Arrive in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel in the Azores to embark the National Geographic Explorer and settle in for your upcoming Atlantic cruise.
At the heart of the Atlantic Ocean is a lush, mountainous archipelago that combines the breathtaking landscapes of Hawaii with the charm and culture of old-world Europe. Devote three days to the Azores, as there is plenty to lure you here. Rolling pastures and volcanic peaks dominate this landscape. The villages are lovely and the museums intriguing. Today explore the Furnas Valley and its famed hot springs, hiking the trails or perhaps visiting a tea plantation or the lovely garden of Terra Nostra. And enjoy a tasting of Azorean cuisine. Savor a traditional cozido lunch, naturally cooked from the volcanic activity—underground!
The Azores are a whale-watching mecca, where more than 20 different types of cetaceans can be spotted. Go in search of these gentle giants in the channel north of Pico and Horta islands. Once ashore on the island of Faial, head to Capelinhos, where you can see how dramatically the landscape changed when the volcano at the western end of the island erupted in 1957. Farms and villages were covered with ash, adding an extra two square kilometers of land to the island. Later, stroll along the marina, visit the excellent scrimshaw museum, and raise a glass at Peter’s Café Sport, a legendary pub where sea adventurers historically dropped off their mail. For those interested, scuba diving beneath startlingly clear water can be arranged. Or see some of the countryside on foot with a guided hike.
Like the Maasai trackers of East Africa, local whale experts have centuries of ties to their surroundings and an instinct for scouting its wild inhabitants. They guide you on your morning whale-watching. In the afternoon, go ashore at Santa Maria, historically significant as the first landfall of Christopher Columbus on his return from the Americas in 1493. For those interested in getting some exercise, there are hiking trails that allow you to experience the scenery and atmosphere of the island.
En route to Madeira your expedition team recounts lively tales about the Golden Age of Exploration. These waters are full of marine creatures and seabirds; head up to the bridge and pick up a pair of binoculars. Take time to catch up on your reading in the library, have a massage or attend a wellness session.
Often referred to as the ‘floating garden of the Atlantic,’ Madeira has beautiful scenery, with a delicious climate. Walk in the Laurisilva forest, endemic to Macaronesia and now a UNESCO Site. Wander along the levadas (former irrigation channels) that network the island or visit the Botanical Gardens. Sample Madeira’s seafood and hear a performance of authentic Fado singing. Have a tasting of the famed Madeira wines, and browse the exquisite embroidery and wicker crafted here. Zodiac cruise around the nearby islands of Desertas, a nature reserve, to see the multi-colored coastline geology and search for the rare endangered monk seal.
After a morning at sea, arrive in the lush, European-flavored Canary Islands. All are of volcanic origin, reflected everywhere in the landscapes. The Canary Islands are known for their sunny climate and historical heritage. La Palma is known as Isla Bonita, the “pretty isle,” for its lush mountain slopes set against azure waters. Head up to the edge of a small crater for beautiful views and visit the church of Our Lady of the Snows, with its Spanish-Moorish architecture.
La Gomera is considered to be the departure point of Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World. On this unspoiled island, spend time at Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO site, to hike and stretch our legs.
Keep a constant lookout for seabirds and marine creatures, stopping to observe them or perhaps film them with the ship’s underwater camera. During your days at sea, plan to engage in a variety of activities. Read in the ship’s library, enjoy a rejuvenating massage, work out in the gym, listen to talks from our staff, or simply relax.
The spectacular mountainous volcanic islands of Cape Verde comprise one of the world’s smallest independent nations. See impressive landscapes on Santo Antao: terraced hillsides, eucalyptus forests and deep valleys. Visit the island of Fogo, and add volcano-gazing to your life list. Drive 5,000 feet up the volcano to sample the local wine at its source: inside the caldera!
Disembark in Praia, the bustling capital of Cape Verde. The Old Town was founded by the Portuguese in 1460, and was once the most prosperous city of the Portuguese sea-borne empire, owing to the transatlantic slave trade. This morning see the old fortress, cathedral and the pelourhino, a relic of the slave trade. Or you may want to hike the green and mountainous countryside. Dotted with small villages, it offers an insight into daily life on the island. In the late evening transfer to the airport for your flight home.