The first stop on our cruise from Miami to Rome was Ponta Delgada in the Azores. We were about 1,200 miles (1,930 km) southeast of Canada and 850 miles (1,360 km) west of Portugal. The Azores are pretty much in the middle of the freaking ocean! It was crazy to look out on an endless ocean before going to bed and wake up on land the next morning. After a quick breakfast, we headed off the boat to enjoy some solid ground and a beautiful day in Ponta Delgada, Azores.
The Azores are a collection of nine volcanic islands and is an autonomous region of Portugal (similar to Puerto Rico and the USA). Although it is usually pretty cloudy and wet, the temperatures are very mild year-round, at an average of 70° F. It makes for a good agricultural economy focused on dairy products. Cheese seemed to be the must-have item at all of the shops and the local supermarket.
Of the nine islands in the Azores, we ended up on São Miguel (St. Michael in the national language of Portuguese). The island is bisected by many geological faults, giving it a lot of interesting geographic features. One of the most famous is the Lagoa do Fogo, a crater lake in the center of the island. Many of our friends on board took the tour to see Lagoa do Fogo and I was very jealous. We, instead, wandered the streets of Ponta Delgada… which was also nice, but maybe not as nice.
At less than 70,000 residents, Ponta Delgada is still the economic capital and largest municipality in the Azores. Although Ponta Delgada is surrounded by volcanoes and volcanic fissural systems (linear vent), the last eruption on the island was in 1880. In contrast, walking in the city-center, we were completely unaware of the volcanoes that had created the islands. Instead, we found ourselves in awe of the quiet town and distant rolling hills covered in greenery.
Jen and Josh Explore the Azores
It was a rainy and cloudy day, so we opted to forgo our planned exploration of the crater lakes. Instead, we hopped off the ship and hit the town. The city center was a lovely collection of old buildings that had been repurposed to hold Burger Kings and McDonalds. Steps away from the city center, the old buildings showed more obvious signs of decay and disuse. It felt like a city that had been abandoned and only recently rediscovered. It was eerie, yet peaceful.
Finally, we wandered through a couple of tourist shops and farmer’s markets, before walking out of town towards the more local grocery store. As I’ve mentioned before, I love walking through foreign grocery stores. The thing that set this one apart was the large collection of local cheeses (at a quarter of the price of the gift shops). We didn’t try any of the cheese, but did pick up a case of soda (cans cost $3.25 on board). And that about wrapped up our exploration of the Azores. Although a short visit, it was nice to touch solid ground again and see a new place that neither of us have ever been to before. I hope we can make it back some day to enjoy some of the natural beauty of these lovely islands.