Are the Azores safe to visit during Covid?
The Azores can only be reached by air, they have very reliable testing in place at airports to minmise transmission as well as robust safety measures in place across the islands.
Passengers flying to the Azores archipelago will be subject to one of the following options:
1. Submit proof of testing to COVID-19 up to 72 hours prior to flight departure;
2. Perform test on arrival and stay in preventive isolation until the result is obtained;
Where are the Azores?
The Azores are a mid-atlantic archipelago of 9 islands and are part of Portugal. They lie between Europe and America. It takes 1 hour from mainland Portugal to the big island of Sao Miguel which is our main holiday destination and 2 1/2 hours to fly to the central group of islands including Pico and Faial where we also offer holidays.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic ocean 1000 miles west of Portugal. There are 3 groups of islands, the Eastern group ( Sao Miguel, Santa Maria), the Central group ( Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Teceira and Graciosa) and the Western group ( Corvo and Flores) It is the only land between America and Europe.
A Portuguese territory, the nine islands, dominated by a volcanic mountain range, offer a rare and unspoilt natural beauty, having retained their cultural integrity and escaped the ravages of commercial tourism. There is a wild and elemental quality here, the ocean’s presence is never far away and breathing the air alone is invigorating. Some people say, it is the last vestiges of the lost continent of Atlantis! Hot springs steam into the fresh and unpolluted air. There are meadows filled with the scent of wild herbs and vivid, colourful flowers line the roads. It is quite the perfect setting to relax and slow down.
“With active volcanoes, crater lakes, moss-‐draped forests and shores composed of swirls of lava, this is an archipelago packed with natural drama” Emma Gregg, Travel Writer
How do I get there?
We do not include flights in the cost of our holidays, and we cannot book these for you. Please provisionally reserve your holiday with us then book your flights following the guidance below. We shall then confirm your holiday for you after taking your flight details and payment of your holiday deposit or full balance if due. Airport transfers are included in your holiday.
Flights to Ponta Delgada (PDL) for our holidays that take place on Sao Miguel Island, Azores
Direct flights to Ponta Delgada are available with Ryanair (from Stanstead on Saturdays). Alternatively, you can get budget flights via Lisbon and Oporto to Ponta Delgada (approx. 2hrs) and direct flights from other European cities, the USA and Canada.
Check options for flights to PDL at www.skyscanner.net For ease we have a dedicated flight agent who can help arrange and book flights for you: Rupender.Bhoday@flightcentre.co.uk or call Rupender T: 0207 925 1114.
Flights to Pico Island (PIX) or Horta on neighbouring Faial Island (HOR) for our Blue Whale Ocean Giants Tours that take place on Pico Island, Azores
Our tour dates run Saturday to Saturday. You will need to fly via Lisbon to get to and depart from Pico on these dates. Or fly via the neighbouring island of Horta (direct flights from Lisbon) and get the ferry to Pico from there (approx. 30 mins). Check ferry timetable before booking and you can purchase tickets online (link for the ferry operator here)
Flying to PICO (PIX) via Lisbon (LIS), Portugal is the most straightforward. There are many budget airlines who fly to Lisbon from the UK and other destinations and from there you can get a flight to Pico. Check options for flights to PIX (or HOR if you plan on arriving in neighbouring Faial Island and getting the ferry to Pico Island) at www.skyscanner.net For ease, contact our dedicated flight agent who can help arrange overnight accommodation and book flights for you: Rupender.Bhoday@flightcentre.co.uk or call Rupender T: 0207 925 1114.
Flight prices vary a lot depending on which day you fly. You can get there in one day or stay overnight in Lisbon and take an early flight to the islands the following day. It is good to book as early as possible and if you can, be flexible on your travel days to enable you to get the best deals.
If you need to extend your duration to suit your flights, we can book additional hotel nights in The Azores. Please see below for a few hotel options in Lisbon.
4-Star Hotel Tryp (right beside the airport and the most convenient)
4-Star Radisson Sas ( very near airport)
4-Star Marriott or Holiday Inn (10 minutes away from the airport)
3-Star Roma (4 kms away from the airport)
Residencial Vila Nova (airport bus stops outside, 10 mins to airport)
Hotel Dom Carlos Park (airport bus stops outside, 10 mins to airport)
What is the weather like?
The Azores has an equable climate all year round. We have found the summer to be the best time for our trips. Temperatures range from a mild 16°C (60°F) in winter to a comfortable 26°C (79°F) in summer. The sea is warmed by the Gulf Stream. Sea temperatures in summer are 20-22°C
Average monthly temperatures are given below for the Azores
Who comes on the holidays?
Our guests vary from couples, friends and families to independent travellers. We have special holidays that are most suitable for families and those that are more adult- focused. The small group tours are great for solo travellers to easily meet others and people who like to mix socially and have all details taken care of by our dedicated guide.
These holidays are an adventure. What we offer is an active experience of the whales and dolphins, which is very exhilarating and the opportunity to spend time in the regenerating power of nature and explore these remote islands.
What can I do to prepare for the holiday?
Although our expert guides will be sharing their knowledge with you on every sea excursion you may want to brush up on your whale and dolphin species.
Practise using your cameras and binoculars.
You may also like to read books and watch films and documentaries about whales and dolphins. A few we recommend are:
Blackfish (YouTube or Prime)
The Cove (free on You Tube)
In the Wild – Dolphins with Robin Williams (free on You Tube)
Can you tell me more about the guides on the boats and your team?
All of the dolphin and whale watching trips are hosted by our local team: marine biologists, guides on boats and front desk team. This means that any queries you may have can be discussed with the front desk and any extra trips can be booked directly. Before going out to sea you will be given an informative presentation all about the marine life in the Azores from the resident marine biologists.
The local team love what they do with a passion and are very enthusiastic to ensure you have the best possible time.
What boats are used for the whale and dolphin watching trips to sea?
Choose from either a large stable catamaran for great vantage points, toilet facilities and indoor/outdoor seating. or our faster hard-hulled rigid inflatable boat (RIB) for an exhilarating ride and to get close to the action quickly. The RIB’s have cushioned seats and almost “fly” through the water. We offer flexibility when booking these holidays to fit with your timing and preferences. You can add on more trips to your holiday as you choose.
Do the boats disturb the whales and dolphins?
In co-operation with the local Azorean authorities, a recognised code of conduct and ethics on the water has been established. These regulations ensure the whales and dolphins, people and the environment are respected. The dolphins love the boats and play in the bow waves. We would never endorse anything that disturbed them. There is a wonderful spirit of co-operation and mutual respect out on the water. We keep a specific distance away from the big whales, although the incidence of whales approaching us, with engine off, has been increasing and is very exciting.
What if I do not see any dolphins or whales from the boat?
In the unlikely event that you do not have any sightings during your trip to sea you will be offered another trip free of charge by our local boat company.
What about sharks?
For those participating in the swimming with dolphins in water encounters, we can say there are no dangerous sharks or jelly fish around the Islands.
Obviously in the open ocean there are some sharks, however they generally inhabit a region much further from shore than our boats go out (we tend to stay close to the coast) and they are quite satisfied by their plentiful food supply. We have never had an incident where a shark has approached a swimmer. They would be very wary and as far as we know, none have ever approached a swimmer in a detrimental way with no reports here. Very occasionally, we do hear of sightings of Hammerheads or other non-dangerous kinds of shark, but they are known not to come near boats when there are dolphins around. The guides are of course vigilant and would see a shark fin if one was in the area.
What if there are adverse weather conditions that prevent us going out on the ocean?
Safety is our prime concern and, on occasion, boat trips must be postponed. As the Azores is an oceanic climate, we cannot determine the weather. Although the seasons we choose are the most favourable, adverse sea conditions, caused by winds, may mean a boat trip is unexpectedly postponed. We have made allowances for the weather by advance provision of additional trips, so we can be flexible to fit in with the weather. In the unlikely event of your trips being delayed due to bad weather, alternative activities will be arranged and replacement tours will be re-booked for later in the tour. Even with some bad weather, it is extremely rare to not have all scheduled trips. If we are unable to reschedule or rebook another trip (either sea or a land based alternative) you will receive a refund of the money you paid for your sea based tour.
I suffer from seasickness – what do you recommend?
Few people on our trips have been affected by seasickness, but if you think you might, please bring your preferred treatment, as we do not supply any medication. There are local pharmacies on the islands.
How about travel to the islands, being met at the airport and general holiday logistics?
We will talk you through all the travel details and recommend the best flights to book for your holiday. Our representatives will be there to meet you on arrival at the airport and accompany you to your accommodation. You will have a program of sea/land trips for your week with full details and instructions about what to take, hotel pick up times for land tours and the location of our boat base for boat check-in. On departure day, we will collect you from your hotel and take you to the airport in good time for your flight home.
Are special diets catered for?
In the hotel, good vegetarian food is available. There are some vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Gluten free options can be catered for – Local supermarkets stock vegan/gluten free/ plant based products in the town centre.
It is not always possible to cater for specific dietary requirements like food allergies, so please discuss these with us when you book. The standard of cuisine is excellent, offering Portuguese and a mixture of other international influences. There are many local fish and meat specialities.
Toilet facilities on the boats
The large catamaran has toilet facilities at the rear of the boat. There are no toilet facilities on the RIB boats. If anyone urgently needs to use the toilet there is a bucket at the back with a privacy screen (guests and skipper all look to the front).
Which currency should I take?
The local language is Portuguese, although most people we work with speak excellent English. The currency is in Euros. There are cash machines in town. You can pay by credit card for food at the hotel and for souvenirs at the whale-watch base or hotel, or carry some cash.