(CNN) – A journey to heaven on earth does not necessarily require a long, difficult or dangerous journey.
In fact, an unconventional landscape reminiscent of a fairy tale that is only five hours from Boston and about four hours from the United Kingdom. It is a land where waterfalls descend on steep green slopes; Where roads are paved with hydrangea hedges; And where the whimsical coast is covered with black sand beaches.
The quality of a lost time prevails, be it a village of stone habitat connected by a paved path, or the locals who are true to the old method of planting crops in the fertile plains at the foot of the hill, or deliver milk to the cheese factory by horse-drawn carriage.
Welcome to Azores, the necklace of nine fascinating islands that are stuck in the middle of the Atlantic but part of Portugal. The archipelago is an autonomous region about 1,000 miles from the Portuguese mainland. The island’s heat pools, alluring calderas, crater lakes, and steaming geysers bear witness to the violent volcanic eruptions that gave birth to them, yet each island has its own distinct character where nature prevails in its wild state.
Azores Airlines flies non-stop from Boston to Ponta Delgada on the island of Sওo Miguel and to Teresera Lodges, with stopovers at Ponta Delgada all year round. Both United (from Newark) and Azores Airlines (from JFK, on selected days) have summer non-stop services in Ponta Delgada. British Airways offers non-stop, summer service on Saturdays
Here’s what to expect on each island, after a direct walk to an archipelago of seemingly one world away:
Flores is the westernmost island of Azores. Although its name translates to “flower”, it is the abundant water source that defines this dazzling emerald green island that is frequently shrouded in fog.
They have a perfect Miraduro (viewpoint), including Forest Green Lagoa Negra, sitting right next to the cobalt blue Lagoa Comprida.
As well as the adjoining Negra, the left, and the adjoining Comprida Flores create an interesting view.
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Drenched with waterfalls within the island’s green wall, the mighty Poco do Bacalhau descends 300 feet into a small, swimming pool.
With less than 500 inhabitants and a secluded town situated on a single parcel of land above sea level, Corvo is the smallest (and most remote) Azorian island, only four miles long and not even three miles wide.
Bird watching is a popular activity in the tiny cormorant.
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Nevertheless, this tiny island (remnant of an ancient volcano about 10 miles north of Flores) is a famous paradise for bird-watchers, who gravitate here especially in the autumn, hoping to see the yellow-billed cuckoo, Cory’s shearwater and many other species. .
For hundreds of years, sailing ships have built the capital port of Horta – famous for its boldly painted seals – a stopover that sailed between the New and Old Worlds in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Bright hydrangeas border road along the west end route of the file.
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Sky-blue hydrangeas border road along the route on the west side of the island and a football ball-shaped globe in the frame house. This desolate, monotonous area stands in stark contrast to the buzzing, colorful Horta.
At about 8,000-feet, Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest peak, dominates the island’s landscape.
Mount Pico is Portugal’s highest peak at 7,713 feet (2,351 meters).
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Here, almost everything seems to be made of black basalt lava rock, including coral mosaics around the local vineyards that have kept them warm and protected from the island’s fuzzy, salty winds for centuries.
Snacking through the landscape of wild heather and Japanese cedar is the natural sidewalk that is made up of fuzzy or cliff-backed fertile plains created by landslides and ancient lava flows.
One of the most enticing is the Faza de Santo Cristo, accessed via a six-mile-long walkable donkey trail that descends from the peak of the best de Topo clouds. The trail is past the old waterworks and the gated branch gates in the isolated, waterfront village of Faza de Santo Cristo. Residents cultivate yam, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes in the roof garden.
Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is a fertile plain at the foot of a steep slope.
This coast attracts surfers who come for the Point Break Wave. The island, however, is most famous for a culinary dish: their tangy cow’s milk cheese.
The many signature sights of Graciosa provide a dramatic lesson about the origins of the island’s volcanoes.
Furna do Enxofre is an impressive lava cave on the island of Graciosa.
Stefano / Adobe stock
The scene below is surreal. In contrast to the early lakes filled with cold rainwater, the cave air is filled with the sulfur odor and the mud continues to bubble bubbles and erupt at 180 Fahrenheit (82 centigrade). Sunlight pours through the oakuli on the roof, revealing yellow crystals on the muddy slope of the rock.
Although Pico’s black basalt gives the island a black-and-white brushstroke look, Teresira uses a Creola crayon palette in many ways.
Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features brightly painted historic buildings.
Jose A. Barnett Bassett / Moment RF / Getty Images
On the north coast, the village of Bisquitos shows the source of its volcanoes where natural pools of all sizes and depths pierce the hard black lava that pervades the harbor. Beside these, beach towels, umbrellas and loungers can be set for sunny and wet days.
Ponta delgada is the capital of the Azores Autonomous Region.
Daliu / Adobe stock
It is said to be home to the world’s oldest commercial greenhouse pineapple and Europe’s oldest tea garden.
One of the island’s most recognizable landscapes is the Farnas Valley, a dormant hole lined with foliage and inviting dotted hot springs with reminders of past volcanoes.
Naturally stunning, 18-hole Furnas Golf Club located 1,700 feet above sea level, with volcanic sand-filled tree ferns and bunkers.
Santa Maria is the southernmost island of the Azores, with proud sun and golden sand beaches.
Klara Bakalarova / Adobe Stock
Santa Maria, the southernmost of the Azores, is not only the most sunny of the islands, it is also the only golden sand beach.
The green and blue of the sea, the sky and the valley merge into the Miradouro da Pedra Riza, one of the many sights that make for a beautiful picnic spot. Japanese cedar forests encircle jig-jagging roads, sometimes along paths surrounded by Azorian blueberries and small orchids.
The village of S সাo Lorenco is especially popular in the summer for its photogenic sandy expanses supported by old vineyard tapestries surrounded by black lava stone walls.
Jeanine Baron is a New York City-based travel writer who specializes in Portugal and has visited Azore many times.