In the days of Instagram and social media, I was elated that there are still some gorgeous landscapes that are way off the radar. Especially in tourist infested Europe. And to my surprise, it was pristine and untouched.
I couldn’t get there soon enough!
When I found out about the Azores islands, far off in the Atlantic Ocean, and I knew I’ll get there someday! It’s not often that you get to experience the raw beauty and breathtaking landscapes all to yourself.
Naturally, I chose the westernmost islands of Azores, the wildest them — Flores and Corvo.
I decided to volunteer in Flores for 2 weeks with a German writer living on the island. And one of those days, I visited Corvo island, with ExperienceOC based on a local’s recommendation!
And what was about to unfold right in front of my eyes is the stuff dreams are made of!
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But before I get into the nitty-gritty, let me back up a bit.
For those who aren’t aware of Azores, let me give you a brief geography lesson. The Azores is a group of 9 islands far up in the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s an autonomous region of Portugal located in the west of mainland Portugal. It’s majorly divided into three island groups.
These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the center; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east.
The main island – Sao Miguel, is the largest of the islands. The capital of Sao Miguel island – Ponta Delgada, which sees the majority of the tourists to the Azores is 2.5 hours by flight from Lisbon.
Flores and Corvo islands are the remotest and by extension – the wildest of the Azores islands.
I was staying in Flores for 2 weeks on my three month trip to Europe.
How to go to Corvo island from Flores island
While all the islands in the Azores have their own airport, the best, cheapest, and more environmentally friendly way to reach Corvo from Flores is through a 1-hour boat ride. There are public ferries operated by Atlantic Online. It costs 10 Euro between Flores and Corvo one way. The frequency of the ferries, however, varies based on the season.
ExperienceOC vs. Ferry
As opposed to an ordinary ferry ride, the boat tour with ExperienceOC took us through some hidden caves and some stunning waterfalls in Flores along the way to Corvo island. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky to see dolphins, which is also a high probability here.
When it comes to the price, a boat trip between Flores and Corvo island with ExperienceOC sets you back by 35 euros as opposed to 20 euro with the ferry.
However, I think the difference more than makes up for it.
Group Tours vs. Private Tours
If you are planning to go on tours in Flores, chances are you’ll most likely come across ExperienceOC as they are the primary tour operator on the island.
They offer two kinds of boat tours to Corvo island – one which only covers the boat ride, which costs 35 euros per person. In this case, once you get down Corvo island, you’ll find a minivan waiting for you to take you to the top of the Caldeira (paid separately).
And the other one is for a more inclusive experience – private tour with ExperienceOC. You’ll find it on their website, and this tour comprises of a private guide accompanying you throughout the trip, including transfers in Flores and Corvo along with the boat ride. This tour costs about 95 euros per person.
In both cases, they partner with Hotel Ocidental for the boat ride, which is usually a rescue boat turned tourist boat.
Once you reach the island by boat, you’ll find minivans waiting to take you up the Caldeirão – the most iconic landscape of the island.
In the minivan, our driver gave us a briefing about Corvo island. The smallest of the Azores islands boasts of a population of around 400 — they pretty much know everyone else on the island. Isn’t that amazing?! We live in cities where we usually don’t know our own neighbors, and here’s this island, which is basically one big family!
I was astounded by the number of cows on the island – they are just everywhere. And it turns out there are factually more cows than people in Corvo – about three times the number of people in fact!
How to Reach Caldeirão
Corvo being a small and remote island, there aren’t too many options to reach the top of the Caldeirão. A minivan or a rental car is the best option. Unless you find a driver to hitchhike with. However, the rental car only makes sense if you are staying on the island for a more extended time and would like to roam around the islands. The minivan to the top of the Caldeirão takes about 5 minutes for 8km distance. I’d suggest you take the minivan up and then walk back down if you have the time. There’s also about a 1.5-hour trail around the Caldeirão, and taking the minivan one way would ensure you won’t burn yourself out even before starting the hike. The minivan costs 5 euro one way.
After an uphill drive, passing through fields and colorful houses, and listening to our driver’s stories, we reached the top of the Caldeirão. And I was speechless. Nothing prepares you to witness the bountiful beauty that unfolds itself right in front of your eyes. All I could do was send a silent prayer to the universe for bringing me here.
So, what is Caldeirão, you ask? The Caldeirão or crater is usually a bowl-shaped depression produced by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity, or an explosion. In this particular case, it resulted from a volcano that gave birth to the island. And the volcano was active for the last time estimated two million years ago. It’s possible to hike around the circumference of the crater, which would take about 1.5-hour minimum.
The trails are clearly marked, so there’s no chance of getting lost. First, you descend into the bottom of the crater, follow a circular trail, going around the lagoons, and then it joins the same route to the top at the end. I’d highly recommend taking this scenic and pleasant walk. But I warn you it’s going to take way more than 1.5 hours since you would want to stop and take pictures every other minute.
PS – I missed the minivan back down to the ferry as I just couldn’t stop myself from admiring this place and took way more pictures and videos than I had time for. My mind raced and already made plans for staying back in Corvo and catching the ferry the next day. Luckily for me, the minivan driver remembered me and came back to pick me up at the top of the crater. Phew! He saved my day! True story!
You’ll see tons of cows grazing in green pastures as you walk by, two major lagoon formations and many small ones (depending on the rain) all encompassed in the crater that cocoons you in its embrace. It’s such a humbling experience to be here!
It’s so mind-numbingly beautiful in October; I guess it would be quite picturesque during spring as well with all the hydrangeas blooming.
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Back to Flores island
I reached Corvo island (the smallest of the Azores islands) on a rather cloudy and rainy day. So due to stormy weather conditions, we had to leave by 1.30 instead of the standard 4 PM boat pickup, which was unfortunate, but then safety always comes first!
The whole ride back was quite a roller coaster, but fortunately, no one threw up.
The tour was seamless and well organized, and I would highly suggest Corvo island tour from Flores with ExperienceOC. I always prefer tours run by local companies over multi-national ones, which means you are directly supporting a local in doing so. So I was glad when I found out that all the people employed by ExperienceOC were born in Flores.
Overall, it would cost 45 euros for the boat tour (35 euro), and minivan (10 euro both ways) for a day trip to Corvo from Flores.
If it’s possible, I’d suggest you stay back at Corvo island for a couple of days to take it all in.
Disclaimer: ExperienceOC sponsored my boat tour between Flores and Corvo island. But, like always, all the opinions mentioned here are my own.