Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Want to see heaven on earth? Do not be afraid that the journey is not long, difficult or dangerous. Indeed, the pristine fairytale landscape is barely five hours from Boston and nearly four hours from the United Kingdom.
Here, waterfalls cascade down glittering green cliffs, arteria flowers adorn the roads, and rugged coastlines enjoy black sand beaches.
The importance of the forgotten Azores is demonstrated over time by the hamlet of stone dwellings connected with cobblestones, or the dedication of the locals to ancient trails to grow crops in the fertile plains at the foot of the cliffs , or the horse-drawn carriages to bring milk to the cheese factory.
The Azores welcome you with nine enchanting knot-shaped islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to Portugal. This autonomous archipelago is located about a thousand miles from mainland Portugal. The islands’ thermal baths bear witness to the violent volcanic forces that spawned them.
What can you expect on each island? Here’s a quick tour of each of them:
Flores Island is located in the far west of the Azores. Although the name translates to “flowers”, it is the abundant water bodies that characterize this beautiful emerald green island, often shrouded in mist.
It includes seven craters that have become lakes scattered in the meandering interior, all the way to the green forest of “Lagoa Negra”, which lies next to the lake “Lagoa Comprida”.
It has a population of less than 500 people. Corfu is a single isolated city on a single piece of land at sea level. Corfu is the smallest and most remote island of the Azores, measuring only four miles in length and no more than five miles in width.
However, this small island, based on the remains of an ancient volcano, about 10 miles north of Flores, is a popular birdwatcher’s paradise, who flock there in the fall.
For hundreds of years, sailing ships made the port of the capital, Horta, famous for its brightly colored seawalls, a stopover, including for those sailing between the New and Old Worlds in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Many of the current captains and feeders still dock their yachts near the more than 100-year-old Peter Café Sport, which has nautical memorabilia adorned with the intimate interior. Her Skremshaw Museum, dedicated to the carving and engraving of whale bones and teeth, contains artifacts from the late 19th century.
It is the highest mountain in Portugal located on this island. Mount Pico is about 8,000 feet high and overlooks the landscape of this island.
Here, almost everything seems to be built of black basalt lava, including the mosaics of barns around the local vineyards that have heated them for centuries and protected them from the island’s salty breezes.
It is the fertile volcanic soil rich in minerals that has made Biko a must-see for any art lover.
Meander around this island surrounded by wild landscapes, Japanese cedar trees, which form enthralling hiking trails that end when you reach Vajas, or fertile cliff plains formed by landslides and ancient lava flows.
Fajã de Santo Cristo Lake is one of the illusions, reached by walking a 10-kilometer donkey trail that leads to the top of the cloud-covered Serra de Topo. The road winds past old watermills to the remote waterfront village of Vaja de Santo Cristo. Here the residents tend their terraced gardens to grow potatoes, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes.
You will find fascinating and compelling traces of the volcanic origins of Graciosa Island when you visit its signature attractions.
You can go down about 200 steps to the bottom of the Forna de Enixofre, a lava cave of an active volcano. What’s worth knowing is that before this staircase was built, the locals used to lower themselves with ropes to get to the drinking water for their livestock.
While black basalt shapes Pico Island in black and white brushstrokes, Terceira Island uses a “Crayola” palette for coloring on several sides.
The facades of the streets of the capital, Angra do Heroismo, are so strikingly colored that violets even adorn the chapels, adding a glow to the verdant landscape.
São Miguel is the largest of the Azores where Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, is located. The island is about 65 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide.
It is home to what is said to be the world’s oldest commercial pineapple-growing farm, and the oldest working tea plantation in Europe.
Off the coast of Vila Franca do Campo, the original capital, a submerged volcano with a pristine lake attracts kayakers and swimmers.
Santa Maria, the southernmost of the Azores, is not only the brightest of the islands, but also the only one with golden sandy beaches.
The green and blue hues of the sea, sky and valleys mingle in Miradouro da Pedra Rija, one of the natural landmarks that make it a great picnic destination. Forests of Japanese cedar cover winding roads, sometimes along trails fenced with azure blueberries, orchids, and small orchids.