Benjamin Sanchi Nazare

Portugal Fodor

Azores IslandsWhy Go Now This lush, volcanic archipelago is an insider's find thanks to its slightly inconvenient location—in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about mid-way between the New York and Lisbon. Renowned for world-class whale watching, hot mineral springs, and quaint seaside towns, each of the nine islands that make up the Azores Islands has its own fascinating identity. And thanks to the Portuguese territory's off-the-beaten-path locale, prices are well within budget. Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are cozy, and while the seafood is outstanding, it's almost impossible find an expensive restaurant on any of the islands. –by Margaret Kelly

Where to StayLocated on São Miguel, the archipelago's largest island, Furnas Lake Villas consists of 10 high-design structures that exist in perfect balance with the flora of Azores' greenest island. Interiors are simply decorated in neutral tones with sleek, contemporary furniture. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Adegas do Pico is a group of 10 traditional stone houses scattered throughout Pico Island. Each of these historic houses has been carefully restored by local craftsmen according to the island's building tradition.

Insider TipThough beaches aren't the primary attraction in Azores, the Gulf Stream keeps the water a temperate 70 degrees—perfect for a dip.

Word of Mouth "I've just returned from a 10-day tour, visiting the islands of Sao Miguel, Pico and Faial—each island dazzles, and the Azoreans couldn't be more welcoming, " says Fodorite Packed2Go.

When to Go April showers bring May flowers to Azores, so spring is an ideal time to visit. Summer is perfect for whale watching.

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