Flores and Corvo, February 2017
6 days on Flores and 2 days on Corvo
We booked 3 separate tickets by SATA Airlines (recently rebranded Azores Airlines) – Lisbon-Horta-Flores; Flores-Corvo and Corvo-Horta-Lisbon. We managed to get about the cheapest possible fares for each leg of the trip and paid ca. 44 and 47 euros for the flights between Lisbon and the islands. The Flores-Corvo flight was ca. 35 euros – much more expensive than the ferry (10 euros) but we opted for it as ferry schedules are quite uncertain in February.
Our flight from Horta to Flores was cancelled extending out planned stopover in Horta from 1 to 2 nights. Apparently it’s a common occurrence in winter as Flores airport in Santa Cruz is prone to side wind. Not that bad experience – Horta is a nice place (see more information below in the 2014 report) and for the additional night we were accommodated by the airline in one of the best hotels in Horta with full board.
While on Flores we found out about an interesting possibility – anybody reaching Sao Miguel by a flight by another airline (including Ryanair or Easyjet) from continental Portugal (Lisbon or Porto) is entitled to a free connecting flight by SATA to any other Azorean island, subject to availability. More information: http://encaminhamentos.sata.pt/en/Home
As during our previous trips, we used the same map and guidebook (see below), free maps from the tourist information office and the MAPS.ME off-line smartphone application. We have also seen a very good topographic quality 1:25.000 map of Flores in one of the guesthouses but I have no idea where to buy it.
Flores and Corvo are the most rainy islands in the Azores and February is one of the most rainy months. It turned out to be true – it did rain quite a lot and most hiking trails were very muddy and slippery. Definitely not a good idea to hike with big backpacks! During our 6 days on Flores we had one day with perfect sunny weather, 2 days with some sun and some rain and 3 days with clouds almost all the time but still only some periods of rain, so hiking was possible. The plateau inside the island had considerably more rain and clouds than areas near the coast – in particular the Fajã Grande area was sunnier than most other parts of the island. The rain actually gives Flores much of its charm, as it feeds its many waterfalls. A rainbow over Lagoa dos Patos (Poço da Alagoinha) was pure magic.
The weather was also quite windy, meaning it can feel much colder than the actual temperature suggests, so having good trekking gear (waterproof jacket and shoes) is recommended.
Our initial plan was not to rent a car on Flores and rely partly on hiking with our luggage, partly on buses, taxis and hitch-hiking. Because of the rainy weather and slippery trails (hiking with big backpacks is definitely bad idea in such conditions) it turned out only partly feasible and finally we rented a car for the last 2 days.
Bus – the connections are very rare, actually 1-2 per day. See schedules here: http://www.utc.pt/client/skins/geral.php?page=27&cat=12&top=12
Taxi – there are a few taxis on the island and they meet arrivals at the airport. We took a taxi to our first accommodation at Fazenda das Lajes, the cost was 13 euros. The ride from Santa Cruz to Fajã Grande apparently costs 17 euros.
Hitch-hiking – works out incredibly well on the island, as locals are really friendly. Each time we tried it, we were given a lift by one of the first passing cars and sometimes even passing drivers stopped to ask if we needed a lift when we were just walking along a road. The only problem is that sometimes there is very little traffic.
Car rental – we rented from Autatlantis (http://www.autatlantis.com/), an Azores-wide company. We did not succeed paying through their website, so we needed to book in their Santa Cruz office (in the airport building) – the price was 28 euros per day, calculated as full 24 hrs from the hour the rental starts. Good experience, fair fuel policy, no hidden charges or tricks. A local company Rent Ocidental (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, also in English) had cars for 29.50 euros per day at the same time.
Even if you plan to get around by hiking, hitch-hiking and buses (like our intial plan), it is a good idea to rent a car at least for a day and drive across the central plateau and especially towards Caldeira Rasa and Caldeira Funda. Another great drive was the mountain road between Lajes and Lajedo, south of the main road.
We stayed in two places on Flores and one on Corvo. All of them are highly recommended.
A Barraka (http://www.abarraka.com/Home) – located in Fazenda das Lajes in the southern part of the island. They are on Airbnb but it makes more sense to contact them directly by e-mail avoiding Airbnb fees. Simple but nice rooms, clean shared bathrooms (there are two bathrooms currently shared between two rooms in use but apparently four rooms will be in use in the future), washing machine, a very nice common area and kitchen with full cooking facilities (perfectly possible to cook your own meal). Run by very nice French couple who settled on Flores after travelling around the world. We paid 25 euros per room (high season price is 35 euros). There is a snack bar with good inexpensive food just below the guesthouse and a supermarket within short walking distance. Walkable to Lajes but that’s already quite a long walk.
Palheiro da Assomada (https://fajagrande.jimdo.com/, booked via booking.com) – an old barnhouse renovated and transformed into a lovely self-catering apartment in Fajã Grande, probably the most picturesque corner of the island and a really great place to stay a few days or possibly longer. Fully furnished (again with full cooking facilities) with remarkable attention to detail to make the guests’ stay as comfortable as possible, with a terrace and grill area. We paid 35 euros per night (it costs up to double that in high season). Perfect location in a very nice village, within short walking distance to a few shops (including one small supermarket) and snack bars. A perfect place for hikers, short walking distance to hikes in all directions. Owned by friendly British expats. Added bonus: the instructions received from Neil after booking were extremely useful and could easily serve as a practical guide to Flores.
We found Fajã Grande a bit short on restaurants during low season – in the central area only one, Jonah’s Snack Bar, was open in February. It was nice and very friendly but a bit more expensive than average (we paid 38 euros for a dinner for two that would probably cost some 25-28 euros elsewhere). There is another snack-bar called Denesi a bit lower in the village, towards Ponta da Fajã, and it might be worth checking out for travellers on a budget (it also offers cheap accomodation).
Comodoro (http://www.comodoroazores.com/, present also on booking.com) – one of few places to stay on Corvo. More expensive than other places where we stayed (50 euros for a double room) but very comfortable and with generous breakfast included. Actually it was place with comforts of a good hotel combined with personal touch of a family-run guesthouse. The friendly owner would happily give you a lift from and to the airport and even to the crater (if you don’t want to walk). As we wanted to hike to the crater she encouraged us to use breakfast stuff for taking a packed lunch. Added bonus for Azores fans – the lounge has a small library with a great collection of books on all topics Azorean. Located within walking distance everywhere in the little town of Corvo.
Hikes on Flores
1. Fajã Grande – Fajãzinha – Mosteiro – Lajedo. This hike took about 4 hrs along old paths between villages (extremely slippery and muddy in wet weather!). The initial part near Fajã Grande (trailhead is just near Casa da Vigia restaurant) was marked as closed because of an instable cliff a little farther on but it was still safe to pass, taking a reasonable distance from the cliff edge (the situation may change though, so caution is needed – cliff edge should never be approached in such areas!). There is a small shop and café in Fajãzinha but no shops nor cafes in Mosteiro and Lajedo. An afternoon bus from Lajes passes Lajedo on the way to Fajã Grande, so this hike is possible as a day hike using public transport. We did not need to wait for the bus as an English hiker kindly gave us a lift.
As this hike goes through lower altitude areas, it can be accessible even if the central plateau is completely covered by fog. Map (description in the opposite direction): http://www.azoren-online.com/flores/tipps/ausfluege/pr2flo.pdf
2. Lajes to Fajã de Lopo Vaz. A short hike to the southernmost fajã – some 200 m down a partly steep path. The trailhead is some 3 kms from central Lajes along an asphalt road. Map: http://www.azoren-online.com/flores/tipps/ausfluege/pr4flo.pdf
3. Fajã Grande to Caldeira Negra/Lagoa Comprida. Our biggest hike on Flores, ca. 700 meters ascent. Took ca. 5 hrs. First part was a steep ascent to the edge of the plateau, then across the central plateau towards the crater lakes. Spectacular views. Extremely wet and muddy – at least in winter the central plateau functions basically as a giant sponge holding enough water to feed all those spectacular waterfalls around Fajã Grande. Map (description in the opposite direction): http://www.azoren-online.com/flores/tipps/ausfluege/pr3flo.pdf
4. Fajã Grande towards Ponta Delgada. We walked only the first part of this hike – from Ponta da Fajã along a spectacular cliffside path half way up the cliff. Completing it would require arranging a lift to or pickup from Ponta Delgada. On another day we drove to Ponta Delgada and walked to the Farol de Albarnaz on the other end of the hike. Great views. Map (description in the opposite direction): http://www.azoren-online.com/flores/tipps/ausfluege/pr1flo.pdf
5. Short walks around Fajã Grande. There are several great places within short walking distance from Fajã Grande (anywhere between 15 minutes and 1,5 hrs). Vigia da Baleia (old whalers’ lookout), great waterfalls at Poço do Bacalhau and even more spectacular Lagoa dos Patos, the “end of the world” village of Ponta da Fajã.
Hikes on Corvo
- Hike to the crater (Caldeirão). The longest hike on Corvo – 7 kms and 700 meters up along an asphalt road with views gradually changing from great to spectacular. The descent into the crater and the trail around the central lake is marked by wooden stakes with painted signs. For most of the way inside the crater there is no path and the terrain is very muddy, to the point of being outright dangerous in case of being lost in the fog.
- Cara dos Indios. A nice hike up the hill directly above Corvo town, to the cliffs on the western edge of the island. We did it as an afternoon hike on the day of our arrival.