Ultimate Azores Travel Guide: Everything You Need to See!
The Azores are a remote archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean that truly have to be seen to be believed. There’s nine islands in total, each with its own distinct character and charm. But on each, you’ll find awe-inspiring landscapes, vibrant cultures, and pure, untamed natural beauty.
São Miguel is the most popular island to visit, as it is the largest and boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery and epic activities in the Azores. This island is affectionately known as ‘The Green Jewel’ because as soon as you step foot on it you’re greeted by emerald lakes, rolling hills, and otherworldly landscapes.
If you have the chance, I highly recommend spending at least a week in São Miguel, as it’s probably the best island to base yourself on to have an adventure holiday in the Azores. After just coming back from a trip here, I can confirm that this island is paradise and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in all of Europe and there’s really something for everyone to do here.
So, let’s explore this unique corner of the world, including unmissable things to do, incredible hidden gems and more!
What to Expect in the Azores
Currency: The currency of the Azores is the Euro (EUR), and you’ll find lots of ATMs and banks throughout the islands where you can easily withdraw and exchange money.
Language: The official language of the Azores is Portuguese, which is spoken by the majority of the population. However, lots of locals also speak English, especially in tourist areas. Also, when you do popular activities in the Azores like whale watching and hiking, you’ll likely have a bilingual guide who speaks both Portuguese and English.
Safety: The Azores has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and the locals are super friendly and ready to share their love for these beautiful islands.
Daily Travel Budget for the Azores
One of the top questions I always get asked is ”are the Azores expensive to visit?”
Well, whether you’re looking for a budget-conscious Azores adventure, a mid-range adventure holiday, or seeking luxury all the way, I’ve written down the daily travel expenses you can expect in the Azores (based on my experience in São Miguel):
Budget traveler: €50-€70 per day
As a budget traveller, you can find affordable accommodations in guesthouses or budget hotels on the island. To get around, I recommend using public transport, such as local buses, to explore different parts of São Miguel.
For food options, plan some self-catering meals and check out local restaurants like Mercearia Tasca Azorean Street Food to experience tasty and authentic flavours, while saving your money for some epic adventures in the Azores.
What’s great about the Azores is that lots of the natural attractions on the islands, such as hiking trails, lakes, and viewpoints, are completely free to visit and offer amazing experiences without breaking the bank.
Mid-range traveler: €80-€150 per day
For mid-range travellers, São Miguel Island has lots of charming accommodation in mid-range hotels or bed and breakfasts.
To get around the island, I recommend renting a car as it’ll give you more flexibility and convenience to explore the incredibly diverse landscapes of the island.
In terms of food options, indulge in a mix of local cuisine and mid-range restaurants, such as O Baco, where you’ll be able to try traditional dishes and fresh seafood.
With your budget, you’ll also be able to do some guided activities in the Azores, like whale watching or jeep safaris, which provide unique experiences at totally affordable prices.
Luxury traveler: €200-€500+ per day
If you are seeking a luxurious experience in the Azores, you’ll find lots of upscale hotels and resorts with stunning views and incredible service.
With your budget, you’ll also be able to enjoy fine dining at high-end restaurants like Tasquinha Vieira, which creates delicious meals using fresh local ingredients. I highly recommend their tasting menu!
With your budget you could splash out and hire a driver and private guides to explore the island at your own pace. You could even indulge in private yacht charters, helicopter tours or luxury spa treatments to truly elevate your trip to the Azores!
Best Time to Visit the Azores?
The weather in the Azores is generally mild and maritime, and can be quite rainy throughout the year, so whenever you visit it’s best to pack a light rain jacket.
In the Summer months (June-August), the temperatures are warmer (usually around 22-25°C), but there’s also more crowds of tourists. This is a great time to go hiking or explore the beaches. Hydrangea season in the Azores typically runs during the Summer season, where lots of the island’s landscapes are covered in stunning blue, pink, and white hydrangea blooms.
In the Fall (September-November), temperatures begin to cool down (around 17-20°C) and there’s usually more rainfall. However, the scenery is still beautiful, especially with all the changing colours. Walking in the countryside, particularly around the lakes, is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the islands during this season.
Winter (December-February) can be quite mild (usually around 14-17°C), but also pretty rainy. The Winter weather can be unpredictable with sunshine and blue skies one minute and heavy rain the next. This is a great time to explore the hot springs or indulge in authentic Azorean cuisine in cozy restaurants.
Spring (March-May) is a good time to visit the Azores if you’re looking for fewer crowds and milder weather (usually around 17-20°C). It’s the perfect time to go whale watching, stroll around the local villages, and check out blooming botanical gardens like Terra Nostra.
How to get to the Azores, São Miguel Island:
The most common way to reach São Miguel Island is by taking a flight to Ponta Delgada, which is the capital of the Azores. Several airlines offer direct flights to Ponta Delgada from Europe and North America, including Azores Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Ryanair, and Delta Airlines. There are also connections with other Azorian islands such as Terceira, Faial and Pico.
It’s always a good shout to book your flights and accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel season. When searching for cheap airfares, Kiwi is one of the best online flight booking platforms that’s well worth checking out. Not only can you search an entire continent, but you can also select different destinations to find the lowest rates for the whole route ⁀➷
Getting Around São Miguel
When you arrive at the airport, you can either rent a car or take a taxi to your hotel or other destinations on the island. There are also regular buses that run throughout the island, making it easy to get around without a car.
We opted to hire a car in the Azores to give us maximum freedom. As always, we used Discover Cars, which is a fab car rental comparison website you can use to find, compare and rent a car globally. By using this site we managed to get a car for less than €30 per day ⁀➷
Overall, the best way to get around São Miguel will of course depend on your travel preferences, budget, and whatever is on your Azores Itinerary!
🌿 Best Activities on São Miguel Island 🌿
1. Explore the Iconic Sete Cidades
The top activity in São Miguel Island is undoubtedly the volcanic crater lakes of Sete Cidades that you’ll find on just about every postcard from the Azores.
This is a twin lake encompassed by crater walls, where the contrasting colours of blue and green create a true masterpiece of nature that will leave you speechless.
Sete Cidades is one of the top activities in the Azores and a true paradise for anyone seeking an active encounter with nature.
I highly recommend setting out on a hike along the rim to experience the beauty of the lakes first-hand. Even the best pictures in the world somehow don’t do them justice!
Or, if you don’t have the energy, you can simply drive to various viewpoints that overlook the lakes, such as Miradouro da Vista do Rei, which offers incredible panoramic views.
2. Discover Hot Springs and Geysers
For a unique Azores adventure, head to the Furnas Valley (São Miguel), which is home to one of the widest collections of geysers, fumaroles, calderas, and, most notably, hot springs.
If you’re a foodie, one really cool thing to do in Furnas Valley is trying its culinary traditions. This includes sampling the famous Cozido das Furnas, which is a traditional Azorean stew that’s cooked underground by volcanic steam. This is not only a meal but an unforgettable gastronomic experience connecting you to the geological magic of Furnas. One of the best places to try this dish is at Caldeiras e Vulcoes, but you’ll need to book this at least 24 hours in advance.
Also, there’s endless natural beauty to check out in Furnas, from Lagoa das Furnas, which is a large lake surrounded by lush green hills and occasional steam vents, to Caldeira Velha, which has a stunning waterfall and hot springs, widely known for its therapeutic benefits. However, if you want to swim in the hot springs here you’ll need to book a ticket in advance, as there’s limited spots to do this each day. You can book your ticket online here (and you may even get a small discount).
Miradouro da Lagoa das Furnas is also well worth checking out – this is a scenic viewpoint with panoramic views of the Furnas Valley (perfect for capturing some epic Instagram content!)
Another amazing thing to do in Furnas is heading to Terra Nostra Park, where you can take a soothing dip in its famed thermal pool, which is surrounded by lush botanical gardens. This is a true “must-visit” destination in the Azores!
3. Visit Ponta Delgada: The Historic Center
Ponta Delgada is the historic centre of the island and is an absolute must for your Azores itinerary. When you arrive, you’ll experience a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern energy.
For an epic Instagram shot, make sure you stop at the iconic Portas da Cidade, the grand city gates, which welcome you into a world steeped in history.
The best thing to do in Ponta Delgada is strolling along the quaint cobblestone streets that are lined with authentic, whitewashed buildings adorned with black volcanic rock. This is a magical place where you could literally spend hours wondering around.
Ponta Delgada has a real cosmopolitan spirit, with a vibrant dining scene, modern art galleries, and the notable Carlos Machado Museum, which showcases the cultural tapestry that has shaped the Azores.
The shopping here is surprisingly good too, offering everything from much-loved modern clothes shops like Mango, to totally unique Azorean boutiques. There’s also several farmers markets here like Mercado da Graça, where vendors sell everything from fresh local produce to locally-made cheese and Azorean pineapples.
After a day of exploring, I recommend sitting down at one of the many ocean-facing restaurants to sample Azorean specialties like lapas grelhadas (grilled limpets) or Octopus salad. For dessert, make sure you check out Colmeia Avenida, which does the most amazing Azorean treats (their pineapple truffles are to die for!)
There’s a real serenity that permeates Ponta Delgada. Perhaps it’s the endless views of the Atlantic Ocean or the laid-back pace of life. Either way, it’s a city that invites you to unwind and fully immerse yourself in the Azorean lifestyle.
4. Ribeira Grande: Stunning Seaside Town
Ribeira Grande is the second largest town on São Miguel and truly encapsulates the Azorean spirit – untamed natural beauty, authentic charm and a vibrant culture.
The town itself is an architectural gem with gorgeous cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved 18th-century buildings, quaint cafes, and the unmistakable scent of freshly baked Portuguese pastries!
The best photo spots here in Ribeira Grande are the Ponte dos Oito Arcos, which is an elegant eight-arched bridge that stands proud in the heart of the town, and the beautiful Parish Church of São Nicolau, which has a striking white and burnt orange exterior.
While you’re in Ribeira Grande, you can also check out the Gorreana Tea Factory, which is actually one of the oldest, and the only remaining, tea plantation in Europe. It’s been producing tea since 1883, and is renowned for its organic green and black teas. We had a whole pot of pineapple tea here for only €1, as well as a free tour of the plantation, which has a seriously old-world charm that’ll instantly transport you back in time.
Beyond the town limits, you’ll find a range of amazing outdoor activities. From hiking in the hills to canyoning in the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park, there’s an activity to suit every type of adventurer in Ribeira Grande.
Even if you don’t fancy canyoneering, I highly recommend heading to the National Park anyway as it’s absolutely stunning to walk around. So be sure to include this spot on your Azores adventure!
Ribeira Grande has endless natural beauty, as the town overlooks the dramatic northern coastline, offering spectacular panoramic views. You’ll be able to spot how the island’s volcanic origins have sculpted the landscape into a striking tapestry of craggy cliffs, fertile plains, and breathtaking beaches, including the black sand beach of Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara, which is a mecca for surfers worldwide.
So whatever you do, don’t leave Ribeira Grande off your São Miguel itinerary – I’d set aside at least a full day to explore this gorgeous part of the island as there’s so many incredible Azores activities you can tick off here.
5. Majestic Whale Watching in the Azores
Whale watching is undoubtedly one of the top Azores activities and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you simply can’t miss!
The Azores also has a well-regulated and environmentally conscious approach to whale watching, which ensures their safety and well-being, while providing an unforgettable blend of adventure, education, conservation, and sheer awe at the wonders of nature.
São Miguel offers one of the world’s most incredible opportunities to see these majestic creatures up close in their natural habitat. This is due to the fact that São Miguel sits at a crossroads of migratory routes for a variety of whale species, turning its waters into a bustling highway for these oceanic giants.
At various times throughout the year, you can expect to see sperm whales, fin whales and blue whales, which are the largest animal ever known to have existed. You may also spot several species of dolphins.
São Miguel’s whale watching isn’t just about the whales – the journey out to sea itself is equally amazing! The island’s volcanic origin has given it dramatic cliffs and coastal features, which provide a beautiful backdrop as you sail across the Atlantic waters.
6. Nordeste: The Azores’ Best-kept Secret
Nordeste, a municipality tucked away in the northeastern side of São Miguel, is the epitome of Azorean charm – serene, captivating, and stunningly beautiful. It’s home to picturesque villages and beautiful coastal views.
Often considered one of the Azores’ best-kept secrets, Nordeste is a haven of peaceful solitude and breathtaking landscapes, offering a unique experience, far removed from the bustling crowds of more touristy areas. Stepping into Nordeste seriously feels like entering an untouched paradise.
Nordeste is home to one of the Azores’ most iconic landmarks, the viewpoint of Ponta do Sossego, which is open to the public and free of charge. This vantage point provides incredible, sweeping views of the surrounding ocean and the island’s undulating landscapes, making it a must-visit spot on São Miguel.
We came to Ponta do Sossego on our second day in the Azores and despite it being slightly cloudy, we were blown away. The gardens here are meticulously maintained and bursting with colour, and there’s also dozens of adorable cats and kittens that live on the grounds, which only adds to the charm.
What Nordeste might lack in size, it more than makes up for in character. The town itself is a picturesque collection of whitewashed houses, local shops, and traditional restaurants, where you can indulge in mouth-watering Azorean cuisine.
You’ll also find beautiful architectural pieces like the Church of São Jorge, which dates back to the 16th century, and several charming stone bridges dotted throughout the town.
A visit to Nordeste wouldn’t be complete without witnessing its rich abundance of wildlife. It’s one of the best places on the island to spot the endemic Azores Bullfinch, a bird species found nowhere else on Earth.
So, if you’re seeking an escape from the rush of everyday life, Nordeste is your perfect destination!
Most Instagrammable Spots on São Miguel
São Miguel Island is such a stunning destination with Instagram-worthy photo ops around every corner.
My personal favourite spots on the island to take some epic Instagram shots were:
: ̗̀➛ The seaside town of Ribeira Grande with its charming streets, wild landscapes and epic sunsets.
: ̗̀➛ The hot springs at Poça da Dona Beija, which provide a totally unique backdrop for all your holiday pics.
: ̗̀➛ The stunning Caldeira Velha Natural Monument, which has the most stunning turquoise hot springs, right in the middle of the lush forest.
: ̗̀➛ And of course, the breathtaking Sete Cidades twin lakes.
Where to Stay on São Miguel, Azores
After seeing hundreds of glowing reviews, we booked Comercial Azores Boutique, which is a delightful guest house right in the heart of Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island. If you stay here, you can also tour a pineapple plantation (Herdade Do Ananas), which is owned by the Hotel.
Of course if this boutique doesn’t appeal, or you don’t plan on visiting São Miguel Island, you can always find the best accommodation deals using Hotellook ⁀➷
Best Restaurants in São Miguel
No visit to the islands is complete without savouring authentic Azorean cuisine. Plus, after experiencing some epic activities in the Azores you’ll no doubt need to refuel.
While you’re in the Azores, I highly recommend trying fresh seafood delicacies like grilled limpets, octopus stew, and barnacle rice.
Also, don’t forget to sample the famous Queijadas da Vila Franca either, which are sweet pastries filled with a creamy cheese mixture. And the local pineapple, which is grown in the island’s unique microclimate is probably the best fruit you will ever taste!
In terms of the restaurant scene, São Miguel is home to lots of amazing restaurants. Here are some of the best restaurants to check out during your visit:
: ̗̀➛ Tony’s Restaurant – This restaurant in Ponta Delgada offers classic Azorean dishes with a modern twist. The menu features fresh seafood, local meats, and veggie options, all made with locally sourced ingredients.
: ̗̀➛ Terra Nostra Garden Restaurant – Located in Furnas, this Graden restaurant serves up gourmet cuisine inspired by traditional Azorean dishes. The setting is idyllic, as it’s surrounded by the lush gardens and natural hot springs of Furnas.
: ̗̀➛ A Tasca – This amazing restaurant in Ponta Delgada specialises in traditional Azorean cuisine. The menu features dishes like Cozido das Furnas, octopus fillet, and grilled beef. However, A Tasca is possibility the most popular restaurant on the island, so be prepared to wait, or head here extra early to grab a table as you can’t book in advance.
: ̗̀➛ Santo Seitan, located in Ponta Delgada, is the best vegetarian restaurant I have ever eaten at. Their Veggie Bao Buns and Coconut Cake are to die for!
: ̗̀➛ Caloura Bar Restaurant – Located in the picturesque village of Caloura, this restaurant offers stunning views of the ocean and traditional Azorean cuisine with a contemporary twist. On the menu you’ll find fresh seafood, meat dishes, and vegetarian options, all made with local ingredients.
: ̗̀➛ For a quick drink or cup of coffee, the best place to go on São Miguel is The Louvre Michaelense, which is located in Ponta Delgada. Unlike Lisbon, there seems to be a real shortage of coffee shops on the islands, so this place is probably your best bet for a half decent coffee.
: ̗̀➛ For an authentic experience in the Azores, you could stop by a local distillery or liqueur factory (like Mulher do Capote) to taste the renowned Azorean liqueur, Licor de Maracujá (passion fruit liqueur), or the fiery Ginja de São Miguel (São Miguel cherry liqueur), which tastes amazing (and I don’t even usually drink!)
P.S. If you plan on backpacking around the Azores I have a great tip to save money on your food bills. Just download The Fork to get special deals and up to 50% off restaurants in the Azores. Not an ad, just a top tip from our friend who lives in Portugal. Enjoy!
🌴 Visit the other Islands of the Azores 🌴
If you have time, why not venture to another island in the Azores for a day or two, as they all have something unique and special to offer. To do this, you just need to hop on a ferry operated by Atlanticoline, or catch a short domestic flight. Azores Airlines or SATA Air Açores offer regular flights between the islands. Another option, depending on your budget, is to charter a private boat or join a tour.
1. Terceira: Where History and Beauty Collide
If you venture further West, you’ll arrive on the island of Terceira, where history seamlessly blends with breathtaking scenery.
Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island’s capital, reveals a fascinating tapestry of cobblestone streets, imposing fortresses, and pastel-coloured houses. It’s a place where you can lose yourself in the winding alleys and discover hidden treasures at every turn.
For daredevils, an ascent up Mount Brasil promises an adrenaline-fuelled hike, rewarding you with panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see.
You can also delve into the fascinating history of Terceira by exploring Algar do Carvão, a volcanic chimney that offers a glimpse into the island’s fiery past.
2. Pico: A Volcanic Wonder
The island of Pico is home to Portugal’s highest peak and is a dream for nature-lovers. As soon as you set foot on this captivating island, you’ll see the Pico volcano dominating the skyline, inviting all adventurous souls to set off on an unforgettable hike to its summit!
On Pico you’ll witness awe-inspiring landscapes of vineyards nestled in volcanic soil, which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can try the unique flavours of Pico’s wine.
The island’s quaint villages, such as Lajes do Pico, exude an authentic charm, offering a glimpse into the island’s seafaring heritage and a chance to savour freshly caught seafood.
3. Flores: Nature’s Unspoiled Canvas
The island of Flores is a haven for anyone seeking serenity and untouched beauty. Flores’ rugged coastline reveals cascading waterfalls, secret lagoons, and dramatic cliffs that plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.
While you’re here, immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of the Fajãs, which are fertile coastal plains formed by ancient lava flows, where colourful wildflowers paint the landscape.
You could also set off on an unforgettable hike through the breathtaking Flores’ Nature Park, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where you’ll find moss-covered forests, lakes, and endemic flora and fauna.
Finally, don’t forget to explore the mesmerising Rocha dos Bordões, which is a geological wonder of towering basalt columns that rise from the earth.
Best Global Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is particularly important for the Azores due to its remote location, unpredictable weather, outdoor activities, and peace of mind during your trip.
My travel insurance of choice is SafetyWings Nomad Insurance, which is actually the world’s first international travel medical insurance designed to meet the needs of digital nomads and remote workers travelling or living abroad.
No one wants to think about worst case scenarios while exploring the world and the good news is that now you don’t have to! With SafetyWing you don’t need to worry, their Nomad Insurance policy covers you for travel anywhere in the world outside your home country (except sanctioned countries / areas). How amazing is that?
If you get ill or injured, SafetyWing has your back and will cover all eligible medical expenses, from prescription drugs to hospital charges and emergency evacuation.
Having Nomad Insurance will literally save you a fortune if something goes wrong. This became extremely apparent after my partner almost died in a motorcycle accident in Bali, and his medical bills totalled over £10,000 (luckily he was insured!) It was also a lifesaver when, believe it or not, I got bitten by a rogue turtle in Zanzibar (you can read more about this here!)
One of my favourite features of SafetyWing insurance is that you can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the entire year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel, giving you huge flexibility.
Unlike other insurers, with SafetyWing there’s no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (or return ticket) to activate your insurance. Also, did I mention that Nomad Insurance starts at just $45 per 4 weeks?!
I recommend checking SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Are the Azores worth visiting? In my opinion, the Azores, with São Miguel at its heart, are truly a hidden gem and destination that defies all expectations.
From stunning landscapes and untouched natural beauty, to rich cultural heritage and warm island hospitality, the Azores offer an experience that is unparalleled.
Nowadays, magical places like this are few and far between, so if I were you, I would pack your bags and head straight to this unbelievable archipelago before the masses descend. You won’t be disappointed!
Catch you in the next post ✌️
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