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How to divide the time to spend nine days visiting the Azores?

Lagoa do Fogo (Fogo Lagoon) in São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

How to divide the time to spend nine days visiting the Azores?

Where to go and how much time to spend on each island?

You want to spend some time in the Azores but you don’t know where to go.

Let me try to help.

The Azores is an archipelago of the Portuguese territory constituted by nine islands.

These islands are organized into three groups accordingly with their relative position and proximity: Oriental Group, Central Group, and Occidental Group.

Oriental Group: Santa Maria Island and São Miguel Island

Central Group: Pico Island, São Jorge Island, Faial Island, Graciosa Island, and Terceira Island

Occidental Group: Flores Island and Corvo Island.

Check the Azores location in Google Maps here.

In spite of the Azores being part of Portugal, the archipelago is totally different from the mainland.

Is far from sufficient to say that you will find there a unique environment. Is like visiting a different country but with the same language.

In between the several Azorean islands you will also find huge differences.

While some islands are green, with dozens of lakes and waterfalls, other islands will give you dark landscapes colors with impressive mountains.

These differences between islands are not only in the landscape but also in their traditions and ways of being.

At São Miguel island you will find a considerable size island, all green and quite exuberant, with an architecture based on black and white buildings.

On the other hand, just as an example, Pico island is dark and dry because of the volcanic dark stone.

At Pico, the locals love to paint their dark stone houses doors with red color and the result is fantastic.

With nine islands and also considering the difficulties of access to some of them, is almost impossible to visit them all in one week, at least it doesn’t worth your while to do it like that.

If you’re planning a one week tour, or 9 days for that matter, you will need to make choices regarding what islands to visit.

In this post, I will focus on a 9 days tour.

Later I will write another post considering a two weeks tour and these two possibilities will be very different.

Naturally, the answer will depend on your personal preferences.

However, in case you are more willing to go trekking the answer will be to go visiting islands like Flores or São Jorge.

If you are more of a general tourist maybe plan to spend more time at São Miguel and Terceira.

For the sake of the explanation I will divide the people that are interested in visiting the Azores in two big groups knowing that I’m taking the chance of leaving many possibilities out of this division:

Relaxed Group – Those that are more like a general tourist. Want some cultural activities, not too deep, some walks, not too far or not taking too much time, take some pictures, have some relaxation moments but get to know the place.

Active Group – Those that are interested in knowing the place while doing some physical activities like walking, maybe trekking, or scuba diving, photography, sea kayaking, etc, although are also interested in getting to know the place.

Note that, things like local food and wine tasting, getting to know people and some relaxing are included in both groups, naturally.

I know that splitting the people into two groups like this is probably not even fair but this is a blog post, not a scientific study … give me a break.

So, the question is now “How to divide the time to spend nine days visiting the Azores?”

Please bear in mind that I don’t like to travel with too much tide schedules or be all day long rushing.

I also need to feel that I’m making the most of my time in a balanced way.

What is good for me is not necessarily the best for you so you will do your own decisions.

Relaxed Group: mix tour with some cultural activities, some photo opportunities, and some walks:

3 days at São Miguel island

2 days at Pico island

1 day at São Jorge island

3 days at Terceira island

Active Group: plenty of opportunities for walking, scuba diving, serious photography, surf, rock climbing, etc – two possibilities:

3 days at São Miguel island

2 days at Pico island

2 days at São Jorge island

2 days at Terceira island

or

3 days at São Miguel island

3 days at Flores island

2 days at Pico island

1 day at São Jorge Island

This is only an idea of how to split time between islands, you will decide what is best for you.

The Azores is in my shortlist of favorite destinations

I’ve been traveling there for many years and I know deeply all the islands.

There are infinite possibilities to do a wide variety of activities like walking, photographing, lay down on the beach, jumping from cliffs, cultural visits, you name it.

Is really difficult to select some islands to visit in one week, leaving out so many other wonderful places but this is real life with its limitations of time and money.

In this post, I did not consider the logistic difficulties you can find when booking flights to the Azores.

It will always depend on where do you come from. 

Later I will write a series of posts regarding each island and with some ideas of what can be done here.

You also have the possibility of joining us on our tour here.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

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The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Garrano horses at Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal

The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Wild horses in Portugal at Gerês National Park.

Why are the Garrano horses so important?

In a territory with such ancient boundaries, such as Portugal, and where the human presence is almost everywhere, there are not so frequent wildlife sightings.

When these sightings happen, as it was in this case, it is always an exciting moment.

Garrano is a breed of Iberian horses.

We often tend to refer to Garrano horses as being Portuguese but the fact is the animal knows no boundaries and they can be seen both on the Portuguese side and on the Spanish side.

On the Spanish side, the Gerês (Gerês National Park) is called Xures, very similar.

These are horses of small stature, wrongly often referred to as ponies, adapted to the harsh conditions of the Gerês and with working horse characteristics.

It’s difficult to find the word to express how much I love seeing these free animals in the wild.

They are no longer in danger of extinction as once they were, it is a sign of hope in the future of coexistence between humans and wildlife.

This was a moment to remember.

David Monteiro

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Accessing to the right photo spots for photography in Lisbon

Accessing the right photo spots for photography in Lisbon

For a travel photographer, accessing the right spots for photography is often a problem for many reasons, and in Lisbon it is not different.

It starts by needing to know where are the best spots for your photography style and how to get there but is it doesn’t end here.

Depending on your photography style you might want to access areas where it can be more fruitful to be accompanied by a local.

Being for safety reasons or just because a guide can take you to where you will be mingling with the local folks away from the touristic areas, using this kind of services is a possibility to consider.

Situations that one takes for granted at home can be very different in another town or country.

A simple example is considering Lisbon to be an interesting city to photograph fishing boast just because it stands by the sea. Perhaps it is but where to do it and when are questions to consider.

Also, there is the “time” constraint factor to think about. So many places to go and so little time available.

As a local photographer, I’m offering tours for photographers depending on their specific or general interests.

If you are spending a couple of days in Lisbon or in the surroundings as you may well know, that is not too much time to photograph so you better take the most of it.

Give me a call and let me know what kind of assistance you might need.

Check my photography tour here.

David Monteiro

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Cliché photo of a waterfall in the Azores

Cliché photo of a waterfall in the Azores

Some shots are irresistible.

I was at Flowers Island, at the Azores archipelago that belongs to Portugal, spending days of vacations and, contrary to the rest of the year I was not in the mood for physical activities, which I do all year round. I wanted to enjoy being there, the place and the tranquility.

But, after two days of heavy rain and being confined to this cheap hotel room the relaxation was starting to annoy me a great deal.

We had planned to spend two days at Corvo island but it was impossible to go out or to arrive in Flores, boats, and planes are not running because of the bad weather. So, that tour went down the drain.

After this two days, the plan was to go spend some more days at Fajã Grande, the opposite extreme of the island.

With so much rain the soil couldn’t absorb more water and the creek and waterfalls were pumping of life in movement and colors.

On our way to Fajã Grande at a certain moment I saw another waterfall but without realizing how far I was a didn’t pay too much attention, it was just another one and … who cares for pictures of water falling from a cliff?

I was not for cliché photos were at that time until I reached the road that is close enough ear the water falling and that was really far anyway.

Ok, I was totally convinced to stop and photograph the scene.

David Monteiro

Location: Waterfall of the “Ribeira Grande” and viewpoint of Fajãzinha, Flores Island, Azores archipelago, Portugal

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Lisbon – Half Day Bicycle Tour – Portugal

Lisbon – Half Day Bicycle Tour – Portugal

There are several excellent possibilities for bicycle tours in Lisbon.

Nowadays Lisbon is the place to be.

The city foundation is related with many legends and probably the most interesting one tells us that Ulysses was responsible for its foundation while running away from a certain queen of the serpents … long story that I can tell you later.

Being an old city, there are quite some cobblestone roads in the center of Lisbon, there are also tram tracks, car traffic and, if that is not enough, Lisbon is known to be the city of the seven hills … but there are several excellent possibilities for bicycle tours in Lisbon.

An exceptional example of an excellent bicycle ride is to ride along the river Tejo as is showed in the above-attached video where you can also visit the Jerónimos Monastery and also taste the famous custard cakes.

Duration:

My proposition is a 3 hours ride – morning or afternoon.
Sample schedules: 9:00am/12:00 am or 1:00pm/4:00pm, however, a different tour or schedule can be arranged.

Price:

25€/Adults and 20€/youngsters up to 16 years old with a minimum of 3 adults paying or equivalent value.

The use of hybrid bicycle and helmet are included.

Starting and ending points:

We will take you at your hotel door with our van if your will be lodged in Lisbon. For other lodging locations, it will assess case by case.

Reservation:

The above mention events are subject to prior reservation.
75€ will be asked as a reservation. The remaining values to be paid, if there are, they will be asked at the beginning of the event.
All above-mentioned prices include guide, insurance, and VAT plus usage of the equipment if that is stated in the specific information of the event.

Cancellation:

The costs of cancellation are as follows:
90 days before 1st Tour Day – 0% of reservation
89-60 days before 1st Tour Day – 25% of reservation
59-45 days before 1st Tour Day – 50% of reservation
44-30 days before 1st Tour Day – 75% of reservation
29 days or less before 1st Tour Day – 100% of reservation
To cancel your reservation it is mandatory that an e-mail is sent from the same e-mail address used for the reservation.
The amount will be transferred back to the same account used to the reservation.

Information and reservations

Email – david.monteiro@iberactive.com
Cell Phone: +351 914 794 553
Skype: monteiro.david

Legal information

“Iberactive” is a registered trademark of the Travel Agency
Iberhills – Eventos e Viagens, Unipessoal Lda
Rua Professor Mira Fernandes, Lt 1543 – 5Dto
1900-383 Lisboa
Portugal

Tax Identification Number (VAT number): 513 891 099

Bank Account:
Novo Banco SA (Lisbon, Portugal)
IBAN: PT50 007 0000 0031 3261 0162 3 SWIFT / BIC: BESCPTPL

Operating with the following licenses: RNAVT: 6246 and RNAAT 338/2016 of the Portuguese Tourism Authorities
Certified as “Turismo de Natureza” by ICNF

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Unknown places to walk – the river Alva dams

Unknown places to walk - the river Alva dams

The river Alva starts in the southwestern part of the Serra da Estrela and goes into the Mondego River upstream of Penacova, around 230km north from Lisbon.

At the mouth of the river Alva, and near Penacova, there are a number of small dams that allow a very interesting walk where we can cross the river several times from one side to the other, as we can see in the photographs of the various walks I led there.

With a good knowledge of the region, it is possible to predict the level of water passing over the dams in such a way that it becomes possible to do the crossings without taking your boots off.

 An unknown location, which does not come in tourist guides but well worth a visit and the hiking is fabulous, especially if it’s finished with a typical regional dinner with dishes such as “Chanfana” or a Lamprey Rice. I will write about these dishes later.

Let’s walk?

I will be expecting you.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2015-12-28 12:37:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Canyoning with the three stooges at Salto de Bierge – Spain

Once in a while I find astonishing  places, truly amazing locations.

It’s not easy for me to point one single place in between so many incredible places I know but sometimes there is something I can’t explain that makes location to shine in a different way it get stuck in my maind.

On the case of Salto de Bierge is quite obvious, just look to the pictures, the spot is definitely wonderful and, I can assure you that what you cannot see gives it even a greater interest.

This small dam of the river Alcanadre is located in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Park, the Spanish Meca of canyoning. For those who don’t know what canyoning is please check this clip.

After a quite windy canyon the river Alcanadre arrives to a wide area where its waters slows down and spreads along a shallow bathing area.

Around here, besides being a pleasant area for a bath, one can jump from the river dam wall. It’s a 9,5m high wall and the falling will end in deeper waters, egnouphly deep to jump safely.

I came here for the first time on vacations with two friends, I was far from imagining that one day I would guide tours here.

At the time we thought it was a good idea to hire a local guide to l
ead us throughout the canyon, a real treat, really vacations time.

We was so excited that we didn’t pay too much attention to the guy saying: the canyon will require many jumps to the water increasingly higher along the way. The point here was that one of the three stooges was afraid to jump from high places.

As you can imagine it was quite an amusing morning until the moment that we arrived to the river dam wall and I realize that is was impossible for my friend to jump.

I never in the world could imagine he could say what he said: I WILL JUMP!!!!

I grabbed my disposable camera … dreadful camera … but the only one I had at the moment and I jumped to be able to capture his jump from a bottom up angle.

I was so excited that I almost lost the camera. Fortunately I was able to retrieve it.

One step to the void and there he was, the guy that refused all the jumps during all the canyon was jumping from the highest one.

The jump was immortalized in a lousy picture and all the crowd was clapping theirs hands … How did they knew? The third stooge had given short a speech before the jump telling everybody present about what was happening and the second stooge had is moment of glory.

What a day 🙂 thank you my friends for such memories.

David Monteiro

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A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

The wind was blowing tremendously strong intensifying the wind chill effect and the fog was preventing us to see more than 50m ahead.

I knew the summit Almanzor was not too far from the point where we was standing but we were still missing the most difficult part to climb.

The team was not prepared to overcome such a difficult task and, on top of that there was no point to continue.

I knew everybody was eager to reach the top … we were so close …

“THAT IS IT GUYS … WE HAVE TO RETURN”

It’s hard having to “stop the fun” especially when I knew that everybody had traveled from so far away to climb this mountain but I know today that was the right decision at that time.

(one day earlier)

I can’t say the day before was sunny and with a blue sky, was not. Was kind of foggy day but good enough for a ice climbing introduction and I had the opportunity to explain all the techniques I was supposed to and, at the end was a wonderful working day.

We spent the night at the Refúgio Elola, the local mountain hut and I remember the substantial dinner we had, was something like a goulash in a Spanish way, whatever that is.

The climbing day was supposed to have better weather but Nature has its mysteries and during the night the Gods might had some disagreement in between them.

I slept regularly, in mountain huts I never sleep deeply but the fair amount to rest. Anyway, inside the mountain hut one cannot have the perception of the weather outside.

We left the hut around 5am, just before sunrise. It’s always better to start walking with hard snow.

There was no way to see the clouds and or to assess the weather for the next hours.

Around 8am the weather was already giving us a hard time and we was right before being exposed to the most severe area, we was about to be at the north face of the mountain, the windiest part.

Half an hour later I had all the team tide up to a rock, all prepared to climb the last section but there was when I realized the team couldn’t continue and you know the rest.

I’m joining a picture of the place but with god weather so you can understand where was we 🙂

The mountain is still there so we will try another day.

David Monteiro

 

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Walking to Cape Roca, Europe’s mainland westernmost

Cape Roca
Cape Roca

Have you ever walked to Cape Roca, Europe's mainland westernmost point?

Walking to Cape Roca is a way to prepare my guests for mountain walking tours.

Walking from Guincho to Cape Roca is one of the classic walking trails in Lisbon/Sintra area.

Quite close to Cascais, at Guincho, you will find some trails along the seacoast.

Walking these trails you will have the sensation of “I’m at the end of Europe”.

In fact, you are at the westernmost point of Europe mainland, the Cape Roca (38°46’49.59″N 9°29’56.19″W).

From the Cape Roca, or arriving here, you can walk many different trails.

I am going to focus on only one, from Forte do Guincho to Cape Roca, means from East to West.

North from Guincho, at Abano beach, you can find an XVII century fortress named Forte do Guincho.

This is one of several Portuguese military fortresses built after the revolution of Dec’1640.

An interesting flower to look for and to care for, around here, is the Armeria pseudarmeria.

This species is at risk of extinction both because tourists pick them up due to its beauty during blooming and because it only grows along these cliffs.

Granite is the king of the area.

It offers us magnificent cliffs often with more than 150m/492ft (+/-) high and with standalone rocks.

Some of these rocks look like guardians of the coast, always searching for the enemy boats at the horizon.

The sunsets at the west so one can take amazing sunset photos from the Cape Roca or very impressive photographs of the waves hitting the rocks.​

Map-Guincho-Cape-Roca

I usually come here with Portuguese guests before mountain hiking tours.

The trail is wonderful as a pre mountian tour preparation.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees – Spain

Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees - Spain

Nothing better like a nice walk to stretch your legs during a long van transfer, even better if is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

After a long flight, there is nothing worse than being seated in a car for 4 hours driving to doesn’t matter where. But that is what can happen when you are traveling to the Pyrenees after landing at the Barcelona Airport if you don’t have a backup plan.

Of course, you can fly to a closer airport like Huesca or Zaragoza. However, there are not many flights to those airports and in the end, it can take more time than getting there by car.

So, what to do to, at least to soften the long car ride? The answer is to stop somewhere nice for a walk and enjoy the place and instead of a long drive you just add an extra interesting day.

I was searching for a walk halfway to the Pyrenees because of the above reasons and this place caught my attention, is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

The Congost de Mont-rebei is the narrowest canyon of the river Noguera Ribagorzana, right in between the provinces of Huesca and Lleida, Spain.

Is located in quite remote hills and until the beginning of the XX century there were no roads to connect some local villages or with the existing roads, it was a very long ride. So, in 1912 a walking trail was built in the canyon to connect Corçà to Alsamora and other tinny little villages.

Later a river dam was also built and the first trail was flooded (you can see that in one of the photos) and was needed to build a new trail again but now in a higher altitude. In 1984 the second walking trail was finished allowing the people to cross from one side to the other.

More recently an iron bridge and some catwalks were added.

Map-Congost-Mont-rebei

The trail (red line) is not too far from Tremp, has 13 Km to each side without relevant elevation gain. Obviously, you can do a shorter distance because the most beautiful part of the trail is the canyon and it goes until the first 8 Km.

Allow me to suggest you take a sandwich or something else to bite, you will find a perfect place to do it, like my colleague in the photo.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tremp, Spain