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A view off the beautiful coast of Madeira.

An Island Odyssey: Azores, Madeira & Canaries

Example 14 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Explorer
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On this ocean voyage you’ll have the rare chance to explore fascinating islands, isolated by expanses of ocean that are incredible oases of wildness and sites of intriguing histories. These dots of green developed in isolation until they were discovered, colonized, and used as stopping off points of early explorers and travelers making their way across the ocean by ship, the only means possible. They are fascinating for their rich marine and unique tropical wildlife, histories in the age of exploration and colonialism, and their rich modern cultures—all of which you’ll explore aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal / Embark
Day 2 : Sao Miguel, Azores
Day 3 : Faial, Azores
Day 4 : Santa Maria, Azores
Day 5 : At Sea
Days 6-7 : Madeira, Portugal
Day 8 : At Sea / Canary Islands
Day 9 : La Gomera, Canary Islands
Days 10-11 : At Sea
Days 12-13 : Cape Verde
Day 14 : Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde / Disembark


National Geographic Explorer

Places Visited

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Azores
  • Canary Islands
  • Cape Verde Islands
  • Faial
  • La Gomera
  • Las Palmas
  • Madeira
  • Praia
  • Santa Maria
  • Sao Miguel
  • West Africa


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

A view off the beautiful coast of Madeira. Scuba diving in the reefs A hiker overlooks the cliffs on the ocean. Kayak the tranquil tropical waters of Belize Snorkel the clear, tropical waters

Day 1 Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal / Embark

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.

Day 2 Sao Miguel, Azores

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!

Day 3 Faial, Azores

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.

Day 4 Santa Maria, Azores

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.

Day 5 At Sea

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.

Day 6-7 Madeira, Portugal

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.

Day 8 At Sea / Canary Islands

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.

Day 9 La Gomera, Canary Islands

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.

Day 10-11 At Sea

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.

Day 12-13 Cape Verde

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!

Day 14 Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde / Disembark

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.

National Geographic Explorer

Per person starting at
National Geographic Explorer's Category 1 Cabin.
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Cat 1
Main Deck with one or two portholes. #301-308
National Geographic Explorer's Category 2 Cabin.
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Cat 2
Main Deck with window. #317-320, 335-336.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 3 Cabin.
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Cat 3
Main Deck with Window #313-316, 321-328, 337-340,342, 344, 346, 348, 350.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 4 Cabin.
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Cat 4
Upper and Veranda Decks with Window. # 103-104, 107-108, 201-202, 204-207, 210, 212, 217, 226, 228.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 5 Upper Deck Cabin.
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Cat 5
Upper Deck with Balcony. #209, 211, 214, 216, 218, 220-222, 224.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 6 Cabin.
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Cat 6
Veranda Deck Suite #101-102; Upper Deck Suite with Balcony #213.
Luxurious Catagory 8 Suite
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Cat 7
Upper Deck Suite with Balcony. #215, 219, 230.
National Geographic Explorer's Category SA and SB.
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Cat SA
C Deck Solo - Cabins 309-312, 329-334. Single cabins with window.
National Geographic Explorer's Category SA and SB.
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Cat SB
Upper and Veranda Decks with Window. #105-106, 203, 208.


Travelers under the age of 18 save $500 per person.


*All accommodations aboard the ship or in hotels per itinerary or similar
*All meals and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship, meals on land as indicated
*Shore excursions
*Sightseeing and entrance fees
*Special access permits
*Transfers to and from group flights
*Use of snorkeling equipment and wet suits
*Use of kayaks (where available)
*Gratuities (except ship’s crew)
*Taxes and service charges
*Services of a ship physician on most voyages *Services of expedition staff.


*Air transportation
*Immigration fees
*Scuba diving (where available)
*Meals not indicated
*Baggage/accident/travel protection plan
*Gratuities to the ship's crew

Optional Complimentary Add-On:

*Guests may choose a complimentary Atlantic crossing to Salvador, Brazil, continuing aboard National Geographic Explorer on a leisurely six-day ocean crossing (Oct. 6-12) — with time to relax, recharge, hear talks from staff, and watch for whales and other marine life. Arrive in the baroque city of Salvador, Brazil Oct. 12 for disembarkation and transfer to the airport for an overnight independent flight home.
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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen

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