The Azores are a group of Portuguese islands located about 1,500 miles off the coast of Lisbon. There are a total of nine volcanic islands: Corvo, Flores, Faial, Graciosa, Pico, Sao Jorge, Terceira, Santa Maria, and Sao Miguel. These islands are all beautiful and each one has something unique to offer. In fact, that is exactly why travelers choose to visit the Azores. It’s a fantastic trip that provides adventure, stunning natural wonders, and quaint villages. The islands aren’t that well-known as a travel destination, so many call the Azores Portugual’s “best kept secret.” If you’re considering the Azores for your next vacation, read this guide for tips on what to do, when to go, and some tips to know before you go.
When To Go
Overall, these islands maintain a lovely sunny climate. You can go in the Spring for ideal weather that makes hiking manageable, or the summer if you like heat and plan to swim in the ocean. Naturally, the winter will have cooler weather, but it’s still pleasant enough to be outside for many activities.
However, note that the Azores can have extremely unpredictable weather, so be prepared that storms and showers can occasionally happen.
What To Do
The Azores are perfect for nature-lovers. While the list of adventures can be quite long, we’ve picked out some of the top ones you should prioritize:
Whale Watching & Swimming With Dolphins
The Azores are home to more than 24 different types of cetaceans. Most notably, any research into the Azores will tell you that you have to go whale watching. Sperm whales live in the waters around the Azores all-year-round and are easy to spot. Additionally, depending on what time of year you visit, you may also see blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, and even humpbacks. Whale season is considered to run from April all the way to October, especially for the bigger whale species.
And, if the whales aren’t enough for you, the Azores often has dolphins too! You can expect to find both common and bottlenose dolphins in these waters, both of which are great to swim with.
When you arrive at the islands, you can book excursion trips with locals who will take you for a day of dolphin swimming or whale watching.
Visiting Lagoa das Furnas
The island of Sao Miguel is home to the village of Furnas. This small village has a lot to offer visitors, including the tourist attractions Cozido Nas Caldeiras (a geothermal hot springs) and Lagoa Das Furnas (a crater lake). Many visitors feel that stepping into Furnas is like leaving Portugal entirely and entering an area similar to Iceland or Ireland.
Lagoa Das Furnas is one of three crater lakes on this island, but this crater lake offers something extra. Along with the magnificent views, you can watch a local Portuguese stew custom happen every day. People put pots of stew into the hot springs, bury them, and let them cook for several hours. Then, every day around lunchtime, you can watch as the same people dig up the pots from the ground to take away. You can try this stew in a nearby local restaurant, and while it has a different flavor than most stews you’ve had before, it’s a must-try!
Both the hot springs and the crater lake are worth checking out, after which, you can spend some time in the lovely town of Furnas.
If your ideal vacation includes getting some exercise and fantastic nature views, then the Azores are perfect for you. Specifically, we recommend an unforgettable waterfall hike or the adventure of climbing a volcano.
Climb Mount Pico on Pico Island. This dormant volcano is over 7,700 feet high, making it one of the highest Atlantic mountains. There are some fantastic sunset and sunrise views to experience for individuals who wish to spend the night on the crater. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t a hike for beginners as it’s quite a challenging climb. About one-third of those who attempt this climb don’t make it to the top!
If climbing a massive volcano sounds like it’s a bit out of your comfort zone, you could opt for the hike to the famous Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro waterfalls. Located on the island of Flores, you only need to take a short hike before you’re in front of a massive green rock wall with several waterfalls lined up together. One hike for several waterfalls? Seems worth it to us!
Tips For The Azores
Before you get on a flight to the Azores, we recommend keeping the following tips in mind:
- If you go on a hike, make sure to stay on the dedicated path. The landscape of the Azores can be thick and easy to get lost in.
- The Azores have a strong tourism industry, so English is often spoken by tour guides, hotel employees, etc. However, the official first language is Portuguese, so you may want to have some crucial phrases handy.
- You can travel between the islands via ferries (that operate all-year-round).
- The Azores are a very safe place with little crime. However, just as is the case with most countries, tourists should watch their belongings and be aware of thieves.
- While busses are on most of the nine islands, these busses don’t run on very frequent schedules. If you plan to be on an island for more than a day, it’s probably best to rent a car for transportation.
And with that, you’re all set for an adventure-packed holiday to the Azores, from which you’ll come back with gorgeous scenic photos and wonderful memories.