Which Island Is Right for You?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

David Sayers, author of "Azores: The Bradt Travel Guide" (Globe Pequot Press, $18.95), has led tours to the islands for more than two decades. We asked him what sets each island apart.

* Sao Miguel: Bustling, pretty Ponta Delgada is the chain's main city. . . . See the fairy-tale green and blue lakes of Sete Cidades. . . . Go to Furnas for the hot springs and historic Terra Nostra Garden.

* Santa Maria: Known as the sunniest island, it's a sleepy place with comfortable hotels. . . . Features some nice places to swim.

* Terceira: Angra do Heroisma is a UNESCO World Heritage town of narrow streets with a bay that once gave shelter to Spanish treasure galleons; it's protected by the fort of Sao Joao Baptista. . . . Bulls are raised inland for the summer season of bull running. . . . Check out caves and lava tubes.

* Graciosa: Sample Graciosa white wines after exploring the island's caldera. . . . Very little traffic or tourists.

* Sao Jorge: Features some of the islands' best walking routes, from grass-covered volcanic cones to dramatic coastal paths. . . . Base yourself in Velas, with its harbor and cafes and mix of traditional and modern buildings.

* Pico: Climb the island's mountain, the tallest in Portugal. . . . The whalers' museum in Lajes depicts the skills and hardships of open-boat whaling. . . . Boat tours leaving from Lajes offer some of the best opportunities to see whales.

* Faial: Horta, ravaged by pirates and the English in Elizabethan times, is a yachties' watering hole. . . . Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the views of Pico. . . . Visit Capelinhos, where the last volcanic eruption took place 50 years ago; the island's central caldera is now a nature reserve.

* Flores: The island features waterfalls and hydrangea hedges. . . . Walk along an impressive coastal path. . . . Drive to several crater lakes and coastal villages.

* Corvo: Vila Nova do Corvo is the island's only settlement, with small old houses, a good pub and a cafe or two. . . . Walk or catch a ride up to the central caldera. . . . Because of the increasing number of hurricanes forming in the Atlantic in the past decade or so, bird-watching is becoming a major attraction of Corvo (as well as Flores) as birds are swept off course and out to sea.

-- J.D.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company