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Best time to visit the Azores for whale watching, hiking, festivals, and more

Planning a trip to the Azores but not sure when to go? Here we have the complete guide to the best time to visit the Azores islands.

The Azores islands are a small archipelago of islands off the coast of Portugal, surrounded by beautiful clear oceans, amazing wildlife, and unique culture.

They are an ideal holiday destination and so here we will delve into the best times to visit the Azores based on your travel style.

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Best time to visit the Azores

The Azores Islands is a small group of islands located in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and America. They are considered an autonomous region of Portugal and nine of the islands are currently inhabited.

The Azores are a great travel destination due to the variety of activities available on the various islands.

Surrounded by stunning views, the Azores are of course perfect for nature-lovers and those who enjoy the outdoors.

Even within this category, the Azores islands are able to cater to a range of outdoor activities.

Because these activities differ so much, the best time to visit the Azores may also differ depending on your key interests.

The seasons of the Azores match up with those of Europe, with a hot dry summer and a wet winter.

However, the climate of the Azores is fairly mild overall.

Best month to visit the Azores

The most popular travel months for the Azores Islands are the summer months of July and August with the warm period of May to October also being popular.

Each of the seasons in the Azores can be a great time to visit depending on the type of trip you are hoping to have.

There are both positives and negatives to each time of year.

Winter

For example, Winter is the off-season, which might lead you to think it is a worse time of year to visit.

However, the weather is still mild in temperature and there are fewer tourists and crowding.

There are also often flight deals and tour sales during this period, allowing you to save money while still exploring a beautiful area.

Visiting during winter can provide a more rugged, ‘nature in its true state’ type of holiday without interference from other tourists. However, this is also the wet season and rainy days are not uncommon.

The rain can be quite wild and many locals spend most of the winter indoors, which as a visitor, might not be ideal.

Spring

The Azores soon starts to warm up as spring comes around, with flower season in full show by mid-Spring.

This is a great time to visit to see some of the beautiful nature of the area and beat the summer crowds.

At this time of year, the weather is still very mild and comfortable.

Some activities like hiking are also good to enjoy during the warm, but not hot, spring weather.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the rainy weather of winter can often hang around until mid-April, making spring an unpredictable time of year for visiting, especially if you are planning a short holiday.

Summer is one of the best times to visit the Azores

Summer

As previously mentioned, summer is the most popular time of year for travel to the Azores.

July and August are the absolute peak of the tourist season.

However, this is for good reason. The Azores during summer is a beautiful postcard-perfect destination.

With stunning beaches, temperate waters, and the changeover to summer flowers, the islands are surrounded by amazing things to do and see.

On the downside, this rise in popularity can also lead to a rise in prices.

Often accommodation, flights, and tours are more expensive and harder to book during this season.

Some activities may be less available during summer also.

Autumn

Early autumn can be a great time to visit the Azores as the crowds of summer leave but the temperate weather, beautiful sunsets, and stunning hydrangeas hold on for a bit longer.

This can be a good time for a quieter, more relaxing trip, avoiding the crowds but also enjoying warmer weather.

However, as autumn continues, the weather can grow quite unpredictable as the rainy season approaches.

There can be difficulties in traveling by ferry between islands and plane delays and cancellations are possible.

Overall, the most popular travel time to the Azores is summer. Late spring and early autumn will allow you to enjoy some of the delights of summer without all the crowds, but are more unpredictable. Winter will provide a very different experience, but can be enjoyable nonetheless.

Whale tail
A whale lob-tailing

Best time to visit the Azores for whale watching

The Azores is home to over 24 species of whales and dolphins and is recognized as one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries.

Whale-watching is available year-round in the Azores as many species of whale stay in the area all year.

Some other species pass through the area during migration, and so are more likely to be seen seasonally.

The peak season for most whales is during the late spring-early summer months.

Blue whales, the world’s largest whale species, are most often seen during April and May while there is more chance of seeing humpback whales during October.

Sperm whales and many dolphin species can be seen year-round. To see more about whale-watching in the Azores, check out our previous post.

Lily Flower

Best time to visit the Azores for flowers

The Azores is a great spot to visit to see flowers in their natural habitat rather than in carefully designed gardens.

These are most prevalent during spring and summer, with some ginger lilies starting as early as February.

Spring

As spring progresses, fields of wildflowers bloom and take over large areas.

These can include azaleas, nasturtiums, ginger lilies, and native wildflowers.

Summer

Summer is the season of beautiful blue hydrangeas in the Azores.

These large flowers are a favorite among many flower-lovers and are beautiful to see in bloom.

These usually last until the end of summer with some hanging on into early autumn.

Wild ginger flowers also bloom through summer and early autumn.

Autumn

As autumn continues there are fewer and fewer flowers and more subdued varieties.

It is possible to see flowers during this time, but they will not be as spectacular as the spring and summer varieties.

Madeira is known as the flower island but the landscape of the Azores is at least as colourful.  From spring until early autumn there is always something blooming.

Trail Norte Pequeno São Jorge Azores Portugal
Norte Pequeno trail

Best time to visit the Azores for hiking

For hiking enthusiasts, the Azores is a great place to visit.

Covered in an array of hiking trails of varying difficulties, the Azores offers a great variety of views.

June to September are generally considered the best times to visit the Azores for hiking-based trips.

During these months the weather is clear, warm and trails are easy to follow.

It’s also easy to cool off in the ocean or a natural rock pool after a hike.

However, you can hike during other months of the year, and some people prefer it due to the reduction in other people on the trails.

If you choose a different time, it is necessary to be more prepared for possible rainy and windy weather.

Although you can hike in the Azores all year round, June to September are generally considered as the best time for hiking since the weather is moderate at that time of the year with little rain.

Spring or autumn is one of the best times to visit the Azores for birdwatching.

Best time to visit the Azores for bird watching

The Azores islands are a great place to visit for both long-time and beginner bird-watchers.

Considering the location, it is no surprise that hundreds of species move through the area during migration periods.

There are also many native species on the islands.

These include Cory’s Shearwaters and Roseate Terns, of which the Azores has some of the largest colonies.

There are also many rare birds such as the Azores Bullfinch and you can also spot the Atlantic Canary, the natural symbol of the Canary Islands.

The best time for bird-watching in the Azores is during spring or autumn, as this is when many species are migrating and nesting. Bird-watching during these times also brings the possibility of seeing a rare migratory bird that wouldn’t usually be in the area.

Best time to visit the Azores for diving

Many keen divers head to the Azores for the chance to explore the amazing marine life and underwater environment of the deep Atlantic.

As the area is surrounded by a plethora of wildlife, including marine wildlife, it is a perfect spot for diving.

Most diving is done through dive agencies or tours, usually in small groups.

Summer is known as the best time for diving in the Azores due to the temperate waters which are usually around the 20 – 25 degrees mark during this time. It is also a good time for seeing a range of marine wildlife.

Horseback riding tour

Best time to visit the Azores for horseback riding

Horse riding may seem an unusual activity for an island getaway at first, but it is a widely-practiced activity in the Azores.

There are a range of trails and paths ideal for horse-riding and many tours available to help arrange horses and necessary equipment.

Horseback riding is a great way to see the surrounding nature and beautiful views of the Azores.

The most popular time for horse riding is during the summer, simply due to the better weather. It is still possible to enjoy horse-riding during other months, but there is more likelihood of rain possibly affecting the outing.

Sylvia at the entrance of the Gruta De Torres
Sylvia at the entrance of the Gruta de Torres

Best time to visit the Azores for geotourism

Geotourism is a unique way to experience the natural ecology of the Azores islands.

It involves exploring the volcanoes and volcanic landscapes of the islands.

There are nine active volcanoes and many more non-active ones to explore.

There are also a number of volcanic caves, crater lakes, and geothermal springs.

Tour operators can help you explore and learn about the geodiverse environment of the Azores.

These tours can be done year-round, although some caves may be off-limits in winter due to heavy rainfall.

Note that also the opening hours are shortened during the off-season and that the caves are no longer open every day.

Athough geotourism can be done al year, the season that offers the most possibilities is the high season ….

Best time to visit the Azores for festivals

There are many festivals held throughout the year in the Azores islands.

These include religious festivals, music festivals, wine and food festivals and so much more.

As these happen year-round, there is no one perfect time to visit to enjoy festivals.

Rather, it is best to find the festival/s you most want to visit and plan a trip around that timing.

Here we have some of the biggest and best festivals of the Azores:

Santo Cristo festival – Ponta Delgada

Santo Cristo is one of the most important religious festivals of the year in the Azores islands.

Held on the island of Sao Miguel, people flock to the area to celebrate and enjoy the two weeks of festivities.

Held on the fifth Sunday after Easter, this festival usually takes place in May.

Islet Vila Franca do Campo São Miguel_Azores_Portugal
Islet Vila Franca do Campo where the Red Bull Cliff diving championship takes place

Red Bull Cliff diving

The Red Bull Cliff Diving in the Azores is part of the wider world series which takes place all around the world in 7 different locations.

The Azores location is in the small islet of Vila Franca do Campo, on the island of Sao Miguel.

Many world-class cliff divers gather to display their talents and compete to be the best.

This usually takes place during late June or July.

The locations change every once in a while but the iconic islet has been part of the tour more often than not.

Terceira Azores Bull Fight
The bullfight in the streets of Terceira

Running of the bulls

The Running of the Bulls is a very well-known part of the culture and takes place regularly on the island of Terceira between May and October.

Locals and visitors alike can watch the Running of the Bulls and in some cases, participate.

Azores Rallye

The Azores Rallye is a famous and very popular car race that takes place on Sao Miguel island.

It is part of the FIA European Rally Championship as well as the Portuguese Rally Championship.

Many people enjoy watching the car race and the festive atmosphere surrounding it. This event takes place in March.

Walk&Talk

Walk&Talk is the art festival of the Azores islands and takes place in July.

It involves experimental and interactive art and is designed to engage the viewer.

With a range of local and visiting artists, the Walk&Talk festival is a great way to explore art, cultural identity, and various artistic ventures.

It intends to be constantly changing, never remaining the same, either in format or in art displayed.

This makes it ideal for repeat visitors.

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

Best time to visit Sao Miguel Azores

São Miguel Island is the largest island of the Azores archipelago and is home to over half of the population of the Azores.

São Miguel Island is often known as the Green Island due to its lush nature and beautiful open hills.

It is also home to a lot of geothermal activity and natural springs.

São Miguel Island is ideal to visit year-round as there is always something happening on the island.

February-March

Carnaval is one of the biggest celebrations on the island and consists of 4 nights of great parties and celebrations.

This is held from the Friday preceding Ash Wednesday, and so falls in either February or March depending on whether it is an early or late Easter.

March

In March the wildflowers are really starting to bloom and the famous AzoresRallye car race takes place.

April

Many whales are migrating during April, including baleen whales making it a great time for whale-watching.

There is also a popular music festival, Tremor, in April.

May

May is the start of many religious festivals in São Miguel, including the largest religious festival, Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, a two-week festival.

It is usually shortened to Santo Cristo festival.

July

July is a great time for seeing hydrangeas in full bloom, as well as a range of live music performances and celebrations.

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series also usually takes place during July.

August

August is also perfect for live music performances and the White Ocean party in Ponta Delgada, the capital city of São Miguel.

October

October is a great time to visit for foodies as São Miguel hosts a wine festival with a large range of delicious food and wines.

December

São Miguel is also great to visit during December for the celebrations of Christmas and New Year.

The viewpoint Ponta da Mudragada  during a rainy and foggy day
The viewpoint Ponta da Mudragada during a rainy and foggy day

FAQ you may have about the Azores

Is there a rainy season in the Azores?

Winter is the rainy season in the Azores. The rain can start in late Autumn, reaches a peak in winter, and finishes around mid-Spring.

How many days do you need in Azores?

When visiting the Azores, the top highlights and popular spots of most islands can be covered in a few days.

Therefore, the time spent in the Azores will depend on how many islands you want to visit and whether you prefer to spread out your visit.

For more information on the ideal Azores itinerary, see our previous post here.

Azores Airlines A321neo
Azores Airlines has a modern fleet

What to know before going to Azores?

  • Money

The official currency of the Azores islands is the Euro.

Some shops, restaurants, and gas stations will only accept Portuguese cards or will refuse cards for small amounts.

Therefore, it is best to carry cash with you.

There are ATMs on all the islands and it is a good idea to have both a credit card and cash.

For more information regarding the use of money in the Azores, check out our previous post.

  • Budget

Portugal is still a relatively cheap destination to travel to and prices in the Azores are more or less in line with those of the mainland.

For a full budget breakdown, see our budget for visiting the Azores.

  • Flights to the Azores

With the growing popularity of the Azores, there are now a number of direct flights from various locations to the Azores islands.

A range of airlines are now flying directly into the Azores.

Another option is to fly into the Portuguese mainland, have a stopover in Lisbon or Porto, and transfer to a flight to the Azores. More details can be found here.

  • Getting around in the Azores

There are two main options for getting around in the Azores when traveling between islands.

These are flying or taking the ferry. Air Azores has routes between all of the different islands. Sadly, the flights can be expensive.

The ferry option allows you to cut costs with boats going regularly between the central islands during the peak tourist months. Outside of peak season, there are fewer ferries and some routes aren’t operational.

To see more on how to arrange transport between islands, see our previous post.

  • Rental cars

Rental cars are necessary when visiting the Azores islands.

Public transport misses a lot of key sites and doesn’t run well.

It is possible to use taxis, but this quickly adds up in cost. The best option is to use a rental car.

Here we have more information on the best way to find a rental car and how to book.

  • Travel insurance

Travel insurance is also good to have, especially when exploring somewhere new and unknown.

While the likelihood of something happening is low, it is always a possibility and could lead to large costs down the line if you don’t have travel insurance.

For more information on why and where to get travel insurance for the Azores, see here.

  • Organized tours:

There are a range of organized tours available across the Azores islands.

There are some focusing on one specific island while others island-hop to display more of the archipelago.

There are also some tours focused on a specific activity or interest, while others are broader in giving a range of experiences.

For our pick of the best tours in the Azores, see our post here.

Conclusion

The Azores are a beautiful collection of islands of the coast of Portugal.

They are an amazing choice as a travel destination and any holiday in the Azores is bound to be wonderful.

Whether you are more interested in hiking, festivals, wildlife, or diving, there is a perfect time in the Azores for your holiday.

Here we have looked into the best times to visit the Azores for every holiday type.  Check out our Azores travel guide for more information about this amazing destination.

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