backpacking Azores
Backpacking Azores: Flores Edition

Flores is the western most island in the Azorean chain.  It actually lies on the American continental shelf – this practically makes it just like home for US folks.  I was told Flores is the most beautiful of the 9 islands and, well, out of the 3 I visited it definitely lived up to the hype.  My husband and I got to know the island in the best way possible; Backpacking Azores through its valleys and villages, up mountains, and along ridges all while having a stunning view of the Atlantic.  And truth be told, these hikes were some of the most intense we have experienced.

 

WHEN YOU ARRIVE

Stop by the tourism office at the Santa Cruz airport when you land.  The office was extremely helpful and gave us lots of swag to plan our trip.  It’s managed around incoming flights so best to visit when you arrive and get it out of the way.  We needed a place to drop our non-backpacking bags and walked to one of the near-by hotels — Hotel das Flores – Inatel.  The staff was more than willing to help us out; we stored our luggage there, without a reservation, and for free!   We had planned to take a bus from Santa Cruz to Lajedo; however, found out buses don’t run on non-working days or holidays.  [Both Saturday & Sunday are considered non-working days.]  We headed to the taxi pick-up in the center of town and waited.  Things seem to be pretty sleepy all around on weekends and after 10 minutes we called one of the English speaking taxi numbers given to us by the tourism office.

 

BACKPACKING AZORES – Lajeda to Ponta Delgada in 3 days

**Click on the headings for trail maps and guides.  Please note any closures due to weather or season.

Day 1 – From Lajedo to Faja Grande.  Our taxi dropped us off at the trail-head in Lajado and we headed on our way to Faja Grande.  The trails are well marked with red and yellow blazes and the maps supplied by the tourism office were helpful and detailed.  Total hike took us 6 hours and the maps noted it was 13.5km.  I am going to tell you this felt like much more.  An 8+ mile day with full packs is already impressive and with the elevation changes and rocky terrain it seemed well over 10 miles.

The primitive *read no public facilities* campsite in Faja Grande is at the northwest end of town.   To the right of the lighthouse you will find a picnic area among the cows.  We were there in early May and were the only ones who were enjoying the area (except for the cows!).

Day 2 – Day hike to Miradouro Das Lagoas.  We left our camp set-up for the day and headed out after a stop for café at Costa Ocidental Snack Bar in town.  The beginning of the hike is a steep incline and can be slippery as most everything is moss covered.  The trail eventually turns into a tarmac road which you follow around and down.  At the last turn, there’s a trail marker, we missed it first time around, which will take you off the road and onto a footpath.  If you reach the main road you’ve gone too far.  The hike to the vantage point of the Miradouro das Lagoas is around 7km and took us about 3.5 hours (includes our unintentional detour time).  The foot path can be extremely swampy.  If you want to bypass this muck – we chose this option for the return – you can take the main road from the lakes west until you reach a tarmac road on your right.  This is the very same tarmac road from the trail.

Total round trip took us almost 6 hours of hiking.  We rewarded ourselves with an amazing dinner at Maresia [all around amazing, by the way!!] which is near the campsite.  It’s intimate and, at least the night we were there, surprisingly packed.  We sat outside and watched the sun set over lava rocks and enjoyed the most delicious grilled octopus and fresh made cheese.

Day 3 – From Faja Grande to Ponta Delgada.  Again, this day leads off with a pretty intense uphill battle but once completed the remainder of the trail levels off and only has a few small elevation changes.  It took us around 4 hours to get to the lighthouse outside of Ponta Delgada where we ate lunch and with full bellies, sun shining and weary feet passed out for a quick nap.  From the lighthouse, you follow the tarmac road into Ponta Delgada.  Maybe another 45 minutes and from Faja Grande the total trip is around 12.4km.

Our plan was to spend our last night camping in Ponta Delgada, however, we never actually found the campsite.  This section of the trail is the only time we had trouble finding markers and once we did they led us out of Ponta Delgada and onwards to Ponta do Ilheu and Ilheu dos Abroes.  After about an hour of uphill, tarmac hiking we turned around.  And after a brief meltdown by yours truly, we decided our last night on Flores was to be spent back at the hotel.  We bought 2 Sagres and caught the last bus to Santa Cruz (around 5:30p) at the stop across from Restaurante O Pescador.

We found information for overnight backpackers hard to find as I believe most tackle the trails as day-hikes in segments.  If you have any backpacking Azores tips, leave a comment and let’s hear about them!  Flores is an absolutely beautiful island [and we were there in the off-season] and with close proximity and cheap flights from the US I’m surprised, but grateful, the Azores remain relatively untapped!  Want more Azores?  Check out my other post – Azorian Magic!

Happy GridWalking!

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