The 15th and 16th Centuries saw Portugal transform from a small fiefdom on the western fringes of Europe to the world’s first modern colonial power. Dom Joao I of Portugal married Philippa of Lancaster in 1387 – Philippa was the daughter of John of Gaunt and sister of English King Henry IV, and their marriage sealed the Treaty of Windsor: the oldest surviving diplomatic alliance between two countries. Philippa’s arrival into Porto is famously depicted in blue Azuelo tiles on the walls of the city’s Sao Bento railway station.
Of their nine children, third son Henrique was particularly smitten with the tales of his English Plantagenet cousins and their religious crusades. Henrique’s full title was the Infante Dom Henrique, Duke of Viseu, although he’s more commonly known outside of Portugal as Henry the Navigator.
Follow years of unrest (and with English support), Dom Joao struck a decisive blow against the neighbouring kingdom of Castile and an uneasy truce between the two kingdoms was signed. With a highly skilled army and navy now available, Joao saw an opportunity for his sons to follow in the footsteps of their crusading English cousins. On the morning of 21st August 1415, the Portuguese fleet began their assault on the ‘infidel city’ of Ceuta on the north African coast. Ceuta was quickly overwhelmed and occupied – and remained under Portuguese rule for over 250 years. Henrique distinguished himself in battle, bringing him to the attention of Pope Martin V. He was appointed the grandmaster of the Military Order of the Knights of Christ; the Portuguese successors to the Knights Templar.
Henrique’s next crusade against the Moroccan Citadel of Tangier ended in disaster and the near-destruction of the Portuguese army. Part-crusader, part-businessman, Henrique’s attention turned away from religious wars and more towards foreign trade. The Mediterranean trade routes from the far east were controlled by the Venetian Republic whilst the overland routes passed through the Muslim kingdoms of north Africa. Henrique’s captains set sail along the uncharted west coast of Africa – trying to bypass the Muslim Kingdoms in order to connect directly with the rich trans-Saharan trade routes. Never completely abandoning their crusader-fervour, the Portuguese nobility were also searching for viable, navigable routes inland by boat to ‘Prester John’: a legendary figure who ruled over a lost Christian nation (possibly modern-day Ethiopia), said to have descended from the Three Kings.
As they extended their reach further south, Henrique’s captains developed a sailing technique known as the Volta do Mar. The prevailing north-easterly winds off the African coast were perfect heading south, but not great when heading north for home. Rather than tacking back up the coast, Henry’s captains found that if they sailed west, out into the mid-Atlantic, they could pick-up south-westerly winds, bringing them back into the north Atlantic and home to Lisbon. Bartolomeu Dias took the Volta do Mar to its extreme when he became the first European to round the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, shortly followed by his more famous contemporary Vasco da Gama in 1497.
We specialise in tailor-made holidays to the nine islands of the Azores. Our experienced team of specialists are ready to put together your personalised trip; just give them a call on 017687 721020.
Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing,
This is a long email, so you might want to go grab yourself a cuppa before you start reading.
We just wanted to send you an email to say thank you so much for everything.
Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing, it was far beyond our dreams and expectations, and that is certainly because of you and all your plans in putting this together for us. We just loved every second (apart from me and canyoning, we do not get along, but the boys absolutely loved it!) we just can’t believe all the things that we have seen, and done, and learned about! What an incredible place!
We have certainly been bitten by the Azorean bug and we can’t wait to get back there to explore the other islands. They’re very special places, each of them for their own right.
We felt as though we were treated like royalty from the minute we arrived in Sao Miguel, even the weather was kind to us (largely) we seemed to miss the adverse weather, either arriving somewhere that had had storms the day before, or leaving just before they arrived. We did have one morning of heavy rain when we went to the tropical gardens at Furnas, but we did manage to see some of the gardens before we gave up and went back to Caloura, where there was glorious sunshine, so we spent the afternoon at the pool and made the most of the Especial and fresh lemonade from the snack bar.
Every single person that we met, we were struck by how hard they work, and how happy they all are. Many of them never leaving the island they were born on, because, why would they want to?!
We love the Azorean people and their love and pride for their islands. Their sustainable way of living also struck deep with us. It’s the way we try very hard to live ourselves. Dave’s business is retrofit insulation, preparing old housing stock to a better more eco friendly way of conserving energy, so the way they live and respect their land, was of great interest to us.
For us all, Flores is a very special place. We went to the restaurant maresia while we were there and met the owner and his son. Although the restaurant itself is eclectic to say the least, after chatting to Vincent, we understood his dads way of living and the food was outstanding! We can’t wait to visit again.
All of our guides were amazing! Their knowledge and passion is admirable.
We just loved every second and can’t thank you enough for making our trip so smooth and completely stress free.
I will spend today writing reviews online for all the companies and guides that helped us on our trip.
A million thanks to you all Jake.
The Cole family
Personal service and efficient!
You really listened to what type of holiday we wanted and tailored our week accordingly. You understood what we were looking for and were so helpful and knowledgeable. Very personal service and efficient!
Linda from Norfolk
Professional and personal service!
Everything you do, you seem to do it professionally. I know I’m not your only client, but you make me feel like I am.
Bryan from Stoke
Azores Choice provided a prompt, helpful service. they found us the perfect accommodation for our needs and provided superb, expert advice on how to spend our week walking on San Miguel. I would certainly use them again.
Joan from Durham
Recommended small travel company!
Great little company with friendly staff. Organisation of flights & accommodation very efficient. When problems arise they are helpful and very reasonable in their efforts to resolve them. We would definitely use them again for a return trip.
Really great! Would use again!
Very efficient, friendly, helpful. Excellent local knowledge. Everything ran very smoothly, from supplying the tickets to airport pick ups and hotel bookings. Lovely accommodation selected. No complaints!
A wonderful break in a beautiful environment!
Everything was excellent. The information and organisation, the hotel and the island itself all exceeded our expectations. Whale watching and other trips out, fantastic. We will book again!
Great honeymoon package and experience!
They provided a great package at a good price. We found them to be helpful and a quality service was provided.
Nicola and Christopher – Winchester
Top notch service. Highly recommended!
Excellent service throughout. Very informative, with lots of literature, maps and the like. Attended their offices in Ponta Delgada – very impressed with Olivia, friendly and helpful. Paul was first class.
Lynne in Welton-by-Lincoln
Great company for first time Azores visit!
Really great company, will be recommending them. We had never visited the Azores before but this company helped us decided which islands to visit.