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.
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
The perfect Azores itinerary
Here we share our complete Azores itinerary. This itinerary can help you to create your own perfect itinerary
Day 1-2-3 Pico
We started our trip on picturesque Pico, the second-largest island of the Azores. Pico Island is named after Mount Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal.
One of the highlights on 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.
Besides climbing the Pico Volcano, you can also do many other challenging and less challenging hikes.
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.
We also visited the Grutta das Torres.
There are lots of caves on 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 descent 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.
Ticket fee: €8 per person (they only accept cash)
Opening hours: see website
Near Madalena lies the Criação Velha winery. These are vineyards like you’ve never seen anywhere else. That’s exactly why they’re UNESCO world heritage.
Here, you can go on a beautiful walk through the vineyards. Standing in the middle of the area is a windmill that offers an amazing view of the surrounding landscape.
Pico is also a good place to go whale watching.
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 the 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.
Hotels on Pico
Alma do Pico
We stayed in Alma do Pico. It’s 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.
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.
The most important tourist attractions are the town of Horta with its charming port and the Capelinhos and Caldeira volcanoes.
We began our exploration of Faial in the vibrant yacht port. This is a popular stopping point for sailboats on their way around the world or on an ocean crossing to America. They used to stop here to check the weather reports and stock up on supplies. Today, it’s just to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of this island.
It’s been a long-standing tradition among sailors to leave a mural on the docks or the breakwater when they leave. This is said to bring good fortune on one’s journey.
We discovered several Dutch murals as well as a number of murals by Belgian crew members.
Those many small works of art have made the yacht port into a very colorful place.
Located at the port, Peter sport café is the place to be for a chat with the sailors or to sample the local gin.
When you enter the R1-1 from the port and drive in a counterclockwise direction, you’ll arrive at the viewpoint of Nossa Senhora da Conceição after about 10 minutes. This lookout offers a beautiful view of the town of Horta and the nearby islands of Pico, São Jorge, and Graciosa.
The beautiful sandy beach of Praia do Almoxarife lies only about 5 minutes by car from this viewpoint. This is a wonderful and peaceful place to hang out on a sunny day, while the view of the Pico Volcano is fantastic.
The 2-kilometer-wide Caldeira crater is another absolute must-see when you’re visiting Faial. At the top, a lookout point offers a magnificent view of the enormous green crater. You can also go on a beautiful and easy hike of about 8 kilometers around the crater. This is Azores hiking at its very best.
The lunar landscape of the Capelinhos Volcano is unique in the Azores.
The volcano erupted approximately 50 years ago and created 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 : 10am – 5pm / Weekend : 2pm – 5h30pm
1 April – 31 October
Everyday : 10am – 6pm
Hotels on Faial
Lofts Azul pastel
We stayed in The Lofts Azul Pastel, a 10-minute walk from Horta.
We had a nice spacious room.
The room looked out over the sea on one side and we had a view of the Caldeira on the other. Our room had a kitchen, but you don’t necessarily have to cook your own meals every night.
The restaurant also offers a wide selection of simple, inexpensive, and tasty dishes.
Day 7-9 São Jorge
We continued our Azores itinerary by ferry and traveled from Faial via Pico to São Jorge.
The crossing lasted about one and a half hours.
This island was even less touristy than Pico or Faial.
São Jorge sights
The weather was pretty bad on the first day and we limited our activities to a drive around the island.
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.
On the second day, we went bird watching at Fajã dos Cubres and did a beautiful but pretty challenging hike at Norte Pequeno.
Hotels on São Jorge
Make it happen farm
We stayed 2 nights at the Make it happen farm. On this “organic farm” you stay in beautiful detached houses.
The farm has a large shared kitchen and living space. In the kitchen you can prepare your own food, you can use 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.
Day 10-12 Terceira
From São Jorge, we flew with SATA Air Açores to Terceira in about 30 minutes.
From the airport, it’s only 10 minutes to the viewpoint of Serra Do Cume. Here, you get to enjoy a stunning vista across numerous meadows.
We also explored the historic streets of Angra do Heroismo, a charming town that’s listed as UNESCO world heritage.
Additionally, we visited the fairytale-like landscape of Furnas do Enxofre. This area is subject to lots of volcanic activity and you can see fumes rising up from fissures in the ground, while the smell of sulfur is prominent. What makes this landscape so amazingly enchanting, though, is the wonderfully colorful mosses.
The highlight of Terceira, however, was the Algar do Carvão cave. Via a tunnel, you enter this 90-meter-deep cave formed by lava. We thought that the entrance and the lake created by rainwater were especially gorgeous. Depending on the time of year, this lake can be empty or up to 14 meters deep.
Inside the cave, the temperature always ranges around 14 degrees Celsius (57 Fahrenheit) and water consistently drips down. So, make sure to bring a sweater and rain clothes.
Ticket fee: €8 per person
Opening hours: daily from 2 pm
Gruto do Natal is a lava tunnel that you can explore by yourself after a brief introduction and armed with a helmet and map. The cave is less spectacular than the Algor do Carvão. It is actually a lava tunnel rather than a cave and 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 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
Opening hours: daily from 2 pm
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.
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 bullfights as they have in Spain. Here, I also felt kind of sad for the bulls which I still prefer to see in their natural habitat, but on the other hand, it was also nice to experience this folkloric event on our Azores trip.
Hotels in Terceira
At the ALLUar Lodge you stay in small detached houses with sea view. The cottages have a kitchenette but 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.
Day 13-20 São Miguel
From Terceira, we flew to São Miguel, this flight takes about 40 minutes.
São Miguel is the largest and most touristy island of the Azores.
While you can get around most Azores Islands in just an hour, you’ll need more than an hour to just get from one side of São Miguel to the other.
São Miguel sights
São Miguel has a number of beautiful attractions that you absolutely have to visit during your Azores vacation.
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.
Another highlight is the crater lake of Lagoa do Fogo. This lake is at its most photogenic at sunset.
The viewpoint of the lake is on the rim of the crater. There’s also a beautiful hike that takes you to the lakeshore. If you’re looking for an Azores hiking suggestion, look no further.
Just like Pico and Faial, São Miguel is the perfect place for dolphin and whale watching in the Azores. Although we didn’t get to see any whales, we did see a huge group of dolphins that were having a blast around our boat. We were really unlucky because the tours that went out before us had all seen whales but it was still a wonderful experience.
We booked our tour via GetYourGuide and were very happy with how everything was organized.
This is how our tour looked like.
First, we got an expert explanation about the different species of whales and dolphins, after which we traveled out to sea in a zodiac.
Besides the captain, there was also a naturalist on board. Every time we saw a certain whale or dolphin, 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.
Check prices and availability:
Dolphin and whale watching tour
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.
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.
Ticket fee: €8 per person
Opening hours: daily from 10 am to 6 pm
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.
If you do want to go bathing here, we recommend visiting in the evening because that’s when it’s supposed to be less busy.
Ticket fee: €8 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, Children younger than 7 are free.
Opening hours: see website
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 bath has a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit). The other baths are 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit).
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: €6 per person / Children 6 or younger: €4
Opening hours: daily from 7 am to 11 pm
The tea fields of Gorreana are (almost) unique to Europe. The climate on the Azores is excellent for cultivating tea and elsewhere in Europe there are very few tea plantations. This plantation is small-scale and many things are still done manually. You can freely walk around the plantation and the factory, where you can see how the harvested tea is further processed.
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 a couple of days, have a look at our post in which we share the best beaches in São Miguel.
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.
Furnas 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’s thermal pools, the sauna, and the steam bath. The restaurant’s menu is rather limited but they have some delicious options.
The restaurant is one of the best options in Furnas as you can see by the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.
Casa do Contador
Casa do Contador is right in the center of Ponta Delgada.
From the hotel, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the boardwalk where you can enjoy drinks or snacks in one of the many trendy bars.
All rooms come with a small kitchenette.
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.
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.
There are also an increasing number of direct flights to the Azores from the United States and Canada.
Delta offers direct flights between New York JFK and Ponta Delgada.
Azores Airlines flies to Boston and Oakland in the US and Toronto and Montreal in Canada.
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.
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 the 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.
Which islands to visit on 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.
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.
Of course, you can choose to stay longer on some of the islands, but the Azores travel itinerary that we choose, which you can see below, offers sufficient time on each island to see the main attractions on the Azores.
Island hopping in the Azores
You can divide the archipelago into 3 different areas.
In the center are the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial. The latter 3 are located maximum one hour by boat from one another and are connected by ferry throughout the entire year.
The western part is where you’ll find the islands of Corvo and Flores.
Lastly, the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria are located in the east of the archipelago.
Island hopping in the Azores is possible by plane or by taking the ferry.
All Azores Islands have an airport, even teeny-tiny Corvo.
Azores Airlines has flights to all the islands all year round. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a Lisbon to Azores flight, or a flight in between the 9 Azores islands.
The ferry runs throughout the whole year between some islands like Flores and Corvo. Between other islands, such as Faial and Flores, there’s a seasonal ferry service.
The ferry is operated by AtlânticoLine. Their fleet consists of 4 boats, 1 of which is capable of transporting 12 vehicles.
You can find more information about ferry routes and times on the AtlânticoLine website. It’s also possible to book tickets on their website.
How did we do it?
To go island hopping in the Azores, we used a combination of ferries and airplanes.
Pico, Faial and São Jorge are so close to each other that taking the ferry is the easiest option.
The other islands are more remote and traveling by plane is the more efficient way to get there.
Upon arrival at an island, we rented a car to explore the island.
The car rental companies have offices in all ports and airports. We had a different car reservation for each island.
I personally didn’t look forward to changing cars that much, but in the end, everything went really smoothly.
If you want, and if your car rental contract allows it, you can also take your rental car on the ferry.
I looked into that while planning our Azores trip itinerary because sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a car for a longer period of time. However, we wouldn’t have saved money if we’d done that.
Below, you can find more information about how to get around the Azores and why we opted for a rental car.
Renting a car on the Azores
You shouldn’t count 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 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 have to 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.
Rentalcars offers an easy way to quickly compare quotes of both the international and local brands. In most cases, your booking can be canceled up to 48 hours before your pick-up date.
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.
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