The complete guide to the Azores Islands - Wapiti Travel

The Azores islands are an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean with nine inhabited islands. This year we visited five, and we were so charmed by them that we will certainly return to visit the remaining four Azores islands.

You will read all about the Azores in this blog post. We will share where they are, the easiest way to get there, the best time to visit, and the best things to do on each of the Azores Islands.  I can already tell you that the Azores are a great place to go hiking and whale watching, 

This post will allow you to choose which islands to visit when you’re going island hopping in the Azores.
Be sure to read on.

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.

Table of Contents

Where are the Azores Islands

The islands of the Azores are located in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and America.

Roughly measured they lie about halfway between these two continents.
It is 1,360km from the Azores to Portugal, and 1,925km to Newfoundland in Canada.

This location in the middle of the ocean makes it a popular mooring spot for sailing yachts that cross the Atlantic.

Azores climate

The seasons in the Azores are in line with those in Europe.

Spring

The temperatures rise to about 20 degrees Celsius in spring. During the day, it is at least 16 degrees, at night it cools down to approximately 10 degrees. The amount of rain gradually decreases.

The Azores are a very green destination, which means there is a year-round chance of rain. Most of it falls in autumn and winter and to a lesser extent at the start of spring.

We went in June, and although we had one completely sodden day, we mostly enjoyed dry weather, although it did often threaten.

Spring is also a great time to visit as there are many festivals (festas) at that time.

When you arrive on an island, be sure to pass by the tourist information office to check whether there is something special on during the days of your visit.

Morro de Castelo Branco Faial Azores Portugal

Summer

The summer is the high season in the Azores. It is thus the busiest period but you shouldn’t expect tourist crowds, the Azores aren’t that touristy yet. 

July and August are the driest months, and during the summer, the temperature rises to 25 degrees.

Read also: 13 wonderful things to do in the Azores.

August and September are the best months if you would like to join the locals in the natural swimming pools. 

There were already a lot of people swimming in those pools in June but the chilly water stopped us from joining them.

In August and September, the ocean water has warmed to about 23 degrees.

Autumn

From October, the temperature starts to fall, and there is more precipitation. The temperature drops to between 18 degrees during the day, and 12 degrees at night.

The amount of rain makes this period less suitable for island hopping in the Azores.

 

The end of summer also marks the end of the ferry’s seasonal routes.

Off-season, there are only boats between São Jorge, Pico, and Faial, although the ferry service between Flores and Corvo also keeps going throughout the year.

Azores Airlines provides year-round flights between the islands, but there is an increasing chance that flights are canceled or delayed because of the fickle weather.

Winter

The islands are pretty dead during the winter. Some residents will even leave the islands and winter elsewhere.

Others remain on the islands, but they told us that the winter on the Azores is a long period of binge-watching Netflix, as there is nothing, absolutely zero, to do.

Read also: Discover why you should definitely visit the Algarve in winter.

To us, it seems that this would be the most unpleasant time for a vacation on the Azores.

Azores PortugalBest time to visit the Azores

The weather in the Azores is very unpredictable. You can have four seasons in one day.
The best time to travel to the Azores is in the spring and summer.

We were here in June.  We had mostly covered but dry days.

There were a few clear and sunny days and only one sodden day. 

The natural swimming pools were still a bit cold, if you like to go swimming, it might be best to wait until summer. 

How to get to the Azores

Unless you’re traveling on your own yacht, the only way to reach the Azores is by air. TAP and Azores Airlines serve several flights from continental Portugal.

There are flights from Lisbon to the Azores, as well as departures from Porto.

Most flights head to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel but some other islands are served directly as well.

The Azores islands are gaining popularity and this is reflected by an increasing number of direct flights from other countries.

There are direct flights from Boston and New York in the USA, from Toronto in Canada and several other locations in the UK and continental Europe.

Read also: Read our tips about how to find cheap flights

Which Azores islands to visit

The Azores consist of nine inhabited islands. There are also eight tiny uninhabited islands, but you can’t visit those.

São Miguel is the largest and most visited island.

It is a shame that many limit their visit to this island because we loved how each island had its own treasures and charming spots.

Below we give you all the details about the different azores islands so that you can put together your dream trip. 

Pico

Pico is located in the central part of the Azores.
It is the second-largest island of the archipelago.

Characteristic of this island is the impressive eponymous volcano.

It’s height of 2,351 meters also makes it Portugal’s highest mountain.
Pico means “peak” in Portuguese.

UNESCO Vineyard Pico Azores, Portugal

UNESCO Vineyard Pico

Things to do on Pico Island

Here are a few of the main attractions of Pico.

UNESCO wine tasting

There are very special vineyards on the Azores. The fields are divided into very small compartments by walls made of black lava stone. This gives the vineyards a very special appearance. So special, in fact, that it was designated as UNESCO World Heritage.

PR5PIC is a wonderful walk which winds through these vineyards. 

 

To learn more about the Azorean wine culture you can visit the wine museum where you can also taste the local wines.

Admission: Free on Sunday

Open: The hike can be done 24/7, consult the museum website for its opening hours

Cachorro Pico Azores Portugal

Cachorro

Find the Cachorro

The Azores are volcanic islands, the lava rocks of the jagged coastlines clearly show this. When you drive around the island, you’re sure to come across some beautiful vistas.

The Cachorro is a beautiful piece of coastline where the ocean has carved into the lava rock and created several caves and natural bridges.

Cachorro means “dog” in Portuguese.
As you walk along this coastline you can try to spot a rock that has the shape of a dog.   We didn’t see it. Maybe you’ll have more success.

Admission: Free

Open: 24/7

Discover the Gruta das Torres

Lava streams created this cave as they sought a way to the surface.  It’s called a cave but it’s really more of a tunnel.

The tunnels are huge and the fact that they are made by seething hot rivers of lava only makes it more impressive.

You visit the Gruta das Torras with a guide.  The tour takes you through a number of larger and smaller tunnels.  As you make your way through the cave the guide will provide more information about the different types of lava that you pass.  
I honestly had no idea there were so many different kinds.

Admission: 8 € (only cash)

Open: Check the website

Pico volcano Azores, PortugalClimb Mount Pico

Mount Pico towers over the island. If you like a challenge, you can climb this volcano.

It is a tough climb to the summit, and the descent is certainly not easier.
If you keep a steady pace, you’ll be at the top in three hours. The descent takes another four hours.

The hike starts at the “mountain house”.

Everyone is obliged to register at the house before they start the climb. You need to pay a fee which is determined by how far you want to climb.

If you want to go all the way to the top, the so-called Pico Pequeno, it will cost €20.

You can climb individually or with a guide.
The price for a guide is about €50 to €60 per person.

Hiking up and down the mountain on the same day may seem a bit daunting.  If you prefer to take it easy you can choose to stay overnight on top of the mountain.  You won’t find any 5-star resorts on the crater edge but there’s plenty of space to put up your tent.

It means you can take your time going up and down the mountain and, in addition, you will increase your chances of good weather and breathtaking pictures.  With good weather, you also not only enjoy great views but also a wonderful sunset and sunrise.

More information and booking: Climbing Pico overnight stay 
Lagoa do Capitao Mountain lakes Pico Azores, Portugal

Lagoa do Capitão

Admire Pico in the mountain lakes

At the center of the island are some fantastic mountain lakes.

They are very photogenic on a bright day, especially the Lagoa do Capitão, which will show a clear reflection of the towering Pico volcano.

Whale watching on the Azores

You can go whale or dolphin watching from several of the islands.

The islands of Pico and São Miguel are most highly regarded in this respect.
Pico has a long history of whale hunting (see below), and the residents of this island are supposed to be very good at spotting them.

Two organizations in Pico organize whale watching tours. One leaves from Madalena, the other from Lajes do Pico.  Both claim that Pico is the best island to spot whales but that’s what you’d say about yourself anyway, wouldn’t you?

We planned a trip from Lajes do Pico, but at the briefing, they said there were no whales in the area, and as the weather was not great either, we postponed it to São Miguel.

Whaling museum Pico Azores, PortugalVisit the whaling museums

Whales have always been an important source of income in Pico.  Today in the form of whale watching tours but before this, the residents of Pico took to the sea to hunt these giants.

Pico has a long history of whaling.
At the start, hunting whales was a real goldmine. Whaling went on until 1986, at which point there was no real money in it anymore. But, as there was no immediate alternative source of income available, the inhabitants kept up what they knew best until the formal EU ban was introduced.

Fortunately, they no longer kill the animals, but they still use the old methods to find them.

From the coast, some people scan the water looking for blows or anything else that may betray the presence of whales. Once they spot the animals, they pass the coordinates to the boats so they know where to go.

Pico counts two museums that provide more info about the time when whaling was still very common.

The museum in Lajes do Pico focuses on the hunt. The museum isn’t very large, but you can watch an interesting film which shows how they used to catch whales. You can also see different boats they used to follow the whales, as well as the other materials they utilized.

The museum in São Roque is housed in a former whaling factory and explains more about the processing of fat into whale oil.

Both museums are free on Sundays. We thought the museum in Lajes do Pico was more interesting. Especially the film is worth watching.

Where to stay in Pico

Although it is the second-largest island of the archipelago, you don’t need more than an hour to cross the 42 km from Madalena in the west to Manhenha in the east. That makes it easy to pick your base camp. 

Although most things to do on Pico are in the western part, there is no need to worry too much as it will take you max an hour to reach them.

The locals say that there is a better chance of good weather in the east, so if that is something you value, go there for a place to stay.

Hotel iconAlma do Pico

We stayed at the Alma do Pico hotel, which is run by Italians who moved to Pico a few years ago. You stay in detached houses that also have a separate kitchenette. Although the houses are not far from the main house, it feels like you are in the middle of nature. When the weather is nice you can enjoy a beautiful view of Pico mountain.

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Pico on Booking.com: BOOKING 

Conclusion

Three days is plenty to explore Pico, even if you want to climb Mount Pico.

Terceira Island

Terceira is the third largest island and is also centrally located in the Azores.

In the high season, you can get here by ferry, but outside of that, you need to take an Azores Airlines flight.

Serra do Cume miradouro Terceira Azores Portugal

Serra do Cume viewpoint

Things to do on Terceira

Find out here what you can do on Terceira.

Admire the views from Serra Do Cume

Rarely do you see such a succession of colorful fields.

This viewpoint offers you a panoramic view of the undulating interior of Terceira.

Descend in Algor do Carvão

Algor do Carvão is one of the most beautiful caves we have ever seen. As you can guess, this is also the work of a volcano. The entrance to the cave is already spectacular, but it’s the lake at the bottom that really did it for us.

Every year a few concerts are organized in the cave because the acoustics are excellent. This is thanks to the porous lava stones which remove all echo. 

You can explore the cave at your own pace during the opening hours. There are two people inside the cave who regularly provide information, and can answer any questions you may have.

Admission: 8 € 

Open: daily from 2 PM

A combination ticket with Gruta do Natal costs €12. The Gruta do Natal is not a real cave, but rather a lava tunnel. It is less spectacular than the Algar do Carvão, but it is impressive to see the immense tunnels the lava has created.

Algar Do Carvao Terceira Azores, Portugal

Algar do Carvão

Go exploring in Gruta do Natal

The Gruta do Natal has a somewhat misleading name as it is not actually a cave, but a lava tunnel. 

You visit the tunnel by yourself and follow a set route. It will take you through both large and small tunnels. En route, you will see different types of lava and there are some explanatory signs that give more details about what you see.

Admission: €8.

Open: daily from 2 PM

A combination ticket with Algor do Carvão costs €12.

Furnas Do Enxofre Terceira, Azores, Portugal

Furnas do Enxofre

Look for fairies in Furnas do Enxofre

Halfway between Algor do Carvão and Gruto do Natal lies Furnas do Enxofre, a fumarole field where you can clearly notice the volcanic activity.

The soil is warm, up to 95°C in some places, and sulfurous gases whirl upward from small craters in the earth’s crust.

The sulfurous vapors give the are a mystical atmosphere, and the colorful mosses that grow around the craters make the area look like a fairy tale.

You would think that every moment fairies could come out of the cracks in the soil.

Angra do Heroísmo Terceira, Azores, PortugalWander through Angra do Heroísmo

The ancient capital of the Azores is now recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO. When you walk through the narrow streets, you can marvel at the well-preserved colorful facades of the historic buildings.

The two forts in the charming city also played an important role in the recognition by UNESCO. One fort is in the city itself.
The second fortress, São João Baptista, can be found on the Monte Brasil, an extinct volcano that forms the peninsula of the city.

During sunny days, the peninsula attracts many visitors who come to hike, picnic or relax in this green environment

Biscoitos Terceira Azores, Portugal

Natural Swimming Pools Biscoitos

Go swimming in Biscoitos

All islands have loads of natural swimming pools but none of them come close to the ones at Biscoitos. They’re the most extensive ones in terms of facilities and probably also in size.

The pool features a bar, changing rooms and several food outlets.

There was even a lifeguard on duty when we were there.

We went to the pool on a sunny day and there was a pleasant hustle and bustle.

Biscoitos is certainly recommended if you would like to enjoy a swim in a natural swimming pool.

Stroll along the Mistérios Negros

We did many hikes in the Azores.  Off all the walks we did PRC1TER was one of the best.

This walking trail starts at Lagoa do Negro, at the entrance of the Gruta do Natal. It is a five-kilometer loop through a forested area.  You also pass some lagoons and the Mistérios Negros, black lava mountains.

As you approach the end you can make a sidestep and climb the Pico Gaspar to enjoy a beautiful view.

Hotels on Terceira

The ALLuar Lodge is located in Porto Judeu.  You stay in small but comfortable bungalows that overlook the ocean and the Ilhéus das Cabras.  Breakfast is served in a charming breakfast basket.  Every morning we enjoyed our breakfast overlooking the pool which was an excellent way to start the day.

There’re a few restaurant options near the hotel but not a lot.  If you want to stay here we really advise hiring a rental car.

This is a great location for those looking for a relaxed stay.

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Terceira on Booking.com: BOOKING 

Conclusion

We really loved Terceira, the highlights were definitely the many sights related to the volcanic activity that once shaped this island. 

Three days is sufficient to see the major spots of Terceira.

 

Make sure to visit the Algor do Carvão cave. We thought this was one of the absolute highlights of the Azores.

Also read: The best things to see in the Azores

Faial Island

Faial is another beautiful island in the center of the Azores.  

It is about 30 minutes by boat from Pico. There are daily ferry connections between Horta on Faial and Madalena on Pico.

On clear days, you have a nice view of Mount Pico from Faial.

Caldeira Faial Azores, Portugal

Caldeira Faial

Things to do on Faial

Admire the Caldeira from the highest point of Faial

The Caldeira is both literally and figuratively the highlight of your visit to Faial.  The crater sits in the center of the island and towers above everything else.

He is about 1000 meters high, and the top is often shrouded in the clouds.

We went up on both a sunny and a cloudy day and that makes a world of difference.  

The hike that leads you around the crater is a must-do but only on a sunny day.  

If it does not look like you will have good days, you can also drive to the viewing point at the edge of the crater.  It was an impressive view to see how the clouds first dropped into the crater on one side to then gradually glide over the edge at the opposite side.

Capelinhos Faial Azores, PortugalVisit the lunar landscape of Capelinhos

This region offers a stark contrast with the lush rainforest that covers the remainder of the island.  This desolate moon landscape was created by a volcanic eruption.  The only building that survived the eruption was the lighthouse which now lonely towers above the region.

It is free to visit the area. Beneath the surface hides a futuristic visitor center that could well be copied straight from an old James Bond movie.

The visitor center houses a museum which gives you more information about the eruption and its consequences. The entrance to the lighthouse is also inside the visitor center.

Admission: Adults : € 10 / Children 7-14 and seniors 65+ : € 5 /

Open: The region can be visited 24/7.  The visitor center has the following opening hours:
1 November to 31 March
Monday : closed / Tuesday – Friday : 10 AM – 5 PM / Weekend : 2 PM – 5h30 PM

1 April to 31 October
Everyday: 10 AM – 6 PM 

Morro de Castelo Branco Faial Azores Portugal

Morro de Castelo Branco

Go bird watching at Morro de Castelo Branco

This peninsula is home to many different bird species.

A trail leads down from the primary road to this rock formation along the coast. 

The trail takes about 2 hours.

If you don’t have so much time you can also take your car, there’s a parking lot at the coastline.

It is a lovely spot to relax, gather your thoughts, and have some lunch.

 

Admission: free

Open: 24/7

Relax at Praia do Almoxarife

This black lava beach was one of the best we came across.

When the weather is nice, Mount Pico provides a great view while you can relax and listen to the sounds of the ocean.

Horta Harbour Faial Azores PortugalAdmire the boats and the mural paintings at Horta marina

The marina at Horta has always been the most popular of the Azores marinas. Throughout history, sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean stopped here to break up the journey.

Stopping here used to be crucial to gather the latest weather forecasts. These days the weather forecasts are sent electronically but the harbor has retained its charm as a nice spot for some rest and recreation.

Sailors who stop at the harbor leave mural paintings with the name of their ship and their occupants on the breakwater or the jetties.  This is an old tradition that still continues up to today.  It makes for a very colourful place to visit.

Peter’s Café Sport is also located near the marina.

The cafe is nearly legendary among the sailors visiting the island, and this has been very profitable for the owners.

The original cafe was a modest townhouse on the dike. Now they own nearly the whole of the dike behind the marina. 

Besides the pub, they have a museum and they offer excursions.

The cafe itself is decorated with flags and other presents from the sailors that passed through here.

The pub is supposed to have some good food options on the menu but you better make reservations if want to get a chance at trying them.

Porto Pim Faial, Azores, Portugal

Porto Pim

Get a tan in Porto Pim

Bordering Horta on the south-side is this picturesque bay with a very photogenic black sandy beach.

This is the most popular beach on the island.

 

It has all the facilities and it is within walking distance of Horta.

Admire the view from Monte da Guia

Monte da Guia lies beside Porto Pim.

From here you have a great view of Porto Pim and Horta from the top of this mountain.

A former whaling factory at the foot of Monte da Guia has been transformed into a museum about whaling.

Espalamaca lookout Faial Azores Portugal

Espalamaca lookout

Enjoy the view from the Espalamaca lookout

This lookout offers a great view of Horta on one side, and you can see the beach of Almoxarife on the other side.

Hotels on Faial

It’s best to book a hotel in or at least nearby Horta.  This is the only city worth mentioning and the only location on the island where you have a choice of pubs and restaurants.

Hotel iconLofts Azul Pastel

We stayed in Lofts Azul Pastel.  The hotel is slightly outside Horta.  We had a spacious room with a sitting area and kitchenette. From our room, we could see the Caldeira on one side and the ocean on the other side.  The restaurant had several cheap food options and was always crowded for lunch and dinner.

A great place to stay, not too far from Horta.

 

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Faial on Booking.com: BOOKING 

Conclusion

We really enjoyed the rugged landscape of Faial.

Especially the hike around the Caldeira and the rocky landscape of the Capelinhos are highly recommended.

Two to three days are perfect to discover Faial Island.

 

São Jorge Island

This long and narrow island is also part of the central islands of the Azores. It lies at about one-and-a-half hours by boat from Pico Island.

The north side of the island is characterized by rugged, steep mountainsides, which means that the largest cities if you can call them that way, are all located on the south side of the island.

Faja Dos Cubres Sao Jorge Azores, PortugalThings to do on São Jorge

These are the best things to do on São Jorge.

Go bird watching in Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã da Caldeira de Santa Cristo

There are several lagoons on the north coast. It is a paradise for birdwatchers, but these serene locations are also great for just unwinding.

You can reach Fajã dos Cubres by car.
Getting to Fajã da Caldeira requires a bit more effort as it is only accessible on foot. This fajã is the only place in the Azores where they grow cockles. You can taste them in some of the restaurants on the island.

The PR1SJO trail starts on the mountain ridge of Serra de Topo, and leads you past Fajã da Caldeira before ending at Fajã dos Cubres.

Taste some cheese

Besides the cockles, São Jorge is also famous because of its cheese. Belgians once started producing cheese near Topo.
Nowadays, many different varieties are made.

You can order a cheese plate as an aperitif in most restaurants, and you’ll undoubtedly find this local specialty at the breakfast buffet in your hotel.

Swim in Fajã do Ouvidor

There is no shortage of natural swimming pools in the Azores, but this one at Fajã do Ouvidor is particularly nice because of its great location.

It has showers and toilets.

 

Bird watching on Ilhéu do Topo

Ilhéu do Topo lies off the coast at the eastern point of the island. This is a small island where you can spot a lot of seabirds.

It also has a beautiful natural swimming pool.

 

Hotels on São Jorge

We recommend staying in a hotel in Velas or Calheta or somewhere in between these two cities.

Make it happen Farm

This accommodation is located on an organic farm and consists of 6 detached bungalows.  The main house has a shared living area and a luxurious well-equipped kitchen. Guests are free to pick everything on the farm and use it to prepare lunch or dinner in the kitchen or on the barbecue.  There is no real breakfast provided but there is home-made bread and home-made jam available and you can also bake an egg.

Thanks to the shared kitchen and living area this is a great place for those who want to socialize with other travelers.

More information and booking: BOOKING&nbsp
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in São Jorge on Booking.com: BOOKING 

Conclusion

You can see the highlights of São Jorge in two days.  There are some great hikes so if you’re into hiking you can also easily spend 3 days on the island.

Our personal highlight of this island was its lagoons. 

Baia Das Cannas Pico Azores, PortugalSão Miguel Island

São Miguel is the largest island and the most beautiful according to many.

I find it hard to choose, so I’ll leave that up to you. 

What I can say with certainty is that São Miguel is the island that attracts most tourists. 

São Miguel also has hot springs, which you won’t find on the other islands, which is a great reason to make sure you do not miss São Miguel.

Lagoa do fogo Azores, PortugalThings to do on São Miguel

Admire the crater lake of Lagoa do Fogo

This beautiful crater lake is the highest on the island. We visited it at sunset on a clear day, and the glow of the setting sun made it a breathtakingly beautiful scene.

There’s a viewpoint that you can reach by car. 

It’s high up above the lake on the crater’s edge.

There’s also a hike which takes you to the lakeside from where you can walk around the lake. This hike starts near Praia.

Sete cidades Sao miguel Azores Portugal

Sete Cidades viewpoint

Enjoy the view of Sete Cidades

The image of the two-colored twin lakes is the most popular image of São Miguel, and by extension probably the entire Azores.

If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t really been to the Azores.

You’re best off visiting these viewpoints when the weather allows it. If the weather isn’t great, you’ll have your head in the clouds, and there’ll be nothing to see.

The website http://www.spotazores.com lists a raft of webcams, including one that shows images of the Sete Cidades. You can check beforehand whether it is worthwhile driving to the top.

There are two viewpoints worth visiting.

Vista do Rei

This spectacular viewpoint lies alongside the road.

You’ll also find the abandoned Monte Palace hotel here.

The owner thought this was a fantastic spot for a hotel, but apparently, his spatial planning was better than his financial planning as the hotel went bankrupt after a year.

The building has been empty for over 25 years, but apparently, there’s now a new owner who’s ready to give the building a new lease on life.

Boca do Inferno

While the views from Vista do Rei are already outstanding, they can’t compare with what you will see from Boca do Inferno. You don’t only see the lakes from this viewpoint, you can also see the ocean.

The viewpoint isn’t signposted, but it is not hard to find.

You head to Lagoa do Canário.
You can stop in the car park along the main road, but you can also take your car down a dirt road opposite the car park until this road eventually terminates in another small car park.

It is a 10 to 15-minute walk from the main road to this car park at the end of the dirt road. 
From here, steps lead up to the viewpoint.

Cha Gorreana Azores, Portugal

Tea tasting at Chá Gorreana

The climate of the Azores is particularly suited for growing tea.  That you’re also a long way from the polluting industry of the mainland won’t harm either.

At 32 acres, the tea plantation is relatively small. Everything here is small-scale and the thee is really produced by loving hands. 

You can freely walk around the plantation, you’re even free to roam into the tea factory where you can observe the manual process.

You end your visit in the cafe where you can taste the tea and have some ice cream.

I personally really liked the green tea.

Dolphins Azores, PorgugalGo dolphin and whale watching in the Azores

The Azores are the place to be to see the largest mammals on earth. Here you can spot whales all year round.

Some species stay around. Some other species are only around for certain months of the year when their migration brings them past the Azores.

World’s largest whale, the blue whale, can be seen between February and April.

There are viewpoints on the island from where you can spot the whales, but if you want to see a whale up close, it is recommended you book an organized tour.

The organizations work with professional spotters and have the equipment to locate the animals.

The tours are canceled if the weather is bad. Due to the unpredictable weather in the Azores, we advise you not to wait until the last day to book a tour.

More information and booking: Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour 

Take a bath in Caldeira Velha

Caldeira Velha is a collection of natural hot water springs nestled amidst the tropical vegetation on the hills of the Água de Pau stratovolcanic complex.

In the middle of the jungle-like nature, you can relax in the hot water while looking out on a waterfall.

It sounds really good, but unfortunately, they’ve become a victim of their own success.

We passed by here three times at different hours of the day, and it was incredibly busy every time.

As a busy pool full of other tourists is not our idea of relaxation, we went for a dive in the Terra Nostra baths in Furnas instead.

If you are planning to go to Caldeira Velha, it is easily combined with a visit of Lagoa do Fogo.

Geiser Furnas

Discover Furnas

Furnas has a lot to offer. Therefore we recommend you stay here for at least a few days if you can.

First, there is the Lagoa das Furnas, a beautiful, stretched crater lake. Beside the lake is the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas. This is where they prepare the local specialty Cozida das Furnas in pits in the gound.

You can taste this dish in several of the restaurants in town, but you need to order it in advance.

Furnas is known for its thermal baths. When you’re here you certainly have to test the pools heated with water coming from the natural hot springs.

There are several options. The ultimate comfort is to stay in a thermal spa hotel, such as the excellent Furnas Boutique Hotel. Not cheap, but we definitely think it was worth it.

Another option is to visit one of the public baths.  You have the Poça da Dona Beija and the baths in the Parque Terra Nostra.

The Parque Terra Nostra is a beautiful park where you can enjoy a wonderful walk before or after your bath.

There wouldn’t be any thermal baths if there wouldn’t be any volcanic activity.  Right outside Furnas, you can view a number of other geysers, the Recinto das Caldeiras.

To find them you can go by the white sulfur fumes and the sulfur smell.

For a wonderful view of Furnas, be sure to stop at Pico do Ferro.

Parque Terra Nostra, Furnas,Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal

Parque Terra Nostra

Walk to the Lagoa do Congro lake

This is a small, but no less beautiful, lake that lies hidden in the deep forests of São Miguel.

Visit the rugged Nordeste

The village of Nordeste doesn’t have much to offer in itself, but it is situated in one of the most pristine and rugged nature areas of the island. You immediately notice this by the number of bends in the road as you’re making your way to the north-eastern coast.

The east coast of the island has two wonderful viewpoints, Ponta Da Sossega, and Ponta da Madrugada.

We will have to rely on what others say about this place, as the weather was dreadful and rainy when we were here.

So we didn’t get to enjoy the view, but we can tell you that the viewpoints itself were very nicely landscaped.

Mosteiros Sao Miguel Azores PortugalGo sunbathing at Mosteiros

There is a nice beach at Mosteiros in the northwest of São Miguel.

The horizon is dominated by rugged rocks that create a wonderful view when you’re sunbathing and these rocks make the sunset particularly special.

Hunt for waterfalls

Do you know the feeling of how a waterfall can completely take your breath away?

If so, São Miguel has everything your heart desires. There are several picturesque waterfalls waiting to be discovered.

Some of them are just next to the road.
Others lie in the middle of lush nature and are the cherry on top of the cake of an already wonderful walk.

Here are a few beautiful waterfalls:

Cascata de Moinhos (Porto Formoso)

Our number 1 was this waterfall near the beach of Moinhos. We don’t actually know what it is called, so we called it after the nearby village.

There is no signpost, which adds to the charm, as it is not yet discovered by tourists.
We were completely alone, and that gave us an opportunity to splash into the water, a unique experience!

Cascata de Moinhos Azores, Portugal

Cascata de Moinhos

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões

It is not hard to find the park, as the entrance is marked by a beautiful waterfall right next to the road.

However, this is only one of three waterfalls inside this park.
So if you have time, park the car, put on your hiking boots, and go see the other two cascades.

Cascata Ribeira dos Caldeiroes

Salto do Prego

The Salto do Prego lies hidden in the woods, but the road there is nearly as pretty as the waterfall itself.

Another positive point is that the trail is a loop.

On the way back, you pass the fairytale abandoned village of Sanguinho, after which you are treated to a spectacular view of Faial da Terra, where the trail starts and ends.

Most definitely recommended.

Salto do Cabrito Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal

Salto do Cabrito

Salto do Cabrito

This is a beautiful and well-known waterfall.

We were lucky to have the place to ourselves for the first minutes of our visit.  
Afterward, there was a constant flow of tourists coming and going.  

The charm of this waterfall is somewhat diminished by the power station located at the foot of it.

In short, it is worthwhile to take a detour, but we prefer the other waterfalls on this list.

 

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.

Hotel iconFurnas Boutique Hotel

We stayed in 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 thermal pools, the sauna and the steam bath.  The restaurant’s menu is rather limited but they have some delicious options.  It’s not just us who think so, as you can see by the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.

More information and booking: BOOKING 

Hotel icon

Casa do Contador

Casa do Contador is right in the center of Ponta Delgada.  From the hotel, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the boardwalk where you can enjoy drinks or snacks in one of the many trendy bars.  All rooms come with a small kitchenette. 

The staff is very friendly and helpful.

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in São Miguel on Booking.com: BOOKING 

 

Conclusion

You can easily spend 5 to 7 days on São Miguel.

Be sure to visit Sete Cidades, the crater lake at Lagoa do Fogo, and the town of Furnas.

São Miguel is also the perfect place to spot whales if you have not done this elsewhere.

 

Waterfalls Flores, Azores, Portugal

Waterfalls in Flores (Picture by VisitAzores – faber)

The next islands we didn’t visit during our first visit to the Azores. You always have to choose and we decided to keep these for a future visit.

Was it the right choice? Or the wrong one? That is, of course, hard to say if you haven’t been there.

After all the beautiful things we saw on the other islands, we are planning to go back and visit these four islands.

So until that time, here is some information we found when we were planning our trip.

Flores Island

Flores is one of the smaller islands in the west of the archipelago. From what we have read about it, and from what the inhabitants of the other islands tell us, it is a green, undisturbed oasis.

We already said the same about the other islands, but apparently, Flores is even purer than what we’ve already seen.

In the high season, you can take the ferry from Faial to Flores. The trip takes several hours. There are flights to Flores throughout the year. They are regularly delayed and are canceled in case of bad weather.

Take this into consideration when you are traveling to Flores.

The highlight of this island is the Poço de Bacalhau, where you can swim at the foot of a 90-meter high waterfall.

The waterfalls at Ribeira Grande, which you see in the photograph above, are also impressive and another sight you don’t want to miss is the 7 splendid crater lakes at Sete Lagoas.

The island is a paradise for walkers, and bird spotters can find a large variety of local as well as migratory birds here.

Sporty people can enjoy canyoning, tours are organized for novices as well as for those that have done it before.

Hotels in Flores

There are not many hotels on Flores and the few hotels that are there are quickly fully booked.

Do not postpone your booking for too long.

 

Aldeia da Cuada

You stay in cozy houses with a view of the sea. The hotel offers a nice breakfast and is run by very friendly staff. The restaurant offers delicious meals.

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Flores on Booking.com: BOOKING 

 

Corvo Azores Portugal

Corvo (Picture by VisitAzores – kattcvu)

Corvo Island

Corvo is Flores Island’s little brother. The island is as big as a needle head and it is nearly unknown to tourists.

Corvo is connected to Flores by ferry throughout the year, and although the island is tiny, it has its own airport.

The 720-meter high Caldeirão dominates the island. Only a small part of the island is relatively level, formed by the lava from the last eruption, and this is where the city of Corvo is located.

You have a great view of the island from the top of Caldeirão. You can also walk around the crater.

A boat trip around the island is also something we recommend. There are many sea birds, and if you’re lucky there will be some dolphins and whales too.  But even without these animals, the trip is still worth it to see the spectacular coastline with the steep cliffs.

Corvo is the best island for bird watching. There is a bird interpretative center as well as a bird sanctuary.

Hotels on Corvo

The whole island has only around 400 inhabitants and about 48 beds for tourists. Don’t wait too long to book your accommodation, I only found 2 hotels on Booking.com.

Joe &Vera’s Vintage Place

This is a cheap place to stay in the center of Corvo.  It’s also only a 10-minute walk to the airport. 

The hostess is very hospitable and speaks fluent English.

 

More information and booking: BOOKING 

The Pirates’ Nest

The Pirates’ Nest offers basic but clean rooms with a wonderful view overlooking the ocean. 

The host is very warm and friendly.

 

More information and booking: BOOKING 
Whale Islet Graciosa Azores, Portugal

Do you spot the whale? (Picture by VisitAzores)

Graciosa Island

Graciosa is part of the central group of islands of the Azores.

In the high season, the ferry connects it to São Jorge and Terceira. In the low season, you can only reach it by air with flights from Azores Airlines.

There are many traces of volcanic activity on Graciosa, such as the Furna Do Enxorfre, a volcanic cave with a 130-meter-diameter lake at the bottom.

You can also find a thermal bath in Carapacho. You can first warm-up in the inside pool, and then dive into the ocean water in the outside pool.

Like the other islands, the highest point is formed by an impressive Caldeira. An easy 11-kilometer hike you can visit Furna Do Enxofre and this Caldeira.

In the north of the island lies the Ponta da Barca, the highest lighthouse of the Azores. From here you have a wonderful view of the Ilhéu da Baleia, a rock in the shape of a whale.

Hotels on Graciosa

Hotel iconGraciosa Hotel

The Graciosa hotel is a modern and comfortable design hotel.  It’s located along the coast with easy access to a beach but not too far from the center of Santa Cruz da Graciosa. The hotel has a good kitchen and offers an excellent breakfast to start the day.  The hotel’s swimming pool is a lovely place to relax.

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Flores on Booking.com: BOOKING 
Barreiro da Faneca Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal

The Red Desert (Picture by VisitAzores)

Santa Maria Island

Santa Maria is the eastern-most island of the Azores. It is one of the smaller islands, but it still has a lot to offer.

It is the only island in the Azores that has two white sandy beaches. It makes these beaches, São Lourenço and Praia Formosa, very popular. 

You won’t have to fight for a spot on the beach though, there’s no mass tourism, it mainly attracts the inhabitants of the other islands of the Azores.

Because of its location and the better climate, the island is also perfectly suited for all sorts of water sports. You can go windsurfing and sailing, but there are also underwater activities on offer. Diving is one of them, and if you want something different, you can go spearfishing.

The other thing that no doubt contributes to the success of the aforementioned beaches is the warmer climate.

The climate on Santa Maria is considerably dryer and warmer than on the other islands.

To that extent that it even has a bit of desert. Although technically, it’s not really a desert, its picturesquely red and barren landscape is nicknamed “the red desert”.

The nearly vertical rock formation with accompanying waterfall, Ribeira de Maloás, is likely the most spectacular view of the island.

Hotels in Santa Maria

Hotel iconCharming Blue

The Charming Blue hotel is a well-located and nicely decorated hotel. It has super friendly staff. The hotel has pleasant rooms and an excellent restaurant.  After a busy day, you can take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool.

A good choice for Santa Maria.

 

More information and booking: BOOKING 
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Santa Maria on Booking.com: BOOKING 

Conclusion

We were extremely charmed by the Azores. It is close to home, and yet you arrive in a different world.

One knows no stress on these islands. Everything here is “calmamente” and with this much nature around, there is no escaping the holiday mood.

Yet we’re not ones to sit down, not even on our holidays. We did not have time for that either on the Azores. It was easy to fill every day with walks or visits to one of the many beautiful locations.

In short, this is a great destination for an active nature holiday. We will be going back to explore the other islands.

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Categories: Portugal

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