The Azores Multi-Activity Programme
Not many people have heard of the Azores, a small Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier in the year, Iris decided to bring a couple of friends on a riding holiday and our multi-activity programme in the Azores was the way to go: plenty of riding, but also plenty of opportunities to try out other activities!
FAIAL ISLAND: WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC!
Landing on Faial island is a strange experience. Emerging through the clouds, the plane followed the coastline and its dramatic cliffs to land on one of the most scenic airports I have ever seen: Horta airport. The only airstrip looks like it is plunging into the ocean, with the solitary peak of Pico island watching over the few planes landing into Horta every day. Our host Anja picked us up from the airport and we drove to Patio Lodge, our home for the week.
The fog that had settled over the island seemed to lift as we arrived at Patio, and bright sunshine welcomed us to this beautifully renovated mill farm. Luckily for us, it would keep shining through most of the week (which is, after all, not the norm!). The owners, Victor & Anja, purchased the old mill some years ago and turned it into an equestrian trekking facility first, adding accommodation later on. We had booked the Garden Loft, a small cottage just big enough to accommodate the three of us. The Loft also has a small kitchenette and living space, perfect as our package only included breakfast (although half-board is possible on request). The main room and terrace have beautiful views over the surrounding fields (where horses and cows could be seen grazing) and into the Atlantic Ocean. I also visited the main lodge, which has bright spacious rooms. The accommodations were only built a couple of years ago and are modern and comfortable: the perfect base to discover the island. I was very impressed by the quality of the accommodation, the beds were very comfortable and the rooms were absolutely spotless. Carla is a brilliant cook and made us some lovely meals at dinnertime and out on the trails.
A MULTI-ACTIVITY PROGRAMME
We had planned an action-packed programme to try and make the best of our time there. The riding was relatively tame, with “coastal” or “jungle” paths available for the shorter trails (1 ½ hour to half day rides), and full-day rides to discover the rest of the island. The mountainous terrain and dirt roads do not really allow for crazy gallops, but we had regular trots and canters. We actually quite enjoyed the long stretches of a walk, because they allowed us to just relax and enjoy the scenery around: beautiful coastal roads, narrow jungle paths and volcanic trails. The variety of landscapes is incredible, and we were lucky enough to have bright blue skies during the week, making the experience even more enjoyable.
My friends immediately commented on how healthy and well looked after the horses were. The small herd of 15-20 horses lives out all year, and they have superb temperaments. I rode Devil and Napoleon, and both of them were responsive and had their own character. Napoleon, in particular, had a big personality and was such a pleasure to ride and look after! The tack was in tip-top condition, with comfortable Prestige saddles made for long distance riding.
As I already mentioned, we had also decided to try out some of the other activities on offer. Faial Island is a paradise for outdoor lovers. We went whale watching and saw common dolphins and blue whales. Blue whales are the biggest animals on Earth and it is hard to describe the feeling of being just dozens of meters from such a majestic animal. I have ridden with elephant and rhino, but watching a blue whale dive underwater is one of my top outdoors experiences. Another highlight of the trip was a hike into the caldera. Definitely not an easy hike, but we loved it! We descended 400 meters into the crater, with not another soul in sight. The mist and clouds rolled into the caldera as we climbed, making for an eerie atmosphere, and giving it a strong “Jurassic Park” vibe. Anja also took us to the most recent volcanoes on the western side of the island; we visited the interpretative centre to learn about the island’s geological history and even took a short hike around the volcano. Other activities are available that we did not have time to try: swimming with dolphins, a full van tour of the island, etc. We’ll just have to go back!
All in all, this was exactly the holiday me and my friends were looking for. We got plenty of riding and exciting adventures on foot, with enough time to relax in-between. I would definitely recommend the multi-activity programme for outdoorsy families or groups of friends, especially if there are non-riders in the lot. We also offer a centre-based trail ride with full-day rides every day, which is perfect if you want to do a lot of riding. There is something for everyone on Faial Island!
For more information on our rides in the Azores, please visit our website: Multi-activity programme and Full-week trail ride around Faial
Or email Iris on firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)1905 388 977