One of two autonomous regions of Portugal, the Azores consist of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The archipelago is located above an active triple junction between three of the world’s largest tectonic plates – the North American plate, the Eurasian plate and the African plate.
Like Iceland, the Azores sit astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and so the area is an intense centre of seismic activity, particularly along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Terceira Rift. In fact, all of the Azorean islands themselves are volcanic in origin.
The Azores boasts similar geographical features to Iceland, but with the benefits of a much milder climate. As well as the warmer weather, it’s a great alternative if you’ve already been to Iceland a few times and fancy exploring somewhere new, without losing any of the educational aspects of your tour.
In terms of curriculum links, the Azores offer plenty. Your students will be able to study tectonic processes and landforms, geological processes, weather processes, natural hazards, coastal processes and ecosystems, as well as food, water and energy resources.
Your students will be able to walk through a lava tunnel, explore a crater lake and enjoy a meal cooked in underground in the steam of the hot springs (Cozido das Furnas – a very traditional Azorean dish).
They will have the chance to explore the islands’ biodiversity in places such as Caldeira Velha, home to subtropical vegetation, and Terra Nostra, a beautiful botanical garden.
And they’ll also get the chance to see how living in such a remote location impacts on the islanders, in terms of food, water and energy resources.
Your students will also have the opportunity to experience one of the world’s leading destinations for sustainable tourism, which will help them to understand its importance.
The mild climate really means that the Azores make for a year-round destination.
Having said that, if your geography school trip needs to take place during autumn or winter, then the Azores are an excellent alternative to ever-popular Iceland. Why? Because the warmest winters in Europe can be found right here – there’s never been snowfall or even frost recorded at sea level on any of the islands!