As you might know if you know me personally, or follow me on Twitter, we’ve just returned from a very well-deserved break away to another of the Azores islands not too far away away from where we live in Faial- Flores island.
You’ve probably never heard of Flores, nor have a clue about where it is so let me fill you in on some all-important background info.
Flores is one of the most westerly islands in the Azores archipelago which is positioned almost midway out into the Atlantic Ocean (click this link to see it on Google Earth) and is part of Portugal.
With just over 4000 residents, it’s one of the smallest and the most remote, second only to the teeny tiny island of Corvo just nearby.
Luckily for me, it’s also one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Famed for being the most breathtakingly beautiful island in the Azores archipelago, Flores boasts the kind of epic landscapes that makes places like Hawaii green with envy.
Imagine deep valleys sliced into the landscapes and contrasted with earth-shattering peaks, incredible waterfalls, crystal clear water which is oh-so perfect for snorkelling, the remains of ancient volcanoes, lagoons which are simply out of this world and legends of pirates, shipwrecks and wild Atlantic storms. It’s also super-affordable and the eco-tourism destination of choice.
So I simply couldn’t resist any longer! I booked myself a flight with Azores airlines and took myself, my 8 year old son and my boyfriend across the ocean to see for ourselves.
And guess what? It was even better than we ever imagined it to be, despite the challenges with the weather. (Hey, it’s all part of the fun, right?)
So if you’re lucky enough to visit Flores, there are five family-friendly activities that you absolutely have to do whilst you’re there.
#1 Swim in the Poço do Bacalhau waterfall (Fajã Grande)
From the very moment I heard there were waterfalls that you could actually swim in on Flores island, I made it my mission to get myself there. After all, what a unique experience!!
I’d been warned to expect FREEZING water under that waterfall, and I was told that I’d barely be able to enjoy it, but that didn’t matter. I mean, c’mon, swimming under a waterfall! AMAZING! I was willing to freeze for the sake of experience.
But it wasn’t that bad at all. The pool at the base of the waterfall was indeed fresh but it was nothing too bad compared with the ocean in England. The water felt soo silky over my skin and I really was in heaven swimming about in there with my son. If you get the chance, be brave- it really is worth it. 🙂
Here’s the proof that I did actually get in (sorry about the quality!)
#2. Go snorkelling in the Santa Cruz natural pools
There’s something incredibly magical about swimming in a natural pool with your son and hearing shrieks of delight as he swims though huge shoals of baby grey mullet, colourful parrot fish, bright blue damselfish and white seabream gently swimming about around him!
I loved it (and so did the older ladies taking their morning bath who also heard his cries!) It’s a memory from this trip I will treasure forever.
These deep natural pools in Santa Cruz are located just a few minutes walk from the airport and are by far the best place to see the local sea life. We even spotted several starfish, an octopus and a fire bug whilst we were there!
With varying depths and even a shallower part for the smaller kids, you’ll adore this place. Don’t miss it!
#3. Take a local bus trip from Lajes to Fajã Grande (and to Santa Cruz)
When we visited Flores we did worry a bit that we wouldn’t see as much as we hoped because there simply weren’t any rental cars available (demand was outstripping supply- one to the beauties of getting off the beaten track like this)
But actually, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we went old school and turned to the local buses instead. Even though there were only two buses a day when we visited, the trip took us on a twisting tour around this incredible landscape on the western coast.
Best of all, the bus driver was a really friendly chap who took time to describe everything we were seeing around us, explain everyday life on the island and even share stories of landslides, of waterfalls, of shipwrecks and of rocks splitting in storms when hit by lightening.
Yes- I’m talking about a public bus system here. We had a guided tour for the price of just a few euros. Amazing!
#4. Visit the Museu das Flores in Santa Cruz
The weather is always a little unpredictable in the Azores, so when the skies turned grey and we still had a few hours to wait for our bus, we ducked in the local town museum to have a quick look and we were very impressed with what we found inside.
Now, usually local museums aren’t the best place for me to take my energetic 8 year old boy as he’s very ‘hands-on’ and needs to constantly be in motion.
But here he was engaged and interested in all the tales of shipwrecks and pirates, and of course thought the displays of real pirate swords and weapons. “Cool!” was his personal description of the place!
My own imagination was captured by the story of a wrecked ship called the RMS Slavonia. I won’t spoil the story by telling you all- you’ll just have to visit and see 🙂
#5. Soak up the scenery at the lagoons (Caldeiras)
Sadly, the most we managed to see of the many famous lagoons on Flores island was just a little peep over the edge of the mountains because the cloud was so low during our trip.
Even so, the two lagoons of Caldeira Rasa and Caldeira Funda still looked incredible from where we were and I can’t wait until the next trip when I will try again to view them properly. If you visit and the weather is on your side, make sure you don’t miss these, or the other five beautiful lakes scattered across the island.
What we missed
As I said, the weather really wasn’t on our side when we visited. As you’ll see from the photos, we experienced high winds, thick cloud cover and rain for most of the time we were there, but we were still able to make the most of what the island had to offer. Yay!
And of course, this means I have a great reason to visit Flores island again next year and explore it even more. If that’s not a good testimonial for a trip, I don’t know what is.
Places that will be on my bucket list for next year’s trip to Flores include:
- Visiting all seven lagoons in the interior
- Taking a boat tour to see the massive hidden grotto called “Groto de Enxareus” that used to shield pirates (I’m sure my son will LOVE this one too!)
- Popping over to nearby Corvo island (even tinier than Flores)
- Eating at the famous Pôr do Sol restaurant in Fajãzinha (my friends told me about this one, but we couldn’t make it!)
- Exploring the massive Whaling museum in Santa Cruz
- Snorkelling again in the natural pools in Santa Cruz 🙂
So if you want somewhere totally unspoilt and breathtaking to visit (and you don’t mind the occasional cloud or shower) then make sure you hop on a flight over to Flores island. You won’t be sorry.
Feel free to get in touch if you want to learn more about Flores or have any specific questions- I’m always happy to help.
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