Home Destinations 11 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Azores in Portugal

11 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Azores in Portugal

by Michele
sao miguel azores travel guide sete cidades hike
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Off the beaten path, the Azores is Europe’s best-kept secret full of exotic flora, breathtaking unspoiled landscapes, pulsating volcanic activity, and a myriad of dazzling sights at every corner. Here’s why you must get to the Azores Islands in Portugal before the word spreads!

There are few places in the world that are off the tourist track and the Azores is one of them!

In the middle of the Atlantic ocean is a cluster of nine islands that you seldom hear about. You definitely won’t see it on Instagram (unless you follow me) and you’ll struggle to find useful information on Google.

It might be located in the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s no myth. Far from the Iberian coast is the Azores. Part of Portugal, the Azores is an archipelago that boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes, flora, and marine life in the world.

Countless dramatic waterfalls, lush green pastures, empty winding roads lined with hydrangeas, and lakes nestled in volcanic craters kilometres wide, are just some of its highlights.

Having remained in the shadow of mainland Europe for decades, the Azores is finally being recognised as an exotic destination that offers both adventure and relaxation.

So, without further ado, here’s my introductory Azores travel guide.

Where is the Azores?

azores islands portugal - Where is the Azores travel guide

In the North Atlantic ocean, sitting between 1,400-2,000km west of the Iberian Peninsula lies the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal.

The Azores has long been missed by most travellers. In fact, it wasn’t until 1432 that Portuguese settlers claimed the islands. This was just 60 years before Columbus stumbled on the New World!

With flights times from mainland Portugal being just two hours, and four and a half hours from North America, getting to the Azores is a fairly easy no matter which side of the pond you’re on.

The Azores is made up of nine islands which are divided into three groups. Flores and Corvo, sit in the Western group; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial are in the Central group; and São Miguel and Santa Maria lie in the Eastern group. Together, they extend for more than 600 km (370 mi).

São Miguel is the largest island of the archipelago, measuring 62.1 km in length and 15.8 km at its maximum width. It also has the most inhabitants of all the islands with over 140,000 people. The largest city in the Azores and its capital is Ponta Delgada and located right here on São Miguel island.

What to Expect in the Azores

It doesn’t matter if you go to one or all nine islands; you won’t be disappointed and you’ll want to go back for more!

For me, the Azores is analogous to Iceland, but with nicer weather. They’re isolated, virtually untouched and showcases a dramatic volcanic landscape.

Everywhere you look are either hydrangeas, cute quiet towns of black and white brick buildings, meadows of Friesian cows, towering trees, natural geothermal springs, and volcanic craters filled with aqua blue water, and black sand coastlines.

Every part of the Azores is a visual feast.

On the more practical note, all the creature comforts from home are here including a variety of restaurants, supermarkets, cafés, and bars. The mobile network coverage is top-notch and free wi-fi in most establishment around the island. 

If you’re still not convinced yet on the awesomeness of the Azores, let’s take a look at…

11 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Azores

1. See Nature at its Best

sao miguel azores travel guide sete cidades

If gushing waterfalls, magnificent volcanic landscapes, blue and green lagoons, rolling green fields bordered with flowers, and jagged coastlines aren’t your thing, then the Azores is not for you. On top of that, the Azores has been hailed as one of  The World’s Top 10 Sustainable Destinations

2. Picturesque Black-and-White Towns

azores islands portugal - sao miguel azores travel guide Ponta Delgada

As you navigate your way around the islands you’ll encounter meticulously decorated cobblestoned streets in adorable black-and-white towns.

Look out for the lavishly decorated 14th-century churches which were later given a Baroque facelift.

3. Endless Activities and Adventures

sao miguel azores travel guide sete cidades hike

The Azores has something for everyone. The Azores has always been a sort of mecca for divers, but now many outdoor activities and tours are taking things to a whole new level. Choose from such as whale watching, paragliding, kayaking, sailing, swimming with dolphins, hiking, and surfing.

Ready to start planning your trip to the Azores? Here’s everything you need to know about planning a trip to São Miguel island. My 5-day complete and comprehensive itinerary will show you the best of São Miguel island, plus where to eat, stay and it’s all plotted on a map for you to make things easier.

Still not convinced?

Azores is…

4. It’s Cheap, Cheap, Cheap

azores islands portugal - sao miguel azores travel guide road trip

My bank account barely broke a sweat during my one week in the Azores. The most expensive part of the trip is getting there (even then you can get good deals if you’re early) but once you arrive, money is a non-issue.

Visiting all the different vantage points and hiking the calderas are free. There are only small entrance fees to the various thermal pools which range between 2 – 8EUR.

Dinner for two with alcohol in a highly-rated restaurant in Ponta Delgada was 35EUR, a full tank of fuel for the rental car was 40EUR (which lasted four full days of driving). Compare the best car rental deal here.

5. The Azoreans are Friendly

Whether they speak English or not, the locals are friendly and all too willing to help you even with what limited vocab they possess. My Portuguese isn’t the best so whenever I wasn’t sure about something, we’d end up having a bit of banter.

Naturally, I recommend you use my free common Portuguese travel phrases guide, but even if you’re limited to just remembering a simple ‘Olá!’ (Hello!) and ‘Obrigado’ (thank-you), the Azorean’s will appreciate the effort.

6. Swim with Dolphins and Go Whale watching

azores travel guide Swimming with Dolphins

The Azores is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Around the archipelago, there are approximately twenty-five different resident and migratory species which can be spotted. The Sperm whale is amongst the most common, and both the blue and fin whale are regularly found in these waters.

I have a massive soft spot for marine life, particularly whales. But this time, I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I was 11 years old, swim with dolphins!

Endemic to the temperate and tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean is the super cute Atlantic Spotted dolphin. For two hours I swam with and observed these playful creatures in their natural environment. There were literally hundreds of them!

For both dolphin swimming and whale watching trips, I recommend Picos de Aventura located in Ponta Delgada. The team were both friendly and professional. They also offer a range of other activities and provide all necessary gear.

7. A Land of Volcanoes

sao miguel azores travel guide furnas

The Azores are considered to be the Hawaii of Europe with its volcanic activity playing a big part in its comparison.Across all the islands you’ll experience volcanic phenomena. From its black sandy beaches, natural hot springs, geysers in Furnas where hot steam from deep underground burst to the surface to where food is cooked in the volcanic underground.

Then there’s the Capelinhos volcano where you can literally walk on the lava remains of a volcano that last erupted in 1958. This is the closest you’ll get to walking on the moon!

8. Even When it Rains it’s Warm

sao miguel azores travel guide sunrise

Thanks to its distance from the continents and by the passing Gulf Stream, the Azores enjoy a mild climate with daytime temperatures fluctuating between 16 °C (61 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) depending on the season.

Having said that, it’s common to experience four seasons in one day. All of a sudden the wind will pick up, the heavens will open up blowing the rain almost horizontally, then all of a sudden the sun will come out in full force. Rinse and repeat.

9. Amazing Food and Wine

Where to eat in the Azores

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

The Azorean cuisine is quite rich in flavours and thanks to the weather conditions green pastures provide plenty of nutrients to the animals. Rump stew is a speciality on the islands of São Miguel, Pico and Terceira and Santa Maria is famous for its turnip broth with pork.

Seafood is also popular with clams, grilled limpets, slipper lobsters, spider crabs and whelks all present on the restaurant menu.

In São Miguel, the most famous dish is Furnas stew because of how it’s prepared. This pot of meat and vegetables is buried in the fumaroles where it is slowly cooked over a 6-7 hour period.

To mop up all that stew you’re going to need some bread. There are several delicious kinds to choose including sweetbread and cornbread. My personal favourite is the bolos lêvedo, a type of sweet muffin. Every day I stocked up on these at breakfast. Nom nom!

Azorean cheeses, almonds, jams, and the sweet Azorean pineapple are just some of the other culinary highlights.

10. Unique Handicraft

The settlers of the Azores brought with them a wealth of techniques concepts and objects that ended up combining with natural resources. This resulted in works made from the most diverse materials including, fabric, vegetables, wood, metal, stone, bone, ivory, and fish scales.

Look out for the linen and cotton embroideries of Terceira and São Miguel, wicker baskets in Graciosa, Faial and Flores and loom quilts made of colourful sheep wool in São Jorge.

11. The Time is Now!

azores islands portugal - sao miguel azores travel guide sunrise

With the introduction of direct flights to the Azores, this awesome news for travellers means that now you can go somewhere different that is still close to home yet refreshingly undiscovered.

As of early 2015, any airline company can now fly to the Azores thanks to the airspace being liberalised. Airlines such as Ryanair, TAP Air Portugal, Azores Airlines and Easyjet all have regular and more importantly, cheap, flights from Porto, Lisbon, and London.

To cater for this newfound interest, hostels, guesthouses, alternative accommodation options, fun new activities and tours have been popping up like mushrooms.

Now is the time to go!

So, what are you waiting for??

Start planning your trip!

For more information about Ponta Delgada, check out my full guide on where to stay, eat, and things to do and see in the charming Azores capital.

For a comprehensive guide to São Miguel island, get my free 5-day itinerary and map.

Essential Azores Travel Information

Getting to the Azores

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

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

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

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

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

Where to stay in the Azores

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

Where to stay in São Miguel

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

VIP Executive Azores Hotel

Where to stay in the Azores - VIP Executive Azores Hotel

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


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

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

Otherwise, check out these top-rated hotels!

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

Flights to São Miguel and Hotels

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

I recommend using Azores Getaways if you:

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

Browse their offers and packages here.

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

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

Got more time? Take a day trip!

Don’t miss these Portugal travel guides

Planning a trip and need travel insurance? Get a free quote from World Nomads here.

Like it? Pin it for later!

Azores islands portugal - azores travel guide

Sources Visit Azores | WikipediaGeeky Explorer

Over to you!

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

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Jennifer Dunlop August 22, 2018 - 21:57

I’m confused on how the free flights work. Did you use them? If we fly into Terceira can we fly free to another island for 2 days and then back or no? I read the fine print and can’t understand what they are saying exactly.

Michele August 25, 2018 - 19:20

Hi Jennifer, I didn’t do it myself as I flew direct from London and only stayed in Sao Miguel. I recommend directly contacting the call centre on 707 22 72 82 or +351 296 20 97 20. Let me know how you go :)

Linzi January 25, 2018 - 19:49

The Azores has been on my radar for a while – good to hear that it’s cheap and has great food

Basil Pereira October 22, 2017 - 22:54

Great post Michele. It is definitly a place to go.


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