Portuguese American Journal

Opinion | New ways to travel to the Azores and the Algarve – By Len Port

Both the Azores and the Algarve are likely to benefit economically and socially when the SATA Group starts operating direct flights next year between Ponta Delgada and Faro.

Visitors from SATA’s destinations in the United States, Canada and Britain may decide to make use of the new flights to visit both the Azores and the Algarve on the same holiday.

Furthermore, Algarve residents will be able to take a break and escape to the Azores from the hustle and bustle of tourism in their home territory, particularly at the crowded height of summer.

The Faro connection will start on 2 June 2024 with flights on Wednesdays and Sundays departing from Ponta Delgado at 9:00 am and departing Faro at 12.25 pm. The duration of the flights will be about two hours and 25 minutes.

Airbus A320 planes with seats for 168 passengers are expected to be used for the service. Faro International Airport is the second busiest air terminal for foreign passengers in Portugal after Lisbon.

Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel is already connected directly with regular flights to and from Boston, Toronto, London, Lisbon, Oporto, Funchal and Cape Verde.

Both the SATA Air Azores and the other member of the group, Azores Airline, carried a record number of passengers in 2022. The total was 1,920,451, an increase of almost 50% in 2021, and just over 12% on 2019, which was the previous record year.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Last year’s figures were achieved despite the negative effects of COVID-19 remaining in the first quarter of 2022. A further increase in passenger traffic is anticipated for 2023, though probably not as dramatic as last year.

Both the Azores and the Algarve are steeped in attractions for visitors. The Azorean capital Ponta Delgada and elsewhere on São Miguel island, as well as the eight other islands in the archipelago, offer good accommodation for travelers.

The islands are far out in the Atlantic Ocean, almost halfway to North America. That’s about 1,600 Km (1,000 miles) from mainland Portugal. This remoteness is a big attraction in itself. So is the astonishing natural beauty and biodiversity on the islands.

They are frequently referred to as “an absolute paradise” for all kinds of nature lovers. The historic streets on the island of Terceira, for example, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. São Miguel is a great place to look out for whales and dolphins. São Jorge and the tiny island of Corvo are ideal for watching seabirds, such as shearwaters, skuas, and terns.

The Algarve is best known for its superb beaches amid historic headlands such as Cape Saint Vincent, and for its luxury resorts as well as less-expensive coastal villages. Tavira, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Vilamoura, Albufeira, Carvoeiro, and Lagos lure many visitors back, time and time again.

The rural and natural inland areas of the region are particularly popular among hikers and cyclists. The west coast in September and October is best for watching birds in migration. Scores of Buzzards, Eagles, and Vultures may soar overhead while you are sitting on the terrace of a Sagres restaurant.

One of the main differences between the Azores and the Algarve is the climate. The “off- season”, October to April, are usually the best months for hiking in both. January to March is the coolest and quietest period – good for golfers in the Algarve – but also when rain is most likely.

The highest summer temperatures in the Azores are usually about 30 degrees C (86F). July and August in the Algarve, however, will probably be exceptionally hot again next summer – often well over 30 to 40 degrees C (90 to 104 F).

An inquisitive and adventurous spirit is all it needs to arrange and look forward to a memorable first visit to the Azores and or the Algarve.

Len Port, born in Northern Ireland, worked as a news reporter and correspondent, mainly in Hong Kong and South Africa, before moving to Portugal many years ago.