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Travel Guide to the Azores Islands
TripSavvy / Grace Kim
The Azores Islands are a fascinating island archipelago belonging to Portugal . A stepping stone for Americans who don't like long flights, the islands lie in the Atlantic, under five hours flying time from the East Coast of the U.S. and two hours flying time to Lisbon .
You may not expect the tropical conditions you find on the Azores. Small and intensely flavorful pineapples can be found as well as tea plantations on the island of São Miguel . Flowers are everywhere, especially in spring.
The islands' volcanic origin leaves unmistakable marks on the landscape and even in the cuisine. Steaming hot pools are everywhere, and the iconic dish of the Azores, a stew called Cozido is cooked by placing the pot in a hole in the ground near the famous caldeiras of Furnas, a town between Villa Franca and Nordeste on the map.
Getting to the Azores Islands
The nine Azores Islands are served by Azores Airlines . International flights arrive at the major settlement of Ponta Delgada on the Azores largest island, São Miguel or San Miguel. During the high season, Azores Airlines flies to the Azores from Boston, Oakland, Toronto, Montreal, Porto, Lisbon, Frankfurt and Las Palmas. If you are coming to the Azores from Lisbon, you can get direct flights to Horta, Terceira , and Santa Maria as well as to Ponta Delgada. In the off-season, check Azores Airlines for the latest information, as these departures change frequently.
Ease Your Jetlag With a Stop in the Azores
The Azores are only four and a half hours from Boston . A trip to the Azores can be the start of a series of short budget-airline hops that will ease the specter of jet lag: less than five hours to the Azores, two hours to Lisbon, three hours or so to Italy.
The Azores provide a whole different European experience for the traveler who would like to experience cultural and environmental contrast to "The Continent."
The flight from Boston will take you to Ponta Delgada on the Island of San Miguel. It's the largest island in the Azores chain, and there's plenty to do. From there you can go on to other islands or continue on to the continent by flying to Lisbon.
Getting Around the Azores Islands
During the high season, there are flights between the islands. Ferry services can be spotty, and many boats only run for a limited time around the summer season.
If you wish to travel to two islands from the U.S., it's best to make your airline reservations at the same time. In other words, the frugal will want a Boston-Ponta Delgada-Terceira ticket rather than separate Boston-Ponte Delgada and Ponta Delgada-Terceira round trips.
Major cities like Ponta Delgada, where you are likely to arrive in the Azores, have a variety of hotels, but getting out in the rural spaces of the Azores is the big draw. There are a variety of options within the program of Rural Tourism. If going rural appeals to you, you might try looking for lodging at Rural Tourism in Portugal .
While the resort hotels of the Azores offer good value for the money compared to other European destinations, many rural accommodations—restored farmhouses and manor houses—could be your first choice for lodging in the Azores. Most offer a real feeling of the genteel life and offer fine food (if you wish) and a leisurely lifestyle. The owners are often very interested in seeing you get the most out of your visit. For romantics, renting an isolated cabin with a view of the sea is the private way to go.
Getting Around within an Island in the Azores
Public transportation is aimed at Azoreans going to work and many of the public transport timetables are probably inconvenient for most tourists to the Azores. Hiring a taxi for a half-day tour is reasonably inexpensive, and gets you exactly where you want to go. Rental cars are available and are good to have on larger islands such as San Miguel.
There are many walking paths on the islands as walking is one of the attractions enjoyed by tourists in the Azores.
The Azores' stable, subtropical climate makes the islands the ideal place to go in the off or shoulder seasons. It's also ideal for folks who want to vacation in summer but don't like intense heat. Go in spring for the flowers.
Travel Safety in the Azores
There is little sign of poverty in the Azores, and there are few recorded crimes against tourists.
During the lean the years, many Azoreans immigrated to the US and then returned, so there tends to be a more sympathetic view of the politics embraced by the current U.S. administration than you'll find in other European countries. This also means that many citizens and visitors to the Azores speak English fluently; a benefit to tourists who don't speak Portuguese.
When to go to the Azores Islands
The Azores are awash in flowers in the spring, so May might be the ideal time to visit. Ferries start running in earnest in June, so that might be a consideration for you. April to September is the peak season in the Azores. You might want to avoid the rainy season, November to March. The gulf stream keeps the water fairly warm all year round, and Nordic visitors like to come to the Azores to swim in the winter. Summer is prime whale-watching time.
Island Hop to Madeira
If you like tropical islands, you might try a little Gulf Stream Island Hopping by flying from Ponta Delgada in the Azores to Funchal on Madeira Island . The flight takes only a little over two hours.
Who Should Go to the Azores?
Active travelers interested in island culture and activities will find a match here. Activities include trekking, boating and kayaking, golfing, paragliding, and diving. Here you'll find islands with tropical characteristics but European character. You can swim and boat during the day, then sit down to a typical meal with fine (and sometimes local) wines at night. The Azores aren't one of those places where you're plopped down in a glamorous resort walled off from a poorer population.
What's Not in the Azores That You Might Expect
It may surprise you to know that beaches aren't the primary attraction in the Azores. That doesn't mean that there aren't sandy stretches that attract bathers, but we're not talking about Hawaii here, either. Still, swimmers (and divers) can make quite a time of it in the Azores; the water is warmed by the gulf stream, and there are many opportunities to swim in the "natural swimming pools" formed from the collapse of small volcanic craters.
And you won't find many backpackers in the Azores.
What Might Surprise You on the Azores
The Azores used to be a prime supplier of oranges to the mainland. After a disease wiped out the crop, tea and pineapples were introduced. Today you can tour two tea plantations with tasting rooms on the island of San Miguel. You can also tour a pineapple plantation. Pineapple has become part of the cuisine of the Azores, most folks have a large slice after dinner, but it's also served with small, grilled blood sausage as a typical appetizer. Cows, milk, and cheeses are famous as well.
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How to Plan the Perfect Trip to The Azores
The Azores is known as the 'Hawaii of Europe' — with whale watching and dramatic volcanic scenery.
Lindsay Cohn is a writer, editor, and avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents — and counting. She contributes to Travel + Leisure, Hotels Above Par, InsideHook, Well+Good, The Zoe Report, and more.
The Azores, an autonomous Portuguese archipelago that’s in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is known for its breathtaking volcanic landscapes that feel almost prehistoric at times. Most first-time visitors head straight to São Miguel , the largest and most-visited island and the site of the main international airport. And can you blame them? The “Hawaii of Europe” as it’s called brims with crater lakes, lush hillsides, fumaroles, and waterfalls. The terrain across the archipelago is both dramatic and remarkably varied. Other lesser-known locales such as São Jorge and Pico offer plenty for travelers to see, do, and admire, too. Santa Maria, the southernmost island in the chain, for example, boasts the only white-sand beaches in the region. Of course, in a place that’s steeped in such untamed natural beauty, eco-adventures — from hiking to kayaking — abound.
Yearning to trek through surreal scenery, go whale watching, sample local cheese, and post up at a relaxing hotel? Scroll on for expert tips to help you plan the most epic Azores trip.
Related: 20 Best Places to Visit in Portugal
Courtesy of Octant Furnas
Best Hotels and Resorts in the Azores
Octant furnas, são miguel.
“Set amidst lush greenery and volcanic scenery, Octant Furnas allows guests to fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Azores,” says Pilar Melo Antunes, the business development director at AtlantiVacations , a tour company that specializes in tailor-made Azores experiences. The hotel is built for unwinding, with indoor and outdoor geothermal pools and a healing water circuit at the heavenly spa as highlights.
Santa Barbara Eco Resort, São Miguel
Set along the remote and rugged northern coast of São Miguel, Santa Barbara Eco Resort gives off a cool, surfer retreat energy with modern architecture, views of the azure waves, and an emphasis on wellness. Gardens overflow with endemic flora. The organic farm supports the robust culinary program. There’s also a huge saltwater pool accented by stone lounges and a hut for alfresco massages.
Sensi, São Miguel
“Earning a true five-star rating, Sensi is a standout option for Azorean luxury at its finest,” remarks Horácio Alves, a Lisbon-based guide with Black Tomato who regularly does tours in the Azores. “It’s a really special place with superb food, a spa dedicated to mind-body-spirit relaxation, top-notch service, and design that feels elegant yet authentic to the volcanic island of São Miguel.”
White Exclusive Suites & Villas, São Miguel
Planning a honeymoon or romantic getaway ? White Exclusive Suites & Villas is a luxurious, boutique respite perched on the southern coast of São Miguel. Designed with grown-up guests in mind, it’s elegant and intimate with just 11 contemporary suites and villas, gastronomic cuisine, and a sanctuary-like spa for signature rituals, hydrotherapy, and yoga.
Pocinho Bay, Pico
While São Miguel may have the lion's share of hotels, in-the-know travelers decamp to Pocinho Bay , a hidden gem on the island of Pico with vineyards, sweeping views of Mount Pico and Faial Island, and access to a natural rock pool. “The property feels beachy, almost reminiscent of Mykonos with laid-back yet attentive service, woven hammocks, and exposed stone walls in the rooms, plus a range of excellent small-production wines,” says Alves.
Maya Karkalicheva/Getty Images
Best Things to Do in the Azores
Sete cidades, são miguel.
If you’ve ever Googled the Azores, chances are pretty good that images of Sete Cidades popped up. The journey to this emblematic nature area on the island of São Miguel is absolutely stunning with unimaginable sightlines of the famous twin crater lakes, Lagoa Azul ("blue lagoon") and Lagoa Verde ("green lagoon"), and the huge, 3-mile-wide caldera. Along the way, there are many scenic viewpoints and charming small villages.
Ilhéu de Vila Franca
The uninhabited flooded crater islet of Ilhéu de Vila Franca is easily reachable right off the south-central coast of São Miguel. The protected lagoon teems with unique marine life and offers exceptional visibility, making it ideal for snorkeling. It’s also popular for swimming and cliff diving.
Hot Springs in Furnas, São Miguel
A hub of geothermal activity on São Miguel, Furnas is blessed with many hot springs. Wellness and relaxation seekers will find plenty of spots to soak. Alves suggests Centro de Interpretação Ambiental da Caldeira Velha , a nature preserve with mineral pools, waterfalls, and lush foliage. “It's important to note that the water has a high sulfur content. The unique smell can take some time to get used to, but the healing benefits are plenty.”
Pico da Barrosa, Pico
Fans of high-altitude activities won’t want to miss Pico da Barrosa, the highest point in Portugal. The summit sits atop a dormant volcano at an elevation of 7,713 feet above sea level. The round-trip hike is quite pleasant as long as you have sure footing and a knowledgeable local guide to help navigate the volcanic rock terrain.
The Azores is one of the best destinations for whale watching in the world. Many different types of cetaceans call the waters surrounding the archipelago home and guided tours give visitors a front-row seat to these majestic marine creatures. While peak season stretches from April through October, to up your odds of seeing larger migratory species such as blue whales, consider planning a trip between the end of April and the beginning of May.
Best Restaurants in the Azores
Quinta dos sabores, são miguel.
Quinta dos Sabores is a working organic farm in northern São Miguel that includes farmhouse accommodations, a shop, and an intimate restaurant. “The five-course tasting menu changes daily depending on the availability of ingredients and also includes an appetizer, starter, soup, two mains, and a dessert,” explains Atunes. It’s a true field-to-fork gourmet experience.
Bar Caloura, São Miguel
It doesn’t get better than fresh seafood — specifically buttery grilled limpets with a generous squeeze of lemon and sizzling garlic prawns — washed down with a pitcher of housemade sangria and a side of sweeping ocean views. That’s the setup at Bar Caloura , a long-standing favorite of locals (Alves included) and visitors to the small town of Água de Pau.
Tasquinha Vieira, São Miguel
One of Alves’s favorite cozy restaurants on the island of São Miguel, Tasquinha Vieira may be small in stature, but it boasts big flavors with a focus on using fresh, local ingredients. “The atmosphere is casual and unassuming, so it’s really perfect for sharing some plates and sipping on a cold beer.” Pro tip: Limited seating means it’s encouraged to make reservations in advance.
Restaurante Associação Agrícola de São Miguel, São Miguel
Carnivores rejoice! Meat takes center stage at Restaurante Associação Agrícola de São Miguel , a hidden gem with a farm collective vibe that Alves deems “outstanding.” The signature Bife à Associação (fried steak) is a must-order dish.
O Ancoradouro, Pico
O Ancoradouro has earned a reputation as something of a landmark on the island of Pico. That’s because it’s impossible to grow tired of fresh-caught fish, seafood stew, and limpets at a waterfront restaurant that’s always friendly and welcoming.
Chris VR/Travel + Leisure
Best Wineries in the Azores
Azores wine company, pico.
If you only have the chance to visit one winery, consider the Azores Wine Company. Many credit the enterprising project with putting vinho from the Azores on the map in such a significant way. Besides tasting complex volcanic wines and touring modern facilities, visitors can savor acclaimed gastronomy and even spend the night in architecturally striking apartments (with advanced booking, of course).
Pico Wines, Pico
The largest and oldest wine operation in the Azores, Pico Wines is a cooperative of producers aimed at keeping noble grape varieties and ancestral winemaking traditions alive. “It’s definitely worth a visit to this UNESCO-protected site to do private vineyard tours, soak in the breathtaking beauty of the landscape, and sample some of the best pours in the region,” says Alves.
Quinta Da Jardinete, São Miguel
Pico has established itself as the wine island, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’ll have any trouble finding quality pours on São Miguel. Quinta Da Jardinete is a small, family-owned estate that produces terroir-driven vinho made from grapes such as merlot, aragonês, and lemberger (blaufränkisch) that are grown right on site.
How to Get There
Ponta Delgada - João Paulo II Airport (PDL) is located on São Miguel. Travelers coming from the East Coast of the United States will be pleased to learn that Sata Azores Airlines operates direct flights from New York (JFK) and Boston (BOS) to Ponta Delgada, and United offers direct flights from Newark (EWR). From there, connecting flights are available to the other islands. There are also ferries that connect some of the Azores islands.
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10 of the best things to do in the Azores
Now on the UK’s travel green list, the Portuguese archipelago offers stunning volcanic landscapes and its own delicious cuisine, wines and even coffee
T he Azores archipelago (Açores in Portuguese) lies about 1,000 miles west of mainland Europe and is made up of nine volcanic islands: São Miguel (the largest), São Jorge, Terceira, Pico, Faial, Ilha das Flores, Santa Maria, Graciosa and Corvo, which you can cross by ferry or plane.
Colonised by the Portuguese in 1432, the Azores is now an autonomous region. During the period known as the Discoveries, Portugal had the largest high-seas fleet in the world, with many of its ships stopping to replenish stocks in the Azores as they travelled back and forth to Brazil, India, Japan and elsewhere, bringing with them spices that changed Azorean cuisine from simple. plain dishes to ones spiced and flavoured with new-world produce, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
The weather can vary even across a day, with locals (about 245,000 residents) often calling each other to find out where on an island the sun is. Lots of rain makes for a lush landscape with many waterfalls and hot springs. Tea and coffee are grown here, as well as pineapples. The town of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira and the landscape of Pico’s vineyard culture are Unesco world heritage-listed sites.
What the Azores produces is astonishing: not just for its quality but because the vines are grown in seemingly inhospitable cracks in rocks and hardened lava, buffeted by winds and storms. These conditions provide distinctive salty notes. The most famous Azorean wines are from Pico, an island dominated by Mount Pico. Try them at Pico Wines , a cooperative, or at the Azores Wine Company, which recently opened an architecturally impressive winery with views across the squares of dry-stone corrais that comprise the vineyards. Pico makes the more well-known wines but Biscoitos , on Terceira, has a similar landscape and also produces great stuff.
Beaches, swimming, dolphin- and whale-watching
There are beaches across the Azores, but since these are volcanic islands the sand is dark or the shore is rocky. Swimming “pools” dot the shoreline of all the islands: sometimes ladders hang on the edge of rocks, some can be accessed directly from the shore, and others are in little harbours. In August, the sea temperature can reach 23C, but given this is the Atlantic, the water is cold for much of the year. There are also waterfalls and volcanic springs to plunge under and into. Dolphin- and whale-watching trips are widely available.
Cakes and biscuits
The islands have their own cakes and biscuits, of which my favourites are Dona Amélia, small cakes made from melkana (like molasses, brought from Brazil), sugar, eggs, cornflour, cinnamon and raisins. Created to celebrate the visit of King Don Carlos and his wife, Dona Amélia, in 1901, try them at Pastelaria O Forno in Angra do Heroísmo . Pudim conde da praia is made from potatoes, sugar, butter, lemon, eggs and cinnamon. Esp é cies de São Jorge are horseshoe-shaped cookies stuffed with a spiced filling that includes fennel, black pepper, cinnamon and lemon – those made by Dulçores on São Jorge are good.
When the Portuguese discovered the Azores they shipped over livestock to the islands to see if the animals could survive. They did, especially the cows with abundant grass to graze on grazing. Butter, milk, cream and cheese produced across the Azores are likely to be some of the best you have ever tasted. Two cheeses have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status: tangy Queijo São Jorge (try it at Queijaria Canada on São Jorge) and buttery Queijo do Pico, but every island produces wonderful ones (O Morro on Faial is incredible). The ice-cream, yoghurt and ghee (from Azorghee ) are also exceptional.
Drive, walk or cycle along the roads of the Azores and you will be greeted by banks of hydrangeas, often tall bushes full of large floral heads in shades of blue, pink, white and purple. Faial is also known as the blue island – a volcanic eruption in 1957 left behind a fertile soil full of acidity and aluminium, which makes the flowers blue. Hydrangeas are not an indigenous species – they were introduced by Portuguese settlers in the 17th century – but became invasive because of the conditions (the rain, the rich earth) and had a devastating effect on some of the local flora. They were used like walls to keep the cows to certain fields. Hydrangeas begin to bloom in late April and flower until early September.
Formed from lava flows that stopped at the sea, fajãs are mostly steep cliffs running down to the coast and are most concentrated on São Jorge. Being volcanic, fajãs are exceptionally fertile and were used by settlers to grow yams, maize and vegetables. These days coffee and tropical fruits are grown along the more gentle slopes. Take the spectacular walk from Fajã dos Cubres to Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, the only place on the archipelago where clams are grown (it’s also a magnet for body boarders and surfers). Eat the clams at Restaurante O Borges before walking back to Fajã dos Cubres.
The cult of the holy spirit
The holy spirit (or holy ghost) festivals are the primary annual event for Azoreans, 90% of whom are Catholic. The festivities have common threads but the celebrations and traditions vary from island to island. They centre around impérios (empires) – small shrines to the holy spirit – highly decorated and maintained with care. Their architecture also varies: on Terceira, where there are 73, they are topped with an imperial crown. The festivals are also social and family celebrations, with singing, processions and eating and drinking. The “cult” arrived with the first settlers, with the Azorean people becoming more devoted as communities came together to worship, isolated from the mainland.
Seafood and fish
The Azores has fabulous tuna. Much of it is exported as well as canned, but eating it fresh on the islands is a must. Other species include blue jack mackerel, chub mackerel, forkbeard, red porgy and swordfish, while lobsters, slipper lobsters, crabs and spider crabs are abundant. But there are two types of seafood that are particular to the Azores. The first, more widely available, are lapas , limpets which are usually grilled (try them at Sabores Sopranos on São Jorge, which often has la pa branco , which is more orange, and lapa mansa more black). The other is cracas , barnacles that look like rocks, but have small holes inside that are home to sweet, almost lobster-like meat, which has to be picked out. Cracas are more easily found on Terceira – try them at Beira Mar de São Mateus .
Tea and coffee
Tea is grown on two plantations on São Miguel – Gorreana and Porto Formoso , both on the north coast, producing black (primarily orange pekoe, pekoe, moinha, oolong and broken leaf) and green tea. You can visit the plantations and factories to learn about their teas. Tea is thought to have been introduced to the islands at the beginning of the 19th century, when it was realised that the climate was good for its cultivation. High-quality, fruity coffee is grown on fajã slopes on São Jorge – sample that produced by the Nunes family at Café Nunes at Fajã dos Vimes.
Nine islands, one geopark. There are 121 geosites across the archipelago’s land and the sea bed. There are dry caldeiras , lakes in craters, fumarolic fields, hot springs, caves, grottoes and crevices, many of which are the result of the volcanic nature of the islands. The sites include Mount Pico, which you can climb to the top of. Capelinhos volcano, on the westernmost point of Faial, resulting from an eruption between 1957 and 1958, has a 2km-wide surface caldeira around the crater, which is a nature reserve. On Ilha das Flores, the walking trail at Fajã de Lopo Vaz , probably one of the first places to be settled on the islands, is also a geosite.
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This remote archipelago simply abounds with adventures; it is, in fact, the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic. It has world-class whale watching, sailing, diving, hiking and canyoning; excellent surfing and other watersports; rich opportunities for on horseback, on bikes or, for the daredevils, by paraglider. Then there is the landscape itself: a wonderland of seething mud pots, fantastical caverns, and vivid crater lakes that speak of a volcanic origin.
Must-see attractions for your itinerary.
The Azores are full of places that stop visitors dead in their tracks and cause a sharp, involuntary intake of breath. But the first glimpse of this…
Angra do Heroismo
A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1983, the historic centre of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira is an architectural jewel. This once…
The highest mountain in Portugal rears out of the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 2,351m. A near-perfect cone, Mt Pico is more than postcard material: an…
The underwater volcano that erupted in spectacular fashion off the island of Faial in 1957 afforded scientists a unique opportunity to study a rare…
Vineyards of Pico
The island of Pico has produced wine since the 15th century, but don’t expect neat rows of vines amid picturesque fields. The vintners here adapted to a…
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Azores Travel Guide
This Azores Travel Guide by Azores Getaways has everything you need to know about the Azores: the answers to your Azores’ questions and the best Azores travel tips you’ll find -- given by those who know the islands better than anyone, the locals.
The Azores are here and ready to roll out the green carpet for you. Whether you need a relaxing retreat, an exciting adventure or simply some Azores travel inspo -- or maybe a little bit of both --- Azores Getaways can help you plan your very own authentic escape to the enchanting Azores Islands in Portugal.
The mild, temperate climate gives the Azores Islands year-round appeal for nature lovers, adventure sport and wellness seekers, food and culture buffs, and even surfers and golfers looking for an off-season jaunt. Beach bums and ocean lovers will be pleasantly surprised by the Azores islands’ gorgeous black sand beaches, natural ocean pools, and world-class diving- not to mention the whale watching.
Hyper-focused on sustainability and preservation, the Azores inhabitants appreciate and respect the nature of the Azores islands and want to preserve them just as much as they want to proudly share them with the world. You’ll see that an Azores trip is so much more than checking into a nice Azores hotel!
So, if world-class Azores whale watching, mineral hot springs, endless hiking trails, adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities, delicious food and wine, interesting history and friendly locals sounds appealing to you, your Azores vacation awaits.
Need a little help planning your Azores vacation? Looking for the perfect travel deal? You’re at the right place to start dreaming about your Azores getaway. Whether you’re coming from Boston to Azores, Toronto to Azores or the UK to Azores, we offer vacation solutions for everyone!
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- $1049 Feb 24
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Home » Europe » Portugal » Azores
Azores Travel Guide (2023): Portugal’s Far Off Islands
I just spent a summer visiting the Azores Islands, a far-off autonomous archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, where life is simple and the living is easy.
While technically part of Portugal, these islands are starkly different from continental Europe and relatively unknown within the travel community.
Scattered across the Atlantic, the Azores have been isolated from the world (and each other) for centuries, which has led to each island developing its own unique culture among its beautiful natural surroundings.
So where are the Azores? And how did I hear about them?
The nine islands are divided into three separate groups. The eastern islands are Sao Miguel and Santa Maria ; the central group consists of Terceira , Graciosa , Sao Jorge , Pico, and Faial ; and the western islands of Flores and Corvo are the most remote of the islands.
My father was born on Terceira, the third largest island of the Azores, and my grandparents, and their grandparents, and so forth, were born on Terceira too.
This past summer was my first time visiting the Azores, and an opportunity to rediscover my heritage and roots, reconnect with nature among the Azores’ fascinating volcanic landscapes and learn more about this relatively uncharted territory.
On my summer-long visit to the Azores, I learned to appreciate the slow-paced island life that can make it feel like you are stepping back in time.
Here’s the deal: there is hardly any (useful) information on traveling the Azores on the internet. That’s why I put together the most complete and comprehensive Azores travel guide.
Below I will break down each island’s highlights and some of the top places to visit on each island. Later in this guide, I will cover how to travel around, what to eat, where to stay, and more.
There is a section on the cost of visiting the Azores, where I’ll dish the deets on how to travel the Azores affordably.
It is becoming more affordable to visit the Azores because of budget airline routes, but the Azores do not have an infrastructure for backpackers like the rest of Western Europe.
Keep reading this Azores travel guide to learn everything you need to know about the 9 islands, including 4 epic Azores travel itineraries, travel tips, budget costs, information on hiking the Azores, top things to do, and so much more!
Let’s dive right in…
Where to Go Traveling in the Azores
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As I mentioned above, the Azores archipelago is made up of 9 distinct islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They are separated into three groups, the western, middle, and eastern.
I’ll be covering five of the islands in this Azores backpacking guide in detail – Sao Miguel, Terceira, Flores, Corvo, and Sao Jorge – I haven’t been to Santa Maria, Graciosa, or Faial, so those will only be covered briefly.
Sao Miguel is the biggest island and home of the capital of the Azores. Most travelers visit Sao Miguel for its diversity and city life, though “city life” is relative here.
Terceira is less known for its nature and more for its unique culture. That said, there are also a lot of beautiful places here to visit on Terceira too!
Pico , the second biggest island, is known for its towering volcano, which you can summit. Flores is one of the most remote Azores islands and the nature lover’s paradise.
I will also cover the other islands, Faial , Corvo , Santa Maria , Sao Jorge , and Graciosa, just not in as much detail.
Each island offers up its own unique attractions, culture, and traditions, though you can be sure to hike, swim in the ocean, and eat fresh seafood on any given one.
Head to Sao Miguel and explore the streets of Ponta Delgada and dip in one of the many, many thermal hot springs.
Hike amongst the beautiful jagged hills and waterfalls of Flores. Indulge in Terceira’s festas after taking a dip in one of the ocean swimming pools. Hike around the fajas of Sao Jorge, and eat their famous cheese washed down with coffee from Europe’s only coffee plantation.
Take a stroll on the edge of a caldera on Corvo. Hike to the Azores tallest point, a dormant volcano on the island of Pico.
Go deep sea fishing, diving, and eat the fresh catch of the day for dinner. Dive with manta rays off the coast of Santa Maria. Go whale watching and swim with wild dolphins on an island in the Atlantic.
No matter what you like to do, a visit to the Azores has something exquisite for every traveler. Whether you love trekking, swimming, diving, or eating and drinking to your heart’s content, there is something on offer for every traveler in the Azores.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best Azores itineraries and backpacking routes that I have assembled below…
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If you look up “Azores itinerary,” most searches will populate with pretty much only Sao Miguel itineraries . This is because Sao Miguel, the largest Azores island, is easily the most visited one.
As diverse and incredible as Sao Miguel is, I think it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visiting the Azores.
My first itinerary is a Sao Miguel itinerary, but I have also included a few more Azores itineraries that cover other islands too, depending on your interests and timeframe.
5 Day Azores Itinerary #1: Taste of the Azores
5 Days in the Azores: Sao Miguel
If you only have less than a week to visit the Azores, then I would actually recommend sticking to Sao Miguel island because there is a ton to do here that will keep you busy for a week; moreover, it is home to the most accessible airport, meaning you’ll spend less time in transit and more time enjoying your Azores backpacking trip.
With 5 days in Sao Miguel, you can visit a few thermal hot springs, take a tour of the pineapple and tea plantations – I’ll explain later! – go whale watching, chill on the beach, scuba dive, hike around volcanic craters, and indulge in the Azores food scene!
That’s a lot to do, I know. I’ll discuss Sao Miguel in more detail in the island breakdown section below, but in terms of planning a Sao Miguel itinerary, keep in mind it takes about 4 hours to drive around the island without stopping.
I recommend spending 2 nights in Ponta Delgada . From Ponta Delgada, you can take day trips to Sete Ciudades to hike around the lake, visit the beach town Mosteiros on the west side where you can bathe in a hot spring in the ocean, and visit Vila Franca .
Most whale watching tours leave from Ponta Delgada or Vila Franca.
I recommend passing through Vila Franca on your third day in Sao Miguel. Plan a half-day boat trip to the Islet Franca do Campo . Afterward, you can check into your accommodation on the east side of Sao Miguel and explore the towns and nature around there.
Furnas deserves at least a day of exploration, as there are many awesome hot springs to be soaked in. Ribeira Grande has some nice beaches and is close to other attractions, like two tea plantations – Europe’s only two – and Lagoa Fogo , pinned in the middle of the map above.
This will easily keep you busy for 5 days, though if you have a week, you can do even more. You can check out a longer Sao Miguel itinerary here.
7-Day Azores Itinerary: San Miguel + 1 Azores Island
With a few extra days, you can add an island to your Azores trip. I suggest either Pico or Terceira . For the sake of simplicity, I’ll describe what a Sao Miguel + Terceira itinerary would look like below. I’ll discuss Pico in the third itinerary.
7 days in the Azores: Visit 2 Islands
With a week to visit the Azores, I suggest exploring 2 islands. As mentioned above, São Miguel is the largest island, but adding another island, will give you a different perspective of the Azores.
The next two biggest islands are Pico and Terceira and it will be easiest to book an open-jaw flight itinerary between 2-3 of these islands.
Terceira , shown in the map above, is incredibly unique for its summer-long cultural festivals and bull runs, which I’ll discuss later.
If you are interested in learning more about Azorean culture, I highly recommend visiting Terceira, which holds a special place in my heart.
The main tourist town of Angra do Heroismo is utterly charming and unsurprisingly a UNESCO Heritage Site as well as the island’s university town.
I recommend spending three days on Terceira, but more if you can.
Spend a night or two in Angra do Heroismo, and another night on the north side of the island. Praia de Victoria will be the next biggest “city” with more options for accommodation and restaurants.
Having lived on Terceira for over a month, I visited every swimming hole on the island, and each has its own vibe. The island doesn’t have natural sand, so while there are a couple man-made beaches, each coastal village in Terceira has instead built a swimming hole to easily access the ocean from the rocky shores.
I’ll cover what to do on Terceira in the “places to visit in the Azores” section below.
10-Day Azores Itinerary #3: Hiking the Azores
10 Days on the Azores: Pico, Sao Jorge, Flores, and Corvo
If you enjoy hiking and connecting with nature then this is the Azores itinerary for you.
Pico will be the easiest island to fly into from mainland Europe. This island is most famous for Mount Pico, a 2,351-meter dormant volcano, which you can summit to catch 360-degree views of the Atlantic and nearby islands, Faial and Sao Jorge.
While it’s not by any means amongst the tallest in the world, Mount Pico can be deceptively difficult to conquer, so it is best to be in moderate shape at a minimum.
After spending 3-4 days on Pico – hiking, whale watching, and sipping on wine – catch an internal flight to the westernmost island chain.
You can ferry to the island of Sao Jorge too. I haven’t been to this island, but I have heard the scenery and hiking is incredible.
With more time, allot at least 5 days to Flores if you are an avid hiker and naturalist, trust me! Otherwise, about 4 days (with a side trip to Corvo Island) will be enough to get a feel of the island.
Debatedly the most beautiful, or at least the most dramatic island, Flores is also one of my favorite islands in the Azores.
On Flores, you can hike around the entire island, or conquer it in sections. The hiking here is no walk in the park, as the elevation changes frequently due to the jagged mountains.
Spend your time hiking, whale watching, swimming, and exploring the island; make sure to set aside at least one day to visit the nearby and most western island, Corvo . Here you can walk on the edge of the Caldera.
Keep in mind, you will have to fly back to Pico (or even Terceira or Sao Miguel) for an international flight home.
14-Day Azores Itinerary: #4: Azores Highlights
2 weeks on the Azores: The Best of the Islands
With at least 2 weeks to visit the Azores, you can potentially visit 5 islands and really get a taste for everything the Azores have to offer.
I suggest starting with Sao Miguel and following my advice in itinerary #1. After 4-5 days on Sao Miguel, it’s time to explore Terceira and then the three triangle islands: Faial , Pico , and Sao Jorge.
Two weeks is the minimum to visit all 5 of these islands, with a few more days you will be able to relax more often. Luckily, travel times between islands are quite short (unless your flight is delayed, which is quite common).
Terceira is best known for its festivities. If you are visiting the Azores in the summer, try to be in Terceira for the festivals at Angra do Heroismo in June, or Praia de Victoria in August. All of the smaller towns host bull runs and a festival at one point or another, so there is always something going on.
Sao Jorge is pretty underrated as well. It’s known for its majestic cliffs and some of the most beautiful landscapes on the Azores. This island is also the best cheese producer – though all islands produce good cheese. I would plan for 3 days in Sao Jorge.
While I haven’t been to Faial , I have heard that the volcanic landscape is nice and the villages are quaint and charming. It’s a rather small island, and you only need 2 days to properly explore it.
If you are pressed for time, this would be the first island I would remove from this Azores itinerary. Another option is to head to Flores instead.
Finally, end your trip with 3-4 days on Pico , ending your vacation with an epic hike to the top of Mount Pico and some wine tasting to top off your vacation.
You can also end your trip in Terceira, and visit Pico, Faial, and Sao Jorge beforehand. Check flight and ferry schedules to customize this itinerary!
The Azores are a truly unique place to visit for backpackers and families alike. By visiting the Azores, you can experience their unprecedented culture and incredibly lush nature, all a stone’s throw away from the beautiful ocean.
That said, you don’t travel to the Azores to lay on sandy beaches. (There are sandy beaches, but they are man-made. The only island with natural sand is Santa Maria , the most eastern island in the archipelago.)
On the other hand, the Azores have pretty epic swimming holes that allow you to dip in the sea and bask in the sun, plenty of rolling hills to hike and volcanic activity to explore. What is more, each island is known as a certain color.
Sao Miguel , for example, is the Green Island because of its vast meadows and green hills; Terceira is the Lilac Island, due to its prolific wisteria and lilac vegetation found around the island.
Santa Maria is the Yellow Island due to the predominance shrub-like lower land and coastal vegetation in the summer. Graciosa is the White Island because of its white colored rocks; São Jorge is the Brown Island due to the brown rocks at Rosais Islet and Point.
Pico is the Grey Island for its extensive volcanic rock coast and lack of vegetation up high on Mount Pico’s mountain slopes. Faial is the Blue Island for its blue hydrangeas that line roads and pastures, and also because of its sea-related activities.
Flores is the Pink Island for its lush azaleas and pink sunsets among Rocha dos Bordões. And finally, Corvo is the Black Island, due to its black stone walls and the fact that it is viewed as a minute “black point” on the horizon from Flores.
Each island offers up something distinctly different for travelers and backpackers, and I’m not just talking about the colors.
Let us take a look at the islands that make visiting the Azores so awesome…
The largest and most populated island is also the most visited of the islands. That’s not to say Sao Miguel is the best Azores Island, but alongside Terceira, it is definitely is the most convenient to travel to as far as international flights and infrastructure go.
Sao Miguel is known for its rolling green hills, volcanic crater lakes, and hot springs. While most of the island is quite rural, Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, is the largest city among the archipelago.
This is where you will have access to most accommodation and food. If you do not rent a car when visiting Sao Miguel, I highly recommend staying here.
In terms of nature, the highlights are definitely Sete Cidades , Fogo Lake , and the hot springs around Furnas . I definitely recommend hiking or biking around Sete Cidades and hiking to Vista do Rei.
You can get some great inspiration for hiking and lakes to visit here .
Backpacking Ponta Delgada
As the largest city in the isles, Ponta Delgada is where most of the young, Azorean people and university students live. The city itself reminded me of the coastal town Malaga in Spain. This is where you’ll find some of the best restaurants and nightlife on the Azores, but it’s still not a big city.
If you want conveniences – or do not plan on renting a car, which you should – then I recommend staying in Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel.
Otherwise, use Ponta Delgada as a base to visit some of the highlights in the west, like Sete Cidades, Mosteiros, and even Vila Franca from where you can plan a boat trip to the Islet Franca do Campo.
This quaint and charming cobblestoned town is located in the valley of a volcano. This is one of my favorite places to stay in Sao Miguel, due to its proximity to the best natural hotsprings in the Azores. I would spend at least one night in Furnas to fully explore and soak in the hotsprings.
Be sure to visit the Furnas (pictured below) where locals bake a stew, colzido das Furnas , in the hot ground for five hours!
Terra Nostra Hotel is home to one of the hotsprings, a large single pool; you can pay for day use if you are not staying here. Another worthwhile hotspring is Poça da Dona Beija , which hosts 5 natural thermal baths.
Backpacking Ribeira Grande
The next biggest city on Sao Miguel Island is Ribeira Grande on the north coast. Here you’ll find both surf and tea plantations – no we’re not in Sri Lanka.
This town is more quaint than Ponta Delgada, and also close to some of the best beaches on Sao Miguel, including Santa Barabra Beach.
Plan to visit one of the two organic tea plantations – Tea Porto Formoso or Gorreana – to taste the local goods! These are the only tea plantations in all of Europe.
From Ribeira Grande, you also have access to visit the stunning Lagoa do Fogo – a blue and green lake in a crater – by 30 minute hike. You can picnic on its empty white, sandy beaches wink at me from the shore.
I found that Terceira is home to some of the most friendly and festive people in the Azores. While not necessarily known for its nature – like Flores or Sao Miguel is – you should definitely visit Terceira for the culture and festivities.
In the summertime, each village and city hosts a local festa (festival) with food, music, and friends.
Most villages host a community potluck with all the local delicacies: beef, pork, lapas and seafood , cheese, wines, and liquors. Other events include parades, theatrical performances, folktales and songs, and fireworks that go late into the night. Each town also hosts a local bull run, usually spanning over 2-3 days.
The Terceira bull runs are unlike any other bullfight event in the world. For one, the bulls are not killed nor injured, but anyone can participate and run from the bulls, usually with a little liquid courage, and sometimes it is actually the people that get seriously injured or even killed.
I was hesitant to attend the bull runs for ethical reasons, but they’re a part of Terceira’s unique culture and as I later learned, the bulls are treated more like sports stars than circus animals. Every bull has its statistics and reputation that it builds over the years, and many locals follow their favorite bulls around the island like a sports team. I wrote about the Terceira bull runs here .
The biggest festas take place in the biggest cities: Angra do Heroismo in June and Praia do Victoria in August.
The closest city to the Terceira airport is Praia do Victoria , which is a quaint town with a large sandy beach. You’ll find locals lounging in the sand and playing volleyball and football on any given summer day.
If you drive clockwise around the island, you’ll pass through many villages and towns with their own swimming holes, and about 15 minutes from Praia you can drive to the top of Serra do Cuma for the best view of Terceira.
Furnas do Enxofre and Algar do Carvão are probably the most impressive sites on Terceira, as you get to an explore an extinct volcano!
Algar do Carvão is one of the only places in the world where you can actually go inside a volcano. They built a staircase inside the lava tube, so you can enter without having to canyoneer.
Furnas do Enxofre is a geothermal site about 15 minutes from Algar. You can buy a ticket for one or both of entrances at the main visitors center.
When I talked to locals, they mentioned there are dozens of other volcanic caves on the island that can be visited with a guide. If you are feeling adventurous, seek out a canyoneering guide and go on an adventure!
Eventually, you’ll reach the main and largest city on Terceira, Angra do Heroismo , which is a UNESCO World Cultural Site. This is the best place to grab food and do some shopping on Terceira too.
From Angra, you can continue driving clockwise around the island or cut inland into the hills. The best hikes on the island are Rocha da Chambre and the trails on the northern side. I am personally a fan of hiking around Agua de Alva as you get to check out the cliffs.
Cuatro Ribeiras on the north side of the island is home to one of my favorite swimming holes on the island, so don’t miss it! There is also a café to grab a bite to eat.
Biscuoitos is nearby and has the biggest and most facilitated swimming holes, and therefore is the most touristic one. It’s actually really cool but incredibly crowded in the summertime.
Backpacking Angra Do Heroismo
As a UNESCO World Cultural Site, this city is one of the top places to visit in Terceira, and the main reason most tourists visit the island.
I think Angra is the best city to base yourself as a tourist too because it has the most options for accommodation, plenty of restaurants and an actual bar scene (albeit it is small).
The best things to do in Angra is to simply walk around and admire the colorful houses and cathedrals. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and little shops around the main town. I highly recommend Tasca dos Tios for the fresh catch of the day!
There is a local beach that is actually one of my favorite places to lounge in Terceira. While man-made, the sand is soft and the bay area is easy to swim in. You are also nearby a large green hill called Monte Brazil ; you can walk or drive up to the top for sunrise.
As the biggest city in Terceira, you can also arrange your ferry tickets, whale watching tours, and more in Angra.
Backpacking Praia da Vitoria
Terceira is a decently sized island, so if you plan to visit for a few days, it’ll make sense to split up your time between the south and north sides of the island.
Moreover, this is the city closest to the airport and the biggest after Angra; therefore, this is one of the best places to stay in Terceira to explore some of the central and northern parts of the island.
By day, the town is pretty quiet, and there isn’t much going on, but by evening many of the seaside restaurants/bars come alive. Because Praia is so close to the American Naval Base, you also get quite a few stationed Americans hanging out around here. It’s nothing wild, but it is a fun area to have a couple drinks after a day of swimming and sightseeing.
Praia also has a dive shop, kayak rentals, and tour agencies, so you can arrange activities from here.
If you are visiting the Azores in August, book your accommodation for Praia months in advance. As I mentioned above, Praia hosts a huge 10-14 day festival in August.
Kind of like a fair, everyone gets together under the big tarped tents to eat, drink, and be merry. Some of Terceira’s biggest events and bull runs take place at this festival, so don’t miss it if you’re around.
Pico is the second largest island of the Azores, and most tourists visit Pico specifically to hike to the top of Mount Pico. At about 2350 m altitude, it’s the highest point of Portugal.
If you are visiting some of the greener islands, like Sao Miguel or Flores, Pico will provide a completely different, albeit less touristy experience, as much of the island is dominated by Mount Pico on its western half.
If you can’t tell already, the best thing to do in Pico is to climb Mount Pico itself, though do not underestimate this hike as it takes around 7-8 hours to complete, and you are basically starting from sea level! The terrain can be quite steep, so pack trekking poles !
You’ll need a full day to hike to the top of Mount Pico, and it’s nice to have a bit of wiggle room in case the weather acts up, so I recommend spending around 3-4 days in Pico.
Besides its volcano, Pico is also known for its wineries and vineyards, and whale watching.
Next to the airport, you’ll find the Pico unique vineyards, known as currais, now a World Heritage Site . From my understanding, Pico’s vines grow on the black basalt rock, and the volcanic soil and nearby ocean air give the wine a distinctive taste only found in Pico.
Definitely make sure to visit the vineyards and learn about the Azores’ wine culture at the Wine Museum as well as explore the nearby villages and walking trails through the pastures and forests.
I went whale watching on Sao Miguel, but I’ve heard Pico is even better. Pico used to be the base of much of the Azores’ gruesome whale hunting industry, but thankfully, this industry has been forbidden and Pico and the Azores have turned a new leaf. Today, you can visit a museum dedicated to whalers and go on an eco-responsible whale watching tour.
Another awesome thing to do on Pico is visit Gruta das Torres, the largest lave tube in Portugal! Similar to the cave tours on Terceira, you descend into a large cavern/lava tube, though this one doesn’t allow artificial lights inside, and is really dark so you’ll need flashlights.
You can also hire a guide and descend into some of the smaller caves around the island for a more Indiana Jones-like experience.
The best places to stay in Pico are either Madalena or São Roque, though you can stay in a remote town for a more traditional or romantic stay.
Madalena is conveniently located near the vineyards, where you can also organize tours and tastings!
One of the smallest islands in the Azores, São Jorge is actually one of the least visited ones too, yet supposedly incredibly diverse.
Famous for its cliffs, green scenery, lakes, and coastline split up by small plains formed by lava flows called fajãs , Sao Jorge has a lot going for it.
I haven’t been to Sao Jorge, but I know its fajes (also found on Flores) are plateaus with large elevation drops down to the shore, many of which are home to tiny towns, which is what makes this island so beautiful and dramatic.
Apart from the natural scenery, Sao Jorge is also famous for its raw (unpasteurized) cheese – Queijo de São Jorge . You can find if on other islands, so make sure you try it!
Sao Jorge also has the only coffee plantation in Europe. Family owned and operated it’s quite small, and I was unable to track down the beans on the other islands, which I found quite odd.
I’ve also read Sao Jorge has some of the best surfing in the Azores.
As for where to stay, Sao Jorge doesn’t have as many facilities as the other islands, but the main port town of Velas is going to have the most options for accommodation and restaurants.
Flores is easily one of my favorite island in the Azores, if not my ultimate favorite. The entire island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with dozens of waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and rock formations.
If you are an adventurous and outdoorsy traveler, then make sure to visit Flores.
Hiking around Flores is definitely one of the main highlights. You can find all the trail information at this site; there are signs, maps, and well-marked trails on the island as well.
I highly recommend hiking to/from Faja Grande to Lajedo on the northern side of Flores, as this part of the island is only accessible by foot (not car). Keep in mind it’s a point-to-point hike, so you’ll want to have some type of transportation pick-up at the end so you don’t have to hike all the way back.
Poço da Alagoinha is another highlight, and probably one of my favorite places to visit in the Azores. There are tons of waterfalls falling from the sky among lush green mountains and rock formations. The trail is relatively short, but extremely slippery when wet, and Flores is pretty much always wet as it rains almost daily.
I also recommend driving around the island and checking out the small villages, crater lakes, and “Rocha dos Bordoes,” a peculiar rock that shoots up out of nowhere.
My family and I went on a tour with Experience OC and had an absolute blast. The owner, Armando, is so professional and helpful, and I highly recommend using this company for driving tours, hiking, boating tours, etc. especially if you are not renting a car.
Aside from driving and hiking around Flores, there are plenty of other adventurous and relaxing things to do. For one, you should simply wander around the beautiful town of Faja Grande and taking in the waterfalls.
Do as the locals do and swim and fish in the nearby ocean.
Another great thing to do is go canyoneering. With so many running rivers and waterfalls, it’s easy to see why this is the best place to go canyoneering in the Azores. We went with West Canyon and I highly recommend them for their responsible, fun, and professional guides.
If you have canyoneering experience, you can hire one of their guides to scale some much higher (think 100 meters plus) waterfalls!
Finally, make sure to take a day (or overnight) trip over to the island of Corvos . I’ll cover Corvos below.
In terms of towns, there are 4 main towns on each side of the island. Santa Cruz das Flores is the main town by the airport where many tourism companies are located.
The main (and I believe only) supermarket on Flores is in this town too, though be prepared to see practically no fresh produce. It seems like the only way to get a lot of veggies is to track down whoever grows them on the island.
On that note, you don’t visit Flores for the food; aside of the fresh seafood, Flores was the least culinary of the islands I visited.
Ponta Delgada (not to be confused with the capital on Sao Miguel) is a quaint town that is good for basing yourself near the northern activities. It’s located in the Santa Cruz municipality.
Lajas das Flores is the southern town, which I didn’t make it to, but there seem to be some good restaurants here. Lajedo is the northern coastal town that is small and quiet, mostly home to farmers. It’s worth driving over here though.
Faja Grande is the most beautiful, as it is surrounded by ocean and waterfalls. Much of the middle of the island doesn’t have any facilities but plenty of pastures and crater lakes to explore.
The smallest and most western island in the archipelago, Corvo makes for a great day or overnight trip from Flores, as you can ferry there in about an hour.
As the smallest island, you can walk around the entire island in a day, which is pretty incredible since the entire island is a caldera and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. (A caldera is when the roof of a magma chamber collapses to form a large crater. Other famous ones include Crater Lake in the US. Pretty epic that the whole island is one.)
Make sure to visit the Caldeirão (crater).
With only 300 inhabitants and one town, finding a place to stay will be pretty straightforward. You also do not need to rent a car on Corvo, but there are bikes for rent if you want one.
I haven’t been to Faial, Santa Maria, or Graciosa, nor do I know anyone who has, so these islands will be covered briefly with information I obtained from the Azores Tourism Board’s help!
Faial is best known for the town Horta, a hub for many sailors and maritime travelers in between Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Other things to do on Faial include the Capelinhos and Lagoa da Caldeira.
Now, from what I have heard, Graciosa doesn’t have that much to do and is least known for its nature out of all of the Azores Islands, but is quite off the beaten path and as authentic as the Azores get.
Here you’ll still see many farmers in the pastures and horses roaming the streets (though this is a sight you can catch on most of the islands too). The best thing to do on Graciosa is bathe in the therapeutic hot springs of Carapacho.
One of the least visited islands is Santa Maria , which has quite a different geological terrain and climate. While most of the other islands experience cloudy and rainy weather year round, Santa Maria is much sunnier, and home to the only natural sand beaches.
This also means Santa Maria is the brownest and driest of the islands. Moreover, Santa Maria is closest to some of the best diving spots in the Azores, including Gruta Azul , which I’ll cover in our scuba diving section below.
The Azores off the Beaten Path
Frankly, if you are visiting the Azores you are already off the beaten path, though I predict these islands will not stay off the tourist trail for much longer!
If you really want to get off the beaten path, consider visiting the Azores’ lesser visited islands, namely Faial, Santa Maria, and Graciosa listed above. Sao Jorge also doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as its nearby neighbors and is supposedly really beautiful.
Another great way to get out into nature and away from the crowds is to strap on your hiking boots and hit the trails. While I haven’t been to all of the islands yet, I would argue Flores is the best island for hiking, though Picos and Sao Jorge trail behind in a close second and third.
Though Sao Miguel is the most popular island, it’s the biggest island too. Once you get away from the hot spring resorts and main cities, you can hike, bike, and explore at your leisure. The east side of the island is far less traveled than the west.
For getting off the beaten path in the Azores, you’ll need the right gear. To get your adventure fire lit, check out my article regarding why you should always travel with a tent .
We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that still stands the test of time: the backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.
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1 . Go on a Whale Watching Tour
The Azores are one of the best places to go whale watching in the world! Almost a third of the world’s 92 cetacean species, 27 in all, are found in the Azores. Go at the right time and you may be lucky enough to see a sperm whale or blue whale too.
Whale watching tours are successful because they use vigias , or lookouts, where people on high land watch for whales and communicate with the captains below. These whale watching operations have helped old whale hunters make a living by saving whales instead of killing them.
I don’t usually take tours, but I highly recommend taking a whale watching tour as well as a day tour on Flores. I really enjoyed my tour with Experience OC . Not only did I discover places I wouldn’t have otherwise, but I learned a lot about Flores’ history from the guide.
2. Swim in the Ocean
So this might be an obvious thing to do in the Azores, but it is definitely worth mentioning. The man-made swimming holes around the islands are pretty awesome.
While free diving we would regularly see tons of fish, jellyfish, and octopuses too.
3. Bask in the Hot Springs on Sao Miguel
The Azores lie on the European, American and African tectonic plates, which give them an interesting position for geothermal activity.
Sao Miguel is the most geothermically active, and the has hot springs you can soak in around the town of Furnas.
I definitely recommend Poça Dona Beija for its 5 open-air pools at different temperatures among a lush garden. Terra Nostra is a single large pool on its luxurious hotel grounds. Stay at this hotel if you can afford it!
You can visit also visit the fumaroles – where people actually cook food in the natural heat from the earth!
4. Summit Mount Pico
No trip to Pico is really complete with a summit to Portugal’s highest point! This strenuous day hike is one of the best things to do on the Azores.
5. Indulge in the fresh food
Interestingly, the islands are extremely self-sufficient in terms of production, even making their own alcohol, tobacco, and dairy as a part of traditional life. While this is slowly changing, the Azores are still quite traditional.
Most islands grow their own produce, raise their own livestock, which is sold all over mainland Portugal, and of course, catch fresh seafood. From what I gathered, the fisheries here are sustainable and small-scale.
I will cover more on Azores food in the food section , but just know that food in the Azores is a very important cornerstone of their culture and you would be a fool not to experience it.
6. Take a Hike
The hiking on the Azores is nothing short of breathtaking (sometimes, literally). I’ll list the best hikes on the Azores in the hiking section, but know that the best islands for hiking are Flores, Sao Miguel, Sao Jorge, and Pico.
7. Party on Terceira
Now, when I say party, I’m not talking about hedonistic parties like Ibiza or Mykonos. The parties on Terceira are not about boozy nightclubs; rather, each of the villages and cities throws a multi-day cultural festival surrounding food and drink, music, dancing, parades, and, of course, the bull runs.
Now I am usually the last person to recommend attending a bullfight – not my scene – but the traditional bull runs on Terceira are totally different from anywhere else on the world and a cornerstone of the island’s culture.
For one, the bulls are not hurt, let alone killed, just sort of teased to get them moving. It’s the participating locals who from the bulls that are much more likely to get hurt.
8. Visit Angra do Heroismo
This colorful city in Terceira is a UNESCO heritage site and well worth a visit, especially if you coincide your trip with Angra’s week-long June festival as part of the parties I talked about in #7.
9. Explore some volcanos
As volcanic islands, there are plenty of calderas, craters, and even extinct volcanos to explore. The most dramatic caldera is definitely found on Corvo, which is basically just one big caldera in itself.
You can also explore extinct volcanos and lava tubes on a few of the islands. On Terceira, we visited one of the few places in the world where you can just walk into a lava tube.
10. Go Canyoneering
There are endless amounts of water sports to play in the Azores, including diving, surfing, and swimming, but don’t forget to go inland too! One of the most fun things to do on a few of the islands is go canyoneering!
Flores is home to a river and probably hundreds of waterfalls, so this is one of the best islands for said sport, alongside Sao Jorge.
We went canyoning in Flores with West Canyon and it was really fun! They have 3-hour guided trips for beginners, but if you have canyoneering experience, you can arrange for a more intense trip. Also consider other awesome adventures, like horse back riding, mountain biking, spelunking, and kayaking!
Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….
These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.
Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…
The Azores is beginning to build an infrastructure for tourism, though this wasn’t always the case. In fact, when I was visiting Flores, my guide told me that the first hotel wasn’t even built until the 1970s! (And that was only because of the French Naval Base.)
Things are changing, however, and you can find a range of accommodation types throughout the islands. As I’ve mentioned before, the larger islands have the best infrastructure for a variety of budgets and styles.
Every island has some type of hotel or guest house accommodation, often ran by a family. This is, in my opinion, the best way to visit the Azores.
If you are on a tight budget consider the backpacker hostels in the cities and camping elsewhere. Because there isn’t much competition, hostels aren’t as affordable as the mainland, and dorm beds can cost around $30 a night.
If you are truly on a backpacker budget, then I suggest camping, which is welcomed in the Azores and a fantastic way to get closer to nature. I mean, what’s not to love about free beach front accommodation?
On Terceira, I noticed that it was free to camp at the swimming holes in designated areas. While you’ll need to bring your own supplies, there is often a café at the swimming holes and a local market within walking distance. Other campsites on other islands may require around 10 euro per person.
You won’t find much information about Azores campsites online, but I assure you there are campsites in the Azores. You can also buy affordable camping gear on the islands if you need it, though we always recommend traveling with your own if you can!
Best Places to Stay in the Azores
Below are some awesome travel tips for visiting the Azores. Later, I will discuss the costs for traveling in this dreamy archipelago.
Books to Read on the Azores
Unfortunately, there aren’t many books set in the Azores. (If you know of any, let me know in the comments!) That being said, you can still read some amazing books set in Portugal to inspire you to visit this country.
The Alchemist – Yes, this world-famous modern classic was actually originally written in Portuguese, so why not read the Alchemist whilst visiting Portugal?
Madeira (Walk and Eat) – Heading to the island of Madeira too? This is a great book for those who like to hike and then have a bite to eat! Guide to local walks and food.
Alentejo Blue – A collection of short stories taking place in a village in Alentejo. Mostly centered around a young girl.
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis – Dr. Ricardo Reis returns to Lisbon in the midst of fascism and impending civil war.
Portugal is already very safe to visit ; the Azores may be even be safer. In fact, it just might be one of the safest destinations in the world. You won’t have to worry about theft or crime here, but we always recommend using your street smarts and keeping valuables safe.
The biggest dangers to worry about are the natural hazards. Strong currents, riptides, and intense rainstorms can pose a threat if you are not prepared.
When engaging in outdoor activities, know the risks of what you are doing and have an exit plan. If you are unfit or inexperienced, hire a guide/local. That said, none of the hiking in the Azores is extremely wild or intense.
For more wild hikes, check out our guide to the best hikes in Madeira Island .
I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst visiting the Azores (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!), especially if you’re camping. Check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.
Travel Insurance for Azores
Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.
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When visiting the Azores, you should prepare for all weather. It can be chilly and cloudy in the middle of summer, and sunny and warm in the middle of winter. I recommend packing a couple layers and a rain jacket, hiking shoes, and a couple swim suits.
On every adventure, there are six things I never go traveling without:
Travel Security Belt
This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.
Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.
Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag. It’s a super-efficient way to organize your bathroom stuff. This one by Nomatic is splash-proof and made to last.
For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.
Why Should You Travel to South America with a Water Bottle?
Plastic washes up on even the most pristine beaches… so do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful!
You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but you might as well be part of the solution and not the problem. When you travel to some of the world’s most remote places, you come to realise the full extent of the plastic problem. And I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .
Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.
Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting your tum from all manner of waterborne nasties.
Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!
We’ve tested the Geopress rigorously from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Cuba, and can confirm: it’s the last water bottle you’ll ever buy!
Best Time to Visit the Azores
Most locals will say that you can experience four seasons in one day (which is sort of false since it doesn’t snow) but you get what they mean. Basically, no matter what time of the year it is, you can get rain, fog, clouds, and sun.
That said, you are more likely to have warm and sunny days in the summer and cold and rainy days in the winter. Moreover, the summer days are much longer, and the sun sets around 9 pm.
Thanks to its location in the middle of the ocean, the weather can be drastically different simply depending on which side of the island you are on, as clouds can get trapped behind mountains.
My first two weeks in the Azores were mostly clouds and rain… and it was June! If that was my whole vacation, well, that would have been my entire experience on the Azores! The rest of the summer was, however, mostly hot!
Locals have told me that the summers seem to start later nowadays, as do the winters, so consider this when booking your trip.
Of course, summers are the most visited and expensive time to visit the Azores. Still, this is when the festivities, sun, and parties are happening too! If you are visiting during a holiday (like Terceira in August) consider booking a bit more in advance.
Always pack sunscreen and a rain jacket!
Since we are discussing an island chain, your only way of getting to the Azores internationally is by flight.
Flying into the Azores has become much more accessible and cheaper in recent years, especially since Ryanair and Easyjet started to serve direct flights from various European cities including London, Munich, Lisbon, and Porto.
There are also may direct flights from the US and Canada since many Azoreans have immigrated to certain pockets of this continent. Boston, Oakland, New York, Toronto, and Montreal all serve direct flights to the Azores.
Entry Requirements for the Azores
Since this is an autonomous part of Portugal, the entry requirements are the same as they are for Portugal.
Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone, which is a trans-European pact enabling visa-free travel between participating nations. The Schengen agreement is an extremely convenient means of entry for those backpacking Europe .
Those who reside in the Schengen Zone need only an EU ID card to enter a neighboring country. All other world nations require a passport.
Most non-EU nations can qualify for a 90-day visa that is valid in any participating European nation. There are always exceptions though, so be sure to check the official website before you start backpacking in Europe.
See here for a list of all European nations in the Schengen Zone. Remember that not every nation in Europe is a part of this agreement.
How to get around the Azores
Traveling between islands is fairly easy and self-explanatory. You can travel either by flight or ferry, though which method is best will depend on which islands you are traveling between.
If you are traveling within a group of islands (western, middle, or eastern) then the ferry is almost always best. Island hopping is easy between the central islands – Faial, Sao Jorge, Terceira, and Pico.
If the islands are relatively close (like under 2 hours) then I highly recommend using the ferry system, as flights tend to be delayed – more on this later.
You can also ferry between larger groups, like Sao Miguel to Terceira, but the travel time can be around 5+ hours. These ferries only operate in the summer. You can find more schedule information at Atlantico Line , which is the only company operating on these routes.
Flights are also easy, as the airports are small and all of the inner island flights are serviced by SATA. The unfortunate problem is that SATA flights are notoriously late as they only have a few aircrafts in the fleet flying between the islands.
In my experience, afternoon and evening flights are pretty much guaranteed to be delayed, so try to book a morning flight for inner-island flights (and out of the country too).
Getting around the Azores is easiest and most enjoyable if you have your own car as public transportation is infrequent and taxis can be expensive. With your own car, scooter, or even bicycle, you have the freedom to explore the islands at your leisure.
Unfortunately, car rentals are not exactly cheap for solo travelers, so if you can’t split the costs, consider renting a bike or scooter! It’s better for the environment anyway 🙂
Renting a Car in the Azores
As I mentioned above, renting a car at some point on your Azores adventure will give you the freedom to roam. There is nothing better than moving around at your own pace.
You can sort your car rental here in just a few minutes. Booking in advance is the best way to ensure you score the lowest price and your choice of vehicle. Often, you can find the best car rental prices when you pick up the rental from the airport. Make sure you cover your rental car with a RentalCover.com policy . It covers your car against any common damages such as tires, windscreens, theft, and more at a fraction of the price you would pay at the rental desk.
Hitchhiking in the Azores
I did hitchhike a couple times in the Azores, mostly to get back to my car. Locals are friendly and will help out a friendly face if needed, but keep in mind that much of these islands is quite rural, so it may take a while to get a ride in some places.
Onwards Travel From the Azores
The Azores are an isolated archipelago, so I doubt you arrived here by accident, but if you are traveling onwards the most logical step would be to visit mainland Portugal! Though the same country, mainland Portugal is a completely different place and well worth visiting.
You may be surprised to learn that the Azores are actually closer to the US than Europe. A lot of Azorean citizens have emigrated to the States and Canada, mostly settling in Azorean communities in Boston, Rhode Island, Central California, and Toronto.
You can get a direct flight to Boston, Oakland (just a stone’s throw from San Francisco), Toronto, or Montreal.
Visiting the Azores on a budget isn’t necessarily easy. You have to actively and strategically track how and where you spend your money. Nevertheless, you should be able to visit the Azores without spending hundreds of dollars everyday.
The Azores do not exactly cater to backpackers, as this is not a party destination and aside from the cities there aren’t many hostels. Moreover, public transportation isn’t all that reliable, so you’ll want your own wheels.
Your biggest expenses will be your car rental and accommodation, so visiting the Azores on a budget is best as a couple, or with friends or family, as touristic facilities run on the higher end.
That said, the Azores food and drink are much more affordable than mainland Europe or other Western nations. Beers are around 1 euro at a bar and you can get the fresh catch of the day for around 10 euro.
A reasonable daily budget for backpackers is between $7 0- $100/day . Some days, you can spend less if you are camping or trekking since food is so cheap. If you decide to only visit 1-2 islands and mostly camp, then you can definitely visit for less.
With a budget of $100 a day, you can rent a car, eat well, stay in a hostel or guesthouse with another person, and have a couple beers each evening.
Your costs can really add up if you are trying to visit a bunch of islands in a couple weeks, as ferries and internal flights are not cheap.
If barebones backpacking is your style, you could easily travel in the Azores whilst spending around $30-40 on most days (including accommodation), but this doesn’t including travel to/from the islands.
Below I have broken down the average daily travel costs you can expect on an Azores backpacking budget.
Daily Costs in the Azores
Dorm bed in a hostel: $30 – 50 (Welcome to Hawaii!)
Small basic room for two: $50-100+
Airbnb room/entire apartment : $40+
Camping: Free – $10
Average small car rental per day : $30+
10 Minute Taxi: $7
1 tank scuba dive (for certified divers) : $80+
4 Hour Guided Tour with Driver: $60
Lunch at sit down restaurant: $10+
Bottle of wine at the market: $2-4
Beer at a bar: $1+
Espresso at a cafe : $1+
Breakfast at café: $5
Seafood Dinner: $15-25
Azores Budget Travel Hacks
The lion’s share of your budget for visiting the Azores will be spent between lodging and transportation. Below are my tips on how to avoid these expenses.
1) Camp : With plenty of awesome beaches and lush mountains, there are some great places to camp on the Azores. Traveling with a tent is the best way to save money on the Azores, as some sites are free. Otherwise, they’re $10 a head, at most.
2) Cook your own food: Travel with a portable backpacking stove , or book accommodation with a kitchen, and cook your own food to save some serious cash whilst backpacking the Azores. If you are on a tight budget, cooking is the best way to do it. You can get fresh produce, seafood, meat, and cheese at any of the local markets. I highly recommend it!
3) Do Free Things: The ocean is absolutely free and a great place to spend your time while visiting the Azores! Hiking is another free thing to do!
4) Drink locally: You can get a local beer, wine, or liquor for around 1-2 euro a drink, whether you’re at the store or a bar. A bottle of wine is under 5 euro at the market. Don’t bother getting anything imported if you are on a budget.
5) Eat Locally: You can eat cheaply (and extremely well) by shopping locally. Hit the food trucks at all the festas and events for 2 euro sandwiches.
6) Rent a bicycle or scooter: Traveling alone? Rent two wheels instead of four to save money.
Volunteering in the Azores
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in the Azores whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers . World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world .
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World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $10 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $39 a year to $29.
Worldpackers: connecting travellers with meaningful travel experiences.
Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.
Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!
Food in the Azores
One of the main reasons to visit the Azores is for the food, truly. For one, you are visiting a chain of isles, where the seafood is as fresh as it can be.
The volcanic soil also means that produce is quite good. Plus, before the tourism industry was a viable source of income, most locals were farmers (and still are).
There are many local customs, dishes, and foods to try in the Azores; I have listed a few below:
Fish: There are so many types of fish available, depending on the day and season. I always recommend asking the restaurant or market for their fresh catch and advice. I felt good knowing most fish is still caught traditionally and sustainably.
Lapas (limpets): The is the most famous shellfish in the Azores, a local delicacy. They are usually are served grilled with garlic, butter, pepper and a bit of lemon, though traditionally they are eaten raw. This is becoming rarer though.
Ananás (pineapple): São Miguel island actually grows an organic pineapple. It’s expensive but really tasty.
Pão do Pico : typical bread from Pico island.
Alcatra: a famous dish from Terceira island that’s a lot like pot roast; beef is slow-cooked with red wine, onions, garlic, allspice, and black peppercorns. This dish originally was cooked and preserved in lard (before refrigeration) and the woman of the household would prepare it for her family during the festivals when they would be out all week.
Soups and Stews: And speaking of Alcatra, soups and stews are very famous here too, anything from green cabbage soup to octopus, beef, or fish stew.
Cheese: Each island produces cheese, and some of the best in Portugal, for that matter. Sao Jorge is the most famous for its unpasteurized cheese – Queijo de São Jorge .
Vinho (wine) : Many families and locals make their own wine, so you can find it just about anywhere, though it is Pico that is most famous for their wine, due to their unusual vineyards that grow on lava rocks.
Tea: The only tea plantations in Europe are in Ribeira Grande on São Miguel, Chá Gorreana and Chá Porto Formoso .
Best Festivals in the Azores
As a predominantly Catholic society, many of the holidays and festivals on the Azores are religious in nature. Holidays like Easter/Holy Week and Christmas, for example, are very important celebrations. The Azores also celebrates New Year’s on January 1st and National Portugal Day on June 10th.
One festival I didn’t experience but read about is called Holy Ghost Festival, which is celebrated several weeks following Easter celebrated with Sweet Bread, dancing, and parades.
In terms of unique festivals on the Azores, each island is different.
Sao Miguel’s largest religious festival is the Festival of the Christ of Miracles, which takes place just after Easter. A statue of Christ is paraded through the street and other festivities take place in Ponta Delgada’s streets.
Santa Maria hosts the Azores’ music festival, Praia Formosa in late August. While visiting the Azores, I saw flyers for this festival all over the islands, and it seems to be a big deal.
Sao Jorge hosts the Cultural Week of Velas in the first week of July, where there are concerts, a bullfight, and celebrations.
The island Faial is best as a rest stop for many sailors in between the Americas, Europe, and Africa, so it should come as no surprise that they host a festival called “ The Week of the Sea ” to celebrate their history through cultural events and music.
Last but certainly not least, Terceira is known as the “festival” island, so basically there are festivities taking place all over the island all summer long.
The biggest and most famous events are in Angra do Heroismo in June and Praia da Vitoria in August that span over more than a week each. They include parades and marches, folklore, lots of food and drink, bull runs, and dancing.
Hiking in the Azores
As volcanic, diverse islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it may come as no surprise that the hiking in the Azores is absolutely superb! Each island has at least a few beautiful hikes to enjoy, though not all are created equal.
Azores hiking trails are well maintained and marked, and there are options for every fitness level.
Terceira is the flattest island, so the hikes here are less dramatic. That’s not to say they are extremely easy or boring, but this is the easiest island to hike on for your average Joe.
Sao Miguel has tons of hikes to its many crater lakes. But if you are visiting the Azores for hiking and nature, the best islands are without a doubt Flores and Sao Jorge because of their dramatic fajés, vertical coastlines, lush mountains, and scenery. Both islands are considered entire Biospheres.
And of course, you can’t forget the hiking on Pico. Make sure to summit Mount Pico on your trip!
One of the things that I love about trekking is that it is almost always free. If you want to enjoy some of the Azores’ treasures, all you need are your own two feet.
Best Hikes in the Azores
Lagoa Furnas on Sao Miguel – Takes you around Furnas Lake in 6.3 miles for views of the lagoon and crater. One of the most beautiful places in Sao Miguel.
Sete Ciudades on Sao Miguel: 13-mile hike around multiple green and blue lakes and the towns. This is probably the most visited place in Sao Miguel.
The Great Route in Flores: Not for the faint of heart, you can circumnavigate the entire island of Flores. For more information, check out this site . There are four campsites in Flores, and two of them have hot water. You can also stay in guesthouses in the towns.
Faja Grande to Lajedo in Flores: One of the best day hikes, and a section of the Great Route. This part of the island is inaccessible by car, so make sure to hike it! Moderate to strenuous and can get muddy.
Poço da Alagoinha in Flores: A short, moderate hike to a lagoon where dozens of waterfalls drop from lush green mountains and rock formations. The trail is relatively short, but extremely slippery when wet. You cannot swim in the lagoon.
Agualva trail in Terceira: Easy hike with excellent cliff views.
Misterios Negros in Terceira: Moderate hike that shows you what Terceira used to look like before invasive plants and farmland. This area is protected to preserve the indigenous plant species.
Summit Mount Pico: Most likely, when you think of hiking the Azores, you imagine Mount Pico , specifically. This is the highest point in all of Portugal and I have only heard great things about this strenuous albeit rewarding hike.
Great Route of Sao Jorge : Similar to Flores, this island is composed of a sheer-sided ridge, lush vegetation, and dramatic fajés. To take on the best of the island, tackle this 42km beast of a hike.
Hike the Caldera on Corvo: A moderate, circular route around Corvo allows you to access Corvo’s collapse crater and take in some breathtaking views. You begin and end this trail near the viewpoint of Caldeirao.
Diving in the Azores
While the Azores do not have reefs like South East Asia or Mexico , the diving in the Azores holds another special charm: its whales and large pelagic life.
If you are a freediver, spearfisher, or advance scuba diver, you can really find some unique dives and big, big fish.
Moreover, there is some cave diving in the Azores too. This isn’t your typical colorful reef diving, but the water visibility is great and there are some dive sites worth coming here for. More notably, you can dive with devil rays, manta rays, blue sharks, and even whales in the Azores.
Keep in mind that diving in the Azores isn’t quite as accessible as other islands.
Best Azores Dive Sites
Rosais Reef (São Jorge Island) – 3 miles from São Jorge Island is Rosais Reef. Best variety of marine life here. Terceirense Shipwreck (Graciosa Island) – A shipwreck dive resting at 20 meters. Diving in Seamounts – Visibility of more than 30 meters and devil rays are common. Second World War Shipwreck (São Miguel Island) – Shipwreck from one of the largest military operations in world history – Operation Overlord.
Whale Watching in the Azores
As I mentioned in the top things to do in the Azores section, whale watching in the Azores is world-class. 27 cetaceans are found among the Azores.
The best time to go whale watching is late spring, simply because of the sheer variety of whales and dolphins in the area. This is also when blue whales and sperm whales are migrating through the Azores.
What is more, the whale watching tours are very successful because they use vigias , which are people on high land look-outs watching for whales below. I have heard Pico has some of the best whale watching along with Sao Miguel.
While on Sao Miguel, we went whale watching with Terra Azul and they were incredibly friendly, professional, and kind. They prioritize the safety of their customers and the wildlife too.
Canyoneering in the Azores
If you are visiting the Azores, don’t forget to go inland! On certain islands, tour outfitters will take you spelunking, caving, and kayaking, and last but not least, canyoneering.
It’s possible to tackle world-class canyoning on the islands of Flores, Sao Miguel, and Santa Maria.
We went canyoning on Flores with West Canyon. They are extremely professional, helpful, and friendly. The gear is solid too.
They lead 3-hour guided trips for beginners, but if you have canyoneering experience you can arrange a more advance full-day trip down 100-meter waterfalls; just call ahead and prepare to pay a bit more!
Make Money Online whilst Visiting the Azores
Traveling in the Azores or Portugal long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.
Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online .
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad .
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in the Azores
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world.
Go to Portugal and have the time of your life, do the things you’ve dreamed of but be respectful along the way. Traveling the world makes you an ambassador for your country , which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country…
Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
I hope you enjoyed my Lisbon travel guide, which covers everything you need to know about Portugal’s capital: top things to do, which neighborhoods to check out, where to stay, and more!
Lisbon truly is an incredible city that blends tradition and modernity seamlessly. Enjoy your trip!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
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Thanks a lot for the big effort putting this! Very informative!! 🙂
Hi Ana. I have enjoyed reading your information about The Azores so much. I visited Sao Miguel 6 years ago and as soon as the world opens again I’ll enjoy visiting some of the other islands. I ‘ll turn 70 soon and in fairly good shape. I have traveled to many places in the world after I retired 10 years ago. I usually travel alone and low budget, so I was happy to read that camping could be a possibility. I couldn’t find many official campsites on maps, but you wrote that it’s possible to camp some places at ocean pools etc. I prefer to spend money on car rent instead of hotels etc. I am addicted to traveling and have had a hard time staying at home in northern Denmark for 14 months now. I am looking forward to the Covid 19 vaccine which I hopefully shall get in April/ May. On my last trip I went to southern Thailand island hopping in Jan 2020. A top experience. Once again thank you for your very detailed information. Ingelise Frier, Denmark
Hello! I am very interested in traveling to the Azores, my family is also native to the islands, specifically Faial. I am looking to travel for 3 weeks to a month and found your guide extremely informative! I will definitely use your advice and be camping as much as possible and I will make sure to hike all of the trails I can. I was wondering how I might fare traveling by myself and only being able to speak English. I took a Brazilian Portuguese class in college but was told the dialects are very different, not to mention I didn’t retain very much. Also, I was debating on traveling next August or April. Which month do you think would have better weather for camping, and wouldn’t be too crowded with tourists. Thank you for any help!
Hello Dylan! Anyone in the tourism or hospitality industry will know English 🙂 Some locals might not, but you’ll be able to get around okay! There are also a lot of people who immigrated from the Azores to the US/Canada back on the islands all summer who will know Portuguese and English. Younger people tend to know more English as well!
Usually, I would recommend not to travel to Europe in high season (August) if you can help it but the Azores are a special case. While August will be more expensive, there will also be much more going on and the weather will be hot but perfect for the beach. Plus, not all the ferries run in April and certain places may feel pretty dead and shut down. Just be sure to book ahead in August!
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Travel to the Azores
Travelling with covid19 digital certificate of vaccination or recovery.
All passengers traveling to the Azores do not have public health control measures on entry.
- Azores: 20 Travel Tips To Know Before You Go
Heading to Azores ? Here’s all you need to know BEFORE going. Follow these Azores travel tips (made by me, a local) for a safe and worry-free trip, while understanding the local culture a bit better.
Boasting a plethora of natural landscapes and wonders, delicious foods and lots of outdoor sports and activities , the 9 islands of Azores have been one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Now that the Azores are becoming more popular people come for me – a homeland child – for all kinds of advice. Food, sights, logistics, lifestyle and even what to pack.
Well, it’s all in here. These are the top tips and things you need to know before traveling to the Azores .
Azores travel tips & things to know beforehand
1 There are 9 islands.
There are 9 islands in Azores, divided into three groups. The Western Group is comprised of Flores and Corvo. The Central Group has Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, São Jorge, and Pico. Finally, Santa Maria and São Miguel make the Eastern Group.
Each island can be quite different from its neighbor in terms of landscape, culture, outdoor activities, and traditions. Get a sense of what you can see and do in each island before deciding your itinerary.
2 It’s NOT a party destination.
Don’t expect partying hard in the Azores.
Simply put, if you’re seeking a destination for a stag party, huge Ibiza-like nightclubs or fancy “dress-to-impress” cocktail bars, this is NOT the place for you.
The Azores are in essence a remote and tranquil destination, and locals are extremely proud of that. Call us boring, but generally speaking, we simply don’t care about big parties and clubs or the latest trends in fashion. I’m not a fan of clubs/discos myself, it’s not in my genes!
Of course, there are small unpretentious clubs, bars, and pubs where people meet up. Sometimes even on the street. Those are great places to have a peek into the local culture. Visiting the Azores is all about unwinding and switching to a mindset of enjoying the little things in life.
Top hotels in Azores Pre-filtered list of hotels with top reviews and location with parking and free WiFi included.
3 The weather is unpredictable.
If I had a penny for every time someones ask me a question “How will the weather be in *insert random date*?” I’d be disgustingly rich.
The thing is: no one knows . The Azores are remotely located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which causes the weather to be truly unstable .
Any Azorean knows the weather can change dramatically at any minute . I went to school every single day with an umbrella in my backpack, even in the shiniest and brightest of the days. A clear blue sky in the morning and a storm in the afternoon is pretty common.
This unpredictability might be a bit inconvenient, but also adds a pinch of charm and fun to it. You never know what you’ll find which makes the whole experience more… real. Just take that into account while packing and make sure you follow the Spot Azores app to check the weather real-time.
4 There are signs of volcanic activity everywhere.
The Azores are considered to be the European Hawaii and for sure the volcanic activity is a big reason behind it. Yet another way to see nature in its purest form.
You can find some volcanic activity manifestations all around:
- The dark black sand of all beaches in Azores .
- The geysers in Furnas Valley where hot steam literally comes from deep under the ground. You can actually taste food cooked underground .
- The Capelinhos volcano in Faial where you can literally walk on the apocalyptic lava remains of a recent eruption (the closest you’ll have to walking on the moon!).
- thermal springs where you can enjoy the heat of Mother Earth on a “human soup” experience.
5 Bathing in thermal springs is a must-do!
Even though the Azores are blessed with a warm current, the wild Atlantic can still be cold. The good news is that there are warm waters where you can have a delightful swim in.
Natural thermal pools are common in São Miguel island . Places like Poça Dona Beija , Caldeira Velha or Terra Nostra are iron-enriched and surrounded by wild forest of palms and conifers. A surreal landscape perfect to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
Pro tip: pick the most gloomy day of your trip to go to hot springs. Warm water feels better when it’s cold and rainy outside.
Hot springs in São Miguel
The best places to enjoy a mineral-enriched bath in São Miguel island. Includes important tips for a safe swim.
6 It’s the place to try new outdoor activities.
From hiking to horse riding on land, diving to world-class whale-watching in the sea or paragliding in the air, there are loads of outdoor activities you can do in the Azores .
Since you’re already in a cool place, you should make sure you also do cool stuff to go with it, right? Dare to try new things! In São Miguel , I recommend going with a company like Picos de Aventura , they have a wide range of expeditions and tours to choose from.
Outdoor activities to do in the Azores 🌲
Here’s a comprehensive list of the activities you can do in the islands:
- Hiking : Doing one of the dozens of official hiking trails in the islands is a must. The most challenging one is climbing Pico Mountain , the highest mountain in Portugal (2,351m).
- Canyoning : Waterfalls surrounded by lush green forest are the ideal place to give this a try.
- Whale Watching : The Azores are a top-notch whale-watching destination. Choose the best time to go to increase the chances of seeing more species. Pico is the best place to see these amazing creatures .
- Horse Riding : There are private companies who arrange tailored horse-riding tours around lakes and other beautiful landscapes.
- Paragliding : Flies over the volcanic craters of Furnas and Sete Cidades in São Miguel island are now becoming popular.
- Kayaking : In most of the major lakes in São Miguel – except for Lagoa do Fogo , a natural reserve – you can now rent kayaks. Sea kayaking is available across almost all islands.
- Sailing : Any tour agency or private skipper is able to arrange you sailing tours.
- Diving : The potential of the Azores is almost endless in terms of diving spots. Some of the best experiences are the Rosais reef (São Jorge), the whale sharks in Santa Maria and the Angra do Heroísmo bay (Terceira). There are also some shipwrecks sites in Graciosa and São Miguel.
- Swimming with dolphins : This has been recently found to stress out the animals too much and some companies are already not offering this tour. Avoid.
- Surfing : The wild Atlantic ocean allows for fine surfable waves so it’s no surprise one of the stages of the World Surf League is held in Ribeira Grande in São Miguel island.
Book your place in the Azores ASAP for the best deal!
I’ve made your life easier and you can start your search with my pre-selection of the hotels/guesthouses/villas in the Azores . This list only includes the top-rated reviewed hotels in the islands, with WiFi included.
7 There are plenty of dope crater lakes all around.
If there’s a ranking of the reasons to visit the Azores, this will most likely be #1. There is an impressive collection of lakes in the islands, of all shapes, altitudes and accessibility levels. I can assure you being there is a sensory overload and the views will take your breath away.
There is even better news. You can at least hike around most of them which is by itself highly promising in terms of views photo opportunities!
The best lakes in Azores islands 🏞
- Lagoa das Sete Cidades – São Miguel
- Lagoa do Fogo – São Miguel
- Lagoa das Furnas – São Miguel
- Lagoa do Capitão – Pico
- Lagoa Negra & Comprida – Flores
- Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro/Lagoa dos Patos – Flores
- Caldeirão – Corvo
8 Mother Nature is in charge.
Uma foto publicada por BRUN🌎 (@bruno_mb) a Jun 28, 2016 às 12:58 PDT
This is the most important thing you need to take away from this article. Being back in touch with nature is one of the strong selling points of a trip to the islands. Everyone knows that before stepping their feet there (if you don’t, well… it might be more clear now).
What is not immediately visible is why the Azores have managed to keep their stunning lakes, cliffs, meadows as beautiful for so long. And it all comes down to respect by Mother Nature. She’s in charge.
Locals have a deep respect for nature and for the ocean in particular. Sustainability and eco-friendly are big words in the islands!
Do the same. Have this on the back of your mind when you’re out there. Always put trash on the bins – especially plastic and cigarette buns! – and don’t be loud. Loud noises disturb animals (to be fair, some humans too) and the overall harmony of the place.
9 Pick the islands to visit with logistics in mind.
One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is which islands to visit in the Azores. There are 9 very different islands to choose from and the logistics do matter a lot, so make sure you come up with an Azores itinerary that makes sense for you.
A trip to São Miguel island alone gives you a good grasp of the Azores, but you might feel tempted to add in a few more islands. If you do, study the logistics and check prices and schedules of planes and ferries beforehand.
I’ve made an overview of each island and created some sample itineraries for 1,2 and 3 weeks in Azores in the article below. 👇
Which islands to visit in Azores?
Advice and planning tips to pick an efficient travel itinerary around the islands.
10 Traveling between islands is not easy. Nor cheap.
The Azores are remote and relatively small islands and unfortunately public transportation is not their strongest point so getting around the islands is tricky.
I’ve done some sample Azores itineraries , but for inter-island connections you have only two options.
Option 1 is flying . Sadly, SATA/Azores Airlines is the only airline doing inter-island flights and with no competition, the prices can be expensive.
If you’re considering ferries (Option 2), the reference company is Atlântico Line . Take into account these journeys can be long though. The trip from São Miguel to Santa Maria alone (the two islands on the Eastern Group) takes at least 3 hours! See more details for the ferries in Azores in the section below.
My personal suggestion is to always fly between islands of different groups – Western, Central and Eastern – and to consider the ferry only for short trips in inter-grouping islands (e.g. Faial to Pico or Corvo to Flores ).
Whatever you do, leave the exploration of the island you’re flying OUT back home for last. This will avoid any problems with journey cancellations which are pretty common due to due to rapidly changing weather and sea conditions in North Atlantic.
Ferries in Azores ⛴
Although there are some sub-companies operating inter-island ferries in Azores , they all belong to the same parent company: Atlântico Line . It provides a full service (including vehicles) between all the 9 islands.
Check Atlântico Line ‘s schedule page for detailed info, but this is what you can expect:
- Eastern Group – São Miguel and Santa Maria
Only available during summer months. You can make your reservation directly with Atlântico Line . The trip takes roughly 3 hours.
- Central Group – São Jorge, Pico and Faial
The service runs several times a day the entire year and given the proximity of the islands, it’s very reliable. You can book with Atlântico Line or Transmaçor .
- Western Group – Flores and Corvo
Atlantico Line runs the only ferry to Flores . There is a very small ferry that runs between Flores and Corvo it may hold 10-15 passengers.
11 Get your own wheels.
Another logistics problem to solve: getting around inside each island . Taxis can be expensive and private guides even worse (if you’re going for these options, make sure you negotiate a price before!). The network of buses between the main towns is not frequent and doesn’t get you anywhere close to the main sights anyway.
In face of this catastrophic scenario, I HIGHLY recommend getting your own wheels, preferably renting a car . Even in São Miguel, there have been days with such high demand in summer with virtually NO cars available to rent. Zero.
I’d book the car rental as soon as you book your flights .
12 It’s always tea o’clock.
Did you know the Azores are the only region in Europe where tea is cultivated? The tea estates in the island of São Miguel have been producing organic black, green, and orange pekoe teas since 1883.
Make sure you stop by either Gorreana or Porto Formoso . Getting insights on the way everything works is an original experience and there is even a hiking trail through the tea fields. Plus, the little tea boxes make great gifts for people back home!
13 Get used to a different kind of beaches.
Even though the weather might feel almost tropical, don’t expect postcard-worthy beaches with soft white sand you’re used seeing on Instagram.
The beaches in Azores are of volcanic origin, which means dark sand – a greyish, almost black color – which sadly takes away a bit of the visibility of the water. Also count with wilder, and with rougher waves, which makes beaches incredible character-enriched landscapes.
The Gulf stream raises the sea temperature in Azores up to a tolerable 23-24 degrees Celsius during summer time (only 14-16 degrees during winter). Pretty good considering we’re talking about the North Atlantic.
Beaches in Azores The best Azores beaches plus important tips before you go for an ocean swim.
14 Your budget won’t get hurt.
You know how much I like value-for-money destinations, where your budget can go a long way. There’s no worse feeling than paying an awful amount of money and don’t get a somewhat rewarding experience in return.
Well, I can assure you nothing of that will happen in the Azores. While they are still slightly more expensive than mainland Portugal – insularity comes with a price! – food and accommodation are still cheap compared to Western European standards.
It’s possible to travel to Azores with a budget of less than $80-90 a day, including accommodation, food, and transportation. To give you a better idea, these are some of the prices you can expect.
Prices of things in Azores (as per 2019)
15 pack smart..
Dress code is relaxed and practical everywhere in the islands. Very important tip when packing to the Azores : bring comfortable clothes and shoes.
During summertime, it can get quite hot but it’s a good idea to always carry a light jacket with you. Especially if you’re hiking. Shorts are a good idea, even for rainy days as legs dry faster than any fabric. Flip flops, however, are NOT a good shout. They are poor choices both on the muddy, slippery surfaces of trails/lakes as well as on the cobblestones of the major cities.
While temperatures in winter are not unbearable, the number of rainy days is high. And oh boy, when wind and rain combine, it can get really ugly. A rain jacket will be your best friend.
Apart from these, make sure your phone has a good case protecting it and of course… bring a good camera! A DSLR camera – like my super compact one – or a waterproof GoPro would be ideal.
Packing checklist for Azores 👕
- Light rain jacket
- Hiking shoes (or at least ones with good grip)
- Camera(s) – an action camera like a GoPro and a DSLR camera is a good combo
- Small backpack/daypack
- Old swimwear and towel – the thermal springs can leave unremovable light orange stains
- Water filter bottle (to avoid buying plastic bottles)
- Travel adapter plug
- Power bank – there are no plugs in the wild
Check other 20 ideas of travel items to pack .
Geeky Explorer Travel Shop
Make sure you have all the gear for safe and worry-free travels.
16 The food (specially the meat) is delicious.
Food in Portugal is of great quality and actually one of the main reasons to visit . Based on a healthy Mediterranean diet, food comes in generous portions with a low price tag.
The Azores are no exception. Heck I’ve dedicated an entire post to food in São Miguel alone!
Perhaps the most typical food is Cozido das Furnas (Furnas Stew), cooked underground with volcanic steam (!) in São Miguel . For sure it’s a novelty which you have to try out, but I personally there are way more delicious things to eat in the islands. A great example: alcatra , typical from Terceira island .
From typical Queijadas to the iconic Azorean pineapple, there is a wide range of local delicacies. And then there’s the meat. The bife (steak) in Azores is tender and juicy like I’ve never tasted anywhere else. It’s so good I stopped eating red meat elsewhere.
17 A bit of Portuguese can go a long way.
Locals – me included – appreciate if you make the effort to speak some basic words of Portuguese. It is not that hard to learn and in return, it can guarantee you some extra detailed tips or at the very least, a smile. 🙂
Basic Portuguese words and expressions 🗣
- 🗣 Hello – Olá (Olah)
- 🗣 Good Morning – Bom dia (Bom[ng] deeya)
- 🗣 Good Night – Boa noite (Boa noite)
- 🗣 See you tomorrow – Até amanhã (Atay aman[ng]yah)
- 🗣 Thank you – Obrigado (males) or Obrigada (females) (Obrigahdu)
- 🗣 Yes – Sim (sim)
- 🗣 No – Não (now-uh)
- 🗣 Excuse me/Sorry – Desculpe (des kuw pe)
Do locals speak English in Azores?
English is widely spoken in the islands, especially with younger generations. You may find older generations struggling a bit more, they may feel more comfortable with some Spanish or French.
18 Adapt to local infrastructure.
Visiting remote islands in a remote archipelago means that often you won’t find some of the things you’re used back home. No big malls for shopping sprees, no fancy restaurants for premium dining, or no clubs or bars for a Saturday party.
Even though the largest island São Miguel has a very decent infrastructure system of roads, shops or restaurants, other islands may not that prepared. That won’t make us feel unhappy though. Quite the opposite, actually.
The whole point of taking vacations – especially to a place like Azores – is to disconnect the routine and connect back with nature. Adapt, respect the local culture, try to learn from it, and enjoy your trip. Even if the WiFi signal is not as strong as you’d wish for.
19 Practice slow travel.
I’ve helped many people plan their trips and BY FAR the #1 mistake I see is a rushed itinerary. People want to squeeze in the highest number of islands possible in the lowest number of days. That won’t be cheap, practical, or even relaxing.
The whole point of a trip to the Azores is not to tick things off a bucket list, but rather take all that nature has to give you in between. Enjoy those little detours, take a breather to chill down by a lakeshore, or plan a full day to go an adventurous hiking trail . Less is definitely more in the Azores.
20 Get there before mass tourism does.
A few years ago when I told I was from the Azores islands hardly anyone had heard of them. They could hardly pinpoint them on the map. There was no hype on websites or social media either.
Now everything is different. Several airlines are flying to Azores now. Tourism is increasing every year (21% in 2018 alone!). In a sense, I feel we have been (re-)discovered.
For now, islands in the Azores are far from being spoiled by mass tourism. Don’t worry. But quite honestly, the danger is pretty much real long-term. So the sooner you visit, the better. While you can still enjoy the silence, breathe in beautiful landscapes and taking a picture without waiting in a queue.
Planning a trip to Azores by yourself
Booking your flight.
If you are not from the US or simply not into vacation packages, you’re better off by booking your flight independently.
As a rule of thumb, flights to Azores are considerably cheaper from Porto, Lisbon or London. Ponta Delgada airport has the highest number of flight connections. Check this page for more info.
Booking a hotel
For hotels, you can start off with this pre-filtered list of hotels, guesthouses and villas in Azores . Or explore the hotels in Azores:
Booking a car
Taxis and tours can be costly and public transportation is not reliable. Also local guides take away the fun factor. If you ask me, the best way to get around in Azores is definitely by renting a car .
Plus, an island road trip will add a sense of adventure to make your trip truly memorable!
Azores Flight + Hotel + Transfers Deals
I usually don’t use travel agencies to book holidays. They end up being more expensive in 99% of the times. Yet I have to make an exception for Azores Getaways because I really think they have some pretty good prices for a flight + hotel + transfers packages to the Azores – starting at 599USD!
Plus, you can customize your package by combining 2 or 3 islands to your itinerary, which is awesome:
- São Miguel (6 nights)
- São Miguel and Terceira (6 nights)
- São Miguel, Pico and Terceira (8 nights)
I particularly recommend using Azores Getaways if you are flying from the United States and don’t have much time to plan your holidays.
The Sustainability of Azores
Sometimes I think people think I’m bragging too much about my home islands. Oh the Azores this and Azores that, so full of himself. No, I’m not bragging. The islands are really beautiful – I’d say surreal even – destination.
But please also be aware that the islands are NOT a party or beach islands destination like Ibiza or Mykonos and they need special care when visiting. More than anything, they’re vulnerable and highly dependent on a fragile balance between sustainability and mass tourism.
For many years, the Azores was considered a forgotten garden in the middle of the ocean. They might not be forgotten or hidden anymore, but we all – locals and visitors – have a shared responsibility for keeping them a garden. Forever.
The islands have been consecutively named one of the top sustainable destinations worldwide. Don’t help spoil what has been unspoiled nature for centuries. When you’re in the islands, please try to minimize your impact at all times.
Leave nothing but footprints everywhere you go and be aware of any activities causing visual and noise pollution. This includes avoiding playing loud music on phones and obviously taking ALL the trash with you until you find a bin – especially plastic!
Thank you for keeping my home green and beautiful. 💚
- Selection of the best hotels in São Miguel island – top reviews and with WiFi
- Azores Getaways – killer holiday deals (flights + hotel) to the Azores
- Hiking Trails of São Miguel – official hiking trails in São Miguel
- Spot Azores – the weather app you’ll want to use
- Travel tips for your first time in Europe
- Visit Azores – the tourism board of Azores
- Start planning your trip to Azores here
More articles about the Azores
The 13 most beautiful azores beaches, santa maria, azores: the sunny azorean island, 18 exciting things to do in são miguel, azores.
- The Ultimate Itinerary of São Miguel Island (Made By An Azorean)
- São Miguel, Azores: Full travel guide with places to go, food & more
- The Best Hotels in São Miguel, Azores For All Kinds Of Travelers
- How to Get Around Azores
- What & Where To Eat In São Miguel, Azores
- Furnas, Azores: Unique things to do in the Furnas Valley
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Azores , Planning tips
30 azores travel tips (to make visiting the azores easier).
Before you visit the Azores , there are many things you should know about the archipelago of nine islands that make up the autonomous region of Portugal.
If youʻre booking your trip to Sao Miguel and the Azores last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!
🌋 Top Experiences and Tours in Sao Miguel:
- São Miguel WEST: Full-Day Tour with Lunch (my top pick!)
- São Miguel EAST: Full-Day Tour with Lunch (but also do this one!)
- Whale watching and islet tour – Sao Miguel (#1 selling whale tour!)
- Furnas Hot Springs at Night with Dinner (unique option)
- Furnas Valley Full-Day Volcano and Tea Plantation Tour
🛌 Top Hotels/Lodging in Sao Miguel:
- Sao Vicente Lodge – Atlantic Retreat (I stayed here and LOVED it!)
- Octant Furnas (Central Sao Miguel)
- Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico (Eastern Sao Miguel)
🚗 Looking for the best way to get around the Azores? Click here to check rental car rates for the Azores islands!
I had wanted to travel to the Azores from the time I was a young kid and I finally had the chance to do it a year ago and it blew my mind.
There is no other way around it… it was and still is the most magical place in Europe for me (despite its mid-Atlantic location).
I hope that these Azores travel tips will help you when you plan your trip there! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions!
In this post...
Azores Travel Tips and Practical Info
Do you need travel insurance for the azores, renting a car in the azores, how to go to the azores from the united states, how to travel to the azores from europe, my azores tours recommendations, azores tourism is about to boom, there are many azoreans in the us and canada, sao miguel is not necessarily a sunny holiday, there are 9 islands in the azores, that abandoned hotel in the azores is not an intrepid experience, there is a us air base on terceira, the street art in ponta delgada is awesome, getting a sim card in the azores, is there good wifi in the azores, understand the landscape before renting a car in the azores, take a tour of the azores, island hop with sata airlines, or island hop with ferries, sao miguel is larger than you think, getting from ponta delgada airport to the city center, natural pools & thermal baths in the azores, blue hydrangeas dot the azores landscape, the west side and east side of sao miguel are totally different, jurassic ferns are everywhere, whaling used to be a mega-industry in the azores, birdwatching in the azores, dairy in the azores, the cows in the azores, they love eating octopus, azores pineapples are the best, the only tea plantation in europe is there, you can find good mexican food near ponta delgada, azores wine is good… and cheap, cozido de furnas, craft beer in the azores, where to stay in the azores, more azores travel guides, pin this guide to visiting the azores.
While I had a blast on the Azores trip, there were a few things that I didn’t know prior to arriving there and that is why I have created a post to share these details and facts with you. These are some useful things to know before you book your Azores vacation .
Click here if you’re looking for my 4-day Azores itinerary .
This post will cover everything from what to know before you rent a car in Ponta Delgada to what foods are popular in the Azores.
Please list any others you think I may have left out in the comments! I only visited Sao Miguel on my travels to the Azores and I hope to return next year to visit the other islands in the Azores.
The Azores is a safe place to travel to but you will certainly want to be insured while exploring the stunning and pure landscapes.
We recommend SafetyWing , a Norwegian company that specializes in travel insurance and they have some of the most affordable, top-quality packages anywhere. Be sure to register for ‘Portugal’ on their site.
>> Click here for a Portugal/Azores travel insurance quote
One of the best things to do in the Azores is to rent a car and explore the islands with immense amounts of freedom.
You will likely want to stop to take photos often or just admire the scenery. If you’re unable to drive- don’t worry, there are many great tours available, but we truly think renting a car will enhance your Azorean experience.
>> Click here to check rental car rates for the Azores
How to Get to the Azores (Flights to the Azores)
There are so many ways to get to the Azores these days. If you’re visiting the Azores from the United States, you can fly with either Delta or SATA Airlines (the Azorean airline) currently.
The departures leave from New York JFK and Boston Logan. The flights take just over 5 hours.
There are more options to travel to the Azores from Europe than the United States currently.
Some of the airlines that fly to Ponta Delgada, Azores are KLM, TAP Portugal, SATA Airlines (Azores Airlines), Air France, Ryanair, easyJet, among a couple of others.
You can remarkably fly to Ponta Delgada for a really cheap price. If I recall correctly, I paid around $39 one way from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada. The price fluctuates.
I actually didn’t rent a car for my Azores trip. I tried but then I didn’t renew my license in time because I am lazy and ended up booking affordable Azores tours instead.
It was a brilliant idea. Don’t let not being able to rent a car discourage you from visiting these epic islands!
I went on the first two on two different days. I definitely recommend them and both tours were the highlight of my time in the Azores.
Click here if you’re looking for Azores whale-watching tours , otherwise, here are my three tour recommendations (the two I took and one that combines the two tours for a long day of seeing the entire island of Sao Miguel).
- São Miguel West Full-Day Tour with Lunch
- São Miguel East: Full-Day Tour with Lunch
- São Miguel Island: Full Day All-in-One Tour
Random Facts to Know Before You Visit the Azores
The following are some random and miscellaneous facts (okay… and opinions) about the Azores.
The islands are receiving increased tourism but I have learned that people either have been to the Azores or they haven’t even heard of the islands. There is rarely an in-between.
So, this is my opinion. But mark my word. These little-known islands are the most spectacular place in Europe. I am not even kidding.
I have never witnessed such raw and pristine nature anywhere.
Yes, they are in the middle of the Atlantic, so they are technically not mainland Europe, but getting to the islands has never been easier and cheaper.
Discount airlines are flying there as are regular, commercial airlines and the plane tickets from Lisbon are around $30-$50 each way. You can get to paradise for a small penny.
The islands are currently affordable, authentic, and maintain an Azorean charm. I really hope that tourists sustainably visit the Azores and do their best to maintain the unique culture that exists there.
Many Azoreans emigrated from the beautiful islands to the US and Canada in waves.
Most of the ones in the US settled in New England (Massachusetts to be exact) and they played a large part in 19th-century whaling and even had a large part in the California Gold Rush.
What I find cool now is to see that airlines are flying from Portugal to Boston and having a stopover in Ponta Delgada. This route is giving so many Azoreans the chance to visit their homeland and enjoy just how incredibly wonderful it is.
There are currently about 320,000 people of Portuguese descent living in Massachusetts alone (most are Azorean and Madeiran).
Many people will be shocked to find out that you don’t go to the Azores for sun. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it is just that the weather changes so drastically from hour to hour. And yes, it rains in the Azores.
How else would the place stay so ridiculously green and lush? I think the weather in the Azores is like Hawaii meets something a little cooler. And there are seasons there.
Every island in the Azores has its own climate and patterns and I can only speak about Sao Miguel. On Sao Miguel, the north-central part of the island receives more sun than the southern part. Just in case you want to take advantage of that.
I stayed for three days on the northern part of the island at the Sao Vicente Lodge and the weather was usually pretty decent.
When you visit the Azores, you will quickly realize that there are nine islands making up the autonomous Portuguese nation.
You have Flores and Corvo to the west; Sao Miguel and Santa Maria to the east; and Graciosa, Terceira , Sao Jorge, Pico , and Faial in the center.
Each island is different from the next and they have their own distinctions. Each island in the Azores has volcanic origins.
You know how every blogger and their mother has written about their Urbex trip to the famous abandoned hotel in the Azores? Well, everyone has done it and been inside.
The hotel is on the main road and is far from an ‘off the path’ experience, and I can’t believe so many people write about it as though they discovered it in the middle of a freaking forest somewhere. It literally sits beside the most famous view in the Azores.
Fortunately, these overdone blog posts about this hotel will happen no longer (soon enough). The hotel was supposed to reopen in 2021 but has been delayed due to COVID. Let’s see what happens!
I hope I get to stay there someday as it will surely offer the best view to wake up to in the Azores as the area overlooks Sete Cidades.
Click here if you’re looking for Sao Miguel hotels and guesthouses that you can actually stay in!
On the island of Terceira, there is a United States Air Base called Lajes Field.
The base was built and opened in 1934 and it played a key role during WW2 as it was a major hub between Europe and the United States (since the Azores are located in the center).
The number of personnel stationed there drastically declined from 2012-2014 but the base is still in operation.
The capital city of Sao Miguel, Ponta Delgada, has a really cool street art scene. It kind of shocked me to see such cool urban art hanging around the well-constructed city.
There is an annual street and urban art festival called the Walk and Talk Urban Art Festival and it celebrates the importance of street art to the city.
The festival also ensures that new street art is created during the days it takes place, leaving something new to be discovered on the facades and buildings every time you come back to Sao Miguel.
There are plenty of options for getting a SIM card in the Azores, but I highly recommend heading to MEO when there and picking up the 30GB for 15 Euros option. The SIM card lasts for 15 days upon activation.
The coverage is good and MEO is a reputable company in Portugal for data coverage. You can find out more about the data plan here .
Believe it or not, wifi is pretty available and works well in the Azores. When I visited the Azores, I was pleasantly surprised at this.
It states that there are over 1,600 places in Ponta Delgada alone that offer wifi hotspots, so you’re not going to be hard-pressed to find a place to get connected if you forego getting a SIM card for your phone.
I also found that hotel lobbies were fine to permit me to work from the lobby when there (I had to work a bit on my trip) as long as I was quiet or purchased something small. You can read more here .
Getting Around The Azores
The process of getting around the Azores can be a bit difficult if you don’t have a rental car. I highly, highly suggest renting a car when in the Azores for an optimal experience there.
But, if you’re like me and don’t currently have a license, other options do exist when visiting the Azores.
The Azores landscape is dramatic and the roads can be a bit the same (but not usually). On the other hand, when I compare the roads and infrastructure in the Azores to other places I’ve traveled, it is far better and more developed.
The only time I felt that the roads were a bit bumpy and stressful was when we would off-road to random waterfalls or something while on a tour.
But, for the most part, the highways are nice, not overly crowded, and the driving was pretty organized.
If you are unable to rent a car like me, you can easily arrange an Azores tour . There are plenty of tours that can accommodate all needs and desires in the Azores.
They will arrange transportation and ensure that you are able to see a lot of the islands without a vehicle.
The tours are also pretty affordable and the Azores whale watching excursions are some of the best on the planet!
I used Pure Azores when I was there and they were absolutely fantastic and did a great job showing me Sao Miguel without being on a massive tour bus with heaps of other people.
I have received so much conflicting information regarding island hopping in the Azores. I was initially told that you can fly between the islands for free if you message SATA and ask for a seat on a plane. I did this and never heard back.
But it does seem that SATA offers an Azores pass that makes it easier to connect via air between the islands. If anyone has updates to this- please let me know. I’d love to include someone’s experience here if they have done it.
One of the best and only ways to see more than one island in the Azores is to take the ferry between them. Atlanticoline operates regular ferries (and some seasonal ones) between the Azorean islands.
The islands I wanted to go to were not able to be connected by ferry during my dates (I went in October) but this is definitely an option I am going to be using next time I am in the Azores.
Below is the current schedule for the ferries in the Azores. Be sure to check Atlanticoline’s website for updated information and timetables before booking a trip.
The largest island in the Azores, Sao Miguel, is probably larger than you think. Especially if you are visiting other islands in the archipelago. Sao Miguel is 293 square miles.
While this number doesn’t seem drastic, when you consider the topography of the island, it really is pretty astounding.
Especially given that the island looks totally different on one side compared to the other. That is what truly makes the Azores mindblowing.
Make sure you plan adequate time on Sao Miguel so that you can see all parts of it in detail without rushing around the island.
Unfortunately, the best way to get from the airport to the city center when you visit the Azores is via taxi. If you rented a car from the airport, you can naturally pick it up there.
The taxis from the airport shouldn’t be much given the airport is only 3km from the city center.
When I was there, I took a taxi from the airport to the north coast, so my fare was far more than if I had just headed straight into Ponta Delgada.
Flora, Fauna, and Nature in the Azores
Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with how breathtaking and raw the nature in the Azores was. I saw plants and trees that I had never seen before.
It was a whole new experience for me and one I am eager to relive in the near future.
So many things that grow in the Azores don’t grow anywhere else or are non-existent anywhere else on the European continent. These are some things to expect to see or witness when in the Azores.
Visit the Azores and come back a new person. Seriously- the islands have healing properties and one of the ways to experience nature’s magic is by visiting one of the many thermal baths that exist, especially on Sao Miguel.
The thermal baths are where hot geothermal waters mix with the cold, ocean water in a natural pool by the ocean. The locals take advantage of these and I definitely intend to next time.
Not all thermal baths are situated in the ocean. You can find some inland like at Parque Terra Nostra and Caldeira Velha. I had a chance to visit quite a few even though I didn’t go into them. Next trip…
I never thought that hydrangeas were all that beautiful, to be honest. Then I saw them in the Azores and against the lush, emerald scenery, and my mind was forever changed.
Blue hydrangeas are everywhere in Sao Miguel. Like everywhere . They line the roads, grow ubiquitously in parks, and are just completely symbolic of the island.
And for the rest of my life, I will always associate blue hydrangeas with the Azores. If only my home country had a flower that was associated with it instead of all the stuff that actually is.
The first time I saw a place that varied so much on a small piece of land was on the Big Island of Hawaii. I went from Hilo , the rainiest city in the United States, to the Kailua-Kona area which was dry and sunny every single day.
It blew my mind. Sao Miguel is somewhat similar. On the island’s east side, you will witness a lot of geothermal activity. Fumaroles rule the landscape and it creates a different atmosphere and biodiversity.
On the west side, there are craters and blue lakes and it is lush and green in a way that you’ve never seen. It is truly difficult to explain the drastic difference to someone who has never been- but trust me, you will notice it when you go there.
These ferns don’t grow in many places but can be seen in New Zealand and parts of Australia. And… in the Azores. They were everywhere there.
It made me feel like I was on a different planet because ferns and flora like this just do not exist in mainland Europe (or even most parts of the United States, for that matter).
In the Azores, whaling used to be a large industry for the islands. In 1984, the islands banned the practice and industry and many of the whaling stations were turned into whale-watching areas and research centers.
And many of the whalers themselves turned their businesses into whale-watching ones.
Kind of remarkable, in my opinion. On Sao Miguel, you can see whaling stations dotting the seaside landscapes. Whale watching is now one of the lures of the Azores and many people come to see the sperm whale swimming in the deep cerulean waters.
⇒ Click here for whale-watching tours in the Azores
If you’re a bird-lover, the Azores are a great place to do a little birdwatching. Two of Europe’s rarest birds are located in the islands- the Azores bullfinch and Monteiro’s storm petrel.
Because of the islands’ unique positioning in the middle of the Atlantic between North America and Europe, you have the chance to watch a number of migratory species make their seasonal routes through the Azores.
If you visit the Azores, you will have the chance to witness at least thirty breeding species of birds and up to 400 different types of species on the archipelago.
Drinks and Food in the Azores
My favorite part of the Azores… okay, the landscapes and people were up there too. But the food and drinks there- perfection! Some things about the cuisine shocked me a bit, but for the most part, the cuisine was just as delightful as I had expected it to be.
It was kind of a blend of food I hadn’t tried before and Portuguese foods that I had tried. And it is so unique to other parts of Europe that it really made these little islands that much more special.
Below are some things to know before you travel to the Azores in terms of food and drinks.
One random Portugal fact is that fifty percent of cheese on the mainland comes from the Azores. A lot of it comes from the island of Sao Jorge. But, all of the cheese I had in the Azores was absolute perfection. In fact, all dairy was incredible.
And I’m lactose-intolerant (I just suffer because I don’t take care of myself).
The ice cream, milk (and I hate milk), cheese, yogurt… all of it had so much flavor and just tasted natural and not artificial whatsoever.
In the Azores, you will see an abundance of cows everywhere you look and drive. When these cows aren’t producing world-class dairy products, they are roaming around free enjoying life in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
The cows are so free and live such a good life compared to other places that when they die naturally, their meat is still edible and able to be sold for consumption.
I don’t eat a lot of meat myself, but this puts other places to shame. The meat in the Azores was so tasty.
And luckily, so do I. Every time I went out, I saw menus with octopus as the main ingredient (specifically in a red wine sauce). It was so delicious and I couldn’t get enough of it as someone who loves seafood.
There is also heavy use of limpets (a type of shellfish) and a mollusk that is unique to the Azores called cracas.
We would wander through small villages and eat amongst the locals, especially when in the northern part of Sao Miguel.
But you need to travel to the Azores to taste the pineapple! The pineapples there are so sweet and succulent that I haven’t tasted any fruit quite like it.
The juice, liqueurs, and fresh fruit itself are mind-blowingly good. As a result, the Azores don’t really export the pineapple- they are pretty much all consumed on the islands by the locals and the tourists.
If you’re keen to take one home, don’t fret… you can purchase one at the airport in Ponta Delgada or by taking a trip to the A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation on Sao Miguel.
Tea was found growing wildly and naturally in the Azores and this resulted in a unique tea culture. Cha Gorreana and Cha Porto Formoso are two tea plantations offering Azorean tea and the stuff is good.
As part of one of our tours, we visited the Cha Gorreana tea plantation and learned about tea’s history, importance, and present-day place in the Azores.
You can find Azorean tea at most souvenir shops in Ponta Delgada, as well, so you can take some home or give it to others as a nice gift.
Are you an American living abroad and deprived of tacos? Okay, likely not, but I am and finding good Mexican food near Ponta Delgada needs to be declared to the world.
The restaurant is called “ Let’s Go Mexico ” and it is owned by a Californian and is close to Ponta Delgada in an area called Sao Roque.
I remember seeing this place on a map and when I saw the outside, I wasn’t too sure about it. It is in kind of a weird neighborhood that I passed while walking from where I was staying in Ponta Delgada. But, we gave it a chance.
It was the best decision ever. They even have homemade margaritas by the pitcher. You can find Let’s Go Mexico at Rua do Açougue 2 in Sao Roque.
The local wines in the Azores can be purchased just about anywhere and are extremely affordable and delicious. Most Azorean wine comes from the island of Pico (up to 4/5 of the stuff!) and it is distributed all over the archipelago.
Azorean wine is special because it is made on volcanic soils giving it a completely unique taste to wines you may have tasted elsewhere. Grab yourself a bottle or enjoy a glass when you’re out for dinner- you won’t regret it.
The natural elements play a major role in everyday Azorean society and this also impacts cooking and cuisine. In fact, the area around Furnas is what I imagine the hot springs in New Zealand kind of look like (many have said the same)!
Cozido de Furnas is a ‘stew’ made from a variety of meats and vegetables that are cooked underground in a fumarole. A fumarole is an opening in the ground near volcanoes (or in it) where hot sulfurous gases emerge.
The heat and energy cook this stew for hours and this type of cooking is especially common in the eastern part of Sao Miguel. Local restaurants will prepare cozido de furnas for guests and I can assure you, it is a must-try when you visit the Azores.
It was simply delicious.
So, craft beer hasn’t particularly taken off in the Azores. But… Korisca Cerveja Artesanal exists! You can find it at a few places around Ponta Delgada, but my favorite place to enjoy a local craft beer was at A Tasca.
The place was spacious and served food, wine, and some of that amazing beer.
I enjoyed their APA and Brown Ale when there. You can find A Tasca at R. do Aljube 16 in Ponta Delgada city center. To find out more information, check out their Facebook page .
There are many things to know before you visit the Azores, but these are thirty things that I think you should know before your Azores trip!
If you have any additional suggestions or tips, please drop them in the comments for future travelers!
We have written an entire guide about where to stay in the Azores, but if you’re looking for some of our top picks, you will find them below. We have only chosen hotels in Sao Miguel for this post.
Furnas Boutique Hotel – Thermal & Spa (Splurge): This place is epic. It is easily one of the most desirable places to stay in the Azores and we were thinking to splurge and calling it home for a night will leave you with unforgettable experiences.
This is a fantastic option for those interested in driving around the island of Sao Miguel and stay in Furnas (east side) for one night. Click here for rates and availability.
Sao Vicente Lodge (Upscale mid-range): I stayed here on my trip to the Azores and I am enamored with the place. It was such a fresh type of accommodation that gave me hospitality, comfort, and so much scenery I still dream about it to this day!
It is an eco-friendly lodge that offers apartment-type places to stay and my room offered one of the best ocean views I have ever witnessed in my life. Click here for rates and availability.
Hotel Arcanjo (Budget): If you’re traversing the Azores on a budget, then Hotel Arcanjo is the place for you. The Sao Miguel accommodation offers hospitality, comfort, and all the basic amenities that you could wish for on your trip to the Azores. Click here for rates and availability.
- Best things to do in Terceira
- Ultimate Azores itinerary
- Waterfalls in the Azores
- Best things to do in Pico
- Whale watching in the Azores
- Best Places to stay in the Azores
- Sao Vicente Lodge
- Snorkeling in the Azores
- Scuba diving in the Azores
- Sailing in the Azores
- Best Azores tours
- Azores packing list
Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.
7 thoughts on “ 30 Azores Travel Tips (to Make Visiting the Azores Easier!) ”
I recently visited Azores and very much enjoyed it. Not only it was a short flight from New York city, the nature on the islands is gorgeous, seafood is fresh and it is relatively inexpensive. http://www.ridgepost.com/travel/portugal-2019/index.html – is the whole trip with pictures.
It looks like a very green Island. We are just back from Madeira and we also liked it a lot. I’m sure we will be visiting the Azores soon. Thanks for the useful tips! Greetings, Wim
I’ve been loving Azores since I was little girl as well. It used to be our family holiday destination. Last year I was with my friends instead of my family and it was really fun. We spent the whole days of learning windsurfing and others adventures. check them we were really satisfied https://www.outdoorvisit.com/azores/ hope it’ll helpful:)
Loved your posting, Megan. Planning a three week trip to the Azores in November so I’ve been combing the net for info. I found yours to be the most informative, down to earth and friendly. Being a history teacher, I am most interested in the history in the islands. Might you recommend any historical sites or historical tours there? Also my wife is an avid sailor and we would like to rent a sailboat at some point – any suggestions? Thanks again and safe travels.
Pax! John & Jenny Poniske
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Which is the Best Azores Island to Visit?
This detailed guide will help you decide which of the 9 islands is the best Azores island for you. We compare lodgings, activities, food and nightlife on each island. Because, every island is different, and you should find the best Azores island that matches your unique travel goals!
So before deciding on the best Azores island, you should know what Azores have to offer – a lot! Visit the islands for spectacular views. Wildflowers grow everywhere. There are scenic, well-marked hiking trails and amazing hot springs for soaking. Also, the food and wine are incredible (and affordable!). Enjoy the Gulf Stream climate where daily highs range between the 50s °F and 70s °F all year round. And did we mention the islands are within easy reach? Only a 4.5 hour flight from Boston once flights start back up after COVID travel bans!
Azores Islands Overview
Before jumping into the pros and cons of each island, and our “best of” lists, we wanted to give an overview of each island. The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands, which are a mix of the English countryside (the green hills dotted with cows), Iceland (all but one of the islands have active volcanoes), Costa Rica (palm trees and other tropical plants) and the Greek Islands (the black jagged coasts). Each island is distinct and has it’s own flavor. And spoiler alert, there is no “best” Azores island, they are all awesome. The Azores are also a great socially distanced vacation option . We’ve described them briefly below, and then go into more detailed below. So you can find the best Azores island for you!
The Eastern Islands: Sao Miguel and Santa Maria Island
Sao Miguel is one of the most eastern Azorean islands. It’s also the biggest (40 miles x 9 miles) and most populated (140,000) Azores island. Sao Miguel is known for its spectacular crater lakes, many hot springs and beaches. You’ll also find Ponta Delgada, the biggest city in the Azores (60,000) with many tasty restaurants, some nightlife, museums, and winding streets.
Santa Maria is an eastern Azores island nearest Sao Miguel (about 55 miles). It is the third smallest with a surface area of 38 sq miles (97 km2) and a population of 5,500. Santa Maria is the most southern Azores island, so it’s the warmest and sunniest, and one of the few islands with white sandy beaches.
South Central Islands: Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge Islands
Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico make up a central grouping of Azores islands. You can easily get between these islands with a less than an hour ferry ride. Pico and Sao Jorge are about 11 miles apart, Pico and Faial are about 4.5 miles apart and Sao Jorge and Pico are about 16 miles apart.
Pico is the second largest island with a surface area of 167 square miles (433 km2). Pico is home to 15,000 inhabitants. It’s known for the 7,713 ft volcano that dominates its skyline and a crazy landscape of crisscrossing stone wall vineyards
Faial is the fourth largest island (surface area of 67 sq. miles or 173 km2 )and has about the same population as Pico. It’s a popular pitstop for sailors crossing the Atlantic. So the harbor is its center and the restaurants and hotels are more concentrated in one area than on Pico or Sao Jorge.
Sao Jorge is a long, narrow, cliff-lined island that has a surface area of 95 sq. miles (246 km2) and known for its cheese. It’s the least populated of the three islands (6,000) and has the fewest ferries/flights/lodging options, so it’s most off the beaten path.
North Central Islands: Terceira and Graciosa Island
Terceira is the third largest island (148 sq. miles/382 km2) and the second most populated (60,000). Terceira is also known for its lava caves and has a few direct flights from the U.S., which makes it an easy stopover.
Graciosa is a Central Azores island that’s about 31 miles from Terceira island and has a surface area of about 24 square miles (61 km2). Graciosa is more flat than the other islands and is agriculturally focused.
Western Azores islands: Corvo and Flores
Flores and Corvo are the western most Azores islands and are about 15 miles apart. Corvo is the smallest island (surface area of 7 sq. miles/17.5 Km2) with the fewest inhabitants (only 400!). It’s known for its bird watching and because it’s so remote, much of the island’s traditions have been preserved.
Flores is the most tropical of the Azores island with even greener and lush fauna and more frequent waterfalls than its neighbors. Flores has a surface area of 55 square miles/143 Km and about 4000 inhabitants.
The “Best of” List for the Azores Islands
If you’re looking for something in particular, these lists will help you decide on the best Azores island for you.
Best Azores Island for Beaches
If you’re looking purely for numbers, then Sao Miguel is the best Azores island for beaches, because it has 20 plus beaches . But if you’re looking for white sand beaches, then Santa Maria Island should be your top choice. Finally, if you won’t have a car, then Faial and Terceira are great options. On Faial, Praia do Porto Pim is an easy walk from Horta center. On Terceira, the town of Praia da Vitória has a beach close to the marina, so you can have access to beach and restaurants! For the full breakdown of Azores beaches, head here .
Best Azores Island for Hot Springs
There’s a clear winner here. Sao Miguel, hands down has the overwhelming majority of Azores hot springs. So, if you’re heading to Sao Miguel, know which of the eight hot springs to visit!
Best Azores Island for Your First Visit to the Azores
Our advice is typically to visit Sao Miguel if you’re a first time visitor to the Azores. In part, because most international flights fly into Sao Miguel, so you’re missing out on an easy opportunity if you don’t stop off for a visit. Or if you only have a long weekend, it’s usually the most safe option. That’s because inter-island flights are notorious for being delayed or canceled. Sao Miguel also has the most sights and activities , so you can easily spend a week there and not get to everything.
Best Azores Island for Hiking
Again, if you’re purely going to for quantity, Sao Miguel has the most hikes than any other Azores island. Sao Miguel is also the best Azores island for hiking crater lakes, because you have 3 amazing options. But if you want to get off the beaten path and find more difficult hikes, Sao George should be at the top of your list for hiking. Get the full breakdown of Azores hiking here .
Best Azores Islands if you Want to Visit More Than One Island
The best group of Azores islands to visit together are Pico, Faial and Sao George. You can travel between any two of these three islands by ferry in under an hour. So, you could decide to stay on one island and do day trips to the other islands, or spend a few nights on each island. The three islands also have very different feels. Head to Pico for the food and wine . Faial should be your top choice if you’re into boats. And Sao George is a favorite if you want to get more off the beaten path and/or your a cheese lover.
Best Azores Island for Restaurants and Night Life
Sao Miguel undoubtedly has the most restaurants and night life of any Azores island. Although every island has amazing traditional Portuguese food, Sao Miguel has really stepped up its game in terms of inventive cuisine. Pico island is your next best bet if you’re a foodie and want more creative cuisine. If you want nightlife, Faial is the Best Azores island after Sao Miguel. Unlike other islands where lodging and restaurants are more spread out, everything is largely centered in Horta, Faial’s biggest city. Don’t miss the famous nautical themed Peter’s Cafe .
Best Azores Island for Outdoor Activities
All the Azores Islands have amazing outdoor activities, which makes them a great socially distanced destination . But Sao Miguel has the most variety. In addition to amazing hikes, on Sao Miguel island, try kayaking, biking, climbing, canyoning, horseback riding, paragliding, whale watching and golfing.
Best Azores Island for Wine Enthusiasts
All of the Azores islands are great for delicious low cost Portuguese wines. But if you want to actually visit a vineyard, then Pico and Sao Miguel island are your only choices. Pico is best known for wines. Wine production began in the 1500s and peaked in the 1800s. Most of the grapes died . But wine production is making a comeback and the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture were named a UNESCO World Heritage site .Sao Miguel also has vineyards, and you can actually tour the Quinta da Jardinete vineyard.
Is Sao Miguel the Best Azores Island for You?
Sao Miguel is the best Azores island if you’re visiting the Azores for the first time. If you don’t have time to fly to other islands, Sao Miguel is also a good choice. Finally, Sao Miguel should be your choice if you want to eat at the best and most varied restaurants or you’re interested in some form of nightlife. Sao Miguel also has the best selection of luxury villas in the Azores. See our guide, The 22 Best Villas in the Azores to learn more.
Things to do on Sao Miguel if it’s the Best Azores Island for You
Because it’s the largest island, Sao Miguel has the most sights, hiking trails, vendors and activities. Our three best days are as follows. First Day: Sete Cidades and Ponta da Ferraria if you time it right. Second Day: Lagoa do Fogo (plus Caldeira Velha if it’s cool or Santa Barbara Beach if it’s hot). Third Day: Furnas and the tea plantations if it’s cool or the southeast coast if it’s warm.
Where to Stay on Sao Miguel?
Ponta Delgada is the vibrant center of Sao Miguel. Stay at least a couple nights in Ponta Delgada if you want to be near restaurants and nightlife. If you’re going for more than a long weekend in the winter, stay a night or two in Furnas, a smaller, quieter, and quainter version of Ponta Delgada, which is the mecca for hot springs and has 2 great hotels. Or stay near a beach in the summer.
Just note that it’s significantly busier, so expect higher rates and book a few months in advance for the best selection. Check out our more detailed guide on where to stay on Sao Miguel or our guide to luxury accommodations .
*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide .
Azor Hotel ($$$) Enjoy amazing Ponta Delgada harbor views from the pool and your smartly decorated room at this large design hotel with a responsive 24 hour front desk.
Grand Hotel ($$$) Having recently undergone a full refurbishment, the Grand Hotel is cozy, filled with historical maritime pieces, and colored in hues of gold and olive green. The indoor pool is tranquil and a great spot to relax. The indoor pool space is quiet and the walls are lined with wood (almost like a sauna).
Terra Nostra Garden Hotel ($$$) An elegant hotel in Furnas with an art deco feel set in beautiful gardens and a natural hot spring. There’s a very good restaurant onsite.
Furnas Boutique Hotel ($$) A hip Design Hotel in Furnas with small but stylishly decorated rooms and a super helpful staff. There are thermal pools and a trendy bar and restaurant on-site.
Minuvida Orchard Lodge ($$) Stay in charming rooms on a traditional Azorean orchard just 10 minutes north of Ponta Delgada. Relax by the pool, take a yoga class and eat a delicious locally sourced meal.
Azores Luxury Rentals Newly renovated luxury apartments steps from the city center and amazing restaurants. Enjoy high ceilings, local handmade tiles and furniture, volcanic arches and an an amazing garden filled with avocado, fig, and guava trees. Full disclosure: these apartments are owned by Travel Honey co-founder.
Casa das Palmeiras ($$) This charming B&B in the heart of Ponta Delgada is in an old mansion with small but bright rooms, a wonderful breakfast and helpful staff
Out of the Blue ($) This chic hostel in Ponta Delgada center feels more like a boutique hotel. Enjoy the awesome backyard with the mostly younger crowd and super friendly staff.
Where to Eat in Sao Miguel
Many of the best restaurants are in Ponta Delgada , but you’ll find tasty food throughout the island. At most places, you’ll need reservations for dinner during the summer or if it’s the weekend. Check out the Travel Honey map included with the Sao Miguel Itinerary to see where the restaurants are located and additional suggestions.
*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide .
Otaka Asian inspired restaurant with emphasis on seafood (solid selection of sashimi) in city center, Ponta Delgada. Order the tasting menu, dessert is divine.
Tasquinha Vieira Modern dishes in minimalistic interior in Ponta Delgada. Order the cheese plate while you enjoy the view into the kitchen. Legendary risottos and steaks.
A Tasca ($$) A happening tapas restaurant that’s popular with locals and tourists alike.
Rotas da Ilha Verde ($$) A small, funky, super delicious vegetarian restaurant.
Mane Cigano ($) A casual, local lunch favorite with communal seating.
Around Sao Miguel Island
Cais 20 ($$$) The view and amazing seafood is worth the slightly higher than normal price tag. Consider sharing the enormous dishes.
Restaurante da Associacao Agricola de Sao Miguel ($$) An upscale stylish steak restaurant that is popular with both locals and tourists.
Quinta dos Sabores Restaurant Artisanal culinary experience on a farm north of Ponta Delgada. Sit down for the prix fixe menu focused on local, seasonal ingredients.
Bar Caloura One of the best places to get seafood on the island and oh the ocean views! Rich cakes and fish that is still flapping. Located on Sao Miguel’s south coast.
Where to go at Night in Sao Miguel
If you want to go out, make sure you’re in Ponta Delgada on a weekend or before a holiday. Things don’t get started 12am.
Raiz Bar ($) Great for live music, bar doesn’t open until 10pm and goes late.
Arco 8 ($) A cool space in an old warehouse with an art gallery and occasional live music.
Tasca Do Mário ($) Live Fado music on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Are Pico, Faial and Sao George the Best Azores island for you?
The central islands of Pico, Faial, and Sao George are the Best Azores islands to visit if you want to visit more than one island but you don’t have a lot of time. You can travel between islands on a ferry that lasts less than an hour.
Is Faial the best Azores island for You?
Since Faial is a common pit stop for those crossing the Atlantic, it’s the best Azores island if you love boats. The harbor In Horta is the hub of the island and the restaurants and hotels are more concentrated in one area than on Pico or Sao Jorge. So it’s one of the better islands if you want to be able to walk to a variety of restaurants.
Faial island also boasts awesome hikes and has a breathtaking caldera. Finally, there are two great beaches options. One of which, Praia Porto Mim, is walking distance from town.
Where to Stay on Faial Island?
The hotel options in Faial are not super spectacular but we’ve listed some decent options. They are all near the harbor so walkable to all restaurants and nightlife.
Pousada Forte da Horta ($$) One of the few hotels in Faial, the rooms are small and look better in person than on the website. The lobby is a little old school, but the view is spectacular and the staff are helpful. Ask for harbor view.
Marina Apartments ($$) These apartments have separate bedrooms and a kitchen, so they are a good option if you want a little more room.
Casa da Baia ($) A great, affordable option with small, clean, minimalist rooms.
Where to Eat and Go Out on Faial Island if it’s the best Azores island for you?
The food in Faial is mostly traditional Portuguese with an emphasis on fresh seafood. There’s often music on the weekends, but it’s hard to find during the week, especially if it’s not the summer. At various establishments, look for a monthly pamphlet that lists local events. The places to go out are also where you eat, so you’ll find them both below. If you stay in town, you can walk to everything.
Casa Teahouse & Bar ($) Great sandwiches, soup, fresh juices, baked treats and a huge selection of tea. Sit outside in wonderful garden. There’s also live music, usually on the weekends.
Taberna de Pim ($) A simple, affordable menu and great outdoor seating. Service isn’t super fast, so expect a leisurely meal. One of the best views in Horta.
Is Pico the best Azores Island for you?
Pico is the best Azores island if you’re interested in climbing Mt. Pico, you’re more of a foodie or you prefer standalone more resort-like accommodations. But don’t go to Pico Island if you’re looking for a beach. There is one tiny beach, but you can enjoy some awesome salt water swimming pools built into the ocean. Accommodations are more spread out and there are a number of charming resorts with restaurants onsite. Check out the Travel Honey Pico Itinerary for more details.
Where to Stay on Pico Island
Accommodation options are more spread out in Pico, and a number of small resorts have their own restaurants. If you plan to stay for 4+ days, consider staying on different sides of the island.
Pocinho Bay ($$$) Amazing resort with free standing stylishly decorated bungalows made of volcanic rock. There is a pool overlooking the ocean and a delicious restaurant.
Alma do Pico ($$) A charming affordable resort with free standing bungalow rooms, a pool, wonderful views of Pico and the ocean, helpful owners and a tasty restaurant.
O Zimbreiro ($$) A small, serene guesthouse with a few different rooms, a pool with an awesome view and phenomenal food.
Where to Eat on Pico Island?
Sao Jorge Cella Bar ($$) An architecturally beautiful restaurant and rooftop bar right on the ocean.
Atmosfera ($$) Awesome homemade pastas and great salads.
Casa Âncora ($$) A stylish restaurant designed by a famous Portuguese architect with fresh dishes.
Ancoradouro ($$) The best prawns on the island. Water-views galore.
Taberna do Canal ($$) A small cozy restaurant in Madalena with authentic Portuguese dishes.
Caffe 5 ($$) Small casual spot with a mix of traditional and non-traditional fare like gyros, falafel and smoothies.
Is Sao Jorge the best Azores Island for You?
Sao Jorge is the Best Azores island for you if you want to get off the beaten path, but still have some decent decent accommodation options. You’ll find more traditional restaurants and no beaches, but plenty of hiking, often up or down the Sao Jorge’s steep cliffs. So it’s also one of the best Azores islands for more advanced hikers.
Sao Jorge’s biggest town is Velas. In Velas, you’ll find the biggest selection of accommodations and restaurants. But unlike in Faial, the majority of Sao Jorge’s hotels and accommodations are distributed throughout the island.
Where to Stay on Sao Jorge Island
Sao Jorge is not the best Azores island for luxury accommodations.There is only one traditional hotel on Sao Jorge island. It’s simple and clean, but not much to write home about. So we suggest you try these other options, which offer more thoughtful touches and higher quality lodging.
Quinta da Magnolia ($$) The closest to luxury resort you’ll find on Sao Jorge. This old Quinta has a lovely stone facade. Enjoy amazing views from the pool and a tasty breakfast.
Terr’Alta Vista ($$)A one bedroom house on the northeast coast of Sao Jorge. You’ll find a simple but stylish interior and a spectacular view.
Hotel os Moinhos ($$) A charming resort in an old stone facade Quinta. There are great views of the pool and it’s one of the few accommodation options with a restaurant on site (see Fornos de Lava below)
Intact Farm Resort ($) A small resort with cozy wooden bungalows with amazing views. A little east of Velas. The furnishings are basic, but large windows and lovely decks facing the ocean make up for it
Where to Eat on Sao Jorge Island
Restaurants on Sao Jorge island largely serve traditional Portuguese food. And like most Azores Islands, Sao Jorge offers amazing beef and sea food. But Sao Jorge is the Azores island best known for its cheeses and clams. We’ve listed our favorite restaurants here.
Fornos de Lava ($$) A little pricier than most restaurants on Sao Jorge. But the amazing view, lovely ambiance and more creative food options make it worth the added expense. Diners can choose from a selection of sea food, meat and vegetarian options. But if you want something unique for the Azores, try their homemade sausage.
O Almicar ($-$$) Come for the amazing view and tasty clams. Service can be so so.
Cafe Nunes ($) Drink coffee from coffee beans grown on site. Claiming to be the only coffee plantation in Europe, this unique and friendly cafe is a fun experience. The coffee is tasty and they also offer light snacks.
Is Terceira the best Azores Island for You?
Terceira is known as the Best Azores Island for culture, and boasts many festivals over the summer. Check out our month-to-month comparison , which includes a summary of festivals and holidays each month in the Azores.
Terceira is also known for its lava caves and has a few direct flights from the U.S., which makes it an easy stopover. Terceira has two beaches, including one in Angra do Heroísmo , a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Is Graciosa, Corvo, Flores or Santa Maria the Best Azores Islands for You?
Graciosa, Corvo, Flores and Santa Maria are smaller, less populated, harder to reach, and less visited islands. So all four of these islands are the best islands in the Azores if you want to go off the beaten path.
Is Graciosa the Best Azores Island for You?
Graciosa is the flattest of the Azores islands, so it’s the best island if you want to hike without hills! It also has a coastline that is conducive to diving. Including, interesting under water terrain and an abundance of marine life. You can also enjoy two small beaches.
Is Santa Maria the Best Azores Island for You?
Santa Maria is the third smallest and most southern island, so it’s the warmest and sunniest, and one of the few islands with white sandy beaches. Santa Maria also has a famous blues festival in the summer.
Is Corvo the best Azores island for You?
Corvo is the smallest island with the fewest inhabitants (only 400!). It’s known for its bird watching and because it’s so remote, much of the island’s traditions have been preserved.
Is Flores the Best Azores Island for You?
Flores looks the most like a tropical island with even greener and lush fauna and more frequent waterfalls than its neighbors.
Best Instagram Accounts for the Best Azores Island?
Gorgeous shots of the islands @discover_azores
Sky high views of the islands @iloveazores
How to Arrive to Your Best Azores Island?
Now that you’ve decided the best Azores Island for you, how do you get there?! International flights from the U.S. to the Azores are on Azores Airlines (also called by it’s former name, SATA). The flights are cheap, but you get what you pay for in that the flights are often delayed and sometimes cancelled. Be prepared. UPDATE: Direct TAP flights start summer 2020 from Boston!
Before Covid, direct flights flew from Sao Miguel to Boston every day in the summer and less frequently in the winter. It was a 4.5 overnight flight there and a late afternoon flight back to Boston. In the summer, there are also direct flights from Providence (Sao Miguel) and Oakland (Terceira). UPDATE: Azores Airlines has begun offering a free layover in the Azores on flights from the U.S. to Europe for up to 7 Days. Read more here .
The most frequent inter-island flights are from Sao Miguel to Faial, Pico and Terceira. There are fewer flights to Sao Jorge and even fewer to the remaining islands. You can also get between islands by ferry. The ferries from Sao Miguel to the other islands are long (4-14 hours) and typically run from mid-May to mid-September. Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico are connected by short ferry rides as are Flores and Corvo.
How to Get Around Your Best Azores Island?
Regardless of the Azores Island that you choose, we recommend renting a car in the Azores. Rental cars are relatively inexpensive. You’ll pay between 20-40 euros a day for a small manual, depending on the season. You’ll tend to get better service and more flexible policies (like no charge for an extra driver) from the smaller rental companies. We’ve had great experiences with Azores Easy Rent , which has a very customer centric approach.
There are public buses, but their schedules are limited, erratic and often not on time. Taxis are expensive and there are no Ubers. If you really don’t want to rent a car, the airports are generally close to the main towns (Ponta Delgada is about a 10 euro taxi ride) and you could rely on taxis and tours.
Need to Work While in the Azores?
Hopefully you’re able to get off the clock on your visit to the Azores, but if you can’t, check out unOffice . A cool co-working space in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island.
The perfect Azores itinerary for first-time visitors ( 2023 edition)
By: Author Kris
Posted on Last updated: July 20, 2023
Are you visiting the Azores and looking for the best Azores itinerary? You came to the right place. In this Azores blog post, you’ll read all about our trip around the Azores Islands, Portugal.
The Azores are a group of 9 pristine islands that attracts visitors from all over the world. Our Azores trip brought us to spectacular geysers, imposing caves, and breathtakingly beautiful lakes.
Here we describe our day-by-day Azores islands itinerary.
So definitely keep reading this Azores travel blog post.
Here you can find an overview of the best Azores travel tips.
There is a really good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no extra cost to you.
In a hurry? Here we share our Azores itinerary overview
If you don’t have time to read through the full Azores itinerary, use this overview to get an idea of the things to do on each day and save it for later.
- Day 1-3 Pico island: climbing Pico mountain, Lagoa do Capitaõ, Gruta das Torres, Criação Velha winery. whale watching
- Day 4-6: Faial: Horta, Praia do Almoxarife, Caldeira crater, Capelinhos volcano
- Day 7-9 São Jorge: Ilhéu do Topo, Fajã dos Cubres, hiking
- Day 10-12 Terceira: Serra Do Cume viewpoint, Angra do Heroismo, Furnas do Enxofre, Algar do Carvão cave, Gruto do natal cave, swimming in Biscoitos, watch a bullfight on the street
- Day 13-20 São Miguel: Crater lake of Sete Cidades. Lagoa do Fogo. whale watching, relax in thermal baths, tea fields, Furnas
Table of Contents
Is this your first trip to the Azores and do you feel a bit overwhelmed by the travel preparations?
Creating a fantastic itinerary for the Azores will be much easier and much more enjoyable with our Azores Travel Planner .
The perfect Azores itinerary
Here we share our complete Azores itinerary. This itinerary can help you to create your own perfect trip plan.
Day 1-2-3 Pico
We started our trip on picturesque Pico, the second-largest island of the Azores. Pico Island is named after Mount Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal.
One of the highlights of Pico Island is climbing Mount Pico . You can do this on your own or you can join a tour with an experienced guide.
We did not climb Mount Pico ourselves. We did, however, talk with another couple who did accept that challenge.
The climb is pretty strenuous. It’s marked by 46 posts and after one and a half hours of hiking and climbing, they only made it to the 9th post.
That’s when they decided to turn back after all.
Don’t let this scare you off, though. There are quite a lot of hikers who manage to conquer the mountain, which is one of the greatest Azores hiking trips. Just don’t underestimate the hike.
We also recommend wearing proper hiking gear.
- Although you can hike in shorts, since this isn’t an easy trail, leggings for hiking are way more comfortable when doing this strenuous hike.
- Here is an overview of the best hiking shoes.
If you want to climb Pico , it’s best to set aside a few days on Pico Island because the mountain is often shrouded in clouds and the hike is obviously at its most beautiful under a clear sky.
Most people do the ascent and descent of Pico on the same day , but it’s also possible to do the climb at night (under a starry sky if you’re lucky). If you’re feeling really adventurous you can even spend the night on top of the volcano.
A guide is not obligatory but as they know the best (read:easiest) way to the top it can make your expedition a lot more pleasant.
Besides climbing the Pico Volcano, you can also do many other challenging and less challenging hikes.
Here you can find more info about hiking on the Azores.
Pico is also home to a number of stunning mountain lakes. The most beautiful of these lakes is arguably Lagoa do Capitaõ . If the weather’s nice, you can see the reflection of Mount Pico in the water.
When you see that the clouds around the mountain have disappeared, it’s best to drive toward the lakes as soon as possible. In that case, you can assume that the lakes are also cloud-free. On the website SpotAzores , you can see a series of webcams that allow you to check the weather around the Pico Volcano.
We also visited the Grutta das Torres .
There are lots of caves in the Azores. We didn’t think that this lava cave is necessarily the most beautiful cave, but what makes visiting this cave absolutely worth it, is its somewhat adventurous character.
Armed with a flashlight and a helmet, you descend 50 meters below the ground. There’s no paved path and no artificial light, which makes it pretty adventurous.
The tour is done with a guide, who will teach you all about the lava formations you see along the way.
It’s chilly in the cave, so make sure you bring a warm piece of clothing. Put on hiking shoes, too, because the surface is uneven.
We simply booked a ticket then and there, but during the summer months, it’s advisable to book one in advance if you want to be sure you have a spot on the tour.
Ticket fee : €10 per person (At the counter they only accepted cash but you can now book tickets online and pay with credit card)
Opening hours : see website
Near Madalena lies the Criação Velha winery . These are vineyards like you’ve never seen anywhere else. That’s exactly why they’re UNESCO world heritage.
Here, you can go on a beautiful walk through the vineyards. Standing in the middle of the area is a windmill that offers an amazing view of the surrounding landscape.
We thought it was still a little too cold, but near the vineyards are 2 beautiful natural swimming pools. Ideal to dive into after a serious hike.
Pico is also a good place to go whale watching.
Whale watching is a must-do activity while being in the Azores. Here you can find more info on the best whale watching tours in the Azores.
Even though we wouldn’t call ourselves museum fans, we did stop by the whale museum . The Museu dos Baleerios in Lajes retells the history of whaling, which used to be the most important source of income on these islands. There’s also a second museum that covers the goings-on within the whaling factories.
Particularly the film that shows how they hunted for sperm whales in the old days was very impressive. Fortunately, whale hunting has been illegal since 1987. You can still hunt these beautiful animals, though, but only with your camera. Pico Island is, by the way, one of the best places for whale watching in the Azores.
On Sundays, you can visit the museum free of charge. It’s closed on Mondays.
Here is a full list of the best things to do in Pico.
Hotels on Pico
Alma do pico.
We stayed in Alma do Pico. It is the perfect place to relax after a busy day. You will stay in cozy cottages with a kitchenette.
The hotel also has a beautiful swimming pool and lovers of Italian food will appreciate the great Italian restaurant.
The hotel and the restaurant are run by super friendly and helpful Italian owners.
A great place to stay on Pico island.
Check prices and availability: Booking.com
Day 4-6 Faial
By ferry, you can get from Pico to Faial in only 30 minutes.
The island is said to have gotten its name from the numerous beech trees, called faias in Portuguese, that grow here.
Faial is also referred to as the blue island because of its abundance of blue hydrangeas.
It’s a fact that there are plenty of hydrangeas here, but honestly, we have to say that we couldn’t tell there were more on Faial than on the other islands.
The most important tourist attractions are the town of Horta with its charming port and the Capelinhos and Caldeira volcanoes .
We began our exploration of Faial in the vibrant yacht port . This is a popular stopping point for sailboats on their way around the world or on an ocean crossing to America. They used to stop here to check the weather reports and stock up on supplies. Today, it’s just to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of this island.
It’s been a long-standing tradition among sailors to leave a mural on the docks or the breakwater when they leave. This is said to bring good fortune on one’s journey.
We discovered several Dutch murals as well as a number of murals by Belgian crew members.
Those many small works of art have made the yacht port into a very colorful place.
Located at the port, Peter Sport café is the place to be for a chat with the sailors or to sample the local gin.
When you enter the R1-1 from the port and drive in a counterclockwise direction, you’ll arrive at the viewpoint of Nossa Senhora da Conceição after about 10 minutes. This lookout offers a beautiful view of the town of Horta and the nearby islands of Pico, São Jorge, and Graciosa.
The beautiful sandy beach of Praia do Almoxarife lies only about 5 minutes by car from this viewpoint. This is a wonderful and peaceful place to hang out on a sunny day, while the view of the Pico Volcano is fantastic.
The 2-kilometer-wide Caldeira crater is another absolute must-see when you’re visiting Faial. At the top, a lookout point offers a magnificent view of the enormous green crater. You can also go on a beautiful and easy hike of about 8 kilometers around the crater. This is Azores hiking at its very best.
The crater is often shrouded in clouds. It’s an impressive experience to stand at the summit surrounded by clouds, but if you also want to actually see something, it’s best to wait to drive up until you see that the top of the crater is cloud-free. You can also check the webcam at the top .
Here are some tips for exploring the Caldeira crater:
- If you’re afraid of heights, the hike might not be recommended. Sometimes, the trail is quite narrow and runs along a steep drop-off.
- Make sure to wear warm clothes, put on proper hiking shoes and bring raingear because, as we mentioned before, the weather in the Azores can change rapidly.
- If you’d like to, you can also descend into the crater, but you would need to do that with a guide.
The lunar landscape of the Capelinhos Volcano is unique in the Azores. The volcano erupted approximately 50 years ago, creating a desolate, moonlike landscape. The entire region was leveled and only the lighthouse remained standing.
You can admire the surrounding landscape from the top of the lighthouse. This can be reached from within the visitor center for a fee.
Inside the futuristic visitor center is also a museum where you can learn everything about volcanoes and the eruption of the Capelinhos Volcano in particular.
Ticket fee : €10 per adult / €5 for children aged 7 to 14 and 65+. There’re other tickets available for those who only want to climb the lighthouse or only want to watch the movie.
Opening hours : The region can be visited 24/7 for free. The visitor center and museum is open during the following hours.
1 November – 31 March Monday : closed / Tuesday – Friday : 9 am – 5 pm
1 April – 31 October Everyday : 9 am – 6 pm
- Here is a complete list of what to do in Faial.
- The perfect 7 day azores itinerary.
Hotels on Faial
Lofts azul pastel.
We stayed in The Lofts Azul Pastel, a 10-minute walk from Horta.
We had a nice spacious room.
The room looked out over the sea on one side and we had a view of the Caldeira on the other. Our room had a kitchen, but you don’t necessarily have to cook your own meals every night.
The restaurant also offers a wide selection of simple, inexpensive, and tasty dishes.
A quiet place to stay not too far from Horta.
Day 7-9 São Jorge
We continued our Azores itinerary by ferry and traveled from Faial via Pico to São Jorge.
The crossing lasted about one and a half hours.
This island was even less touristy than Pico or Faial.
São Jorge sights
The weather was pretty bad on the first day and we limited our activities to a drive around the island.
A loop like that is actually a worthwhile thing to do on every island since you’ll always pass by some beautiful viewpoints.
On São Jorge, our tour first took us to Ilhéu do Topo . This is a small island off the easternmost point of São Jorge where you can spot birds.
The Espirito Santo festivities were also in full swing. The people from a village where we passed by were generous and welcoming, invited us to the celebrations, and offered us some of their soup and wine. (In exchange for a voluntary donation to their parish) It was a lot of fun to get to know the locals this way.
There are numerous festivals in the Azores. It’s recommended to swing by the tourist office, where they’ll be able to tell you all the events on the calendar. There’s usually a tourist office in the city center of the island’s main city. If you arrive by plane you will also see a desk in the arrivals hall.
On the second day, we went bird-watching at Fajã dos Cubres and did a beautiful but pretty challenging hike at Norte Pequeno .
Hotels in São Jorge
Make it happen farm.
We stayed 2 nights at the Make it happen farm. On this “organic farm” you stay in beautiful detached houses.
The farm has a large shared kitchen and living space. In the kitchen, you can prepare your own food using everything that grows on the farm.
If you don’t feel like cooking, you will also find a number of restaurants nearby. You can see the Pico volcano during good weather.
Great place to stay for a couple of days.
Day 10-12 Terceira
From São Jorge, we flew with SATA Air Açores to Terceira in about 30 minutes.
From the airport, it’s only 10 minutes to the viewpoint of Serra Do Cume . Here, you get to enjoy a stunning vista across numerous meadows.
We also explored the historic streets of Angra do Heroismo , a charming town that’s listed as UNESCO world heritage .
Additionally, we visited the fairytale-like landscape of Furnas do Enxofre . This area is subject to lots of volcanic activity and you can see fumes rising up from fissures in the ground, while the smell of sulfur is prominent. What makes this landscape so amazingly enchanting, though, is the wonderfully colorful mosses.
The highlight of Terceira, however, was the Algar do Carvão cave . Via a tunnel, you enter this 90-meter-deep cave formed by lava. We thought that the entrance and the lake created by rainwater were incredibly gorgeous. Depending on the time of year, this lake can be empty or up to 14 meters deep.
Inside the cave, the temperature always ranges around 14 degrees Celsius (57 Fahrenheit) and water consistently drips down. So, make sure to bring a sweater and rain clothes.
Ticket fee : €10 per person
If you don’t have a car you can book an organized tour. The tour visits the Algar do Carvão cave, the Gruto do Natal lava tunnel and Furnas do Enxofre.
Opening hours : Vary by season,( check their website )
You can also buy a combination ticket with Gruto do Natal. These tickets cost €15.
Gruto do Natal is a lava tunnel that you can explore by yourself after a brief introduction and armed with a helmet and map. While Gruto do Natal is less spectacular than Algor do Carvão, it is worth a visit to see the massive tunnels that have been created by the lava.
There are 2 loops in the Gruto do Natal. Route 1 is the easiest route. Route 2 involves a bit more climbing and occasionally crawling through slightly narrow spaces, but should be suitable for most visitors. Both loops aren’t too long at all and you can complete them in about 45 minutes.
Here, too, we recommend wearing warmer clothing and, especially, proper footwear. This applies mostly to the 2nd loop.
Ticket fee : €8 per person (or 15€ as a combi-ticket with Algar do Carvão)
Opening hours : vary by season ( check the website )
The Gruto do Natal is also the starting point of a beautiful hike. The Mistérios Negros (PRC01TER) hike is approximately 6 kilometers long and takes you past some beautiful lagoons and, of course, past the namesake mountains.
On Terceira, you’ll find plenty of natural swimming spots between the rocks along the coast. When the weather’s good, you can see the local residents splashing away at these beautiful nature-made swimming pools. We thought the swimming spots of Biscoitos were stunning, and they also feature all the necessary facilities.
As a shivery person, I personally found it a little too cold to dive in myself, but there were plenty of others who thought otherwise. Even if you don’t want to swim yourself, Biscoitos is a beautiful place to drive by on a sunny day and enjoy the vibe.
When you go swimming, do watch out for the Portuguese man-of-war. These venomous jellyfish are not uncommon here and being stung by one is not fun—and that’s putting it very mildly.
One of the most remarkable things we did on Terceira was attending a bullfight on the street . These bullfights take place from May 1 to October 15. During these events, the bulls run through the streets for 15 to 30 minutes, while they’re held on a long rope by so-called pastores.
A number of brave people also run through the streets along with the bulls and act like voluntary bullfighters, but most people, including us, are safely sheltered and watch this folkloric spectacle from a distance. It’s one of the most fascinating cultural things to do in the Azores.
The bulls are not killed, hit, or harmed in any way. After the act, they are safely taken back to their meadows.
Despite the fact that we’re typically against these kinds of activities, we did decide to go and take a look. I will never manage to watch the traditional bullfights where the animals are hurt and killed. Here, I also felt kind of sad for the bulls which I still prefer to see in the meadows instead of the streets, but on the other hand, it was also nice to experience this folkloric event on our Azores trip.
At the tourist office, you can ask for a list of the dates and locations of these bullfights.
Here is an article with more fun things to do in Terceira
Hotels in Terceira
At the ALLUar Lodge you stay in small detached houses with a sea view. The cottages have a kitchenette and you will also find a number of restaurants nearby. Every day a tasty breakfast is delivered to your house in a breakfast basket. You can enjoy your breakfast in your cottage, on the terrace of your cottage, or at the swimming pool. After a busy day, you can swim a few laps or relax by the pool.
A great place to relax after a busy day.
Day 13-20 São Miguel
From Terceira, we flew to São Miguel, this flight takes about 40 minutes.
We have a post with all the info you need for island-hopping in the Azores . Including info on how you save money on flights.
São Miguel is the largest and most touristy island of the Azores.
While you can get around most Azores Islands in just an hour, you’ll need more than an hour to just get from one side of São Miguel to the other.
São Miguel sights
São Miguel has a number of beautiful attractions that you absolutely have to visit during your Azores vacation. If you are looking for a complete São Miguel itinerary, click here.
The most famous attraction is the crater lake of Sete Cidades. You’ve probably already seen this crater lake. It’s the iconic image of the Azores. When you see photos of the Azores, one of these crater lakes is almost always among them, and rightly so because it’s gorgeous.
The most beautiful views of this lake are from the viewpoints Vista do Rei and Boca da Inferno .
Another highlight is the crater lake of Lagoa do Fogo . This lake is at its most photogenic at sunset.
Take the time to check if the lake isn’t covered in the mist before you leave, though. You can do this on the website SpotAzores . On this website, several webcams show current weather conditions, including these at the viewpoint of Lagoa de Fogo.
The viewpoint of the lake is on the rim of the crater. There’s also a beautiful hike that takes you to the lakeshore. If you’re looking for an Azores hiking suggestion, look no further.
Just like Pico and Faial, São Miguel is the perfect place for dolphin and whale watching in the Azores. Although we didn’t get to see any whales, we did see a huge group of dolphins that were having a blast around our boat. We were really unlucky because the tours that went out before us had all seen whales but it was still a wonderful experience.
We booked our tour via GetYourGuide and were very happy with how everything was organized.
This is how our tour looked like.
First, we got an expert explanation about the different species of whales and dolphins, after which we traveled out to sea in a zodiac.
Besides the captain, there was also a naturalist on board. Every time we saw something, she offered plenty of information about the animal.
At the end of the tour she also gave a small recap of everything we had seen and she remained available for further questions.
This tour comes highly recommended if you don’t only want to see these beautiful animals, but also would like to learn more about them.
Check prices and availability: Dolphin and whale watching tour
Read our complete post where we share the best whale and dolphin tours.
Additionally, we also went for some relaxation in the thermal baths . On São Miguel, there are many natural hot springs in the vicinity of Furnas. We’ll tell you about the most famous ones below.
Do not forget your towel and slippers.
Parque Terra Nostra
Parque Terra Nostra has one large thermal bath and 2 smaller so-called Jacuzzis. Those are actually just smaller baths where the water is a little bit hotter. What’s so fun about this park is that a visit also includes the beautiful botanical garden in which the baths are located.
We went here ourselves and it wasn’t super-crowded.
Opening hours : see webite
These natural pools are in the middle of nature. The most popular and also the most photogenic pool is the one with the waterfall. Caldeira Velha has the most authentic feeling thanks to its location amid wonderful nature, but all that charm is lost because of the crowdedness.
We drove past 3 times and it was super-busy every time. So, unfortunately, we didn’t check out the pools ourselves.
Since we have been there they have enlarged the parking and you can now also reserve a spot online in advance . This will make it easier to visit the baths.
Check reviews on Tripadvisor
Ticket fee : €10 per person for 2 hours. If you want to visit this site without bathing you pay €3. Children aged 7-14 pay half the price, and children younger than 7 are free.
Poça Da Dona Beija
You can also go for a dive in the thermal baths of Poça Da Dona Beija. Poça Da Dona Beija features 5 baths, of which the hottest baths have a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit). There is also a leisure area with water of 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit).
This is an amazing place to relax under the stars since it doesn’t close until 11 p.m.
Because we’d already visited Parque Terra Nostra, we didn’t visit these pools. But you can check out some reviews on TripAdvisor .
Ticket fee : €8 per person / Children 6 or younger: €6
Opening hours : daily from 8.30 am to 11 pm
The tea fields of Gorreana are (almost) unique to Europe. The climate on the Azores is excellent for cultivating tea and elsewhere in Europe there are very few tea plantations. This plantation is small-scale and many things are still done manually. You can freely walk around the plantation and the factory, where you can see how the harvested tea is further processed.
There’s also a small souvenir shop and while you visit the factory you can taste the tea free of charge, too.
Yet another recommendation for what to do on São Miguel is the many beautiful waterfalls . In our opinion, the most beautiful and pristine one was the waterfall near the beach of Moinhos. The waterfall of Salto do Prego was also absolutely worth it. The fantastic hike to get there alone makes it a worthwhile trip.
If you want to relax for a couple of days, have a look at our post in which we share the best beaches in São Miguel.
If you don’t have a car have a look at this post in which we share the best São Miguel tours.
Hotels on São Miguel
We stayed in Furnas for the whole week, but we don’t recommend this. As São Miguel is quite large, it takes about 90 minutes to drive from one side to the other, we suggest you split your stay between Furnas and Ponta Delgada.
In Furnas, you can relax in the hot water baths and it is a great base to explore the rough east coast of the island.
Ponta Delgada offers a wider choice of restaurants and is better positioned to visit other parts of the island.
Octant Furnas hotel
We stayed in the Octant Furnas hotel . (formerly known as the Furnas Boutique hotel) The rooms are nicely decorated and spacious. You start the day with a delicious breakfast on the pleasant terrace. After a long day, you can relax in the hotel’s thermal pools, the sauna, and the steam bath. The restaurant’s menu is rather limited but they have some delicious options.
The restaurant is one of the best options in Furnas as you can see by the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor .
Casa do Contador
Casa do Contador is right in the center of Ponta Delgada.
From the hotel, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the boardwalk where you can enjoy drinks or snacks in one of the many trendy bars.
All rooms come with a small kitchenette.
If you prefer staying in an Airbnb, have a look at the following posts: Amazing Airbnbs in Ponta Delgada. and the best São Miguel Airbnbs.
Azores travel tips
Here we share some interesting Azores travel tips.
Best time to visit the Azores
The best time to travel to the Azores is during spring and summer. If you love swimming, we advise you to visit during the summer.
We visited in June and the water was still quite cold.
Here you can find more info about the Azores climate and the best time to visit.
Are the Azores expensive?
Although prices, in general, were slightly more expensive than mainland Portugal, we found the Azores still quite cheap.
To give you an example: For a regular meal, we paid around €12-€15 per person. The gas was even cheaper than on the mainland.
The one thing we found more expensive were taxis.
So we definitely advise you to rent a car .
But compared to other Western European countries, we didn’t find the Azores expensive.
How to get to the Azores and how to get Azores plane tickets
First of all, let’s take a look at how to get to the Azores.
The Azores Islands are easily reachable by plane from the mainland of Portugal throughout the entire year.
As far as flights go, there’s no best time to visit the Azores—you can easily get there all year round.
Both TAP and Azores Airlines offer multiple daily flights from Porto and Lisbon to the Azores.
Most flights are to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, but there are also flights to the other islands. Note, however, that when flying to another island, you’ll often have a layover in Ponta Delgada.
There are also an increasing number of direct flights to the Azores from the United States and Canada.
Azores Airlines flies to different cities in the USA and Canada and United has a direct flight between New York JFK and Ponta Delgada.
Going independent or joining an organized tour
We found it easy and straightforward to create our own travel itinerary. It was also fairly easy to travel through the Azores independently.
But if you want the company of a group, don’t have the time to create your own itinerary, or just don’t want to go independent, you could also join an organized tour.
TourRadar is a trustworthy company where you can book an organized tour to the Azores to make it easy on yourself.
We wrote a complete post in which we share 6 of the best Azores tours ( hiking trips, island hopping trips, and tours that only visit São Miguel.
Check prices and availability: Organized Azores tours
Where to stay in the Azores?
You will find plenty of hotels in the Azores. From high-end hotels to ecolodge and small boutique hotels. In this itinerary, we mention per island where we stayed.
Here you can find an overview of the best places to stay in the Azores .
If you prefer staying in an Airbnbs, have a look at our Azores Airbnb post in which we share the best Airbnbs on each island.
Do I need travel insurance for the Azores?
Travel Insurance is something that can be overlooked when you prepare for your vacation. Certainly when you’re traveling to a safe and civilized country such as Portugal. We didn’t get travel insurance for our first trips. A few years later we both took out new credit cards that came with travel insurance and relied on those. We know better now…
Overall, chances are slim that you will encounter any problems while traveling. But unfortunately, things tend to happen when we least expect them.
And when things turn awry in civilized countries, the medical costs can be high. We learned it the hard way when we once had to visit a hospital in the United States.
The medical care was excellent but we had high out-of-pocket expenses as it turned out the insurance that came with our credit cards didn’t cover these costs. It turned out we were underinsured.
Drawing up a travel insurance policy may seem expensive at first but it can potentially save you a significant sum, significantly more than the small insurance fee.
Good travel insurance, such as the one from World Nomads, covers things like medical expenses, trip cancellation, overseas medical costs, evacuation, baggage damage or loss, and theft.
If you still need travel insurance, check out HeyMondo and SafetyWing. Both companies offer good insurance for a competitive price.
Which islands to visit in the Azores
When traveling, you usually have to make choices and that was certainly the case during our Azores trip.
We visited 5 of the 9 Azores Islands.
How did we make our selection of what to do in the Azores?
We based our selection on the things to do on the specific islands and how easily the islands are accessible.
That’s why the more remote islands of Corvo and Flores didn’t make the cut.
In the future, we definitely want to visit those two as well, but they’re not as easy to get to and the flightsare also a bit more unreliable. They’re regularly canceled and are often delayed. Because that would mess up our plans, we decided to save them for another time.
How many days in Azores?
It’s not easy to say what the ideal amount of time to spend on each island is.
After all, this greatly depends on different factors like your way of traveling, how much you’d like to hike, and the things you want to see and do on each of the Azores islands.
In general, you should be able to see all the highlights on most Azores islands in 2-3 days. The only exception is São Miguel, the largest island, where we recommend staying at least 5-7 days.
Of course, you can choose to stay longer on some of the islands, but the Azores travel itinerary that we choose, which you can see below, offers sufficient time on each island to see the main attractions on the Azores.
Island hopping in the Azores
You can divide the archipelago into 3 different areas.
In the center are the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial. The latter 3 are located maximum one hour by boat from one another and are connected by ferry throughout the entire year.
The western part is where you’ll find the islands of Corvo and Flores.
Lastly, the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria are located in the east of the archipelago.
Island hopping in the Azores is possible by plane or by taking the ferry.
All Azores Islands have an airport, even teeny-tiny Corvo.
Azores Airlines has flights to all the islands all year round. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a Lisbon to Azores flight, or a flight in between the 9 Azores islands.
Note, however, that during the high season (June-August), flights tend to sell out. Therefore, we recommend booking your plane tickets well in advance.
The ferry runs throughout most of the year except for the winter months. However, you should know that outside the summer months, only a very small selection of routes are available.
Ferry routes connect Pico with Faial and Saõ Jorge. There’s also a direct connection between Corvo and Flores. In the peak season, there’s also a ferry to Graciosa and Terceira.
The other islands, Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, can’t be reached by ferry.
The ferry is operated by AtlânticoLine . Their fleet consists of 5 boats, 2 of which are capable of transporting a small number of vehicles (12 and 15).
You can find more information about ferry routes and times on the AtlânticoLine website . It’s also possible to book tickets on their website.
Check our island-hopping article for a more in-depth look at the various ferry routes.
We suggest booking your tickets in advance, especially in the high season (July-August). Some routes are only served intermittently and it can get pretty busy that time of year. With a ticket, you’re sure to have a spot on the ferry of your choice.
How did we do it?
To go island hopping in the Azores, we used a combination of ferries and airplanes.
Pico, Faial, and São Jorge are so close to each other that taking the ferry is the easiest option.
The other islands are more remote and traveling by plane is the more efficient way to get there.
Upon arrival at an island, we rented a car to explore the island. The car rental companies have offices in all ports and airports. We had a different car reservation for each island.
I personally didn’t look forward to changing cars that much, but in the end, everything went really smoothly.
If you want, and if your car rental contract allows it, you can also take your rental car on the ferry.
I looked into that while planning our Azores trip itinerary because sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a car for a longer period of time. However, we wouldn’t have saved money if we’d done that.
Below, you can find more information about how to get around the Azores and why we opted for a rental car.
Renting a car on the Azores
You shouldn’t count on or rely too much on public transportation in the Azores. Each island has some kind of public transportation available but it is always rather limited. On São Jorge, for example, it’s limited to 1 bus per day. It’s clear that this won’t get you very far.
You can, as an alternative, use taxis to get around the islands. This needs some preparation as well. How this works exactly, is different between islands.
For example, on São Jorge, the taxis don’t yet operate with a centralized telephone number. You must call each taxi directly. We didn’t use taxis on any of the other islands so we don’t know how this is arranged over there.
The tourist offices can give you all the information about how the taxis operate. We advise stopping by the tourist office at the airport or port if you plan to use the taxis.
What did stand out to us, however, was that the taxis seemed pretty expensive. One ride costs as much as what you pay on average for a rental car for 1 day.
Taxis are necessary for one-way hikes where you leave your car at the start point and would otherwise need to hike back.
If you rely on taxis for all your transportation it will become expensive rather fast. In that case, it’s much more affordable to do this with a rental car.
With a rental car
The car rental companies have offices in all ports and airports. We rented one car per island. I personally didn’t look forward to changing cars that much, but in the end, everything went really smoothly.
If you want, and if your car rental contract allows it, you can also take your rental car on the ferry. I looked into that while planning our Azores itinerary as sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a car for a longer period of time. It wouldn’t have saved us money but it doesn’t harm to compare.
Know that you don’t need to do it to avoid the hassle of changing cars. Dropping off your car and picking up the new one at the next destination is a very straightforward process that usually didn’t take a lot of time.
Driving on the Azores was not difficult at all.
The roads are usually well-maintained and people drive in a polite and relaxed way.
It’s almost always cheaper to rent your car in advance and it gives you time to compare the various offers and find the best deal. Major international brands such as Hertz and Avis are present, although usually in collaboration with a local player. The Azores count numerous local rental car agencies and they often have the most competitive fares.
Discover Cars and Rentalcars.com offers an easy way to quickly compare quotes for both the international and local brands. In most cases, your booking can be canceled up to 48 hours before your pick-up date. It’s worth comparing both sites although we almost always find the best deals on Discover Cars .
Here you can find all info on how to rent a car in the Azores.
The Azores are a gorgeous destination for both nature lovers and hikers. It’s not too far away, yet totally different from what we’re used to at home. This is one of those destinations that we really look forward to visiting again in the future.
This Azores itinerary took us to 5 of the 9 islands.
Most Azores Islands remain untouched and you barely meet any other tourists there.
On many of our hikes in the Azores, we didn’t meet anyone else or only 2 to 4 people at most. Only the island of São Miguel appears to have been discovered by tourists.
Sports enthusiasts also won’t get bored here, thanks to the wide range of available activities. In any case, we’re definitely going back at some point to explore the other heavenly islands.
If you only have a week in the Azores, check out this 7-day Azores itinerary.
In our Azores travel guide , you can find all our Azores posts.
See the web story that accompanies this post.
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The Azores Travel Guide
Courtesy of cinoby/Getty Images
Best Times To Visit The Azores
The best time to visit the Azores is June through August. During this time, temperatures are at their highest, cloudy days are fewer and farther between and the likelihood of rain is low. If you're looking for that island getaway that's full of sunshine and warm weather year-round, know that the Azores is not that kind of destination. The Azores' placement in the middle of the Atlantic (1,000 miles from the coast of western Portugal), means you'll be greeted with mild temperatures and rain throughout the year. No matter which month you choose to visit, understand that the weather is known to be unpredictable, even during the summer. Pack layers, sturdy, waterproof shoes and always bring an umbrella.
Weather in The Azores
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
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AzoresIslands.travel is the international brand of Fonte Travel Agency that is a Destiny Management Company (DMC) specialized in “Best Of Azores” travel packages of Triangle — a cluster of three islands, Faial, Pico, São Jorge and Triangle Plus — a cluster of four islands Flores&Corvo and Graciosa&Santa Maria, the smallest of the Azores archipelago. We are certified to sell all over the world. Fonte travel associated with Triangle Of The Azores have created specialized island virtual platforms which offer a wide range of travel packages, accommodation facilities, leisure activities, restaurant recommendations and rent-a-car services provided by a diversity of hosts to suit your wishes. From our websites you can do your own booking, However, if you want our help, just e-mail us with your preferred dates, packages, lodging, activities, rent-a-car and/or services, and we can advise you on the best options. We will make your stay wonderful and unforgettable, finding you the most exciting offers with the best prices. We are a genuine Azorean company with a cozy and friendly team. We also work with hotel and accommodation partners recognized as the top five greenest hotels in Portugal.
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