There are some really interesting airfares showing up on the airline SATA International at the moment, from Winnipeg to Ponta Delgada, Azores (PDL) for as low as $527 roundtrip including all taxes.
If you've never heard of the Azores, you are not alone. Most people haven't. They are a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic, on the way from North America to Europe. Nationally, they are a part of Portugal, but are a long ways from the mainland.
I had the opportunity to visit the Azores in October of 2013. They were an interesting place for sure, and I really enjoyed my trip, but they are probably not for everyone. I'd say the Azores are best suited towards travelers that...
- enjoy nature and hiking. There are hikes around calderas that look like this (Sete Cidades)...
and places where you can feel the earth breathing, such as in the town of Furnas, with their geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles.
The Azores also have some of the best whale watching in the world, but you would want to be there in the summer months for that, as the whales start to leave by early fall.
The Azores are also for people that..
- like places that aren't touristy. A few Germans here and there were about the only other tourists I saw in October.
- like places that encourage sustainable tourism (The Azores are often voted as one of the top destinations in the world for sustainable tourism).
- are independent travelers. Public transport and tours are very limited in the Azores, and you really need to rent a car to see or do anything. Driving around is very easy.
- want to visit a place that still feels very authentic with an old world feel.
- want to visit one of the safest places in the world. Crime is virtually non-existent in the Azores.
The Azores are not for anyone that's looking for wild nightlife or sandy beaches (distinct lack of either). Or for anyone looking for really hot weather (the Azores have a temperate sub tropical climate, think highs of 18-22C and lows of 11-15C).
If you're still with me, and you think you might like to visit the Azores, here's how to find the cheap fares...
1. Go to SATA's website at www.sata.pt
2. Search for a flight from Winnipeg (YWG) to Ponta Delgada (PDL)
Keep the 'flexible dates' option selected when you search.
For the cheapest fares, focus on dates between mid October 2014 and December 2014. Look for dates with fares that are around $260-$300 each way. (October 22-29 for example, or October 22-November 05)
Wednesdays seem to have the best prices.
3. When you find dates that you like, you could continue to book them on www.sata.pt - but the fares appear to be available slightly cheaper through third party booking sites.
Trying other Azores Island airports
You can actually find multi-city flights from Winnipeg into other Azores airports, and out of Ponta Delgada back to Winnipeg, *with* a flight in between the islands, for not much more.
Some airports you might want to look at...
Terceira Island (TER)
Pico Island (PIX)
Winnipeg to Terceira to Ponta Delgada to Winnipeg - $562 after taxes
Terceira is a pretty small island. I remember it having a pretty cool lava cave that you can explore, and the town in the south, Angra do Heroismo, is one of the nicest in the Azores. I'd say 1 or 2 nights on Terceira would be enough for most people though.
Another one you can try is Pico (PIX). Home of Mount Pico, a volcano that you can climb.
Winnipeg to Pico to Ponta Delgada to Winnipeg - $566 after taxes
Some important things to consider...
- The cheapest booking class on SATA is known as 'Light' and includes 1 carry-on but does *not* include checked baggage.
- Within the date range of October to December, focusing on October dates might be your best bet for weather. When I went in October 2013 I found the weather to be nice for hiking and didn't encounter too much rain. Around November, the weather starts to cool off with increased chance of rainy days.
- All flights to the Azores from Canada are via the direct flights out of Toronto (it's 5 hours to the Azores from there). The fastest flights from Winnipeg to the Azores have a 2.5 to 3 hour layover in Toronto each way.
- My flight on SATA was pretty standard. A decent meal was included, but no seat back entertainment.
If anyone has any questions about the Azores just comment below and I can try to help. Or ask your question in the YWG Deals Facebook Group.
Oh and here's a Google Map I made for my trip to the Azores, showing the sights on the various islands and places to stay: http://tinyurl.com/ka3yu8w
(you'll need to zoom in). I found the accommodations on the Azores to be quite reasonably priced everywhere.
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