hills and immense craters make the Azores archipelago an outdoor lover’s paradise. Resembling Hawaii, these nine Portuguese islands have more to offer than good looks, however. Between the local cuisine, wine and hospitality, tourists can’t stop flocking to these isles in the Atlantic.

1. Mistérios do Sul do Pico

Hiking the 5-mile Mistérios do Sul do Pico trail allows visitors to see distinctive lava fields—centuries old patterns serving as visual records of Pico island’s past. Ponta do Admouro offers a perfect post-trek rest area to spot numerous birds on their migratory route between the continents and a shady area to picnic and swim.

2. Caldeira

Created by the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption, this verdant valley (pictured at top) of endemic plants and a kettle lake is just part of what you’ll see as you hike along the 6-mile circular trail around the rim found in the center of the Faial island. Get a bird’s eye view of the island, including the beach area of Horta and neighboring Mount Pico, and join the regulars who do this trek to train for the annual Coast to Coast island competition.

3. Tourada à Corda

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Bull running on Terceira is a daily island tradition, with these beasts as well-known as any Portuguese football player. Look for the schedule posted in cafes or ask any local and they’ll direct you to the village hosting that day’s festivity. Each bull is attached by rope to a group of male protectors to prevent injury, while young men show off their skill, wits, and bull knowledge to entice the animal to dance with them on the streets.

4. Interpretation Centre of Capelinhos Volcano

A museum built below Faial’s iconic lighthouse, this is the only building that survived an offshore volcanic eruption that continued for 13 months from 1957 to 1958. Visitors can climb the lighthouse, spot the emerging chimney tops in the ash landscape from the former village, and learn about the geological history of the Azores.

5. Algar do Carvão

On the island of Terceira, the Algar do Carvão is only extinct volcano in the world where you can enter the cone. The steep steps descend past lush ferns at the entrance to make way for silicate stalactites, showing off the colorful layers of minerals as guides explain the volcano’s history; help point out the creatures who make this home such as spiders, centipedes and beetles; and encourage everyone to make the 295-foot descent to the lake at the bottom. This artistic environment is occasionally used as a backdrop for classic music concerts.

6. Ponta da Ferraria

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Located on the western tip of São Miguel, this natural swimming pool in the sea is fed by hot springs and has been a popular spot since it was first discovered in the 15th century. Even in the middle of winter, Ponta da Ferraria is a welcome place to experience the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean. If you need a more refined experience, nearby eco-spa Termas Ferraria offers face and body treatments, a restaurant, and a bar.

Waheeda Harris may live in Toronto, but her heart remains in her home province of British Columbia. A freelance journalist since Y2K, she writes about art, décor, design and travel.