We arrived at (i) the eminence of Galicia, at an altitude of 1000m and even more. Castro Laboreiro and the surrounding villages stand out against the granite monumentality of the mountains and the Planalto da Peneda and Laboreiro. As do its resilient people who, sometimes handed over to Brandas and sometimes to Inverneiras, still call these stunning places home.
It was called the Island of Jesus Christ and has radiated, for a long time, the cult of the Holy Spirit. It houses Angra do Heroísmo, the oldest and most splendid city in the archipelago. These are just two examples. The attributes that make Terceira island unique are endless.
Where, to the west, even on the map the Americas appear remote, the Ilha das Flores is home to the ultimate Azorean idyllic-dramatic domain and almost four thousand Florians surrendered to the dazzling end-of-the-world that welcomed them.
An immaculate biosphere that the Earth's entrails mold and soften is displayed, in São Miguel, in a panoramic format. São Miguel is the largest of the Portuguese islands. And it is a work of art of Nature and Man in the middle of the North Atlantic planted.
By a mere volcanic whim, the youngest Azorean patch projects itself into the rock and lava apogee of Portuguese territory. The island of Pico is home to its highest and sharpest mountain. But not only. It is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Azoreans who tamed this stunning island and surrounding ocean.
It was the first in the archipelago to emerge from the bottom of the sea, the first to be discovered, the first and only to receive Cristovão Colombo and a Concorde. These are some of the attributes that make Santa Maria special. When we visit it, we find many more.
We leave the cliffs of Srª da Peneda, heading for Arcos de ValdeVez and the villages that an erroneous imaginary dubbed Little Portuguese Tibet. From these terraced villages, we pass by others famous for guarding, as golden and sacred treasures, the ears they harvest. Whimsical, the route reveals the resplendent nature and green fertility of these lands in Peneda-Gerês.
We continue on a long, zigzag tour through the domains of Peneda-Gerês and Bouro, inside and outside our only National Park. In this one of the most worshiped areas in the north of Portugal.
Discovered during a stormy sea tour, Porto Santo remains a providential shelter. Countless planes that the weather diverts from neighboring Madeira guarantee their landing there. As thousands of vacationers do every year, they surrender to the softness and immensity of the golden beach and the exuberance of the volcanic sceneries.
The journey begins with a resplendent dawn at 1818 m, high above the sea of clouds that snuggles the Atlantic. This is followed by a winding, ups and downs walk that ends on the lush insular summit of Pico Ruivo, 1861 meters away.
Curve after curve, tunnel after tunnel, we arrive at the sunny and festive south of Paul do Mar. We get goosebumps with the descent to the vertiginous retreat of Achadas da Cruz. We ascend again and marvel at the final cape of Ponta do Pargo. All this, in the western reaches of Madeira.
Terra Chã and Pico Branco footpaths, Porto Santo
In its northeast corner, Porto Santo is another thing. With its back facing south and its large beach, we unveil a mountainous, rugged and even wooded coastline, dotted with islets that dot an even bluer Atlantic.
Finally, we will disembark in Graciosa, our ninth island in the Azores. Even if less dramatic and verdant than its neighbors, Graciosa preserves an Atlantic charm that is its own. Those who have the privilege of living it, take from this island of the central group an esteem that remains forever.
17 km2 of a volcano sunk in a verdant caldera. A solitary village based on a fajã. Four hundred and thirty souls snuggled by the smallness of their land and the glimpse of their neighbor Flores. Welcome to the most fearless of the Azorean islands.
Unusual, with ocher tones and raw earth, Ponta de São Lourenço is often the first sight of Madeira. When we walk through it, we are fascinated, above all, with what the most tropical of the Portuguese islands is not.
We were surprised, on the biggest island of the Azores, with a caldera cut by small farms, massive and deep to the point of sheltering two volcanoes, a huge lagoon and almost two thousand people from São Miguel. Few places in the archipelago are, at the same time, as grand and welcoming as the green and steaming Vale das Furnas.
It is part of the group of six islets around the island of Porto Santo, but it is far from being just one more. Even though it is the eastern threshold of the Madeira archipelago, it is the island closest to Portosantenses. At night, it also makes the fanal that confirms the right course for ships coming from Europe.