The Best Hikes in the Azores

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The Azores, a natural fantasyland of nine islands, is truly Mother Nature's magnum opus.

Lush and sparsely populated with tiny, picturesque, old-world villages, it has so far remained under the radar for most would-be travelers. Their loss is your gain if you visit; the worst traffic you'll encounter is from a rogue cow blocking a road and the islands are dotted with trails upon which it's rare to encounter more than a dozen other hikers.

There are plenty of hikes to try throughout the islands, but the tried and tested are popular for a reason. If it's your first time there, make São Miguel your home base. There's enough to keep you busy for several days, and you'll avoid the inconvenience of traveling from island to island by plane or boat.

The most peaceful place on Earth

The Iconic Sete Cidades

Sete Cidades (two sparkling lakes flanking a humongous caldera) on Sao Miguel Island is one of the best tourist destinations on the island. Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde (Blue Lake and Green Lake) each reflect the sun from a slightly different angle, giving the impression of being two distinctly different colored bodies of water. That's the scientific explanation, but talk to locals and you may get a different story–one that involves a forbidden love between a princess and a poor shepherd. With 12km of crisscrossing trails bordered by brilliantly colored flowers and surrounded by verdant cliffs, this is a perfect example of the Azores' almost ludicrous beauty. Drink it in–it's virtually impossible to capture the Azores' beauty on film. There is simply no substitute for experiencing the magnificence in person.

Lagoa das Empadadas

In the middle of the Serra Devassa Trail lies the Lagoa das Empadadas, a pair of peaceful scenic lagoons fringed by hydrangeas (which are omnipresent throughout the islands). If you continue along this quiet, understated trail, you'll also get to see the Muro das Nove Janelas (Wall of Nine Windows), an ancient aqueduct, and an outstanding view of Lagoa de Canario. It's a short but steep hike to the top, but talk about #worthit.

Epic beauty

Waterfalls meet 18th century villes

In Faial da Terra you'll find two well-worn trails, Sanguinho and Salto do Prego. Both trails lead you to the same destination, a beautiful waterfall in the southeastern mountains of the island, but the Sanguinho trail dips into the abandoned village of Sanguinho, while Salto do Prego winds past various local plantations. If you're looking for historic charm and a bit more of a cardio workout, opt for Sanguinho. But seeing as you're in the Azores, you really can't go wrong either way.

So hard to get there...but so worth it

The Famed "Lake of Fire"

Looking to seriously challenge yourself and prove you're not just "gym fit"? Try the breathtaking (literally and figuratively) hike around Lagoa do Fogo. It's 11 kilometers long, but in such lovely surroundings, it doesn't seem nearly that long. Pro tip: start early (8am if you can hack it) or else you'll be forced to share the opulent beauty with other trekkers. It's rough going for the first mile or so, with a fairly steep trail that appears endless, but once you get to the aqueduct shaded by tropical foliage, all will be worth it.

The tea tastes better when you know its provenance

Hike and a Cuppa, Please

The Gorreana Tea plantation (the oldest in all of Europe) is located in the northern part of São Miguel. Wind your way through the plantation and then climb higher as the trail ascends to a height suitable for ogling the incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean and bucolic plains. Like all the hikes in the Azores, it's a fairly steep climb, but the instant you get to the top you'll forget the huffing and puffing of five minutes ago, and you'll just gape in wonder. After your jaunt through the fields redolent with green and black tea, you'll end up back at the tea factory, which conveniently offers free samples of its elegantly crafted green and black teas.

Things are looking up

Steamy and Savory

If you want to work off some of the cozido (a hearty meat and potato stew cooked underground courtesy of the hot underground springs in Furnas), try hiking around Lagoa das Furnas. If you have enough stamina to make it to the top you'll be rewarded with one of the a brilliant viewpoints like Miradouro do Pisao or Miradoura da Grota do Inferno (miradouros, or "viewpoints" are well known to travelers who have been to Lisbon or Porto in Portugal, where they are quite common), or Pico de Ferro. A memory of these epic views are all the souvenirs you need from this beautiful island–if you're lucky enough to be visiting on a clear day (with The Azores' mercurial weather, it's always touch and go.)

The "Top" Views in São Miguel

Virtually every hike culminates in a jaw-dropping view of the island. However, there are certain miradouros that are not to be missed. Ogle the Lagoas das Sete Cidades from the Vista do Rei (so named after early 20th century royalty who admired the view of the lakes from that very point) or Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. Vista do Rei is accessible via a very long hike–or a very short drive. (No judgment for those who drive up there, as it's quite a trek up.)

Once you reach the viewpoint, you'll understand why people have the desire to get to the top of terrain like Mt. Kilimanjaro–the view is palpably beautiful and completely mesmerizing. While the small parking lot requests people limit their time to just 20 minutes, if you go later in the day when there are fewer tourists about, you can take a few extra minutes to savor the view. If you're feeling adventurous, there's also an abandoned 5-star hotel hulking nearby with virtually no security.

The Miradouro da Boca do Inferno is just a short five-minute walk up a path from a parking lot, and the views are indescribably beautiful. Bonus points if you check it out at sunset, when the blue melts into purples, pinks, and golds.

If you haven't booked your plane ticket to the Azores already, do it now. For accessibility, value, and pure, unabashed natural splendor, you simply cannot beat it. It's truly one of those places that you can't help but feel Mother Nature spent a few extra millennia perfecting.

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Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

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Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!

Travel Tips

8 of the Best Donut Spots In the United States

Celebrate National Donut Day with our favorite treats across the country.

November 5th marks one of 2020's two National Donut Days.

Occurring in both June and November, National Donut Day allows fans of those delectable yeasty treats to embrace their sweet tooth. But like any niche food group, people often take their donuts very, very seriously, and there are countless places to get your fix.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best donut spots across the country. From coast to coast, these bakeries are sure to impress even the pickiest donut-heads.

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop – Modesto, CA

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's worth taking a short trek out east towards Modesto for some of California's best donuts. Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop has remained family owned since its opening over 30 years ago, providing both tried-and-true classic donuts as well as experimental flavors and holiday specials. Even their 24-hour service doesn't diminish the line that trails out the door most mornings.

Dough — New York, NY

Dough \u2014 New York, NY

Donuts might not be the first circular, doughy treat you think of when it comes to New York City. If you've had your fair share of bagels, the Big Apple also boasts some spectacular donuts at Dough, a go-to spot for both tourists and locals alike. Here, you'll find a host of Latin American-inspired flavors that are hard to come by anywhere else; their Dulce de Leche flavor is a customer favorite, while the tangy Hibiscus donut is just as good for Instagramming as it is for eating.

Blackbird Doughnuts — Boston, MA

Blackbird Doughnuts \u2014 Boston, MA

Boston's Blackbird Doughnuts is a no-frills donut spot specializing in both brioche "raised" donuts and old-fashioned cake donuts. With a small menu of year-round donuts and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors, Blackbird keeps it simple and classic. Why mess around?

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — Brooklyn, NY

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop \u2014 Brooklyn, NY

For over 60 years, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop has been calling the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint home. Since then, the bakery has remained a popular spot for both regulars and new visitors passing through the area. Here, you won't find uber-trendy decor or gimmicky recipes, just damn good donuts that prove the power of long-standing local businesses.

Pip’s Original — Portland, OR

Pip\u2019s Original \u2014 Portland, OR

In both their mobile catering van and brick-and-mortar locations, Pip's Original is a staple for small, sweet treats in Portland. They're known for their tiny donuts that come in inventive seasonal flavors like marionberry-lavender and mango ghost pepper. But even if you opt for one of the more traditional flavors, Pip's Original proves good things can come in small packages.

Round Rock Donuts — Round Rock, TX

Round Rock Donuts \u2014 Round Rock, TX

Founded in 1926, Round Rock Donuts—located just north of Austin—are impossible to miss. These donuts' distinct yellow-orange color, caused by fresh eggs in the original recipe, make them stand out among the crowd. While this classic outpost can easily churn out hundreds of dozens of donuts a day, they also offer Texas-Sized Donuts, which are just as ginormous as you'd imagine. Round Rock Donuts are not only delicious and easily recognizable, but they're a slice of Lone Star history.

The Holy Donut — Portland, ME

The Holy Donut \u2014 Portland, ME

In Maine's Portland, you might not find tiny donuts or a decked-out catering van, but you will find a slightly healthier alternative. The Holy Donut was founded on the premise of creating tasty donuts that used all-natural ingredients to make a treat you could feel good about eating. The secret ingredient is fresh, mashed Maine potatoes, which make these donuts delectably moist without sacrificing flavor.

Donut Friend — Los Angeles, CA

Donut Friend \u2014 Los Angeles, CA

As expected of a city so focused on entertainment, Los Angeles' Donut Friend puts an edgy spin on their inventive donut flavors. Their year-round menu features donut flavors with names like Green Teagan and Sara, Fudgegazi, and Bacon-182 that are sure to delight the rock music nerds. For everyone else, the delicious donuts speak for themselves.