Adventurer Ben Fogle shares fond memories of this stunning Portuguese archipelago – a must visit destination on any traveller’s wish list…
Ben Fogle looks wistful as he recalls his time in the Azores. “It’s Europe but with a twist” he says, bundled up in a cafe in West London, clutching an extra-strong cappuccino. “Some people say they find islands imprisoning, but not me. I find them liberating. The isolation of the Azores is a big part of why I find them so special.”
One of the reasons Ben loves visiting the Portuguese archipelago is to train for a 5,000km charity swim from New York to England this year. ‘The water is rather like Cornwall in summer.” But as he chats about his experiences on the nine islands, 1,500km west of Lisbon, that’s probably the only link that reminds him of home. “You’ve got endless ocean there – that’s what is so extraordinary about the Azores, you’ve got deep ocean all around. There’s every chance a mighty sperm whale will swim past you.
“It’s definitely not a mass market kind of place, or for those who just want sun and beach,” he says. They are easy to get to, though. From Gatwick there’s a nonstop flight that’s less than four hours to Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel between Easter and October every Saturday lunchtime. At other times of year it’s only a slightly longer journey with a change of planes in Lisbon.