Travel | Azores & Madeira

Any Boston bride looking for a unique but accessible location for an elopement or destination wedding should definitely consider the Azores. Austin and I recently spent some time exploring São Miguel, the largest of the 9 volcanic islands that comprise the Azores. We flew direct from Boston to Ponta Delgada in a little under 5 hours, where we spent several days soaking in the hot springs of Furnas, enjoying the beautiful gardens and camellias of Parque Terra Nostra, hiking in the Gorreana Tea Plantation, and taking in the view of Sete Cidades (while doing a bit of urban exploration of the nearby abandoned hotel). Besides the beautiful scenery, the islands of the Azores produce an abundance of delicious wines and cheeses—in short, a perfect vacation destination.

Following our stay in the Azores, we hopped on a short flight to Madeira. Outdoor lovers that we are, we didn’t spend much time in Funchal, other than to wander the streets for an afternoon, sample some Madeira wine, and visit the Mercado dos Lavradores. After that, we were eager to hike Madeira’s famous levada paths, and take advantage of the stunning natural beauty of the island. The levadas are an ancient network of irrigation canals that cover the island, making for delightful hiking. (Though also dangerous at times—the landscape of Madeira is incredibly mountainous, and many levada trail heads include vertigo warnings. Some paths are so steep and narrow that a slip or misstep could be fatal.)

Besides the levadas, we were also determined to take a dip in one of the lovely natural pools that dot the coastline. Rough seas meant that we struck out more than once, but we finally found a stunning natural pool that we had all to ourselves!

The last photo in this series was taken at sunrise as we drove to the airport for our flight back to Boston. The road passes under the airport runway, which had to be built on columns extending over the ocean—there simply isn’t a space large and flat enough for an airport runway of adequate size. This golden sunrise view was a perfect end to our Madeira visit, which impressed not only with its stunning natural beauty, but also the amazing ways that humans have shaped and adapted to its landscape.