GREAT VIEWS, PRISTINE COURSES
The Azores are a group of nine islands off the coast of Portugal . Way off. In fact, they are one third of the way to the United States. Volcanic islands, they surged from the sea millennia ago. The crest of Pico, rising 2,351 metres high out of the Atlantic, is the highest spot in Portugal. Until recently they’ve been known principally as a sort of stepping stone in the Atlantic, a convenient port of call for everyone from Christopher Columbus to today’s long-distance yachtsmen.
Warmed by the Gulf Stream and favoured by an almost constant ridge of high pressure, the climate is temperate ranging from about 11 to 25C.If you knew the Algarve, back before the building boom transformed it, you’ll know what to expect: a laid-back holiday with golf the primary attraction and seafood the daily dish.
There are two magnificent courses on Sao Miguel, the main island: the 27 hole Batalha Golf Course designed by Cameron and Powell and the 18 hole Furnas Golf Course designed by MacKenzie Ross (9 holes) and Cameron Powell (9 holes). Admittedly you’d want to bring your wets to play them, but that’s the price you pay for courses of dazzling lush green, with vistas so remarkable they could take your mind off your game. They are still so under utilised that they may be the most pristine you’ll ever set foot on.
The Batalha and Furnas, along with their clubhouses, are managed by Verde Golf, part of Oceanico Developments, which is already a familiar name in the Algarve.
The proximity of the Batalha course to the San Miguel airport at Ponta Delgada is a big plus. From hotel in to course is a mere 15-minute drive and you’ll tee off virtually without delay.
Take a break from golf and enjoy a bit of whale and dolphin watching. Ferry to the nearby island of Faial and join one of the whale-watching boat trips leaving from the harbour at Horta. In June, July and August they make two trips a day, 8:30 and 16:30. While you’re on Horta be sure to stop at Peter’s Café for one of his famous gin and tonics. Horta is a stop on the international sailing circuit. A long section of the marina is patterned with colourful paintings done by ship’s crews… a superstition holds it’s bad luck to depart Horta without ‘leaving your mark.’
Try out the other islands too, Hire a car, the roads are good and traffic light to non-existant. Soak in a thermal pool. Walk or bike for miles in landscapes alive with wild hydrangea, camellia and azalea. Buy local cheeses. Try some of the wine produced on tiny pockets of earth parceled off in a network of lava –stonewalls. Enjoy a meal steamed in a geyser. Eat seafood everywhere. The flavour and texture of the fish from this unpolluted sea is unforgettable,
The nearest hotel to the Ponta Delgada airport and to the Batalha course is a modern 211-room 4 star hotel at the upper edge of town, the VIP Executive, Rotunda de Sao Goncalo Papa Terra, 9500 Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel; email: email@example.com. Website: www.viphotels.com
The Camoes Hotel is a 35-room, four star hotel in a restored 19th century building. In the centre of the old town it’s further from airport and golf course by 20 minutes or so but close to shops and a variety of restaurants. Camoes Hotel, Largo do Camoes 38, 9500-304 Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.hotelcamoes.net
Article first published in the Sunday Tribune