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Home » Europe » Portugal » Azores

Azores Travel Guide (2024): 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.

visiting the Azores and Flores Island

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…

views while traveling on the Azores

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.

sunset while visiting the Azores

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…

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

Sao Miguel Itinerary

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.

Azores Itinerary #2

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

Azores Itinerary #3

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

Azores Itinerary #4

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!

cows on the Azores

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 .

best hikes on the Azores

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.

what to do on sao miguel

Backpacking Furnas

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.

Furnas in Sao Miguel

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.

best things to do on Sao Miguel

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 .

top things to do in Terceira

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!

Algar do Carvão extinct volcano

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.

swimming holes on Terceira

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.

manmade beach in Angra do Heroismo

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.

Praia do Victoria on Terceira

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!

Places to Visit in Pico

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.

Poço da Alagoinha in Flores

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!

small town visiting the Azores

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.

best islands to visit in the Azores

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 .

Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke 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.

swimming on the Azores

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!

best hot springs in Sao Miguel

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.

hiking the Azores

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.

festivals in Terceira

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.

UNESCO heritage site Angra do Heroismo

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!

azores travel guide pdf

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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.

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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.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

azores travel guide pdf

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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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:

Pacsafe belt

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.

sea to summit towel

Microfiber Towel

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.

Gifts for backpackers

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.

GEAR-Monoply-Game

‘Monopoly Deal’

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.

Mesh Laundry Bag Nomatic

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

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.

grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you 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 Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best 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!

sunsets while visiting the Azores

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 🙂

How to get around the Azores

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.

traveling around the Azores

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 .

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.

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.

azores travel guide pdf

Worldpackers: connecting travellers with  meaningful travel experiences.

packable travel medical kit

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.

pineapples in Sao Miguel

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 .

food and culture in the Azores

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.

bull running in the Azores

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.

best hikes 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.

Best hikes on the Azores

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.

whale watching on the Azores

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!

azores travel guide pdf

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!

Ana Pereira

Ana Pereira

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The Intrepid Guide

5 Day Azores Itinerary: 26 Top Things to Do in São Miguel Island [Plus Map]

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Azores travel guide

Floating 1,400 kilometres west of the Iberian Peninsula, São Miguel island is the jewel in the crown of the Azorean archipelago. This comprehensive 5-day guide show you the top things to do in São Miguel island plus where to say, where to eat, and when to go. Plus loads of bonus travel tips.

From thousands of years old bubbling geysers, to flower-lined winding roads, hikes spiraling around dormant volcanoes, and natural thermal pools scattered throughout the island, São Miguel island is a dream. Which is why I’ve prepared a comprehensive Azores travel guide!

If you’re not familiar with the Azores or need more convincing, check out my post on  why the Azores is Europe’s best-kept secret.

São Miguel Island

São Miguel island is the largest island in the Azores, measuring 62.1 km in length and 15.8 km at its maximum width. This means that depending on which roads you take, you can see both the north and south side of the island at the same time!

São Miguel island is also home to the Azores largest city and its capital: Ponta Delgada. The best part? Today, only 5-10% of the island is built-up, leaving the rest to nature. Excited yet?

With such a relatively small area to cover, basing yourself in Ponta Delgada and setting out on day trips around São Miguel is the best way to see everything the island has to offer.

During my five days in São Miguel, I divided the island up into five pockets which I used as my itinerary for each day. This worked so well for me and managing my time during the trip that I wanted to share it with you.

Whilst there is so much that can be done, seen, and explored in São Miguel island, my complete and ultimate itinerary ensures that you will see and experience the best of the island.

I’ve covered everything including accommodation, car rental, where to eat and how to manage your days around the temperamental Azorean weather.

Five Things You Should Know

Before we jump in, here are five important things you should know about this itinerary to São Miguel.

  • If you’re visiting São Miguel for the first time, this guide is for you! This guide assumes you have no prior knowledge of the island and its incredible beauty. Boy, are you in for a surprise!
  • You’ll need a car to get around. I recommend hiring a car here as there is little to no public transport. Plus, having a car will give you the freedom to start and end your days on your terms.   Compare the best car rental prices here.
  • I’ve tried to find a balance between quality and quantity. That being said, how often do you get to go to the Azores? For some, this might be a once-off experience and you want to see as much as possible. The best part of this itinerary is that you can adjust it to suit your needs and personal preferences. For each daily bucket list, each location is no more than 30 minutes from the next, which gives you total flexibility should you prefer to linger a bit longer at any location.
  • It allows for last-minute itinerary changes. Something I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly the weather changes in the Azores. When the heavens open up and clouds roll in, some of the best viewpoints are…well, invisible! My advice? Keep track of the weather constantly and check the conditions of the locations before you go. You can either the  SpotAzores website or app. It’s a total game changer! Luckily, the size of the island allows you to zigzag around in case you need to chase good weather. To give you an idea, getting from the east to west coast will take no longer than 90 minutes.
  • Keep a towel handy. There are lots of thermal pools and beaches on this itinerary so make sure you come prepared. Bring an old swimsuit, I’ll tell you why later. Just take my word for it.

So, without further ado, here are the top things to do in São Miguel island.

Looking for something in particular? Use these links to jump around.

Included in this guide to São Miguel

  • Map of São Miguel Itinerary
  • Day 1 itinerary
  • Day 2 itinerary
  • Day 3 itinerary
  • Day 4 itinerary
  • Day 5 itinerary

Getting to the Azores

Where to stay in são miguel, são miguel flight and hotels packages, map of são miguel island itinerary.

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

Click on this interactive map and see where this itinerary will take you. I’ve created this map using Google Maps which you can save and use as you travel around the island.

The coloured pins represent different pockets of the island to explore each day. Click on any pin for more information. Day 1 – Purple pins Day 2 – Green pins Day 3 – Turquoise pins Day 4 – Yellow pins Day 5 – Pink pins

Day 1 Itinerary – Purple pins

Saving the best till last isn’t always the smartest idea, at least not in the Azores.

Visiting Sete Cidades requires good weather otherwise you risk seeing very little. That’s why I recommend that on your first day, you aim to visit the western part of the island. That way, if the weather isn’t in your favour you can easily try again the following day.

Sete Cidades

sao miguel island azores travel guide sete cidades hike

Chances are that if you Googled the Azores, you most likely saw a picture of the Sete Cidades. It’s the postcard of the island and quite possibly the Azores.

Sete Cidades literally means, ‘seven cities’ and is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal. The views over Sete Cidades and its lakes are nothing short of impressive and awe-inspiring.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades (Lake of the Seven Cities)

At its centre, there are two lakes, one green and the other blue which are separated by a bridge.

According to legend, the lakes were formed from the tears of a shepherd and a princess who shared a forbidden love because of their different social status. They say that the last time they met, their tears formed the lakes. The tears of the blue-eyed shepherd formed the blue lake while the those of green-eyed princess created the green lake.

The less romantic version explains the colour difference is due to the fact that the surrounding vegetation causes the light to reflect differently.

Either way, it’s still an impressive sight!

Lagoa das Sete Cidades can be enjoyed from numerous vantage points, each offering a new and wonderful perspective.

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Bridge over Sete cidades lakes

Miradouro da Vista Do Rei (Viewpoint Of The King)

sao miguel island azores travel guide sete cidades

Appropriately translating to, Viewpoint Of The King, this may be the first glimpse you’ll see if Sete Cidades. Not a bad introduction! The best part of the Sete Cidades is that it can be enjoyed in different ways, including taking any one of the hiking trails.

There is also an elevated dirt road, which is quite narrow at some points, which spirals around the lake. You can both walk or drive along this road whilst enjoying the different perspectives over the lakes.

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth Viewpoint)

sao miguel island azores travel guide sete cidades boca do inferno

Take a moment here and try to comprehend how old this land is. This volcanic crater is 22,000 years old!

Tips on Getting to Boca do Inferno Viewpoint

  • Blink and you’ll miss the entrance! Whether you’re coming from Vista do Rei or from Ponta Delgada (South East) the entrance looks like more a concealed driveway. Avoid taking any turnoffs that will take you down to the Sete Cidades village. Look out for a blue sign indicating a stop 100 metres ahead.
  • Depending on how early you get there, some cars may already be parked outside making the entrance more obvious. It’s here you’ll see the Lagoa Do Canário sign. Turn down the dirt road and park your car.
  • At this point there are a lot of tall trees, continue on foot for less than five minutes until you see the stairs.
  • From here, it’s just 5 minutes away from the viewpoint.

Tips on Visiting Boca do Inferno

  • Time: Allow 1-2 hours to wander around, get some great photos, and savour the moment.
  • Price:  Both entrance and parking are free!
  • Pro Tip #1: For awesome moody shots come here just before the sunset. Note that the gates close at 4pm on weekdays and at 7pm on weekends.
  • Pro Tip #2: This place gets busy! So, go early. When I went it was at the end of the season and I arrived as soon as the gates opened at 8:30. I literally had 10 minutes alone before other people started arriving. By the time I left at 10am, cars were parked all the way out back onto the main road.
  • Pro Tip #3: Remember to check the weather. Suns out, guns out. When the sun shines here, the landscape comes alive with vibrant colours.

After enjoying the views from above, head down towards the lovely quaint village of Sete Cidades. Along the way, you’ll pass over the bridge that separates the blue and green lakes. Stop here and say hi to the birdlife on the banks before continuing into town.

sao miguel island azores travel guide Igreja de Sao Nicolau Church

Fancy a bike ride or kayaking in the lake? In town, you’ll find a few hire shops. Not a bad way to pass the afternoon.

Not to be missed in town is the lovely village Church of Saint Nicholas (Igreja de São Nicolau) . The beautiful tree-lined promenade leading to the entrance is worth stopping by for.

Ponta da Ferraria

sao miguel island azores travel guide Ponta da Ferraria

Put on your swimsuit, it’s time to relax in Ponta da Ferraria geothermal spring.

Not only is the location itself unique, sitting at the base of a giant lava rock cliff, but the spring opens up to the ocean creating a wonderful mix of hot and cold water that dances around your body.

Also located here are housed thermal baths with an outdoor swimming pool and restaurant. Visit Termas da Ferraria for more information.

Tips on Visiting Ponta da Ferraria

  • Time: Allow 2 hours to bathe then relax at the kiosk with a beer in hand.
  • Price: Entrance and parking are free!
  • Pro Tip: Go at low tide to avoid be scalded. Ouch!

sao miguel island azores travel guide Mosteiros sunset

The cherry on the sundae is ending your day at Mosteiros.

Mosteiros is a civil parish which saw its first settlers around 1480. The name Mosteiros, means monastery in Portuguese and refers to the nearby islets, the largest of which is shaped like a church.

Come here an hour or so before sunset. Cosy up either on the beach or head around to the rocks on the right and watch the water crash over the boulders. Soon enough the sky will turn electric purple bringing this magical day to an end.

Day 2 Itinerary – Green pins

Today, we’re exploring the east and southeastern parts of the island.

The Nordeste and Pedreira districts are some of the wildest and most remote parts of São Miguel island. The sea cliffs are stand tall and steep, the vegetation is thicker and more vibrant, and the roads are more sinuous. Everything in this area is worth stopping your car for.

Ponta da Madrugada Lookout

sao miguel island azores travel guide Ponta da Madrugada

Start your day early and head east! Watching the sunrise from the famous Ponta da Madrugada (literally means, Dawn Point) is a must! The drive coastal drive here alone is truly one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven on.

Bring some breakfast, sit at any of the picnic tables and enjoy the sunrise over the vast blue Atlantic ocean.

Arnel Lighthouse

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Faro do Arnel lighthouse

Take a slight detour north and visit the beautiful octagonal cylindrical lighthouse, Faro do Arnel. This was the first lighthouse built in the Azores used by ships arriving from mainland Portugal.

There is a wonderful spiral road leading to the lighthouse, but the best view of both the lighthouse and the road is from Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos (Viewpoint of the boats). Keep an eye out for road signs indicating the lookout on your right-hand side.

Tips on Getting to Arnel Lighthouse

  • Pro tip: Once arrived, I strongly recommend parking the car and continuing on foot. The spiral road down is 35º. Don’t risk stranding your rental car on the return trip.

Ponta do Sossego Viewpoint

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot terra nostra park thermal pool Lagoa do Fogo Ponta do Sossego viewpoint

Lagoa das Furnas

sao miguel island azores travel guide lagao de furnas

Sitting in Furnas Valley, home to dozens of thermal springs, fumaroles and geysers, is Lagoa das Furnas (Furnas Lagoon). This lagoon is one of the three main lagoons in São Miguel.

The valley is in fact a volcanic crater which has been dormant since 1630, when the last eruption occurred.

Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias

Also worth visiting here is the Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias dedicated to Our Lady of the Victories. This funerary chapel was built by José do Canto, a gentleman-farmer of São Miguel, after his beloved wife passed away from a terminal illness. When José eventually died, he was buried alongside his wife, fullfulling his wishes.

There is a lovely view of the lagoon and the chapel from a jetty as you approach the chapel.

With a complicated 100,000 year history, the central caldera of the Furnas Volcano is a naturally explosive trachyte structure composed of two main calderas, that through formation, collapse and explosion have marked the natural history of the massif.

Caldeiras das Furnas and Fumaroles from Lagoa das Furnas

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas

On the opposite end of the lagoon are the Caldeiras hot springs where the famous local dish Cozido das Furnas (Furnas stew) is prepared and transported to location restaurants.

A path navigates around the holes of boiling water and geysers where the stew is cooked.

While the dish itself might not be your best meal of the trip, it is, nonetheless worth trying. I mean, how often do you eat a meal cooked by Mother Nature herself?

Where to Eat Furnas Stew (Cozido das Furnas)

Each day several restaurants located in Furnas village send their stews to be cooked in the Caldeiras. The two most noteworthy are Tony’s and the restaurant at  Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.  Eating at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel also gets you complimentary access to Terra Nostra park and the thermal pool.

Furnas Village

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot

Head to the main village and see how the locals live alongside thirty springs and geysers each with different temperatures and chemical compositions. These range from warm iron-rich streams to mineral-rich warm and cold water. The air here is literally filled with sulphur.

Owing to a population of several thousand people who live within and around its caldera, Furnas is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the archipelago. The first recorded eruption occurred in 1440, just after early settlers started populating the coasts of São Miguel.

Terra Nostra Park

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot terra nostra park thermal pool

Covering 12 hectares, Terra Nostra Park is one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe boasting lush vegetation, over 2,000 different trees, peaceful promenades, lilypad-covered ponds, and a huge thermal pool.

Bathing in the ferrous orange thermal pool at Terra Nostra Park is one of the island’s postcard experiences. Full of essential minerals, the thermal spring heats the water to 35 – 40 degrees Celsius (95 – 140F).

  A post shared by Michele • The Intrepid Guide✈︎ (@intrepidguide) on Dec 17, 2017 at 7:57am PST

Tips on Visiting Terra Nostra Park

  • Duration: Allow at least 1 hour to explore the gardens then half an hour to relax in the thermal pool.
  • Price: 8 euros, includes access to the park thermal pool and showers.
  • Pro tip #1: Don’t wear your favourite swimsuit though, the minerals will leave your whites looking a little orange. Wear something old and dark.
  • Pro tip #2:  Go here on a cloudy or gloomy day. Save that sunshine for visiting places at higher altitude. Plus, having a hot bath feels so much better when it’s cold.

Poça da D. Beija Thermal Spa (Optional)

While the thermal experience is similar at Poça Dona Beija, swimming in those at Parque Terra Nostra is more of a novelty because of the orange water. Unless you really love your thermal experience, there’s no need to do both.

Poça da D. Beija offers a more authentic experience with it’s complex of newly refurbished five outdoor pools at various temperatures. Since they’re open till 11pm daily, why not stay for a romantic evening dip.

Tips on Visiting Poça da D. Beija Thermal Springs

  • Duration: Anything from 1 hour
  • Price: Entrance fee is 4 euros in Poça Dona Beija

Day 3 Itinerary – Blue pins

Lagoa do fogo.

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot terra nostra park thermal pool Lagoa do Fogo

One of the most beautiful yet difficult to see places on the island is Lagoa do Fogo. Literally translating to ‘Fire lake’, only on my third visit did the clouds part to reveal this impressive lake.

Lagoa do Fogo sits in a crater with a maximum depth of 30 metres. This is the island’s highest lagoon (sitting 575 metres) and the second biggest.

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Lagoa do Fogo sunset

Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo (Lookout)

If you reach the lookout and find the area drowning in cloud or fog, allow 15 minutes or so for it to pass (fingers crossed) it’s amazing how quickly the weather changes up there.

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Sunrise

View from Pico da Barrosa

Once you arrive at Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo, take the path down to the beach. After thirty minutes you’ll reach the unspoiled shoreline.

Tips for Visiting Lagoa do Fogo

  • Duration: Anything from 1 hour, allow more time if heading down to the beach
  • Price: Free :)
  • Pro tip 1: Check the weather ahead of time. Having said that, even on a sunny day there can still be lots of cloud cover. Be patient and wait a little before leaving. You may need to return another day.
  • Pro tip 2:  Since this is a Natural Reserve it’s important to be as respectful as possible. Don’t leave any rubbish/trash behind or go swimming if you’re wearing sunscreen.
  • Pro tip 3: Located higher up overlooking Lagoa do Fogo is Pico da Barrosa.  Weather permitting, you’ll be able to see both the north and south coastlines of the island. Pretty cool!

Caldeira Velha

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot terra nostra park thermal pool Lagoa do Fogo Caldeira Velha

Located a few minutes down the road on the north slope of the Fogo Volcano is Caldeira Velha, a scenic nature preserve featuring lush vegetation, a waterfall, and hot springs. I love this place because it’s not located near a town and the towering trees make you feel like you’re at one with nature.

Located in Caldeira Velha is a park are two stone-walled naturally heated pools. Both surrounded by lush vegetation, the smaller one is 38º while the largest is 21º.

Tips for Visiting Caldeira Velha

  • Duration:  You can’t rush relaxing. You’ll need anywhere between 1.5-3 hours to really it enjoy it. Price: The entrance is 2 Euros (as per 2017).
  • Pro tip #1: Same rules apply regarding your swimsuit. Wear something old and dark to reduce the signs of orange stains thanks to the mineral-rich water.
  • Pro tip #2: There are lockers, changing rooms and showers, but be prepared for the cold water. It’s invigorating to say the least.

Salto do Cabrito

sao miguel island azores travel guide furnas drone shot terra nostra park thermal pool Lagoa do Fogo Salto do Cabrito

Salto do Cabrito, literally meaning ‘Kid’s Jumping’, has a 40 metre high waterfall. Next to the base of the water is a circular pedestrian route that sits high up amongst the thick foliage.

Miradouro de Santa Iria

sao miguel island azores travel guide Miradouro de Santa Iria

Located in a ravine above the sea, the Santa Iria lookout offers a superb view over Santa Iria Bay and the northern coastline of the island.

This viewpoint is very close to the main road and has a small car park both near the main road and down the short road leading to the viewpoint.

Itinerary Day 4 – Yellow pins

Starting in the north-east of São Miguel island, begin your day at Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park before making your way down to the picturesque islet of Vila Franca on the south coast.

Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park

sao miguel island azores travel guide Ribeira dos Caldeiroes waterfall

With flowing streams and three large cascading waterfalls, Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park is not to be missed.

It’s an idyllic spot for hikers to walk along rock-cut paths that wind through the mountains. The rainforest trails invite you to explore the lush landscape with endless photo opportunities along the way.

sao miguel island azores travel guide Ribeira dos Caldeiroes waterfall garden

Gorreana Tea Plantation

sao miguel island azores travel guide Gorreana Tea Plantation

This family-owned business has been operating since 1883. There is a museum with free tastings, but this place is best experienced outside amongst the plantation itself where there is a magnificent view overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

Tips for Visiting Gorreana Tea

  • Duration: 1 hour is enough to go through the premises and sip on a cup of tea.
  • Price: Free
  • Pro tip: Whether you enjoy tea, the process of making it or not, the views alone are worth the visit. If you do, there are free tea tastings inside.

Vila Franca Islet

Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - Vila Franca Do Campo

Vila Franca do Campo was once the capital of the Azores but lost its status after it had been almost completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1522. From then on the capital of São Miguel was transferred to Ponta Delgada.

Sitting opposite the town of Vila Franca do Campo is the beautiful islet formed as a result of a crater of an ancient submerged volcano. At approximately 300 metres in length, this is the smallest islet I’ve ever seen!

It’s enclosed bay makes it the ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. During the summer months, the islet can be reached by a regular boat connection from the Vila Franca marina. Get your tickets online.

Tips for Visiting Vila Franca Islet

  • Duration: Allow yourself at least 3 hours here.
  • Price: 5 Euros
  • Pro tip #1: During high tide the small beach is complete covered, grab a spot in the concrete area instead to avoid being washed out.
  • Pro tip #2: Please be respectful of the island and leave nothing behind but footprints.

Our Lady of Peace Chapel

sao miguel island guide sao miguel Our Lady of Peace Chapel

High up on the hills overlooking Vila Franca and the Atlantic ocean is Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz, a stunning 16th-century chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Peace.  According to the legend, this chapel was built after the apparition of Virgin Mary to a shepherd, in a cave.

Day 5 Itinerary – Pink pins

Swimming with dolphins and whale-watching (from ponta delgada).

sao miguel island azores travel guide Swimming with Dolphins

What could be better than spending the morning with Atlantic Spotted dolphins and Humpback and Sperm whales?

For two hours I swam with dolphins and observed these playful creatures in their natural environment. There were literally hundreds of them! Jump in and enjoy watching these majestic mammals, play, feed, and poop. (Look out for those white trails. Haha) You’ll definitely want to capture this once in a lifetime experience.

I went out with Picos de Aventura , who were amazing. The customer service was great and the two guides on board were patient, professional, and super passionate about their work and the wellbeing of the marine life.

Picos de Aventura offer diving trips, whale watching, and swimming with dolphins and gear hire. I love my whales but this time I wanted to see the action underwater so opted for the swimming trip. 

The Azores attract many species of cetaceans which makes heading out in the ocean a must-do activity. If you can, plan your trip between April and June for the best whale watching. For dolphins, I saw plenty of them in September. They were also still running whale watching trips.

  • Book a whale and dolphins watching expedition in São Miguel here
  • Book your swimming with the dolphin’s tour here

Tips for Swimming with Dolphins in São Miguel

  • Duration: The trip last 3 hours, this includes the time it takes to reach the dolphins and return to shore on the RIB boat.
  • Price: Tours start from 75 Euros for a 3-hour trip.
  • Pro tip #1: If you suffer from lower back problems or are pregnant, do not go on this trip. The RIB boat ride is pretty intense.
  • Pro tip #2:  Take sea sickness tablets. If you’re not accustomed to swimming in the open ocean, chances are you feel nauseous. At least 3 others on the tour did. Come prepared.
  • Pro tip #3:  The water is very choppy. If you’re not a confident swimmer, speak with the guides to advise you if this is right for you. I honestly struggled the first few stops we made, then I learned to relax and avoid wasting my energy on swimming too much.

Tips for Whale-Watching in São Miguel

  • Duration: The trip last 3 hours
  • Price: Tours start from 55 Euros
  • Pro tip #1:  Whale watching is big business and many tour companies break certain laws in order to get their boats as close as possible to the whales and boasts being the best tour. They are actually breaking the law when they do this. Both safety and ethical regulations are in place to protect the well-being on the whales so make sure you go out with a trusted company, such as Picos de Aventura .
  • Tours depart morning, early afternoon, and evening from both Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca marinas.
  • Tours book out quickly so secure your spot at least a few ahead of the tour.

Ponta Delgada

  A post shared by Michele • The Intrepid Guide✈︎ (@intrepidguide) on Oct 19, 2017 at 10:54am PDT

With all of the island’s treasures now under your belt, it’s time to explore the Azores capital city, Ponta Delgada.

I’ve written a dedicated post to all the sights of Ponta Delgada, but here are a few highlights.

  • Portas da Cidade (City Gates)
  • Parish Church of São Sebastião
  • Campo de São Francisco
  • São Bras Forte (Open 10am – 6pm, Closed Saturday & Sunday)
  • António Borges Botanical Garden (Open everyday 9am – 8:30pm)
  • A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation (Open everyday 9am – 8pm )
  • Hermitage of the Mother of God – End your day here at sunset for best view over Ponta Delgada.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 - sao miguel island - antonio borges jardim paths

António Borges Botanical Garden

Ponta Delgada is a relatively small so you can cover a lot of ground just on foot. Allow 1-2 hours each at the São Bras Forte, António Borges Botanical Garden, and A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation.

For more information about Ponta Delgada, use my complete guide to the city here.

Where to Eat in Ponta Delgada

Where to eat in the Azores in 2018 - sao miguel island

Bacalhau, Portuguese for cod, is considered to be an iconic dish of Portugal. My Portuguese boyfriend enjoyed this salted cod with vegetable dish at Calçada do Cais in Ponta Delgada.

Running parallel with the seafront Rua dos Mercadores is one of the main thoroughfares. Here you’ll find some of the island’s best restaurants including Calçada do Cais, and further north, A Tasca .

Other highly recommended restaurants include Adega Regional ,  Rotas da Ilha Verde (vegetarian-friendly) ,  Boca de Cena (seafood),  Casa Do Bife O Galego (steakhouse),  Restaurant Sao Pedro (seafood).

Essential Azores Travel Information

Getting to the Azores is easier than you might think. You can hop on a boat or catch a plane.  Direct flights depart from the USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, France, Germany, and Finland.

SATA / Azores Airlines offer the most routes with other operators such as TAP Portugal, Primera, TUI, Germania, Ryanair, and Delta offering regular flights to the Azores. My advice would be to fly from Porto, Lisbon or London where tickets are considerably cheaper. Compare deals and book your flight here.

The gateway to the Azores is located in Ponta Delgada with most flights connecting here.

Pro Tip: In some cases, you may be eligible to get a FREE inter-island connecting flight. Find out more here 

Heading to Portugal? Download my free Portuguese Travel Phrase guide here.

Where to Stay in the Azores

Booking.com offers a lot of accommodation options in the Azores, from charming guesthouses to typical houses surrounded by nature. To make your life easier, I’ve put together a list of the best-reviewed hotels, guesthouses, and villas in the Azores.

If you are coming to the Azores, chances are you’ll most likely be at least spending a few days on the largest island, São Miguel.

VIP Executive Azores Hotel

Where to stay in the Azores in 2018 - sao miguel island hotel

For the week I was there, I stayed at 4-star VIP Executive Azores Hotel . This is the largest hotel on the island and includes all the comforts of home. There is an excellent gym, an interior swimming pool, squash court, bar, free covered private parking, a beauty salon with hairdresser, and Wireless Internet service. With a great view of the town and ocean and surrounding landscape, VIP Executive Azores is a 10-minute walk into town.

For an alternative accommodation option, I would recommend renting out an apartment or room through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are popping up all over the island so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices.  Airbnb has numerous options from as low as US$36 per night.

If it’s your first time using Airbnb get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here , when you sign up using my unique reader referral links.

Otherwise, check out these top-rated hotels!

Need more options? No problem. Here is a list of pre-selected hotels, villas, and guesthouses in São Miguel with excellent ratings . The list only includes rooms with wifi and top reviews, so you can’t go wrong!

Azores Getaways  offer great prices on flight and hotel packages to the Azores. There are packages starting from 320 USD for 7 nights accommodation with return flights to London.

I recommend using Azores Getaways if you:

  • Are travelling from Europe or the United States.
  • Want to visit the best spots but don’t much to do all the research
  • Want someone else to book and organise everything for you

Browse their offers and packages here.

Alternatively, use this itinerary and book it all yourself. I always use  Skyscanner to book flights and Booking.com for finding accommodation .

Visiting Portugal? Brush up on the local language with my free Portuguese travel phrase guide.

Got more time? Take a day trip!

  • Ponta Delgada Walking Tour
  • Swim with Dolphins in the Azores
  • Fogo Lake Quad Bike Full-Day Small-Group Tour with Lunch
  • Azores Canyoning and Thermal Baths Tour
  • Half-Day Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour
  • Whale and dolphins watching expedition in São Miguel
  • Furnas Volcano and Lake Full-Day Tour with Lunch
  • Pico do Ferro Trail Hike and Light Yoga on São Miguel Island
  • Plus loads more here …

Don’t miss these Portugal travel guides

11 reasons why you should visit the azores in portugal, top 10 things to do in ponta delgada (the jewel of the azores).

  • 34 Best Things to do in Madeira, Portugal (The Ultimate Guide)
  • 12 Awesome Things to do in Funchal, Madeira (Includes Travel Tips & Top-Rated Tours)
  • 20 TOP Things to do in Porto Santo Island // A Perfect Day Trip from Madeira

azores travel guide pdf

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Top Things to do in San Miguel Island, Portugal - 5 Day itinerary

Sources Visit Azores | Wikipedia |  Geeky Explorer

Over to you!

Do you have a question about visiting the Azores or São Miguel island? Ask me below! Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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azores travel guide pdf

Michele creates language learning guides and courses for travel. What separates her from other instructors is her ability to explain complex grammar in a no-nonsense, straightforward manner using her unique 80/20 method. Get her free guide 9 reasons you’re not fluent…YET & how to fix it! Planning a trip? Learn the local language with her 80/20 method for less than the cost of eating at a tourist trap restaurant Start learning today!

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Top 10 things to do in ponta delgada..., 11 reasons why you should visit the azores..., 27 comments.

azores travel guide pdf

Michele, thank you for this detailed guide. I was starting to wonder how I would plan a trip to San Miguel and if I should even try until I found this article. I now feel confident and so excited to go for it. I’m curious about what I should know about money there. What percentage can an American expect to be able to use a credit card there versus needing euros in currency to pay for things in restaurants, gas stations, and entrance fees?

Hi Mary, thank you so much for your lovely feedback :) Most of the time, say 80-90% of the time I used my card. On the odd occasion, I needed cash so it’s definitely a good idea to carry some as a backup. Hope this helps :)

azores travel guide pdf

Michele, thank you for the amazing guide and tips. Me and my girlfriend spent 4 days on São Miguel and it has been the best trip in our lives. It is the hidden gem of Europe, indeed. All of the things you wrote here came out true, about the weather, getting up earlier to avoid crowds, using old swimming suit at thermal pools, staying a little bit more at Lagoa do Fogo miradouro to catch the glimpse of it, and just driving around and enjoying the very nature… It is truly magical, and I am happy to have experienced it all, thanks to you! It has been two months since our trip, I keep thinking about it every day and want to come back. Do you ever feel the same? Cheers! :)

Thank you so much for your feedback, Mirko. I’m so glad to hear my guide helped you and that you had a wonderful time. São Miguel definitely left a lasting impression on me too. So many wonderful memories and experiences to cherish for many years to come :)

azores travel guide pdf

Very useful and easy to read guide, thanks a lot!

My pleasure. Thank you, Angeles :)

azores travel guide pdf

Did you visit Ribeira Grande? And can you tell a little about language. I plan on learning some Portuguese but is English widely spoken? Thanks in advance.

Hi Carole, yes I did visit Ribeira Grande and I would definitely recommend you continue to learn Portuguese. It’s invaluable. English is spoken but it’s not something you can always rely on here. Good on you for taking it up though. Here is my Portuguese travel phrase guide which you may find useful :) Have a wonderful trip!

azores travel guide pdf

You guide and tips are amazing, I’m happy to have stumbled here! I’m leaving for Azores in 3 weeks and cannot wait to explore and feel the beauty of San Miguel and Terceira!

Do you know what time usually the businesses (like the tea plantation, parks etc) closes in the summer months? I’ll be diving almost everyday until 1:30pm, and would love to still do other activities and checking things out in this guide. Just wonder if I should be aware of the business hours there.

Many thanks again!!

Hi Linh, my pleasure. I’m so happy to hear you find it helpful. You will have plenty of time to see a lot of places as they will close late. The Gorreana plantation closes at 7 pm everyday so you’ll have plenty of time. Miradouro de Santa Iria, Lagoa do Fogo don’t close as they are located next to the road. Caldeira Velha closes just after sunset, around 9 pm. Entry to Boca do inferno closes at 7 pm. Hope this helps :)

Hi Michele,

I’ve been here at Ponta Delgada for a while and i just wanna say MASSIVE THANKS for your guide – I’ve used it extensively and the tips are god sent, thank you so much again! The scenic drives have got to be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life. wow!

Hi Linh, oh that’s amazing. I’m so happy my guide has helped you and that you’re having a wonderful time. You’re right, the scenic drives are one of the best things about the island. Enjoy the rest of your trip :) Michele

azores travel guide pdf

Great article! I’ve started my research of Sao Miguel and so glad I stumbled upon this article. Is the picture of Franco Islet with a drone or from Our Lady of Peace? I would be going in November so no going to the Islet but would love a neat pic of it! With the weather being spotty I think it only makes sense to use Ponta Delgada as the base in case you need to switch up days due to weather.

Hi Valori, I used a drone to take this shot. You can see the islet from Our Lady of Peace but you will need a super zoom lens for this close up :) Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful trip.

azores travel guide pdf

Your photos look gorgeous! Love the depth of your content and how useful your site is and how a good chunk of it is about learning language!

Hey Trang, thank you so much :) I put a lot of work into my posts. So glad you’re enjoying it :)

Aww thank you so much Trang. I love learning and teaching which is what The Intrepid Guide is all about :)

azores travel guide pdf

love this blog! So i’m planning a trip also to azores islands, want to squeeze in also flores island. My question for Sao Miguel, did you stay in one hotel and everyday drive from the hotel to the pin points? Or did you drive to one area stay in a hotel there and then next pin points and stay in that area in a hotel?

Hi Sarit, I’m happy to hear this post has helped you :) Yes, the best part of the Azores (and Sao Miguel) is that you can stay anywhere on the island and travel around. I stayed in Ponta Delgada for its centrality and convenience. Hope this helps :)

azores travel guide pdf

Some pics were loading slow but most of the ones I saw are spectacular! I’d love to make it here someday, thanks for the info!

azores travel guide pdf

This is so helpful! We are planning to be in Sao Miguel for 3 – 3.5 days. I am wondering if any if you think any of these day itineraries could be done in a half day?

Day 1 & 2 seem to be full days on their own. I am wondering if your Day 3 & 4 could be combined in some way as they are close together on the map. And with that, what would you recommend eliminating from those two days in order to do it all in one day? We will skip the whale watching and plan to stay in Ponta Delgada so can fit in some of those sites as well.

Thank you!!

Thanks Blair, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed this guide. Day 3 and 4 could potentially be combined if you start your day early and be on the road by 8:30-9am. For it to work you would need to skip something Gorreana Tea Plantation (if you’re not a big tea fan) and going out to Vila Franca Islet. You can still see it from the shoreline from the Our Lady of Peace Chapel. I hope this helps :)

azores travel guide pdf

Hi Michelle, a great blog and an inspiring post. I’ve just added Sao Miguel to my to do list! Brava e complimenti!

Ciao Ciara! Grazie mille :) Oh, I’m thrilled you’ve added Sao Miguel to your list. Please let me know if you have any questions when you start planning. :)

azores travel guide pdf

Thanks Michele. This is an amazing guide. I’ll be sure to use it when going to Sao Miguel.

My pleasure! thanks so much, Basil. I know you’ll have a great time! Any questions, let me know :)

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Wapiti Travel

The perfect Azores itinerary for first-time visitors

By: Author Kris

Posted on Last updated: January 22, 2024

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. 

Wapiti Travel icon

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.

Sata Air Azores airplane

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

Azores travel planner

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.

Pico sights

Ticket icon

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. 

Pico volcano Azores, Portugal

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. 

Lagoa do Capitao Mountain lakes Pico Azores, Portugal

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.

azores travel guide pdf

Ticket fee : €10 per person (At the counter they only accepted cash but you can now book tickets online and pay with credit card)

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Opening hours : see website

Pico Azores Portugal

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.

Whaling museum Pico Azores, Portugal

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.

azores travel guide pdf

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.

Horta Harbour Faial Azores Portugal

Faial sights

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.

Caldeira Faial Azores, Portugal

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.

Capelinhos Faial Azores, Portugal

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.

azores travel guide pdf

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.

Faja Dos Cubres Sao Jorge Azores, Portugal

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.

azores travel guide pdf

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.

Serra do Cume miradouro Terceira Azores Portugal

Terceira sights

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 .

Furnas Do Enxofre Terceira, Azores, Portugal

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.

Algar Do Carvao Terceira Azores, Portugal

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.

azores travel guide pdf

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 )

Trail Mistérios Negros Terceira Azores Portugal

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.

Terceira Azores Bull Fight

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

Alluar lodge.

azores travel guide pdf

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.

Sete cidades Sao miguel Azores Portugal

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 .

Lagoa do fogo Azores, Portugal

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.

Dolphins Azores, Porgugal

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, Furnas,Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal

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

Caldeira Velha, the waterfall in the hot springs on São Miguel island

Caldeira Velha

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 hot springs

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

azores travel guide pdf

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. 

Cascata de Moinhos Azores, Portugal

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

azores travel guide pdf

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

azores travel guide pdf

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.

Azores Island Hopping Ferry

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.

Azores Portugal Rental Car

Renting a car on the Azores

Public transportation.

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. 

Morro de Castelo Branco Faial Azores Portugal

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.

If you like this post, pin it: 

azores travel guide pdf

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Azores Islands Travel Advice

Carl , a well-established member of this forum, has maintained an extensive pdf guide to the Azores and has shared this free resource with many hundreds of travelers in the Rick Steves Travel Forum over the years.

His 321(!) page guide has naturally grown into quite a job to maintain. We congratulate Carl in taking the leap into publishing his Azores guide as an ebook, allowing him to keep up with maintenance costs and improve quality. Self-publishing a guidebook is more of a labor of love than money-maker... just ask Rick Steves. This, of course, creates a conflict as our Community Guidelines do not allow him to promote his own published work. However, others are allowed to give a recommendation, and that's what this post is here to do. I think he deserves it.

I asked Carl to continue providing a free version in some form. The free 39-page excerpt below will get you started and show what you're getting in the full guide. A full, up-to-date guide typically pays for itself (in time or money) in short order.

  • Get Carl's free guide to the Azores here (39 page excerpt, last updated in 2019)
  • Get Carl's latest guide to the Azores here . (300+ pages)

Let the rest of this thread be a "thank you" to Carl for his assistance, and maybe he'll even answer some questions here. :)

(Fine print: this is NOT to be received as a recommendation by Rick Steves personally or by his company, Rick Steves Europe (RSE), nor has Carl's guide been reviewed or vetted by RSE. This post was not asked for by Carl. Aka, don't ask us to do this for you. :)

Well said, and well deserved! Thanks Webmaster!

Weirdly coincidental (I've been considering this destination for 2020) and greatly appreciated. Thank you!

We have been to the Azores twice, while on transatlantic cruises. Loved the beauty and scenic vistas.

The people are very nice as well. We did tours that took us the first time to the north end of the island, then on the second to the middle of the island.

Obrigada Webmaster for sharing the information. When we took the RS Heart of Portugal Tour a few years ago a couple of gals from our tour went on to the Azores. They loved the area. Nice way to extend the RS Portugal Tour. Bookmarked!

This topic has been automatically closed due to a period of inactivity.

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Travel Guide to the Azores Islands

azores travel guide pdf

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.

About Lodging

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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Walking path leading to a view on the lakes of Sete Cidades, Azores.

© Vicky SP/Shutterstock

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.

Your next trip starts here

Go from dreaming to planning with trip planning options made to help you craft your ideal itinerary.

Attractions

Must-see attractions for your itinerary.

Lake of Sete Cidades from Vista do Rei viewpoint in Sao Miguel, Azores; Shutterstock ID 333806120; Your name (First / Last): James Kay; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Azores destination page highlights

Sete Cidades

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…

View of the city of Angra do Heroismo with Mount Brazil on Terceira Island; Shutterstock ID 146612801; Your name (First / Last): James Kay; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Azores destination page highlights

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…

Mount Pico and a cow standing in water, reflected in a nearby lake; Shutterstock ID 378069745; Your name (First / Last): James Kay; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Azores destination page highlights

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…

Lighthouse Capelinhos and dramatic landscape on the cliffs of island Faial, Azores islands; Shutterstock ID 169824179; Your name (First / Last): James Kay; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Azores destination page highlights

Capelinhos Volcano

The underwater volcano that erupted in spectacular fashion off the island of Faial in 1957 afforded scientists a unique opportunity to study a rare…

The Pico vineyards inscribed on the World Heritage List, Pico island, Azores,; Shutterstock ID 131557715; Your name (First / Last): James Kay; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Azores destination page highlights

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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Public Transport

Jul 12, 2023 • 11 min read

It’s hard but not impossible to explore this Atlantic archipelago without renting a car. Here’s your detailed guide.

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May 30, 2023 • 9 min read

Vista do Rei, Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel, Azores

May 22, 2019 • 4 min read

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May 22, 2018 • 2 min read

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May 30, 2013 • 8 min read

Purchase our award-winning guidebooks

Get to the heart of The Azores with one of our in-depth, award-winning guidebooks, covering maps, itineraries, and expert guidance.

Bradt Guides

Azores Travel Guide – Expert tips and holiday advice including island itineraries and activities, Ponta Delgada and Horta highlights, endemic flora and wildlife. Also featured are detailed walks and field guides, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, Furnas, Santa Maria, São Miguel, Faial, Angra do Heroísmo, whale watching, cycling, horse riding and hiking.

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About this book

Bradt’s Azores is the only comprehensive guidebook to the nine-island archipelago, a nature-lovers’ wilderness perched at the western extremity of Europe in the mid-Atlantic, and one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Thanks to the experience of expert botanist and author David Sayers, and the ongoing involvement of author Murray Stewart, the book retains a depth of knowledge about flora and fauna and continues to provide the strong geological and botanical information that is so integral to getting to know the islands. This new edition has been thoroughly updated and also has an expanded focus taking in the land- and sea-based activities which have become a significant part of Azores attractions in the past few years. In Bradt’s Azores, full background and practical information is complemented by a region-by-region breakdown and nine chapters – one per island – to provide all the details needed for a successful visit. There are also 29 maps and separate sections on language and the islands’ flora. This new edition includes details of Ponta Delgada’s new 5-star hotels and Santa Maria’s new round-island walk, plus a full update on the accommodation upgrades that have taken place in recent times. Information about new waymarked walks is also covered, plus new bike-hire and whale-watching companies. The Azores attract geologists, bird-watchers, whale-watchers and anyone who loves nature in all its forms. Mountaineers can head to Pico island to climb Portugal’s highest peak. The Azores’ volcanic origins make for a rugged, diverse landscape, a suitable backdrop for excellent walking, mountain-biking or canyoning. A geological curiosity, a nature-lover’s paradise and – more recently – a mid-Atlantic adventure playground, the Azores have become increasingly accessible in recent years. Despite the increase in visitor numbers, though, they retain an authenticity, a genuineness which in most places remains true to its roots. Safe and welcoming, the islands are drawing in a whole new group of visitors, mainly from Europe and the USA, attracted by the diversity of outdoor activities, easier accessibility and improvements to the visitor infrastructure.

About the Author

Horticulturist and author David Sayers ran a travel company for 26 years and in 1984 pioneered the first ever walking/botanical tour to the Azores. He has been going back ever since and has led many tours, sharing his enthusiasm for the life of all nine islands; over the years it has been a journey of constant discovery, finding new walks, new eateries, new interests as the islands have gradually joined the modern world without losing their native charm. Empathy for these isolated islands brought requests to help restore several of São Miguel’s historic gardens, which are now visitor ‘must sees’. After a lifetime of worldwide travel, the Azores remain his favourite destination. While David has continued to lend his considerable expertise and knowledge to the writing of this new edition, general authorship has rested with Murray Stewart. While working on the previous edition of this guide, he spent some months visiting the Azores, and for this edition he has returned once more. A keen walker, he has fully enjoyed the numerous excellent hikes on all nine Azorean islands, crossing landscapes sculpted by years of volcanic activity. One of his keenest memories was offshore, spotting fin, blue and pilot whales in one magical morning off Ponta Delgada. ‘I love the islands’ authenticity’ he says, which remains intact despite increasing visitors numbers. Murray is an experienced guidebook updater and author with a passion for wildlife and the outdoors in general. He speaks five languages, including some Portuguese, and in 2016 won the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Award for Best Travel Guide for the first edition of Bradt’s Basque Country and Navarre.

‘The Bradt Travel Guide will tell you everything you need to know about each of the nine islands.’ Portugal Magazine

‘Author David Sayers, a botanical horticulturalist, has produced an informative, practical and user-friendly volume.’ EDP Saturday Magazine

‘Recommended reading’ National Geographic Traveller

Recommended reading Wanderlust Magazine

Additional Information

PART 1 GENERAL INFORMATION Chapter 1 Background Information Geography and climate, Natural history and conservation, History, Government and politics, Economy, Population, Language, Religion, Culture Chapter 2 Practical Information When to visit, Highlights, Planning on itinerary: which islands?, Tour operators, Tourist information, Red tape, Getting there and away, Health, Women travellers, Gay and lesbian travellers, Travellers with disability, Safety, What to take, Money, Budgeting, Getting around, Accommodation, Eating and drinking, Public holidays and festivals, Shopping, Arts and entertainment, Activities, Media and communications, Buying a property, Cultural etiquette, Travelling positively

PART 2 EASTERN GROUP Chapter 3 Sao Miguel Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Ponta Delgada, Touring the island, Activities, Walks Chapter 4 Santa Maria Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island

PART 3 CENTRAL GROUP Chapter 5 Terceira Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island Chapter 6 Graciosa Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Nightlife, Shopping, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island Chapter 7 Sao Jorge Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Nightlife, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island Chapter 8 Faial Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Entertainment and nightlife, Shopping, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island Chapter 9 Pico Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Shopping, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island

PART 4 WESTERN GROUP Chapter 10 Flores Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Nightlife, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities, Touring the island Chapter 11 Corvo Background, Getting there and away, Getting around, Tourist information, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Other practicalities, What to see and do, Activities

Appendix 1 Language Appendix 2 Flora Appendix 3 Fish on the menu Appendix 4 Further information Index

  • Azores: 20 Travel Tips To Know Before You Go

azores-travel-tips-things-to-know-before-go-lakes

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

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores waterfalls

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.

hot springs sao miguel azores

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.

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores lakes weather

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.

azores volcanic thermal pools

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!

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores hotsprings

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.

azores hot springs

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. 👇

hot springs sao miguel azores

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.

azores travel tips ferries route map inter island connections

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.

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores tea estate

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.

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores volcanic dark sands

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.

azores beaches

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 other destinations

It’s possible to travel to Azores with a budget of less than $100 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 2023)

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 .

what to pack azores islands

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.

things to know before travel azores travel tips

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.

Azores review

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.

azores travel tips things to know before trip azores tea estate

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.

azores-travel-tips-things-to-know-before-go-hiking-pico

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. 💚

Useful Resources

  • 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

Hot springs in são miguel: how and where to swim in thermal water, furnas, azores: unique things to do in the furnas valley, ponta delgada, azores: 12 things to do in my hometown.

  • The 13 Most Beautiful Azores Beaches
  • When Is The Best Time to Go To Azores?
  • Hiking in Azores: An Insider Guide
  • 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

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azores travel guide pdf

The Azores   Travel Guide

azores travel guide pdf

Courtesy of cinoby | Getty Images

azores travel guide pdf

Why Go To The Azores

The Azores (pronounced "ah-SORSH" by locals) is the kind of place you'd imagine to be the backdrop of a fantasy novel. That kind of end-of-the-earth setting where the characters encounter mystical creatures, bewitching lands and elixirs that give you magical powers. In a way, the Azores is that fantastical place. The Azores, a group of nine islands located about 1,000 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, were formed by a series of earthquakes and eruptions that took place thousands of years ago. Its Atlantic climate has given way to evergreen vegetation to take hold of its remaining debris, resulting in landscapes that are otherworldly and ripe for exploration.

In the Azores, you'll find its islands dotted with miles-long calderas enshrouded in tropical foliage, filled with multi-colored lakes, centuries-old Portuguese villages, or all of the above. In the water, you'll find one-third of the world's cetacean species at any given time. And if you take a trip to Furnas Valley on São Miguel island, you can take a dip in thermal pools that contain minerals produced from a dormant volcano, which are believed to help with issues ranging from allergies to anemia. Whichever way you decide to take in the magic of the Azores, know you'll be hard-pressed to find a place like this anywhere else in the world. 

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  • # 2 in Best Places to Visit in May 2024
  • # 3 in Best Summer Vacation Spots for 2023
  • # 6 in Best Beaches in Portugal

See All 5 Rankings

Best of The Azores

Best hotels in the azores.

  • # 1 in Azor Hotel
  • # 2 in Hotel Acores Atlantico
  • # 3 in Pedras do Mar Resort & Spa

Azor Hotel

Best Things to Do in The Azores

  • # 1 in Azores Whale Watching
  • # 2 in Sete Cidades (São Miguel)
  • # 3 in Lagoa do Fogo (São Miguel)

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Popular Tours

Quad Biking - Sete Cidades from North Coast (Half Day)

Quad Biking - Sete Cidades from North Coast (Half Day)

(403 reviews)

from $ 94.13

Small-Group Ponta Delgada Food Tour in Azores

Small-Group Ponta Delgada Food Tour in Azores

(376 reviews)

from $ 109.63

Side by Side Tour - Sete Cidades from North Coast (Half Day)

Side by Side Tour - Sete Cidades from North Coast (Half Day)

(38 reviews)

from $ 105.21

The Azores Travel Tips

Best months to visit.

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

What You Need to Know

Weather is unpredictable The Azores is a rainy destination. Even during the dry season, you could be subject to unexpected showers, as well as clouds and fog. Plan to pack a light jacket, umbrella and rain boots and use the Spotazores app to track conditions.

This isn't a beach destination Because of its volcanic history, the beaches here are largely small and rocky, with some considered unsafe for swimming. Plan to visit a few but don't make it the focus of your stay.

Sustainability is important The government and locals are keen on preventing the Azores from falling prey to overtourism. As such, be mindful of your impact as a tourist by picking up after yourself and respecting posted signs and rules while visiting natural attractions.

How to Save Money in The Azores

Stick to one island While each island has its own set of beautiful natural wonders, hopping from island to the next will add up in both travel and accommodation costs.

Visit during the offseason  While some activities may be limited between November and February, you'll likely snag travel deals simply because everyone visits during the summer.

Camp There are several camping parks around the Azores that are guaranteed to be a fraction of what you will pay for hotel rates.

Culture & Customs

The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal. The islands largely adhere to the same cultural norms as mainland Portugal: Portuguese is the primary language and the currency is the euro. Americans don't need a visa to reach the Azores, only a passport that is valid for six months past their departure date. Plus, much like the rest of Europe, most locals speak English as a second language and tipping in restaurants isn't required. 

Key differences between the Azores and mainland Portugal surface when it comes to sustainability. Tourism is more regulated by both the locals and the government compared to other European vacation destinations. Here, there are rules regulating the number of hotel rooms available on each island and certain attractions, including Pico Mountain , limit the number of visitors it admits. So, if you're headed to the Azores, do as the locals do and respect the lands you are about to explore.

What to Eat

For such a remote archipelago, the Azores are surprisingly self-sustaining. The region boasts a wide-ranging bounty that's not only able to provide its residents with plenty of local goods, but also give visitors a taste of something they won't find anywhere else. This is especially true with one of the island's most famous dishes, cozido de Furnas. Found in the volcanic neighborhood of Furnas on São Miguel Island, cozido de Furnas is a hearty stew made of vegetables and various meats, including beef, chicken and sausage. While this may sound just like any other stovetop meal, this version is unique in that it's cooked in the ground among the fumaroles of Furnas. In other words, the naturally emitting heat from the earth is cooking the stew.

The Azores has many local delicacies that will please any palate. Local tea, coffee, wine, cheese, seafood, fruit and beef are all must-tries here. The Azores houses both the only tea plantation in Europe as well as the continent's largest coffee plantation. Plus, the region's wine country on Pico Island holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. While here, seek out the popular Frei Gigante white wine and the Terras de Lava red wine. And if you happen to be on Pico Island during your trip, visit the Azores Wine Company for tastings.

You can't have wine here without cheese. In addition to scenic landscapes, the Azores is filled with dairy cows. In fact, it's the island's landscape that makes the flavor of the dairy produced here distinct and delicious. In the Azores, cows are free-range their whole lives. And when it's time to procure milk, the extraction machines are brought directly to the cows, wherever they are. This, in combination with the animal's grass-fed diet, produces remarkable dairy products. If you're on Terceira Island, go to Angra do Heroísmo's Vaquinha factory, where you can watch the cheese-making process and sample some of the island's best. You can also find local cheese all around the island, just make sure to ask for local cheese when out at restaurants.

Last but not least, the seafood. You'll find plenty of fish, including unique pink-hued tuna, but also many unique creatures, including barnacles (cracas) and sea snails (lapas). Locust lobsters are also a specialty here that is not to be missed thanks to their tender meat. After you've indulged in the region's savory offerings, don't forget to try its sweet treats, specifically fruit. The island's famously small, yet sweet pineapples are a great way to cleanse the palate after an amazing meal. 

Getting Around The Azores

The best way to get around the Azores is by car. A rental car allows you travel with complete freedom, as buses around the islands can be unpredictable and cater more to locals than visitors. Plus, taxi fares will add up fast. As for the best interisland transportation, that depends entirely on the island you want to travel to and from. Ferries can be fun and cost-effective if you are traveling to a neighboring island, but some of the outer islands are best reached by plane.

To get to the Azores, it's best to fly into João Paulo II Airport (PDL) at Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel, the Azores' biggest island. Because of its remote location, direct flights to the Azores from destinations outside Portugal are limited, so you should expect to take at least one connecting flight.

Entry & Exit Requirements

U.S. Citizens will need a valid passport to travel to, from and within Portugal. Your passport must be valid for six months beyond your stay; you won't need a visa unless your trip extends beyond 90 days.  For up-to-date information about foreign exit and entry requirements, visit the U.S. State Department's website .

The Azores are a collection of nine islands located about 1,000 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal.

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Azores travel guide

Where to stay, food and drink.

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Thursday December 14 2023, 13:15pm

Why you’ll love it

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The sweet scent of hydrangeas emanating from verdant pastures. That soul-warming feeling of immersing yourself in a thermal pool. Dolphins riding the breaking waves. Welcome to the Azores , a land where your senses will be reinvigorated. Halfway between Europe and North America, these nine rugged islands have been shaped by nature over millions of years. Towering cliffs plummet abruptly towards the shore, where basalt homes perch on lava-flow plateaus. Waterfalls roar, migrating birds sing and glistening crater lakes vie for your attention from dark-sand beaches.

There is little to distract you in the middle of the Atlantic, the modern world fading further away with every step. Be guided by a network of breathtaking trails, promising picturesque vistas at every turn, before returning to 15th-century settlements of black-and-white calçada cobbled streets and ornate churches, where boutique hotels have flourished. Seafood is grilled fresh from the ocean and stews are boiled in underground thermal springs. This is Portugal, but it’s also not — the autonomous Azores are a realm unto their own, and you’ll quickly realise that one visit will never be enough.

Main photo: Lake of Sete Cidades in Sao Miguel, Azores (Alamy)

This is Portugal, but it’s also not — the autonomous Azores are a realm unto their own

Get planning

azores travel guide pdf

Portugal’s volcanic adventure playground can be as active or relaxing as you crave, with many of the most beautiful spots accessible by car. On the largest island of São Miguel make a beeline for the Sete Cidades* crater lake, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. From above, half of it shimmers with greens and the other with blues — a perfect vantage is the Vista do Rei Miradouro.

Further east, the appropriately named Furnas is alive with geothermal activity, with hot springs gurgling out mineral-infused water* . Sink into the warm muddy brown pools and let the healing properties soothe your body and mind. If dazzlingly clear waters are more your style, the rugged coast across the archipelago is home to countless natural pools, with Simão Dias in São Jorge arguably the most striking. Black-sand beaches are the norm; the only golden sands are in Santa Maria’s picturesque bays.

Sticking on the coast, hop on board a whale-watching tour* to witness some of the Azores’ grandest residents in the wild. Sperm whales, fin whales and pilot whales are often spotted alongside jumping dolphin pods.

Hiking trails of varying length and difficulty are marked, with some of the most rewarding in Pico and São Jorge. The challenging and magnificent PR02 SJO route takes in two of the Azores’ most remarkable fajãs (landslides or lava flows), while a climb to the summit of Mount Pico* will bring you above the clouds atop the highest peak in all of Portugal.

The appropriately named Furnas is alive with geothermal activity, with hot springs gurgling out mineral-infused water

From luxury villas with enticing infinity pools to thermal spa hotels and forested eco-resorts, the Azores have undoubtedly raised the accommodation bar in recent years. São Miguel offers the most extensive selection of accommodation, with Ponta Delgada* and the surrounding coast characterised by high-end marina-facing residences, whitewashed premium villas and affordable guesthouses. Inland, luxury spa hotels in thermal-infused Furnas lure you in with decadent treatment rooms. Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort* is becoming a surf hotspot on the north coast thanks to the cliff-side location above the swell-friendly beach.

In Terceira luxurious tree cabins on the north coast induce a nature-inspired sleep, with the bulk of premium sea-view hotels on the outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo. Here, and on Faial island, historic forts have been reborn as Pousada hotels promising a heritage stay.

In Pico basalt stone homes among the vines are characterful sojourns, while the mountain makes its best impression when admired from a boutique quinta swimming pool in neighbouring São Jorge.

Santa Maria, known for its rare golden sands, offers a delightful hostel in Vila do Porto, with private rooms in a heritage building and a sea-view pool. You’ll find fewer than a handful of options on tiny Corvo* — making a ‘turismo rural’ in Flores a better base to explore the two farthest-flung islands.

Lapas grelhadas (grilled limpets) are a staple of Azorean cuisine, and you’ll find them dished out in nearly every beach bar, café or restaurant. These molluscs are in abundance on the coastal rocks and delicious served with simple ingredients, such as butter, lemon, salt or garlic.

For the islands’ most unique dish, Cozido das Furnas, head to the interior of São Miguel. This tasty meat stew is buried underground, where it’s slowly cooked using natural thermal heat before being dug up, ready to devour. If you prefer your meat grilled, Azorean beef is on another level thanks to lush pastures where cows roam freely.

Tropical fruits are surprisingly bountiful in the Azores . Sweet pineapples make for a sugary breakfast, while maracuja (passion fruit) is everywhere and forms the basis of the Azores’ own fizzy drink, Kima.

Producing wine in volcanic soil is no easy task, and the patchwork of black stone-walled vineyards (currais) across Pico is testament to the Azorean spirit. Head to Lajido to wander the Unesco world heritage site vines before sampling these higher-acidity vinhos in the interpretation centre. Next door a modern museum shares the Azores’ history, including an earthquake-simulating shaking floor. For your wine-friendly accompaniment the semi-hard cheese Queijo São Jorge is one of the most celebrated.

Sitting at the intersection of three tectonic plates hasn’t just shaped the Azores landscape, it’s created a unique climate for some very non-European cuppas to flourish. Tour neatly manicured rows of tea plants at Gorreana Factory on the north coast of São Miguel, or visit one of just two European commercial coffee plantations at Fajã dos Vimes in São Jorge.

To witness the historic mark of another hot liquid, head to the Gruta das Torres in Pico, an underground cave system of lava tubes. Carved out over thousands of years by rushing magma, the tunnels are a wonderful insight into how these islands formed. Similar spectacles can be found in Ponta Delgada and Terceira.

Know before you go

Demand for car rentals can outstrip supply, especially in the summer months. Book well in advance for fairer prices and guaranteed wheels — public transport is limited and won’t always get you to the best spots. Island hopping is possible. Ferries operate seasonal schedules, with some routes shuttering in winter when travelling can be bleak (aim for a visit between May and October). Be prepared for short-notice delays or rescheduling if the Atlantic waves become too strong. Domestic flights connect all the islands but are best utilised when travelling longer distances, moving between the three island groups.

Take me there

Inspired to visit the Azores but yet to book your trip? Here are the best packages from Expedia* and British Airways* . These are the best tours of Azores from our trusted partners* .

Times Travel

20 MUST KNOW Azores Tips – Your Ultimate Guide

05/27/2023 by Kristin Addis Leave a Comment

Table of Contents

1. The Azores are a Green, Volcanic Landscape

azores ultimate guide

The Azores struck me with how lush they were. From the far eastern islands to the western ones, they were an intense green I’d only otherwise seen in Ireland and New Zealand, mixed with dramatic volcanic landscape I’d only seen in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, plus ample waterfalls and tropical plants. I’ve never quite seen anything like it, combined with the charm of Portuguese culture and architecture. It’s a destination that’s easy to fall in love with.

2. The Azores are Remote

azores flores island

The Azores are a Group of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The most Eastern are São Miguel , Santa Maria, and the Formigas islets, the central group is Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira, and Graciosa, and the northwestern group is Flores and Corvo.

There is very little around them for miles, and many of your friends may have never even heard of them. This is part of what makes them so beautiful and charming, but know that you’re headed to a rural, remote area that will still have creature comforts, but will differ from mainland Europe in terms of getting around, product availability, and things to do and see.

3. Getting Food, Groceries, and Medicines

azores travel tips

That said, most of the islands can be pretty well stocked! Everything from medicines to food, fruit, and supermarket staples tend to be available. If traveling to a more populated island like São Miguel or Terceira, you’ll see Continente stores with huge food selections. If visiting a more remote island like Flores, you might find more empty supermarket shelves. At least, that was our experience.

Restaurants typically serve meat and potatoes types of meals, but you’ll also find locally-grown tropical fruit and the dish pictured above, Cozido, which is boiled in the ground!

4. Staying Connected/Navigating

azores sao miguel sete cidades

With the Azores being so remote, does that mean cell signal and Wi-Fi is hard to find? Thankfully no! Public Wi-Fi was sometimes available, most restaurants have it, and I had a great connection for most of the time through my eSIM with Nomad (Use my code “KRIS56JB” for $3 off!). I used to purchase local SIM cards at the airports, but an eSIM is simply far more convenient, especially now that I am traveling with a baby. I can install the eSIM in advance, and activate it upon arrival. It made navigating with Google Maps and finding restaurants while we were out and about much easier.

5. It’s Never That Cold (or Hot)

azores travel guide pdf

The Azores experience a subtropical environment with temperatures rarely going over the high-70s F or mid-20s C, or dipping below 60F or 10C. The biggest difference between seasons can be rainfall, which is highest October-March and lowest in the summer months. The islands are also quite humid, so the cooler temps can feel much cooler, and the warmer temps much warmer.

The Azores are also characteristically windy, and can be quite cloudy and gloomy outside of the summer months, though overall, the weather is unpredictable. Read more about Azores weather, sea temp, and when to go here.

6. Expect Four Seasons in One Day

azores tips

All of that said, even the warmest, most sunny summer day can experience sudden rain. Always be prepared with a rain jacket! I loved this bright yellow one from Eddie Bauer . It was just thin but also thick enough to be a great wind and rain shield without being too hot.

7. Leave Room for Weather Interruptions

All of that said, leave room in your itinerary for potential weather interruptions, especially if traveling outside of the summer months. When in Sete Cidades, we knew that cloud cover can be common, so we gave it three days in hopes of seeing the best viewpoints, which still never totally cleared up.

When we flew to Flores, the first time the plane couldn’t land due to the wind, so we had to turn around and spend an extra night in São Miguel. I’m glad we gave Flores a few extra days while planning to account for this.

8. Tourism Season is Mostly Summer

Since the weather can be so much more unpredictable and gloomy outside of the summer months, expect for prices to be higher and tourism to be add to highest during June, July, and August. Late May and early September can experience nice weather with somewhat lighter crowds, though I roll the dice of it going much outside of those months.

We visited at the end of April/early May and while it was still beautiful, we had a few days of truly awful weather, and it wasn’t warm enough to consider swimming. Still, booking was easier, it was less crowded, and accommodation and car rentals were cheaper.

9. Things Book out Well in Advance

azores hotels

If you are visiting during peak tourist season, try to book as far in advance as possible. Hotels, tours, and cars are limited, especially on the smaller and more remote islands.

Check out my favorite hotels in the Azores here.

10. Rent a Car

Although some of the larger islands like São Miguel offer bus tours, the best way to experience the Azores is to rent a car and drive around them yourself. For the most part, driving is quite relaxed and it’s a lot of two-lane roads. If you get car sick, know they are mostly very windy with lots of twists and turns.

They are mostly well-paved, and though some towns can be quite narrow with one-way streets, the driving was mostly low-stress. Book as soon as you know you’re going, especially if you need an automatic car. We booked everything through Booking.com and ended up with Autatlantis and Ilha Verde, both of which were good.

11. Take Your Time

sao miguel mirador

Although the islands look small, and in some cases possible to drive around within a few hours, there is so much to see and do that each one could easily deserve a week or more to itself. Plus, as mentioned before, weather is unpredictable and could foil the day’s plans.

For our first visit, we didn’t try to see every single island, instead picking two to focus on. When my partner went for the first time, he spent two weeks on São Miguel alone.

12. Consider Inter-Island Logistics

I didn’t feel like getting around the islands with all that difficult or expensive — it certainly had nothing on the logistical nightmare that was planning French Polynesia — but you’ll still have to deal with some flights only taking place on certain days and between certain islands. Sata Azores will be your only option for inter-island flights. Unfortunately there is no longer a major ferry route that connects them all, either.

Read more about how to get to and around the Azores here.

13. Pack Light if You Can!

Sata Azores thankfully includes one checked bag for free — at least, they did when I flew them this month — but keep in mind that car rentals in Europe are tiny! We struggled with our two suitcases , carry-ons, and the extra baby gear that we needed.

Two people could easily share a rental, but a whole family or larger group might have to opt for a van or multiple rentals to fit everything. I’d probably opt for the latter since some roads are narrow and parking spots are small.

Check out my Azores packing list here.

Before I had a baby and a lot of electronics, I traveled exclusively carry-on only! This is how I did it.

14. It’s All About the Outdoors

sao miguel sete cidades overlook

While driving around the Azores my partner exclaimed that they have something for everyone. While I agree for the most part, it does not really have a nightlife scene, and if you don’t enjoy spending most of your time outside, they’re probably not the islands for you.

The Azores are about culture, hiking, hot springs depending on the island, and mostly the great outdoors. The best things to do are hiking, checking out the Miradores, whale watching , and even swimming with dolphins!

15. Most Things are Free!

The best part is, most of the things that you want to do in the Azores are going to be free. Of course, tours and some attractions like the caves on Terceira or the famous garden on Sao Miguel cost money, but the miradores (scenic viewpoints), hikes, waterfalls, and swimming areas are all free.

16. Don’t Expect a Beach Holiday

sao miguel piscinas

Speaking of swimming areas, most islands have ‘natural pools’, which are volcanic rock pools on the coastline, rather than beaches. While there are some black sand volcanic beaches, they are few and far between. The waves can also be intense. Although the Azores are often affectionately referred to as the ‘Hawaii of Europe,’ this really isn’t a tropical beach holiday.

17. Azores Budget

Like Portugal, I felt at the Azores were a great value. While you can certainly spend more if you want to on accommodation, you can also find wonderful places to stay for €50 per night!

Groceries are also much more affordable than they are in the US. I couldn’t believe how much cheaper diapers were!

18. Tipping

Like much of Europe, tipping equates to rounding up on your dinner or lunch bill. In some nicer restaurants, like the one at Octant Furnace on Sao Miguel, a 10% gratuity was worked into the final price, but usually, tipping like one does in North America is not expected.

19. Language Barrier

I’ll be honest, my Portuguese is embarrassing. It’s not that I have a hard time with reading comprehension since it is so similar to Spanish, it’s just that I want to pronounce everything with a Spanish accent, and it couldn’t be more different in Portuguese. Thankfully, locals generally speak at least some English and even the signage in large supermarkets was also in English. It’s always important to learn at least some pleasantries like olá (hello) and obrigada (thanks), but if that’s all you know, you’ll be okay.

20. Family Friendliness

azores furnace octant

I’ve traveled to the Azores with my nine month old and I could not believe how incredibly family friendly it was! It’s not just that people were so sweet and friendly with our baby, but I really felt like Portugal goes above and beyond to accommodate families with little ones. We skipped every line due to a law that requires those with children under 2 (as well as those who are pregnant, elderly, or have a disability), to be served first everywhere from immigration to car rental lines and even restaurants.

Each hotel we stayed at also had cribs, which were often full of toys and the cutest bedding. One hotel even had a full line of baby shampoos and a tiny bathrobe!

Overall, the Azores became one of my favorite destinations. The beauty of it plus the friendliness and affordability have me wanting to go back!

*This post was brought to you in partnership with Nomad. There are also affiliate links in this post. Any purchase you make through them supports this site at no extra cost to you!

About Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is the founder and CEO of Be My Travel Muse, a resource for female travelers all around the world since 2012. She's traveled solo to over 65 countries and has brought over 150 women on her all-female adventure tours from Botswana to the Alaskan tundra.

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SUSTAINABLE BY NATURE

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The best natural experiences

9 naturally surprising islands.

In every trail discovered, every dive conquered and every new flavour embraced. It’s through nature that we care for what is most natural, right in the heart of the Atlantic. 9 naturally surprising islands, with hotels and restaurants in complete harmony with the environment. The no. 1 archipelago in sustainability awaits you.

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Azores , Nature , Portugal , Sao Miguel , Travel Guide · October 10, 2015

The ultimate quick guide to Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel, also named Ilha Verde (Green Island), is the biggest and most sophisticated island of the Azores, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the only place in Europe where you can find tea plantations. Not only can you swim in hot springs or at waterfalls, Sao Miguel is also the ultimate spot to go hiking. The most popular attractions are the Caldeira das Sete Cidades and the valley of Furnas. The capital Ponta Delgada is a fun town to wander around and discover some nice restaurants.

Planning your trip

You can find a lot of useful information on these websites:

Azores Visit Azores Azores Trails Azores Geopark

Getting to Sao Miguel

Depending where you’re from the following airlines offer direct flights to Ponta Delgada: Air Canada, Air Transat, airberlin/NIKI, Alitalia, ArkeFly (charter), British Airways, easyJet, Jetairfly, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair, SATA International and TAP Portugal. It takes around three-and-a-half hours from London Gatwick/Heathrow and around four hours from Boston.

Caldeira Velha Sao Miguel Azores

Getting around

I advise you to rent a car because this way you can drive around the complete island at your own pace. You can choose where to go and how to plan your day. There is public transport at Sao Miguel, but they don’t stop at the highlights. You could get a taxi to drive around, but this is more expensive than renting a car and the driver will only give you a limited time to explore each place.

What to see and do

Furnas Sao Miguel Azores

Sao Miguel is the island with the most diverse landscape of the Azores, so there are a lot of different things to see and do! First of all there are a lot of craters ( caldeiras ) with lakes such as Sete Cidades , Furnas and Lagoa do Fogo . All the lakes are surrounded by miradouros so you get many wonderful views.

Salto do Prego Sao Miguel Azores

Eat & drink

100 espinhas Ponta Delgada Sao Miguel Azores

Where to stay

I strongly recommend Hotel Talisman in the centre of Ponta Delgada where they had small but practical rooms and the best breakfast (waffles, eggs, fresh fruit,…)! The rooftop pool is a nice extra.

Getting off the island

Poco da Alagoinha Flores Azores

If you have the time and money I advise you to visit other islands as well such as Flores . SATA offers flights to all the Azorean islands. Between May and September you can also take the ferry.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel and the Facebook page to stay up to date!

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October 10, 2015 at 5:35 PM

I’m sorry but not aware of European airlines flying to Azores other than Ryan air which only recently as last year started flying to Azores…

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October 10, 2015 at 5:47 PM

Then now you knowbecause they’re all in the guide!! 🙂 I flew with Jetairfly!

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January 25, 2017 at 4:07 AM

Thank you for sharing such helpful information on Sao Miguel! My family and I will be headed there in March (middle to the end). We will have an 8 month old and 3 year old with us. Do you think we would be able to hike with a heavy duty stroller (City Elite)? I’m concerned that the trails may be too narrow or steep. I’m hoping to explore some gentle trails with the kids vs. just stopping at look out points.

January 25, 2017 at 7:33 PM

Hi Winnie, Thanks for your comment, unfortunately I have absolutely no experience with traveling with kids or strollers. The hikes I did didn’t seem to be made for strollers though. Steep, rocky paths… Maybe you can find stroller friendly hikes here: http://trails.visitazores.com/ Good luck and enjoy your vacation! You’ll love it!

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azores travel guide pdf

See Nic Wander

Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal Travel Guide: Plan An Amazing Azores Trip!

Updated: September 12, 2023

Things to do in Sao Miguel Azores Portugal

See Nic Wander contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Associates Program. I may earn a commission on purchases made through these links. Read my  disclaimer  to learn more.

Located 1,500km west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find the Azores, a stunning archipelago known for its natural beauty and volcanic landscape.

Sao Miguel is the largest of the nine islands that make up the Azores. If you enjoy hiking around volcanoes, relaxing in geothermal hot springs, spending time in the great outdoors, and exploring local cuisine, Sao Miguel, Azores is the perfect place to visit.

In this Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal travel guide, we’ll explore the best things to see and do to help you have an amazing trip!

Plan Your Adventure To Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal

  • Accommodation: Browse Sao Miguel, Azores Hotels
  • Transportation: Book Sao Miguel, Azores Rental Cars
  • Things To Do: Explore Tours and Activities
  • Arrival: Check Flight Prices to Sao Miguel

About the Azores

The Azores islands are part of Portugal and are known for having breathtaking scenery, diverse plant life, and striking black sand beaches. Travelers come here for whale watching, surfing, hiking, and simply to get away from it all while surrounded by nature.

Because the Azores are located along tectonic plate boundaries, the archipelago is a hotbed of geothermal activity. The result is a dramatic, mountainous landscape where rich soil allows lush vegetation to flourish.

The Azores were first settled in the 1400s. Around the island, you can see historical buildings and monuments built out of dark volcanic rock.

The capital city of Sao Miguel is called Ponta Delgada. Here, you’ll find the main airport, a cruise terminal, a large harbor, and several shops and restaurants.

Sao Miguel is relatively small in size and you can drive pretty much anywhere on the island in about an hour. 

View of Ponta Delgada Azores Portugal

Sao Miguel Azores Travel Guide FAQ

How do i get to sao miguel in the azores.

The best way to get to Sao Miguel island in the Azores is to fly in to Ponta Delgada airport. There are regular flights from Lisbon, Porto, Funchal, and other large airports around Europe.

What are the best things to do in Sao Miguel Azores?

The best thing to do in Sao Miguel, Azores is to visit Sete Cidades, Furnas, Terra Nostra Park, Lagoa do Fogo, Azorean pineapple plantations, tea plantations, and Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo.

Do I need a rental car when visiting Sao Miguel, Azores?

Yes, I highly recommend renting a car for your Sao Miguel Azores trip. Having a car makes it easier to travel to all the amazing sites and regions around the island.

When to visit Sao Miguel Azores

The peak travel season for Sao Miguel Azores is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is warm and there’s less rain than in the winter months, but keep in mind that the unique location and climate of the island means the weather can be unpredictable. 

We were there in July and some days it went from sunny to rainy and back to sunny in just a few minutes. Overall, the weather was very good, but it’s a smart idea to pack a rain jacket, especially on days when you visit volcanoes since there can be more precipitation at the higher elevations. 

Summer is also when the hydrangeas bloom around the island. During the bloom season, which is usually late July into early August, the island is covered in plumes of blue flowers.

Before our trip, we didn’t realize that we’d be in Sao Miguel during peak bloom time and it was a wonderful surprise. If you can arrange your visit during this time, it’s definitely a sight to see. 

The shoulder season happens during the fall and spring. The weather will be cooler and you might get a bit more rain, but there are fewer crowds and prices are lower usually lower. 

During the winter, expect the weather to be chilly and rainy, but overall still mild. You won’t get a full-blown winter in the Azores, but you’ll definitely want to bring layers and rain gear. 

If you’re a surfer, Azores can be an awesome place to catch waves during the winter months. It’s possible to do some surfing during the summer, but many days were pancake flat, which can be disappointing if you’re hoping for a surf holiday. 

Blue Flowers Azores Portugal

How to get to Sao Miguel Island, Azores

To get to Sao Miguel, Azores, you’ll likely fly into Ponta Delgada . You can fly to the Azores directly from several larger airports around Europe as well as from Lisbon, Porto, and Funchal (Madeira) in Portugal. 

If you’re coming from the United States, there are direct flights to the Azores from Boston or you can fly to mainland Portugal first, then catch a connection from there.

We flew from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada on Ryanair and the flight was just over two hours.

Tile church sao miguel azores

Traveling Around Sao Miguel Portugal

The best way to travel around Sao Miguel is by renting a car. I strongly recommend booking a car for your visit in advance. We made the mistake of waiting until we arrived to arrange a car, and all the cars on the island were already reserved or extremely expensive (one quote was over $1000 per day!)

Luckily we were traveling with some wonderful friends who had a rental car already so we were able to join them for sightseeing and adventures.

The big takeaway? A car is a must in Sao Miguel, and if you can, book it in advance.

If you aren’t able to rent a car, one alternative is to book organized tour experiences with a driver so that you get to see all the Sao Miguel highlights. If you go this route, make sure to stay near Ponta Delgada as most tours depart from the city.  

For traveling shorter distances, taxis are widely available near the cities. We used TaxiLink and they have an app you can download if you plan to use taxis often during your trip. There’s also a number on their website to arrange a pickup. 

Travel Guide Sao Miguel Azores Portugal

Things To Do In Sao Miguel, Azores Portugal

In this section, we’ll look at some Sao Miguel highlights and fun things to do on the island. For us, it worked best to plan our activities based on location. For example, we dedicated one day to exploring Furnas, then another day we went to Sete Cidates, then we spent the following day in Ribeira Grande, and so on.

Things To Do In Sete Cidades, Azores

Sete Cidades is a volcano on the western side of Sao Miguel and it’s home to a small village, colorful lakes, world-class hikes, and stunning viewpoints.

Sete Cidades offers a dreamy combination of scenic driving and outdoor adventure. As you drive around Sete Cidades, you’ll pass overlooks, visitor areas, and trailheads that all offer an impressive view of the crater lakes below. Miradouro da Vista do Rei was one of our favorite spots to stop and take pictures. 

Sete Cidades Viewpoint Sao Miguel Azores

If you drive down toward the village, there are parking areas next to the lakes where you can rent kayaks if you’d like to experience the area from a different perspective. 

In this area, the weather can change quickly. We went to Sete Cidades twice on our trip and the first time it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything. With the scenery shrouded in a thick fog, we definitely didn’t get to see any of the viewpoints the area is known for. 

My advice? Plan to go to Sete Cidades early in your trip, that way you have the opportunity to go again later if you catch it on a foggy day. I’m so thankful we were able to go a second time and see the lakes under a blue sky. 

Travel Tip: You can use the website Spot Azores to check the real-time weather at Sete Cidades before you head over. Click on “Webcams” in the sidebar and then select “Sao Miguel.” Click on Sete Cidades to check the live weather and visibility. 

Adventurous Experience: Sete Cidades Half-Day ATV Quad Tour

Sete Cidades Lookout

Things To Do In Furnas, Azores

Furnas is one of my favorite places to visit on Sao Miguel Island, Azores and there’s a ton to see in a small area. The Furnas Valley is a volcanic area where the heat of the earth creates hot springs and volcanic calderas.

Start by visiting Lagoa das Furnas , the large lake just outside the city. Here, you can see the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas , take a hike around the lake, or take a walk through Grena Nature Park. 

Terra Nostra Park Furnas

Head into town to see the multi-level Calderias as Furnas and try Cozido , a traditional stew cooked inside pots buried in the hot mud. You can also explore Terra Nostra Park , which has hot springs for bathing and endless trails of botanical gardens. 

In the evening, take some time to relax in the Poça da Dona Beija hot springs. Here you can take a dip in five pools heated by geothermal energy.

Make sure to check out my full Furnas Azores travel guide in this post!

Relaxing Experience: Night Thermal Pools and Local Food Experience

Hot springs in Furnas Azores

Things To Do In Ponta Delgada, Azores 

The town of Ponta Delgada is a charming historic city that’s fun to stroll through for an afternoon. We enjoyed walking down by the harbor where you can see artwork painted on the concrete pathways by different people who have sailed into the Ponta Delgada Marina.

Just a few minutes outside of town, you can tour the Sao Miguel Pineapple Plantation that grows special Azorean Pineapple. Don’t forget to stop by the cafe to sample pineapple-themed snacks and drinks.  

If you’re in town for dinner, I loved A Tasca for cozy, local Portuguese cuisine and Ta Gente for fancy cocktails and tapas.

A Tasca doesn’t take reservations and the line can be long, but we were able to get a table by going earlier in the evening (around 7:30 pm) on a weeknight. 

Related Post: 19 Things To Do In Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada Azores

Things To Do In Lagoa do Fogo, Azores

Lagoa do Fogo , or the lagoon of fire, is a natural wonder on the island of Sao Miguel Azores. Located in the center of the island, this spot is a nature reserve surrounding a lake in the crater of a volcano.

Lagoa do Fogo is ideal for hiking enthusiasts and this post has a great breakdown of what to expect on one of the longer trails which takes you all the way down to the lake.

azores travel guide pdf

Things To Do In Ribeira Grande, Azores

The Ribeira Grande region is located on the northern side of the island. Here, you can go for a surf or a swim at Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara , a black-sand beach with beautiful cliff views.

In the town of Ribeira Grande, you can go for a swim at the Piscinas Municipais de Ribeira Grande or walk a bit further down the coast to different lookout points like the Miradouro do Palheiro and Miradouro do Castelo .

In town, the City Garden of Ribeira Grande is a great place to walk, read a book, or play with little ones.

Another fun thing to do in Ribeira Grande is hiking to Salto do Cabrito , a waterfall and swimming hole surrounded by greenery. Nearby, you can visit the Gorreana Tea Plantation to see one of the oldest tea farms in Europe.

azores travel guide pdf

Things To Do In Nordeste, Azores

Nordeste, as the name suggests, is located in the northeastern corner of the island. Here, you can take a hike along the cliffs through Parque Endemico do Pelado or enjoy the view at the lookout point called Miradouro da Boca da Ribeira .

If you’re traveling with children, the Reserve Florestal de Recreio do Viveiro has playgrounds, farm animals, and picnic spots. 

Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo

Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo is a c-shaped island just off the south coast of Sao Miguel and you can visit by boat. The island is known for swimming, snorkeling, and hiking.

Boat tickets cost 6 Euros and you can either book tickets online or in-person at the marina in Vila Franco do Campo. 

Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo, image via depositphotos

Where to stay in Sao Miguel Azores

There are so many beautiful areas to stay in Sao Miguel, Azores.

We stayed in centrally located Ponta Delgada. From here, you can quickly access attractions on the east and west side of the island. It’s also an easy jumping-off point for any organized tours and activities you might want to do. 

If you have more time, you may want to stay in a few different areas to get to know other parts of the island.

Let’s take a look at some popular places to stay in Sao Miguel.

Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

Ponta Delgada is the small capital city of Sao Miguel and it’s close to bars, restaurants, and swimming beaches.

We stayed just outside Ponta Delgada in two different accommodations and really enjoyed the location.

There are many relaxing beach houses and apartments a few kilometers outside the city center toward Praia do Pópulo. This area is quieter than downtown and you’ll have a natural beach view.

Beach House Recommendation: If you’re traveling as a family or group of friends, this beach house is a great option with plenty of space in an incredible location. Just steps from Praia do Pópulo, the home has a huge yard and three bedrooms. Check Prices and Availability

Apartment Recommendation: Lila Ocean View Apartment overlooks the beach and has an awesome view. If you’re a surfer, you can check the waves without even getting out of bed! The unit is on the 11th floor and has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a parking space, and a washing machine. Check Prices and Availability

azores travel guide pdf

Furnas, Sao Miguel

Furnas is a charming town located in a volcanic crater with hiking, hot springs, and botanical gardens nearby. The town has beautiful scenery and plenty of restaurants to choose from, making this a great home base for a few days during your trip.

Furnas offers a healthy balance of activity and relaxation – you can spend the day hiking around active volcanoes and then unwind at a spa fueled by geothermal hot springs!

Hotel Recommendation: Furnas Boutique Hotel has excellent reviews across the web and is located just a short walk from some of the best things to do in Furnas. They even have a private pool and spa that are fueled by the volcanic energy of the area.  Check Prices and Availability

azores travel guide pdf

Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel

Located on the north of the island, the Ribeira Grande is great for surfers, families, and anyone who wants to relax on the beach. Ribeira Grande has a small downtown area, shady parks and playgrounds, and public swimming pools right on the water.

It’s close to Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara which has a nice little boardwalk, restaurants, surf schools, and convenient beach facilities like restrooms and showers.  

Hotel Recommendation: The Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort offers modern, ecologically friendly villas and studios overlooking Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara. Guests have access to wellness and spa services, as well as a spacious swimming pool with a view. Check Prices and Availability

azores travel guide pdf

Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel

If you’ve seen a postcard from the Azores, you’ve probably seen Sete Cidades. This area is one of the most iconic spots on the island and it’s known for its blue and green volcanic crater lakes surrounded by lush greenery.

There’s a small town down in the crater which could be a cool place to stay for a day or two, especially if you want to do lots of hikes in this area.

Hotel Recommendation: Sete Cidades Quinta Da Queiró offers guest house accommodations in the rural Sete Cidades village. It’s located right at the intersection of the blue lake and the green lake, and guests love the gardens and mountain views. Check Prices and Availability

azores travel guide pdf

Best Restaurants in Sao Miguel Portugal

No travel guide to the Azores would be complete without restaurant recommendations, and Sao Miguel Portugal is a foodie paradise! If you’re a fan of cheese, beef, wine, or seafood, you’re in for a world-class experience. Whenever you can, order a cheese and meat board to sample an assortment of these delicacies.

A Tasca was one of our favorite meals in Sao Miguel and it came highly recommended by friends, so I know we’re not alone!

With classic dishes and a mouthwatering selection of cheeses, meats, and mains, you definitely want to come hungry. Remember to try the pineapple cake for dessert! 

Bar Caloura

Bar Caloura is a fresh seafood restaurant located right on the water in Caloura on the south coast. It’s a got a divine view of the water and the cliffs, and the food was some of the best we had on the island.

Alex and I usually aren’t huge seafood people, but we both loved the tuna and the mountain of grilled vegetables that came with it. 

This spacious outdoor restaurant is located in Furnas and it’s a great place to try a local specialty called Cozido, an Azorean stew cooked inside a volcano. A Quinta was a lovely space to relax after exploring the gardens in Furnas and there was plenty of shade.

It’s a good lunch spot if you’re traveling with a family since there’s space for kids to run around in the grass. 

Restaurante da Associação Agricola de Sao Miguel

We heard from several people that Restaurante da Associação Agricola de Sao Miguel is one of the best places to eat on the island and it’s definitely on the list for next time.

If you can, make a reservation in advance because this restaurant is very popular! They’re best known for their meat options. 

Sunset Beach Bar and Restaurant

Whether you’re looking for beachfront brunch or a memorable dinner with friends, Sunset Beach Bar will take good care of you. This restaurant was very close to the beach house where we stayed at the beginning of our trip and they serve hardy dishes all day.

Food to try in Sao Miguel Azores Portugal

Organized Tours and Experiences

If you’re short on time, doing an organized tour can be a great way to see as much of the island as possible. These tours and experiences have high reviews and cover some of the best things to do Sao Miguel Azores!

  • Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo Full-Day Tour with Lunch
  • Furnas and Nordeste Full Day Tour from Ponta Delgada

Final Thoughts: Sao Miguel Azores

Even though this island is small in size, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal has plenty to do for all types of travelers.

It’s a place I see myself visiting many times in the future, and it’s a must-visit destination for anyone who loves reconnecting with nature.  

More Azores, Portugal Posts

  • Sao Miguel Food Guide: Best Restaurants in Sao Miguel Azores
  • What To Do In Furnas Azores
  • Best Ponta Delgada Attractions and Activities
  • 17 Best Hotels in Sao Miguel, Portugal

Portugal Travel Itineraries

  • Portugal 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
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Sao Miguel Azores Portugal Travel Guide

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The Azores Islands

azores travel guide pdf

Azores Islands Guides: Your Azores Vacation Starts Here

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.

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 whale and dolphin watching. 

Hyper-focused on sustainability and preservation, the Azoreans 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 whale watching, mineral hot springs, endless hiking trails, adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities, delicious food and wine, interesting history, and friendly locals sound 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 the Azores, Toronto to the Azores, or the UK to the Azores, we offer vacation solutions for everyone!

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  • $769 Mar 24
  • $949 May 24
  • $1139 Jun 24
  • $1099 Jul 24
  • $1089 Aug 24
  • $859 Sep 24
  • $789 Oct 24
  • $789 Nov 24
  • $789 Dec 24
  • $849 Jan 24
  • $786 Feb 24
  • $809 Mar 24
  • $954 May 24
  • $1320 Jun 24
  • $1393 Jul 24
  • $1035 Aug 24
  • $979 Sep 24
  • $849 Oct 24
  • $949 Nov 24
  • $949 Dec 24
  • $919 Jan 24
  • $869 Feb 24
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  • $1419 Jul 24
  • $1209 Aug 24
  • $1069 Sep 24
  • $949 Oct 24
  • $1049 Nov 24
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Still not convinced?

Unplug, unwind and get lost in the nature of the azores.

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IMAGES

  1. Travel Guide to the Azores Islands

    azores travel guide pdf

  2. Azores Islands Map and Travel Guide

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  3. UPDATED April 2020: The complete guide to the Azores Islands

    azores travel guide pdf

  4. Guías de viaje Anaya Touring

    azores travel guide pdf

  5. Flores Azores: The Ultimate Travel Guide

    azores travel guide pdf

  6. 10 Day Azores Itinerary in 2020

    azores travel guide pdf

VIDEO

  1. Follow Us If You Love Travel!

  2. Azores Islands, Portugal (my most Happy Moments in 2022) GoodVibes #azores #inspiration #sãomiguel

  3. This is Azores!

  4. Azores Islands Portugal, Photo Slideshow

  5. HOW DO TURKEYS TALK IN PORTUGUES?

  6. The Best of My Trip To Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal

COMMENTS

  1. Brochuras

    Azores Marinas Guide. Download. Diving Guide. Download. Walking Trails Guide. Download. A Sea of a Thousand Experiences. Download. A protected Harbor Between Three Continents. Download. Wine Tourism in Azores. Download. Pocket Guide - The Allure of the Azores. Download. Five Centuries of Religious Tradition.

  2. Backpacking Azores Islands (IN-DEPTH 2024 Travel Guide)

    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… Hydrangeas grow rampantly in the Azores and are used as "fences" for cattle.

  3. First-timer's guide to the Azores

    Moving around the islands Renting a car is the best way to explore the beautiful Azores islands. With so much to see and do, having the freedom to travel at your own pace and visit more off-the-beaten-track locations is essential to make the most of your trip.

  4. 5 Day Azores Itinerary: 26 Best Things to Do in São Miguel [PLUS Map]

    Five Things You Should Know Before we jump in, here are five important things you should know about this itinerary to São Miguel. If you're visiting São Miguel for the first time, this guide is for you! This guide assumes you have no prior knowledge of the island and its incredible beauty. Boy, are you in for a surprise!

  5. The perfect Azores itinerary for first-time visitors ( 2023 edition)

    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.

  6. Azores Islands August 2021 travel update

    The free Azores.pdf guide that I shared on this forum for many years is no longer available. At the top of the Portugal forum is a post by the webmaster regarding the history of my Azores guide. If you click on it, you can access a freemium portion of the current Azores guide. Please send me a private message if I can help in any way. Carl

  7. Azores Islands Travel Advice

    7305 posts We have been to the Azores twice, while on transatlantic cruises. Loved the beauty and scenic vistas. The people are very nice as well.

  8. Travel Guide to the Azores Islands

    Updated on 09/09/21 Fact checked by Jillian Dara 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 .

  9. Ultimate Azores Travel Guide

    The Azores archipelago is about a 3-hour flight from Lisbon in mainland Portugal and roughly 5 to 6 hours from Boston or Toronto. Most flights arrive at João Paulo II Airport on São Miguel Island, and from there, island hopping the Azores is done by local plane or ferry.

  10. The Azores travel

    Portugal, Europe 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.

  11. Azores

    Azores Travel Guide - Expert tips and holiday advice including island itineraries and activities, Ponta Delgada and Horta highlights, endemic flora and wildlife. Also featured are detailed walks and field guides, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, Furnas, Santa Maria, São Miguel, Faial, Angra do Heroísmo, whale watching, cycling, horse riding and hiking.

  12. Azores: 20 Travel Tips To Know Before You Go

    1. There are 9 islands. 2. It's NOT a party destination. 3. The weather is unpredictable. 4. There are signs of volcanic activity everywhere. 5. Bathing in thermal springs is a must. 6. It's the place to try new outdoor activities. 7. There are plenty of dope lakes all around. 8. Mother Nature is in charge. 9.

  13. Azores: The Bradt Travel Guide

    Bradt Travel Guides, 2006 - Travel - 248 pages. Topics as diverse as the Azorean cow, sport-fishing and and whale- and dolphin- watching provide a flavour of the culture and heritage of these Portuguese islands. A series of walks taking in the mythical lakes of Sete Cidades, rugged volcanic craters and picturesque villages will guide visitors ...

  14. The Azores Travel Guide

    Overview Things to do Hotels When to visit Getting around Map & Neighborhoods Photos Why Go To The Azores The Azores (pronounced "ah-SORSH" by locals) is the kind of place you'd imagine to be...

  15. Azores travel guide

    The Azores travel guide If you think of an ocean as a desert, then a cluster of islands is an oasis. By catching the rain, they allow plant life to thrive. They also create eddies of nutrient-rich water, providing feeding grounds for marine life and birds.

  16. Azores travel guide: everything you need to know

    Discover the Azores, Portugal's volcanic adventure archipelago of Atlantic surf, whale watching, thermal springs and crater lakes.

  17. Free The Azores travel guide in PDF

    Create your own The Azores travel guide! All you have to do is select the type of places you'd like to include (restaurants, museums, etc.). When you're done, you can download your The Azores travel guide to your phone or tablet, or print it as a PDF. Happy travels!

  18. 20 MUST KNOW Azores Tips

    2. The Azores are Remote. The Azores are a Group of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The most Eastern are São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas islets, the central group is Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira, and Graciosa, and the northwestern group is Flores and Corvo. There is very little around them for miles, and many ...

  19. Azores

    Explore In every trail discovered, every dive conquered and every new flavour embraced. It's through nature that we care for what is most natural, right in the heart of the Atlantic. 9 naturally surprising islands, with hotels and restaurants in complete harmony with the environment. The no. 1 archipelago in sustainability awaits you.

  20. The ultimate travel guide to Sao Miguel, Azores

    Azores, Nature, Portugal, Sao Miguel, Travel Guide · October 10, 2015 The ultimate quick guide to Sao Miguel Sao Miguel, also named Ilha Verde (Green Island), is the biggest and most sophisticated island of the Azores, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

  21. Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal Travel Guide: Plan An Amazing Azores Trip

    The peak travel season for Sao Miguel Azores is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is warm and there's less rain than in the winter months, but keep in mind that the unique location and climate of the island means the weather can be unpredictable.

  22. Azores Travel Guide

    Chicago Miami San Francisco Washington $629 Jan 24 $589 Feb 24 $639 Mar 24 $849 Apr 24 $879 May 24 $1249 Jun 24 $1249 Jul 24

  23. Free Sao Miguel travel guide in PDF

    Download your free PDF. 94 attractions. 1 hotels. Free download. Create your own Sao Miguel travel guide! All you have to do is select the type of places you'd like to include (restaurants, museums, etc.). When you're done, you can download your Sao Miguel travel guide to your phone or tablet, or print it as a PDF. Happy travels!

  24. AZORES TRAVEL GUIDE 2024 (ADVENTURES OF JAMES)

    EXPLORING THE TRAVEL GUIDE 2024 Embark on an enchanting journey to the Azores with our comprehensive travel guide for 2024. Nestled in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean, this archipelago of nine volcanic islands offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant local culture. Discover lush landscapes, pristine beaches ...