We’re right in the middle of spring, making now the perfect time to plan a summer trip somewhere breathtaking — or, maybe more realistically, scroll through Instagram and wish you were somewhere a little less rainy and a lot more colorful. Cherry blossom season is already over, but if you’re looking for some beautiful blooms, Portugal’s “Blue Island” might be the best place to head.
Faial, one of Portugal’s nine Azores Islands, is home to an abundance of gorgeous blue hydrangeas that peak in late July. The best time to visit is the week of August 2, when the flowers are in full bloom and the entire island comes together to celebrate Semana do Mar, a week full of festivities, which include a parade and a regatta.
The story of how the hydrangeas came to bloom on the island is a sad one. In 1957, a devastating volcanic explosion displaced thousands of locals, but also expanded the “Blue Island” about 1.5 miles and created a fertile and acidic breeding ground for flowers, Travel + Leisure reports. Gardeners agree that high levels of acid (specifically, a soil pH of 5.2-5.5) can affect the color of a hydrangea, which is why Faial’s blossoms are so vibrant.
Faial’s residents are fiercely protective of the flowers: it’s illegal to pick the hydrangeas, as they’re considered an important part of regional culture, not to mention crucial in maintaining the island’s beauty. So if you’re already frantically searching for a cheap flight, make sure you remember to practice tourist etiquette and treat the island with due respect.
Some travel Instagrammers shared gorgeous shots of the island, below.