If you’re charmed by the magnificent photos you saw online about Azore, and would like to learn more about these islands, or if you are intrigued, but don’t know much about it, welcome! In this article you will find good information on what to expect, how to prepare, and what you’ll find there.
Not much information can be found online about Azores. Even more, I bet most of you who have heard of it, think that Azores is for old people, and there’s nothing exciting to do there.
You’ll be pleased to know this is not true!
I didn’t know anything about Azores half a year ago, except that they are a bunch of islands close to Portugal.
Then I cam across some pictures online. Wow, they were amazing! This made me want to find out more about it. The more I read, the more I wanted to go there. So, shortly after that, my husband and I decided we want to visit Azores. The main argument, besides the incredible views? Whale watching! This was on my bucket list for a long time now, and Azores was going to help me cross it off 🙂
Some general information about Azores, before going through the trip details:
The Azores islands, an autonomous region of Portugal, form an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic and are characterized by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas. Green, volcanic and remote, the islands were first settled in the 15th century and are popular for hiking, whale-watching, blue marlin fishing, surfing and diving. – Wikipedia
Is composed of 9 islands:
The main island is Sao Miguel, and the main entry in Azores is done through the Ponta Delgada airport.
Who is suitable for
Families with children too, but keep in mind there are not popular beaches, and not alot of children friendly activities.
When to visit
The Azores have a mild climate, the temperature is pleasant all year round, but warmest in June and July. In the winter the average temperature is 13˚C, only sometimes dropping to around 4˚C at night. In summer, the average temperature is 23˚C, with a maximum of 27˚C. However, every month is a delight in the Azores and even in January you can enjoy the beautiful landscape or have a taste of the local cheese, fresh bread and a bottle of wine, sitting in a field in bright sunshine without jackets or jerseys.
The water temperatures stays pretty much the same, you can often see people bathing off the beaches throughout the winter, when the lowest sea temperatures are 15–16˚C in February and March. The highest are in August and September, with an average of around 22–24˚C.
As these islands are in the Middle-North of the Atlantic, Azores is not a typical exotic beach destination. However, there are nice beaches available, and in the summer you can enjoy a good time there. This makes it perfect for exploring. Make sure you wear sunscreen at all times, because even on a cloudy or foggy day, you can get a nice sunburn(like me 🙂 )
The evenings can get rather cool, so make sure you have some warm clothes, like a sweater and some long pants. There’s a saying in Azores, that you can experience all 4 seasons in a day, because of the changing weather(no snow, don’t worry). In one day it can rain, it can get very sunny, and the evenings can get pretty cold. So be prepared.
What to eat
The islands are very knows for their vineyards, fishing, pastoring. You must try the local cheese, the fresh bread, local wine, and sweet fruit jams. Delicious!
Flight to Azores
As tourism is continuously growing there, more and more flights are added. Now you can fly there from Lisbon, London, Boston, Montreal, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Porto, Munich.
We flew from Lisbon, and the return ticket was affordable (100 Euros/person), with luggage included.
Important: Currently, there’s a promotion on SATA website, where you can fly for free within the Azores islands. Here you can find out more details and request your flights:
It would have been great to have this possibility myself, because the inter islands flights are not cheap. I paid 150 euros for the flight between Sao Miguel and Pico islands.
If you want to know what airlines are operating flights to Azores: Azores Airlines
Lots of accommodation options are available, and vary from 5 stars hotels, to shared rooms. The prices are good either way, so you’ll find something there for any taste.
If you wish to discover the people and get a taste of their day to day life, I recommend Casa Da Flor, a very cosy and intimate guest house with 9.6 review score and good prices(55euros/night/double room). The hosts are going out of their way to make the guest’s stay an exceptional one: “Florbela and Luis welcomed us with open arms, gave us the best travel advice, brought us along on a kayak trip, invited us on their family dinner”.
On the other side, Hotel Azor is a newly opened design 5 star hotel, and I recommend it to the people who like to have the optimal luxury and comfort at their disposal.
Tip: The prices are growing in the summer, so it might worth checking the accommodation prices as well when deciding on a period for your vacation. We went there at the end of June, and the prices were considerably smaller than in July.
Other nice place I recommend in Sao Miguel is Pico do Refugio – Casas de Campo – great intimate villas. We got great tips from the owner.
The other island we visited is Pico. Here I recommend Casa do Ouvidor. It is perfect for 2 couples, or a family with kids.
I suggest renting a car. I didn’t see any bus the whole time I spent there. The islands are pretty big, so in order to get to see everything there is to see, you’ll need a car.
There are good prices for car renting, starting from ~ 35 euros/day. It’s also convenient, the car waited for us at the airport, and in the end, we left it at the airport as well.
I’ll describe here the places we visited during our 7 days vacation. Worth mentioning that we are very fast visitors, so for some people 7 days might not be enough to visit all the items in this itinerary.
Arrival. We arrived in Ponta Delgada airport. The rental car was waiting for us there, we took it and started to get familiar with the territory, before checking in at the guest house, which was not yet ready, since we arrived at 8AM. We drove through Ponta Delgada a little, parked in the city centre(across from the port), and found a pace to eat. The weather was very nice, the sun was rising, not many people were around.
We ate a nice breakfast, then we went searching for a whale watching tour and scuba diving activity to book. We heard good things about whale watching with Futurismo, and we found it pretty easy, since it was in the port. Here you can find pretty much all the whale watching and scuba diving shops. We books our activities for the next days, and we went to checkin.
Our place was in the north part of the island, so we started to drive on the coast, towards the east.
Everywhere we looked, it was like a fairy tale:
- Different colored hydrangeas were highlighting the roads
- cows were populating the fields
- after each hill a breathtaking view of the ocean, mountain or the village would unveil in front of us.
- Lots of view points are marked as “Miradouro“. When you see this sign, know that there is a beautiful resting place with a gorgeous view.
It was a pleasure just to drive anywhere in Sao Miguel.
Here you can take a bath in the popular hot-springs in the central village, or buy a boiled corn on cobs, boiled in the natural boiling water.
Note: Make sure to bring coloured towels, and not the best bathing suit, as the water in the hot-springs can ruin the colors.
After that we went to Lagoa da Fogo (Fire lake). Lagoa do Fogo is a crater lake within the Água de Pau Massif stratovolcano in the center of the island. It is one of the largest of the water-bodies in the Azores, and occupies the central caldera of the Água de Pau Massif
At close distance we stopped at Caldeira Velha, Natural Monument, part of Biosferic Reserve. In addition to its natural and exotic wealth and diversity of vegetation and fauna, Caldeira Velha is also visited by those who want to bathe in the warm and hot springs with medicinal characteristics. This forest made me think of Jurrasic Park, I was expecting a dinosaour pop up at any minute.
The water comes from thermal hot springs and are forming waterfalls, and channels with brown hue due to the abundance of iron. The boilers, which are boiling, have a forbidden signal shower is attached, but there are people who even like to be near the water to bubble!
In the evening we went looking for a nice place to eat. The guest house owner recommended us Associacao Agricola de Sao Miguel. This is a regional restaurant known mainly for its beefsteak, made with meat from the Azores, of high quality meat and unique flavor.
As you can imagine, we slept like logs whole night, despite the party that was going on across the street, accompanied by fireworks. Nothing could wake us up after such a long and wonderful day!
We woke up very happy and refreshed, looking forward to explore the rest of Sao Miguel wonders.
This morning we went whale watching! We booked half a day(you can also book a full day if you like), and it costs 55 euros/person.
We were around 15 people total, + 2 staff members, that were driving the boat.
At first I was a litle dissapointed, because we went with a tiny boat, and we had to sit in 2 rows, one in front of the other, so I didn’t have much visibility, only by turning my face to the right or left.
But after a while, I got comfortable, and at the first sight of a dolphin, I forgot about this discomfort. We saw 3 species of dolphins, some of them came pretty close to the boat, 1-2 meters!
And the highlight of the day: we were lucky enough to see a finwhale, and after a while, 3 sperm whales. It was a thrilling experience, as whale watching was the main reason I wanted to come to the Azores.
At noon we got back from our trip, and we went looking for something to eat.
In the afternoon, we went to visit Ciete Citades. There the views got more and more beautiful, and the weather was great that day 🙂
We flew to Pico island and spent there the next 2 days.
The rent car was waiting for us at the airport, and again, we started driving arund for a little bit, to get to know the roads. We went to the house to checkin(lovely lovely house, Casa do Ouividor) and again, we went to the main city (Madalena) to look for something to eat.
This island is a little less populated, but it’s special ting that highlights it is the highest mountain in Portugal, and the wine .
In Madalena, we found it very weird that the restaurants(not many) we not serving food during the day, only drinks and some sandwiches. Beware, it was not a pleasant discovery for us. It took us some time to find a small Pastellaria, near the port, that served food.
With our bellies full, we started to drive the road that connects the south and the north of the island, and passes by the Pico mountain. It is a wonderful drive, we got to see it covered by mist, and it was fairylike. The cows were here as well, and looked dreamlike covered in mist. The mountain was also very imposing. It can be climbed, and also you can slip on the top. It takes around 3 hours up and 4 don(because if the volcanic nature, coming down is harder than climbing, because it is very slippery).
We visited some wine cultures, they are pretty different than what we were used to seing in Italy, or Romania.
This day we drove around the island, and we stopped when we saw signs of something worth stopping for. For example, we found a nice botanical garden, with very beautiful viewpoints and nice cliffs.
We got back to Sao Miguel.
We got our new car, checked in, and went for another drive on the island. This time we went to the west side of the island, and visited Sete Cidades again. We looked for the Boca do Inferno view point, that was the most popular view advertised on the brochures. The problem is that we didn’t find it anywhere on the maps, and we saw no signs of it in Sete Cidades.
The weather was cloudy so we decided o come back another day to see it, and we settled for the rest of lakes and view points.
We exited Sete Cidades and visited Ferreira, then Mosteiros, 2 neighbouring cities. They both have some cliffed beaches.
In the beautiful, quiet little town of Mosteiros, there are some of the many natural pools that can be enjoyed on the island. This phenomenon occurred when the lava flows erupted at other times solidified in contact with the sea formed small coves of volcanic rock. Today, the locals and tourists can enjoy great salt water baths without the inconvenience of stained sand. You can find them easily as there are indications that lead to the place. Mosteiros Natural Pools are a perfect place to relax while admiring the splendid and magnificent great blue.
Ponta da Ferraria is Mosteiros’ neighbour. One of the most unique things about this spot is that it is that there is a little natural swimming pool that is fed by a hot spring.
This is a naturally heated swimming pool on a natural volcanic rock environment. Just relax while floating in ocean water that is heated by natural heat sources.
The waves break down when entering the natural pool. Nearer the entrance of the pool the water is cooler, nearer “land” it is hot.
Nearer to the heat source there are a few stones in the middle of the pool, so be careful. It is also advisable to take flip flops since to enter the swimming pool you have to walk over the rocks that are sharp and a bit slippery.
Very nice to go by sunset.
It was a late morning for us, and we monthly spent it relaxing, taking advantage of the hotel’s pool, waiting for the scuba diving session.
It was our first time, and it was an exciting first experience. We went with a group of people who were taking the course, and a professionist diver was taking care of me and my husband.
We dived into an underwater volcano(not many places you can experience this!) and the instructor took great care of us, helping us on every “step”. Can’t wait for our next diving session!
We managed to find Boca do Inferno this time.
You can reach it going on the road from the right side of Lagoa do Canario (even their lakes have cute shapes).
After a few minutes of waiting around for the fog to retreat, the amazing view just made itself visible to us.
From a lower point, you have the opportunity to witness another breathtaking view. Here you can also see the reason why 2 of the lakes from Sete Citades are called the Blue Lake and the Green Lake:
After that we went to see the last place on our list: Faial da Terra. Situated on the south-east part of the island, it hides a very nice waterfall.
To get this this we walked in a well marked trail in a forest for around half an hour.
This walk was totally worth it, as you can see in the pictures.
And an even more amazing thing happened, proving how peaceful these islands are:
We left our car at the end of the village, locked. One window from the car was pulled down, and didn’t close while locking the car. We didn’t notice, and when we got back 1.5 hours later, we we scared and relieved in the same time. We had a backpack with some things, more important being some money and a credit card. Everything was still there!
I hope you will enjoy Azores as much as I did!