Why go? Oh the irony. The Azores archipelago – nine islands castaway in the mid-Atlantic, a long, long way from their Portuguese motherland – was once best known as a whaling base. The industry took off from the 19th century, and continued up until 1984, though even then methods were rather old school. Now, many whaling traditions persist – there are still whaleboat regattas, and vigias (whalers’ lookout towers) have been restored for tourists. However, the focus is now on watching – not hunting – the leviathans that pass by in such great numbers. In-season excursions have a 95% success rate; it’s not unknown to see six or more species in one outing, ranging from sperm whales to bottlenose dolphins to mighty blues. Most visitors to the Azores stick to Sao Miguel, but head further afield to Pico and Faial – particular whale hotspots.
When to go: The weather is most settled April-October. Wildflowers bloom April-June. Various species of baleen whales (fin, sei, humpback, blue) migrate past in spring; sperm whales are resident year round.
How to go: From April to October there are direct flights from Gatwickto Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel (4hrs); flights run year-round via Lisbon.