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Azores - Atlantis and Green Island
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Azores - Atlantis and Green Island

The Azores is a stunning archipelago of nine islands in the Atlantic Ocean, almost midway between Portugal and North America. Discovered in the 15th Century, they became an important stop-over point for early explorers and travellers between the old and new worlds.

São Miguel is the largest island in the Azores and measures 81kms long and 15kms wide at its maximum points, however the roads wind up and around many hills and so the island feels much larger than these distances suggest.

The islands are volcanic in origin and this volcanic activity has created a spectacular natural beauty of vast craters, glistening blue lakes, black cliffs along the shore, lush green rolling valleys, rugged mountains and hot mineral springs and geysers.

The fertile terrain is uneven and rocky, making for small, intensely green fields divided by stone walls and edged with vibrantly blooming flowers. The flower most associated with the Azores is the hydrangea, which flowers riotously throughout the islands, lining the roads and fields with shades of blue, purple and pink. Other abundant flowers are arum lilies, wild ginger, rhododendrons, gladioli and sweet peas.

Your base for this wonderful riding holiday is Quinta da Terça on the south of the island not far from the main town of Ponta Delgada. The historic house of the Quinta (farm) is one of the oldest homes on the island and dates from the 17th Century. There are five lovely guest rooms, each with en suite facilities as well as a comfortable dining room and lounge.

An array of seasonal fruit and vegetables appear in the wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners available at the Quinta. The food is delicious and a real highlight of the holiday.

The riding centre has some 20 much loved horses. They are all well-schooled and a pleasure to ride, whether in the arena or out on the trail.

The Azores are one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins and boat trips out onto the ocean usually give wonderful sightings. Among the most sighted species are the sperm whale, the fin whale, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin.

The Green Island Trail is a seven night itinerary offering riding on six days (about 24 hours total). You have three all day rides with up to six hours in the saddle and three half day rides leaving time to explore the island. Some non-riding excursions are included.

The Atlantis Ride follows a similar itinerary to the Green Island Trail, but with four half day rides and one full day ride (about 17 hours total). There are more non-riding excursions included in the itinerary, which makes this a great itinerary for those wishing to see more of the island.

São Miguel has an extensive network of tracks perfect for riding. They have been built throughout the centuries around and through the countryside and most are still used by farmers going about their daily routines.

On the all day rides, you explore the dramatic south coast or ride eastwards from the Quinta up and over the hills with superb views back along the coast. The highlight for many people is a full day ride to Sete Cidades. This extinct volcano crater, almost 18kms in circumference, has two magnificent lakes, one deep blue in colour and the other emerald green.

There is much to do when not riding. Ponta Delgada is home to some beautiful examples of Portuguese architecture dating back to the 17th Century. You can have a guided personal tour to explore some of the delights of the island. You may wish to have some dressage lessons or to go on a whale and dolphin watching trip (extra payable locally).

The horses are sometimes transported to the start of the ride or brought back to the Quinta at the end of the day so that you have the maximum time riding in the best scenery.

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Portuguese Riding Specialist  Claire Douglas

Claire says:

This is a really lovely riding holiday. The island of São Miguel is beautiful with exotic flowers and lush vegetation. It's also steeped in history, since it was a stopping point for all the ships which sailed from Portugal to the "new world".

My top tip:

A whale watching trip is a great adventure. There is a 90% chance of seeing dolphins and a 50% chance of seeing whales.

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