The Azores or Iceland? Where you should visit next

Thursday, 26th April 2018

Destination Specialist

azores vs iceland montage

How does the archipelago compare to the Land of Ice and Fire?

We sent some of our travel specialists to The Azores to get their take on how the Portuguese islands compare to the geographer’s favourite, Iceland. It was a challenge to compare such different landscapes and cultures but we’ve compared a few characteristics that might help you decide between the two for your next trip.

Looking for… Stunning scenery?

The Azores
You would need a diverse and rich colour palette if you were to paint the Azorean landscape. The subtropical rainforests are lush greens sprinkled with pink and orange flora, the Atlantic waters are deep blues bordered by the rugged coastline of black lava formations, and in the right light, the volcanic area of Capelinhos is a stunning burnt orange.

Jumping off the pages of a fantasy novel, Iceland has the most dramatic and striking scenery around. From puffin-populated cliffs to tumbling waterfalls, it is a photographer’s dream. The thing that makes Iceland our scenery ‘winner’ is the pure variety. There are few places that you can find glacial lagoons, otherworldly lava rock formations and bubbling mud pools all under the same aurora-streaked sky.

Which should you choose: Iceland

Looking for… Great Weather?

The Azores
The Azores can be a summery haven but it is an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic and with that comes humidity and wet weather. Your travel specialist will be able to advise on the conditions for the times of year you travel but generally speaking, as with Iceland, it is best to be prepared for mixed conditions.

The clue is in its name, Iceland can get really cold! (The average temperature in January is 0°C)  Most of our school groups travel in October or February but whatever time of year you travel you will need to pack for many conditions. Iceland can experience four seasons in a day and you will need wet weather clothes, warm jackets and swimwear but for a true geographer, that is part of the joy of Iceland!

Which should you choose: It’s a draw!
It really depends if you prefer a warmer or fresher climate.

Looking for… Value for money?

It is no secret that Iceland can be an expensive place to visit. Luckily for you, we at Discover the World Education have exclusive deals with hotels and activities that make a trip affordable for many schools. However, going off itinerary and into a local shop or restaurant can push the budget a bit far as living costs are higher than in the UK.

The Azores
Despite the longer flight to the Azores, you can find really good value travel and accommodation costs in the Azores, especially if you can be flexible with the day you travel. As with Iceland the exclusive deals with accommodation and activities means you are guaranteed value for money. An advantage of travelling to the Azores is that the cost of living is cheaper than the UK which means students will be able to make their pocket money go further on snacks or souvenirs.

Which should you choose: The Azores

Looking for… A wide range of activities?

It is very difficult to compete with Iceland for activities, particularly when it comes to student favourites. When arranging a trip to Iceland teachers often find they are quite spoilt for choice and struggle to pack in everything they want to do into their itinerary. A day could begin walking between continents at Thingvellir and end with watching the Northern lights overhead from a local geothermally heated swimming pool. Another day a walk on a glacier could be followed by a trip underground into lava tubes or to a thundering waterfall, the options are endless.

The Azores
Though the Azores does not have the quite the diversity of activities that Iceland boasts, it is by no means a dull trip! Expect busy days of climbing Mount Pico, whale watching, visiting an astronomical observatory and even having a geothermally cooked lunch. You can also explore inside a caldera, something you cannot do in Iceland.

Which should you choose: Iceland

Looking for… Delicious food?

Some of the traditional Icelandic flavours are an acquired taste, for example, fermented shark and chocolate liquorice, however, everyone can be catered for in the various eateries on the island. Some of our excursions focus on the food products of Iceland, for example, the Efsti Dalur dairy farm produces delicious ice cream, which may seem out of season if you are travelling in Winter but delicious all the same. If you are visiting Hvergerdi you can boil eggs in the geothermal water.

The Azores
The Azoreans have their own version of geothermal cooking: Cozido. For 6 hours the meat stew is cooked underground and contains vegetables with pork, chicken, sausage and beef. A truly unique, hearty and delicious meal. If you are in need of something sweet, the island is also known for its pineapples.

Which should you choose: The Azores

Looking for … Geographical wonders?

The land of Ice and Fire is perfect for geographers who want to see impressive effects of the tectonic activity. Students can visit the innovative lava centre and learn how Icelanders managed the effects of the most recent volcanic eruptions. Beyond tectonics, students can see other topics from their textbooks come to life including, coasts, climate change, energy and even take part in some fieldwork with the Field Studies Council.
See Iceland curriculum links

The Azores
Each of the nine islands of the Azores were created by volcanoes and there is evidence everywhere of how this affects the landscape and way of life. Students will be able to witness the geothermal activity of the fumaroles at Furnas and even visit the geothermal energy power plants to learn more about what is done with this energy. You will also be able to cover topics such as sustainable tourism, coasts, ecosystems, water resources and more.
See Azores curriculum links

Which should you choose: Too close to call!

So… Where should you go?

It really is a win-win, you can’t lose. Find out more about the highlights of a trip to Iceland or the Azores and read one of our sample itineraries to find out more.

If you aren’t sure where to go, discover our full list of geography school trip destinations.

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