Crystal clear ocean views, clean fresh air, and delicious seafood. These are three things I am enjoying while typing this article right now. Where might you find these things? Why, only in the beautiful islands known as the Azores. These nine islands are not well-known by the general population, but I have realized that this is something that needs to change.

After landing in the Azores, I was able to enjoy the views of Lagoa do Fogo, which is now a lake which was formed by a volcano. The hike to the top was not as fun as scaling the way down, but at both points the views were amazing. Next stop was a visit to Europe's only tea plantation, Cha Gorreana. Here, I was able to walk through the step-by-step process of making tea from the leaves growing outside. At the end of the tour, they had fresh tea (black and green) for the tourists to try. Another great stop was to the Pineapple plantation, where local Azorean pineapple is harvested, and has been for over one hundred years. My family and I got a close look at the pineapples in the greenhouses and were surprised to find they were not as large as typical pineapples! While we did a lot of adventuring, there are also lots of things to discover just in the little town we are staying in

Lagoa do Fogo, Sao MiguelPersonal Photo

Just behind our hotel is a beautiful garden; the surrounding landscape of the main attraction… the thermal pool. This is just one of the many thermal pools on the island, and just as it sounds, it is a pool heated solely by the earth. I couldn't believe how soft my skin felt after sitting in the pool for just ten minutes! Though the water was brown in color, it did not stop me from enjoying the experience! Just today, we ventured to Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel to see the blue and green lakes. This was by far the best spot for pictures! It was incredible to see endless fields of green up against the bright blue water, and to take in the natural sights you don't typically see in Chicago! It was quite refreshing.

Pineapple PlantationPersonal Photo

This vacation is perfect for those who like to be on the go. While it could easily be made into a relaxing, spa-like vacation, I think not exploring the island would be a shame. Most people here seem to know English, though Portuguese is the main language spoken, so don't shy away in fear of a language barrier.

Thermal Pool, Furnas Sao MiguelPersonal Photo

Ponta Delgada, Sao MiguelPersonal Photo

There are so many unique things to see on these islands, though they are often overshadowed by mainland Europe's extravagance and stately looking buildings… but don't let that fool you into thinking the Azores isn't worth the trip! So next time you are vacation shopping for flights, try not to overlook the road less traveled and invest in a trip to the Azores. You will not regret the breathtaking views, or the authentic seafood meals you indulge in, so what are you waiting for!