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ACIS - Discovering STEM in the Azores - Educational tour to Portugal
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Explore the fascinating volcanoes, thermal pools, hot springs, research centers and diverse ecosystems of São Miguel Island in the Azores archipelago.

DAY 1: Overnight Flight

Depart from the USA.


Welcome to San Miguel Island in the Azores. Upon arriving, you’ll meet your ACIS Tour Manager and transfer to your hotel. Ponta Delgada is the largest city in the Azores’ archipelago—nine islands formed by volcanic activity. Brimming with dry calderas, fumaroles, crater lakes, thermal springs and caves, the Azores are one of the world’s great geo-tourism destinations—and fertile ground for geology-minded students. For the rest of the day, you’re free to get acquainted with this enchanting city, perhaps visiting the Carlos Machado Museum, which chronicles the history of this former fishing village, or strolling through the city’s cobblestone streets and lovely squares.


Get into a scientific state of mind as you depart for Furnas, a town in the Furnas Valley, a hotbed of thermal mineral springs and volcanic activity. Pay a visit to the Terra Nostra botanical gardens, one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe, featuring a thermal swimming pool and more than 2,000 species of trees. For lunch learn about and enjoy a unique treat that boasts a geology lesson as a side dish: Cozido das Furnas is a traditional stew that consists of vegetables, pork, chicken and blood sausage, cooked for hours in an underground hot spring. After lunch, you’ll visit the Furnas Lake Interpretation Centre and the Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre (CMIF), located on the lakeshore. You’ll learn all about the CMIF’s critical mission—restoring the lake’s water quality and ecosystem—and why that’s necessary. Then you’ll head to the island’s north coast for a visit to the Chá Gorreana tea plantation, Europe's oldest tea-producing company. On the way back to your hotel, get your camera ready for a stop in Ribiera Grande, a picturesque little coastal town that stands on a volcanic plateau.


Volcanology comes alive this morning as you take the island’s mountain road to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, two lakes linked by a narrow strait that sit in the crater of a dormant volcano. To get a great view of the two lakes (Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul, named for the color of their water), you’ll stop at Vista do Rei for a breathtaking panoramic view. Then you’ll descend into the crater and take a leisurely walk along the shores of these magnificent natural wonders. Your volcanic education continues with a trip to Ferraria, known for its thermal waters and magnificent volcanic cliffs. After a picnic lunch, you’ll head back to Ponta Delgada to visit Gruta do Carvão, San Miguel’s longest lava tube—a geological marvel that’s almost 1 ¼ miles in length.


The Azores have been a center of volcanic activity, including eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, for centuries. The archipelago still includes nine active volcanoes, which explains why the mission of the Volcanological and Geothermal Observatory of the Azores—the first stop on today’s agenda—is so vital. Learn about how the organization monitors critical seismic information before continuing by mountain road to Lagoa do Fogo, a crater lake in the center of the island at an altitude of nearly 3,000 feet. After lunch, you’ll visit Caldeira Velha, which features a waterfall of warm, iron-rich volcanic water, plus a couple of thermal pools. Last stops: The Ribeira Grande hot springs, followed by a stop in Ribeira Grande, famous for its buildings made from basalt, a fine-grained volcanic rock. Then you’ll head back to Ponta Delgada for dinner and a free evening.


The highlight of today’s activities begins with a walk to the marina for a three-hour whale- and dolphin-watching trip led by biologists, skippers and lookouts on a 60-seat catamaran. Before going out at sea, you’ll be briefed on the whale-watching code of ethics and learn what species you might see. Each cruise differs slightly based on weather conditions and the animals’ location. In the afternoon, enjoy free time to explore more of Ponta Delgada before having dinner at the hotel.


Today you’ll explore the eastern part of San Miguel Island. After a stop at the dramatic Santa Iria scenic overlook, you’ll head for Ribeira dos Caldeirões, a protected park noted for its abundant Macaronesian flora and waterfalls. After enjoying a rich cup of coffee, continue on to the village of Nordeste, where you’ll eat lunch and take a guided tour. On the way back to Ponta Delgada, another stunning overlook awaits at Ponta da Madrugada. Beyond that, you’ll pay a visit to the small village of Povoação, then return to the hotel via the island’s southern coast for dinner.

DAY 8: Departure

After a morning of leisure time, enjoy a final lunch before transferring to the airport for your departure to the USA.

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Central Hotels
    Central Hotels
  • 6 evenings for more exploring in town
Local Restaurants
    Local Restaurants
  • Meal times tailored to maximize your exploration time each day
Smart Trip Design
    Smart Trip Design
  • Food becomes part of the experience with a traditional meal cooked for hours in an underground hot spring
  • A visit to the Volcanological and Geothermal Observatory brings lessons in seismic monitoring to life
  • Maximize your whale and dolphin watch with the speed of catamaran travel and the insight of a professional biologist


Highlights Waiting to Happen


The bay in San Miguel


The Lagoa de Fogo


Boats on San Miguel Island


  • Students will learn about the unique ecosystem of Furnas and the necessity of its restoration.
  • Students will discover why the Azores have become a center of volcanic activity and one of the leading geo-tourism destinations.
  • Students will learn about the marine life that thrives in the waters around the Azores archipelago on a whale and dolphin-watching trip.



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