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Atlantic Allure in the Azores
August 13, 2018
Somewhere out to sea, perched on the craggy coast of a wind-swept island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, White Azores is a refurbished 18th century summerhouse making a name for itself. Perhaps an unlikely spot for a stylish hotel, the Azores is a chain of islands off the coast of Portugal (in fact, a third of the way towards the east coast of the USA) and has been labelled as nothing more than a few rocks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Yet, the scattering of volcanic leftovers has its own appeal. Wild weather, soaring forested peaks, shimmering lakes, sulphur-belching vents, furious waves and an abundance of dramatic vistas are just some of the charms of the Azores. And now, there’s a haven of simplicity to retreat to after hours spent exploring the great outdoors.
On São Miguel, the largest island in the chain, the newly-opened White Azores bucks the trend for basic house rentals and offers a chic and stylish place to rest your head. It hovers at the edge of a cliff in Lagoa, a quiet fishing village just a stone’s throw from Sao Miguel’s capital, Ponta Delgada. We land at the only international airport in the Azores past midnight and a short 15-minute taxi ride deposits us at an ornate wooden doorway, set into the white-washed wall of what was once an abandoned seafront villa.
Setting foot inside is a lesson in simplicity. A stretch of original black volcanic rock gives way to a wall coated in hanging plants, tumbling down to a zen pond. High above, a long windowpane draws the sky inside. An original archway leads down into a lounge with crittall windows looking out onto the terrace, where an infinity saltwater pool is balanced above the surf, flanked by smoke-grey linen loungers. There’s a sunken seating zone and a shady fishing-themed bar decorated with wooden carvings.
This boutique hotel has just nine suites and one villa, each with sensitive and minimalist appeal. Ours is one of the ground floor Unique Suites – a room built around original features, with rough volcanic walls and a fireplace. In ode to the hotel’s name, white remains the predominant colour, but textured walls and plenty of muted textiles make it cosy rather than clinical. The bathroom, with its pale grey polished plaster and stone cast sink, continues the organic feel of the suite. All rooms face the open ocean, and we fall asleep with our windows wide open to the thunder of the waves, linen curtains fluttering in the breeze.
Morning brings a predictably Azorean blend of light mist mingling with sudden blasts of sunshine. Breakfast is a medley of freshly baked bread with local honey and cheese, fruit and yoghurt washed down with Azorean green tea. While the infinity pool is certainly appealing, in truth, the Azores isn’t particularly somewhere you’d go to spend a week relaxing, and White Azores knows it.
Tourism is driven by prolific marine life around the archipelago, so the hotel has its own boat offering whale watching. Expect sightings of humpbacks sperm whales, orcas and the occasional giant blue, or head out for a swim with wild dolphins in the deep. If you’re keen to explore further afield, call upon local experts Azores Connections, who can arrange a visit to the only tea plantations in Europe, a day of hiking at Sete Cidades, a dip into the hot springs at Caldeira Velha, or book dinner in the thermal town of Furnas for a traditional meal of meat, potatoes and root vegetables slow-cooked in volcanic vents. But perhaps best of all, they can take you to forests of the spectacular north east coast to wander among streams and abandoned mills beside the beach, far from the crowds. And after a day of fresh air in the wilderness of an isolated island, there’s simply nowhere better to end up then a little gem like White Azores.
Rooms at White Azores cost from £175 per night.
Words by Annie Biziou