The Canary Islands & Azores Islands
The Canary Islands and the Azores are known for sunshine and a temperate climate that make almost every day a beautiful day at the beach. Though remote, both locations are tied to European countries: The Canaries are a Spanish archipelago off the southwestern coast of Morocco, and the Azores are an autonomous Portuguese island chain way off that country’s western coast. Both chains are volcanic, with peaks and craters defining the unique landscapes. The islands are often included on transatlantic itineraries as ships reposition themselves to or from the Caribbean or Mediterranean Sea. Cruises are usually 10 days to two weeks (including five or six days at sea during the actual ocean crossing). Shorter trips that just include the islands typically launch from Southampton, England.
What We Love
Room to Move: You won’t encounter throngs of other tourists here like you will in ports such as Barcelona and the French Riviera lining the Mediterranean, especially in the far-flung Azores.
Café Culture: If you like eating, drinking, and people-watching, the main port cities of these island chains will suit you just fine.
Best Known For
Black-Sand Beaches: From El Golfo in Lanzarote to Tenerife’s El Bollullo, the cool black bands of sand are out of this world.
Volcanic Surrounds: The dramatic mountains, craters, and lakes are jaw-droppingly stunning.
Shop for Cruises
Funchal, Madeira: Have a glass of the famous wine and drink in the scenery of lovely fishing villages like Camara de Lobos, with its colorful wooden boats framing the harbor and the buildings' red-tile roofs.
Santa Cruz, Tenerife: There’s plenty to do in this small city, the island’s capital, from walking the Sculpture Trail (basically an open-air art gallery) that wends across the city, to checking out the Museum of Nature and Man to learn just how the volcanic Canary Islands all began.
Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel, Azores: Here you have history, in the old quarter’s 17th- and 18th-century architecture, and stunning natural beauty, in the island's volcanic craters and brilliant blue and green lakes.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You'll Have Long Days at Sea: If you choose to see these islands as part of a transatlantic cruise, be patient. You’ll have to endure (or enjoy) five or six days at sea in a row as your ship crosses between the Caribbean and Europe.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.