The Azores: 9 island gems with a volcanic previous and a magical current

The Azores: Nine island gems with a volcanic past and a magical present


(CNN) — Traveling to a paradise on Earth doesn’t necessarily require a long, arduous or perilous journey.

In fact, an unspoiled landscape reminiscent of a fairytale is barely five hours from Boston and about four hours from the United Kingdom. It’s a land where waterfalls cascade down iridescent green slopes; where roads are rimmed with hydrangea hedges; and where craggy coasts are blanketed with black sand beaches.

A lost-in-time quality prevails, whether it’s a hamlet of stone dwellings linked by cobbled paths, or locals who remain true to the old ways of planting crops on fertile plains at the base of sheer cliffs, or riding horse-drawn carts to deliver milk to the cheese factory.

Welcome to the Azores, a necklace of nine enchanting islands that huddle in the middle of the Atlantic but are part of Portugal. The archipelago is an autonomous region located roughly 1,000 miles from the Portuguese mainland. The islands’ thermal pools, lush calderas, crater lakes and steaming…