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21 wonderful things to do in the Azores

What to do in Azores? The Azores are located in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly halfway between Europe and America.

The islands are part of Portugal, but it is an autonomous region. The archipelago consists of nine inhabited islands, each with its own special things to see and do.

This makes the Azores the perfect place for island hopping.

The Azores islands are an absolute paradise for nature lovers. You can enjoy wonderful walks, go caving, immerse yourself in the hot springs, go whale watching, swim with dolphins, and much more.

In short, I dare to say that this is the ideal place for nature and outdoor enthusiasts.

In this article, we share the best things to do in the Azores.

We recommend you don’t miss any of these during your Azores trip.

Overview of the points of interest in the Azores

Here’s a comparison table of all the top things to do in the Azores that we cover in this post. Read on for a short description of all the Azores highlights.

The best Azores activities and attractions

Which island Highlights Price
Algar Do Carvao Terceira Azores, Portugal Algar do Carvão

Terceira

Unique lava cave with an empty of full lake

€8. A combination ticket with Gruta do Natal costs €12.

Furnas Do Enxofre Terceira, Azores, Portugal Furnas do Enxofre

Terceira

The chance of seeing plumes of smoke and colorful mosses

Free

Lagoa do fogo Azores, Portugal View of Lagoa do Fogo

São Miguel

Beautiful crater lake with amazing views

Free

Sete cidades Sao miguel Azores Portugal View of Sete Cidades

São Miguel

The amazing view of the lakes

Free

Miradoura da Boca do Inferno

São Miguel

Amazing viewpoint where you can take an iconic picture

Free

Cha Gorreana Azores, Portugal Tea fields of Gorreana

São Miguel

The chance of seeing one of the few tea plantations in Europe

Free

Heron in Faja Dos Cubres Sao Jorge Azores, Portugal Bird watching on Fajã Dos Cubres

São Jorge

A great place to spot seabirds

Free

Pico Island Azores, Portugal Climb Pico Mountain

Pico

The chance of climbing the highest point of Portugal

€20 per person when climbing alone, €50-60 per person when taking a guide

Capelinhos Faial Azores, Portugal The lunar landscape of the Capelinhos volcano

Faial

Walking around a desolate lunar landscape

The area can be visited for free. The entrance for the visitor center costs: € 10 adults / Children age 7 to 14 and seniors +65 enjoy a preferential rate of € 5. Children under the age of 6 can enter for free.

Caldeira Faial Azores, Portugal The crater of the Caldeira volcano

Faial

Hiking around an enormous crater

Free

Whale tail Dolphin and whale watching

Nearly every island has tour operators. You have the best chance of spotting these fantastic animals with tours leaving from the islands of Pico, Faial, or São Miguel.

The chance of seeing dolphins and whales

€50-60 per person

The Caldeiras near Lagoa Das Furnas The Caldeiras near Lagoa Das Furnas

São Miguel

See the steaming geysers erupt

The entry fee is €3 and it costs €0.50 / hour to park

Taste Cozido das Furnas

São Miguel

Tasting a traditional Portuguese specialty

Around €24 for 2 people

Bathe in hot springs

São Miguel

The chance of bathing in a hot spring

Prices vary between €3-8 depending on the location

Cascata de Moinhos Azores, Portugal Best São Miguel waterfalls

São Miguel

The chance of seeing the most beautiful waterfalls

Mostly free

Mosteiros Sao Miguel Azores Portugal Visit the beaches

All Azores islands

The chance of relaxing or perform water sports

Free

Biscoitos Terceira Azores, Portugal Go swimming in a natural pool

All Azores islands

The chance of swimming in a natural pool

Free

Angra do Heroísmo Terceira, Azores, Portugal Wander around Angra do Heroismo

Terceira

Exploring the historic streets listed as an UNESCO world heritage

Free

Horta Harbour Faial Azores Portugal Explore the marina of Horta

Faial

Admiring the murals left by sailors

Free

Discover Grutta das Torres

Pico

Learning more about lava streams

€8 , €4 seniors ( only cash )

Whaling museum Pico Azores, Portugal Visiting the whaling museums on Pico island

Pico

Learning more about the whaling industry in the Azores

Museu dos Baleeiros: Free on Sunday; other days €2.50

 

 

What to do in the Azores

Here we share in detail what to see in the Azores. 

Algar Do Carvao Terceira Azores, Portugal
Visiting the Algar do Carvão was one of the best things we did in the Azores.

Discover Algar do Carvão

  • Which island: Terceira
  • Highlights: Unique lava cave with an empty of full lake
  • Price: you pay €8. A combination ticket with Gruta do Natal costs €12. The Gruta do Natal is not a real cave, but a lava tunnel. It is less spectacular than the Algar do Carvão, but it is still impressive to see how the flows of lava have created immense tunnels.
  • Opening hours: The cave opens in the afternoon at 2 PM or 2:30 PM.  Here are the exact opening hours.

The cave of Algar do Carvão is utterly unique. We were truly impressed, and apparently, you can only find similar caves in Iceland.

As we haven’t been there yet, Iceland remains one of the many destinations on our ever-growing bucket list, we cannot compare this cave with anything else we have seen before.

On top of the cave is a small visitor center.  A commanding tunnel leads from the visitor center towards the volcanic cave. As soon as you exit the tunnel you get a first dramatic view of the cave.

The grotto is 90 meters deep.  At the bottom is a lake formed by rainwater. Depending on the time of year it may be empty or it could be filled up to 14 meters high. The water is crystal clear and the view is breathtaking.

The cave is very damp all year round and water continuously drips down from the ceiling.  A raincoat could be useful.  Also, make sure to bring something a little warmer as it is only about 14 degrees down below. 

You shouldn’t be afraid to encounter bats in this cave as there’re none. 

The lava is so porous that the bat’s echolocation does not work. 

This unique feature of the lava rock ensures very good acoustics and the cave is regularly used for concerts.

Furnas Do Enxofre Terceira, Azores, Portugal
Seeing Furnas do Enxofre was one of the best things to do in the Azores.

Look for fairies in Furnas do Enxofre

  • Which island: Terceira
  • Highlights: Plumes of smoke and colorful mosses
  • Price: Free

Furnas do Enxofre is an area with a strong volcanic activity known as a fumarolic field.

I had never heard of this term either so let me explain what you can expect.

This is an area where several cracks in the earth’s crust, so-called fumaroles, emit steam and gasses from an underlying heat source.  The soil is typically very warm.  At Furnas do Enxofre it reaches about 95° Celsius.

The plumes of smoke and the associated smells already make it something to behold, but what made the whole thing very photogenic were the colorful mosses that can thrive in this special, somewhat chemical, ecosystem.

A small loop leads you around and over the cracks.

Although the area isn’t very large, I thought it was wonderful, and imagined myself in a fairy landscape.

Only the fairies were missing.

Lagoa do fogo Azores, Portugal
The Lagoa do Fogo was one of the highlights of our Azores vacation.

Admire the view of Lagoa do Fogo

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: Beautiful crater lake with amazing views
  • Price: Free

Lagoa do Fogo is a beautiful crater lake. Literally translated it means “Lagoon/Lake of Fire”.  It’s the highest lake on the island and it’s located in a stratovolcanic complex in the center of the island.

Because of the altitude, it is best to plan your visit on a clear day. The viewpoint on the lake is located on the edge of the crater and is often covered by clouds. 

On a cloudy day, you will find yourself with your head in the clouds and you won’t see a thing.

On a cloudy day, you will find yourself with your head in the clouds and you won’t see a thing.

You can also hike to the shore of the lake. 

The trail is 11km, back and forth, and except for the first km’s which were strenuous and boring we really enjoyed it.

Here is a tip if you want to check beforehand whether it is worthwhile driving to the top. The website spotazores.com has several webcams, including one at the viewpoint at Lagoa do Fogo.

Sete cidades Sao miguel Azores Portugal
Sete Cidades, 1 of the best viewpoints on the Azores.

Enjoy the view of Sete Cidades

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: The amazing view on the lakes
  • Price: Free

If you already have been dreaming away while viewing photos of the Azores there’s a big chance that one of the pictures featured the iconic blue and green crater lake of Sete Cidades.

The lake is shaped like an eight, and thus it seems like there are two lakes. One half of the lake is green, and the other is blue.

Read also: 3 days in Lisbon, a complete itinerary.

These twin lakes are probably the most photographed of the island group.

The clearly visible difference in color is caused by the strong growth of algae in one part of the lake, which makes it appear green.

There are two spectacular viewpoints, Vista do Rei and Boca do Inferno.

Plan your visit on a sunny day as then the color difference is most evident. On lesser days the viewpoints are often covered by a thick layer of clouds.

We advise heading to these viewpoints at the first opportunity. We only had one excellent day at the start of our week, the remainder of the week was so-so.  We were glad we directly headed to Sete Cidades.

Perhaps you will have more luck with the weather than we had but I would advise taking your chance while you can.

Here is a tip if you want to check beforehand whether it is worthwhile driving to the viewpoints. The website http://www.spotazores.com has several webcams, including one at the viewpoint at Sete Cidades.

If you love hiking, there are a few nice trails. The Vista do Rei trail and Mata do Canário trail both offer amazing lake views.

Visit the Miradoura da Boca do Inferno

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: Amazing viewpoint where you can take an iconic picture
  • Price: Free

The Vista Do Rei viewpoint is the most easily accessible but the one at Boca do Inferno is the most beautiful. Articles about the Azores will almost always be accompanied by a picture of the iconic view of Sete Cidades taken from the viewpoint at Boca do Inferno.

The Azores became popular thanks to a picture that was taken at this viewpoint and appeared in National Geographic.

Now that we have been here ourselves, we can fully understand this as the view of Sete Cidades from here is truly breathtaking. It’s one of the Azores ‘ must-see.

Directions: Park your car at the car park of Lagoa do Canário from where a small flight of stairs leads up to the viewpoint.

Cha Gorreana Azores, Portugal
Did you know that they have tea plantages in the Azores? 

Stroll through the tea fields of Gorreana

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: The chance of seeing one of the few tea plantations in Europe
  • Price: Free
  • Opening hours: Open daily, in the week from 8 AM till 7 PM, weekend from 9 AM till 7 PM

These tea fields are smaller than those in Malaysia or India but they are well worth a visit.

Precisely because of this small scale that you get a good picture of the manual process to harvest the tea leaves and process them.

You can see how they pick tea and you can freely roam around in the factory where the tea is made.

Chá Gorreana is the oldest and one of the few tea plantations in Europe. They’re worth a visit, if only for that reason.

Faja Dos Cubres Sao Jorge Azores, Portugal
The Faja Dos Cubres is a great place for bird watching.

Go bird watching on Fajã Dos Cubres

  • Which island: São Jorge
  • Highlights: A great place to spot seabirds
  • Price: Free

Fajã Dos Cubres is a beautifully located lagoon where many seabirds can be spotted. It lies on the rugged northern coast of the island of São Jorge.

We especially liked the combination of the serene lagoon beside the jagged steep mountainside.

Pico volcano Azores, Portugal
What to do in the Azores? Why not climb Pico mountain.

Climb the Pico volcano

  • Which island: Pico
  • Highlights: The chance of climbing the highest point of Portugal
  • Price: €20 per person when climbing alone, €50-60 per person when taking a guide

At 2,351 meters, the Pico volcano is the highest mountain in Portugal. 

When the mountain is not hidden in the clouds, you can see it anywhere on Pico. It is even visible from the neighboring islands of Terceira and São Jorge.

The brave ones among us can conquest the mountain. This can be done independently or with a guide. It’s not an easy way to the top. At times it is quite steep and you have to scramble over large boulders. If you keep up the pace, it’ll take about three hours for the climb, and four hours for the descent.

Where: Pico mountain is located on the eponymous island Pico.

Open: 24/7 – You can climb the mountain at night to get in time to the top for sunrise and you can also camp at the top of the mountain.

Admission: Everyone is obliged to register at the mountain house. You will receive a GPS that can be used to trace you in case of an emergency. The registration fee is determined by how far you want to climb. It will cost €20 to go all the way to the top. Taking a guide costs about €50 to €60 per person.

If you prefer to take it easier and at the same time want to increase your chances of fantastic photographs in good weather you can choose to do a guided tour with an overnight stay on the mountain.

Check prices and availability:

Pico day climb

Pico climb with overnight stay

Capelinhos Faial Azores, Portugal
Visiting Capelinhos is one of the most amazing things to do in Azores.

Wander around the lunar landscape of the Capelinhos volcano

  • Which island: Faial
  • Highlights: Walking around a desolate lunar landscape
  • Price: The area can be visited for free. The entrance for the visitor center costs: € 10 adults / Children age 7 to 14 and seniors +65 enjoy a preferential rate of € 5. Children under the age of 6 can enter for free.
  • Opening hours: The area can be visited 24/7 – The visitor center is open: 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 
 

The Capelinhos volcano erupted about 50 years ago and created a desolate lunar landscape.

This area looks really extraterrestrial and contrasts sharply with the predominantly lush green island.

The visitor center houses a small museum and shows a movie about the eruption.  Inside the visitor center is also the entrance to the lighthouse.

There are other tickets available if you only want to see the film, or just climb the lighthouse.

If you are looking for more fun things to do in Faial, click here.

Caldeira Faial Azores, Portugal
Hiking around the Caldeira at Faial island is one of the best Azores attractions.

Hike around the crater of the Caldeira volcano

  • Which island: Faial
  • Highlights: Hiking around an enormous crater
  • Price: Free

This is an enormous crater of two kilometers in diameter on the island of Faial.

The summit is often in the clouds, but on clear days the view of the crater and the surrounding area is nothing but astounding.  During very clear conditions you can even see the Pico volcano.

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

There is a viewpoint on the top of the Caldeira volcano.  This is also the place where the trail starts that leads you around the crater.

There is also the option of descending into the crater with a guide.

If want to do more hikes on the Azores, check out our complete Azores hiking guide full of practical tips.

Dolphins Azores, Porgugal
We saw these dolphins during our whale watching tour.

Go dolphin and whale watching

  • Which islands: Nearly every island has tour operators. You have the best chance of spotting these fantastic animals with tours leaving from the islands of Pico, Faial, or São Miguel.
  • Highlights: The chance of seeing dolphins and whales
  • Price: €50-60 per person
  • When to go: Most of the companies that organize whale excursions do two trips each day. One in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

Did you know that in the Azores, you have a 95% chance of seeing dolphins, and a 75% chance of seeing whales?

From February to April you can even spot the blue whale, the largest whale on earth.

Adults of this species can weigh up to 170 tonnes.

A dolphin and whale tour should be at the top of your list of things to do in the Azores.

The tour is canceled in case of bad weather, so don’t wait until the last day to book your excursion.

We did an excursion with Terra Azul on São Miguel. Unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to see whales but it was still a wonderful experience. A pod of dolphins swam along our Zodiac for a while. They were really curious and came really very close.

We booked our tour on GetYourGuide.  We love GetYourGuide because they’re flexible.  Sometimes your plans change unexpectedly in which case it’s good to know that most tours booked on GetYourGuide can be canceled for free up to 24 hours in advance.

Read the full review about our whale and dolphin watching tour.

The geysers at Furnas

Admire the steaming geysers at Caldeira das Furnas

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: Watching the steaming geysers in Furnas
  • Price: The entry fee is €3 and it costs €0.50 / hour to park
  • Highlights: Seeing the steaming geysers

Another not-to-be-missed Azores sight in Furnas is the steaming geysers at Caldeira das Furnas.

This piece of land houses several fuming and boiling volcanic pots.

The basins are also used to prepare a local specialty dish, the Cozida das Furnas, which is a kind of stew. 

Allow about 30 minutes for your visit.

After you have admired the steaming geysers you can dip into one of the hot springs or try the local specialty dish Cozida das Furnas in one of the Furnas restaurants.

Try Cozido das Furnas

  • Which island: São Miguel
  • Highlights: Tasting the local specialty dish
  • Price: Around €24 for 2 people

Cozido das Furnas is a traditional stew made of vegetables and meat.

This stew is prepared in a pot that is lowered into a hole in the ground and left to be cooked for 5-6 hours by the natural heat of the geothermal springs. You can sample the meal at one of the restaurants in Furnas.

You must make a reservation in advance if you want to taste the Cozida das Furnas. This stew is cooked in the geysers for about 6 hours, so calling in the morning or the day before is recommended.

Hot spring in Furnas

Bathe in a hot spring

  • Which island: São Miguel and Graciosa
  • Highlight: Bathing in the hot water of a natural pool
  • Price: Prices vary between €3-8 depending on the hot spring

After several days of hiking, you may be looking forward to a relaxing day.

There are several natural swimming pools on the Azores islands but the ultimate relaxation can be found in the natural hot springs in Furnas.

For an overview of the best Azores hot springs, click here.

Discover the most beautiful São Miguel waterfalls

Our island-hopping trip in the Azores also brought us to many beautiful waterfalls. Most are found on the island of São Miguel.

We think you should definitely visit the following waterfalls:

Cascata de Moinhos Azores, Portugal
Cascata de Moinhos

Cascata de Moinhos (Porto Formoso)

This waterfall was our absolute number 1.

We don’t think it has a name, or we don’t know it, that’s why we named it after the nearby village.

There is no signpost, which adds to the charm, as it is not yet discovered by tourists. We were absolutely alone. Kris even took a dive.

Where: On the island of São Miguel, behind the large car park of the Praia dos Moinhos.

There is a campsite behind the car park, if you cross the campsite you will find the steps that lead down to the waterfall.

Salto do Prego Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal
Salto do Prego

Salto do Prego

Number 2 is the Salto do Prego. You reach this waterfall after a scenic walk of about 4.5 km back and forth.  You can either return the same way or you can head right at the junction on the way back.  If you do so you will pass the abandoned and charming village of Sanguinho.

We had read that there was a lot of wildlife to be seen during this hike, but besides a load of chickens and a number of goats, we didn’t see any other animals.

Even so, the walk was still enjoyable, even without the animals, and the waterfall is really beautiful.

Where: On the island of São Miguel. The walk starts in the village of Faial Da Terra.

The waterfalls in the Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões

Cascata Ribeira dos Caldeiroes

There are several waterfalls in this national park.

Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for a walk through the park, but even a quick stop in the car park is enough to view the first waterfall which is right at the entrance of the park.

The waterfall can even be seen from the road.

The car park is also where the trails start that lead into the park.  Those trails will take you along several other waterfalls.

If we ever go back, we’re certainly going to go for a hike in this park.

Where: On São Miguel Island in the Natural Park Ribeira dos Caldeirões

Salto do Cabrito Sao Miguel Azores, Portugal
Salto do Cabrito

Salto do Cabrito

Another more popular waterfall is the Salto do Cabrito.

We had heard it could be quite busy, but we were fortunate to have the place to ourselves for the first minutes we were there.

Despite the many positive reviews of this waterfall, we only put it in fourth place.

It could have been quite charming had the nearby power plant not produced this high-pitched annoying noise all the time.

The waterfall in itself is nice but this is not a place where you can relax and unwind. If you want to quietly enjoy the area then the other waterfalls are a better choice.

Where: On the island of São Miguel, close to Ribeira Grande.

Here is an overview of the best Sao Miguel waterfalls.

Mosteiros Sao Miguel Azores Portugal

Visit the beaches

  • Which islands: All Azores islands
  • Highlights: The chance to relax or practice water sports
  • Price: Free

Although not really known as a beach destination, the Azores counts plenty of gorgeous beaches with white and black sand.

Yes, you read that right, some are indeed black. That’s because the sand on these beaches is of volcanic origin and therefore black.

Besides relaxing they offer a variety of water sports such as surfing, snorkeling, and bodyboarding.

Some beaches have limited facilities such as lavatories and showers. At other beaches, you will find changing rooms, washing facilities,  a bar, a restaurant, and sometimes even a campsite.

Read Also:

Here you can find an overview of the most beautiful beaches in the Azores. If you are looking for amazing beaches on São Miguel, click here. 

Biscoitos Terceira Azores, Portugal
In summer you can dive in the Natural Swimming Pools in Biscoitos

Go swimming in a natural pool

  • Where: All Azores islands
  • Highlights: The chance of swimming in a natural pool
  • Price: Free

All Azores islands have lots of natural swimming pools. These natural rock pools are a great place for swimming and bathing.

Amenities include changing rooms, toilets, restaurants, and sometimes there is even a lifeguard on duty.

One of our favorites natural pools was Biscoitos on Terceira island.

Angra do Heroísmo Terceira, Azores, Portugal

Wander around Angra do Heroismo

  • Which island: Terceira
  • Highlights: Exploring the historic streets listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Price: Free

Angra do Heroísmo is the ancient capital of the Azores and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

It’s a very compact city and best explored on foot.

When walking through the narrow streets, don’t forget to admire the tiling and floor patterns and the well-preserved colorful facades with mosaic pavements and traditional red-roofs.

Those interested in religious architecture should definitely visit the Igreja da Misericórdia. This waterfront church, whose main chapel is absolutely exquisite, can be visited for a small fee.

Another highlight is Monte Brasil, a mountain that was formed as the result of a volcanic eruption. It’s a great place to relax and have a picnic. From here you will have amazing views of the city. If you are lucky you may even spot some wildlife.

Explore the marina of Horta

  • Which island: Faial
  • Highlights: The chance to admire the murals left by sailors from all over the world
  • Price: Free

The marina of Horta has always been a popular stop for sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Here they gathered information on the latest weather forecast and replenished their stocks. They also left a mural painting with the name of the ship and its crew.

This tradition continues until today and it makes for a very colorful visit.

When visiting the Marina, don’t forget to pass by the legendary Peter’s Café sport.  

Discover Grutta das Torres

  • Which island: Pico Island
  • Highlights: The chance of learning more about lava streams
  • Price: €8, €4 seniors (only cash)

Grutta das Tores is with a length of 5150 meters the biggest lava tunnel in Portugal.

It can only be visited with a guide. The guide will lead you through a number of tunnels and will explain how these lava caves were formed and what different types of lava can be seen.

Tours go at set times and we advise calling in advance if you want to ensure a spot at a certain time of day.

Make sure you are wearing proper shoes with a good grip.

Whaling museum Pico Azores, Portugal
Whaling museum Pico

Visit the whaling museums on Pico island

  • Which island: Pico
  • Highlights: The chance of learning more about the whaling industry
  • Price: Free on Sunday

Whale hunting has been an important source of income for the residents of Pico island until is was forbidden in 1986.

In Pico you can learn more about this history.

The museum in Lajes do Pico focuses on the hunt. Although the museum is small, it’s worth a visit if only because of the movie you can watch on how they used to hunt the whales.

The museum in São Roque is housed in a former whaling factory and here you can learn more about how they processed the whales to turn the fat into whale oil.

Conclusion

We hope that this article about the Azores has inspired you to visit these as yet little-known treasures in the Atlantic Ocean. We have more imagery about these beautiful islands in our webstory.

The Azores is an ideal destination if you’re looking for an active nature vacation.

Let’s hope these islands will never become as popular as some other nearby sunbathing destinations. 

The unpredictable weather might certainly help.  Still, we would encourage you to plan a visit now while it’s still relatively unspoiled. 

We already noticed a big difference between São Miguel and the other islands.

Here you can find our Azores travel guide.

The best way to discover the Azores islands is by car. 

If you are looking for a complete Azores itinerary, take a look here.

If you wonder where to stay in the Azores, have a look at the best Airbnbs in the Azores.

If you prefer a guided Azores tour, have a look at his post in which we share the best Azores tour packages.

If you like this post, pin it.

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