10 of the best things to do in the Azores (2023)

The Azores archipelago (Açores in Portuguese) lies about 1,000 miles west of mainland Europe and is made up of nine volcanic islands: São Miguel (the largest), São Jorge, Terceira, Pico, Faial, Ilha das Flores, Santa Maria, Graciosa and Corvo, which you can cross by ferry or plane.

Colonised by the Portuguese in 1432, the Azores is now an autonomous region. During the period known as the Discoveries, Portugal had the largest high-seas fleet in the world, with many of its ships stopping to replenish stocks in the Azores as they travelled back and forth to Brazil, India, Japan and elsewhere, bringing with them spices that changed Azorean cuisine from simple. plain dishes to ones spiced and flavoured with new-world produce, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Azores holiday guide: what to see, best bars, restaurants and places to stayRead more

The weather can vary even across a day, with locals (about 245,000 residents) often calling each other to find out where on an island the sun is. Lots of rain makes for a lush landscape with many waterfalls and hot springs. Tea and coffee are grown here, as well as pineapples. The town of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira and the landscape of Pico’s vineyard culture are Unesco world heritage-listed sites.

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What the Azores produces is astonishing: not just for its quality but because the vines are grown in seemingly inhospitable cracks in rocks and hardened lava, buffeted by winds and storms. These conditions provide distinctive salty notes. The most famous Azorean wines are from Pico, an island dominated by Mount Pico. Try them at Pico Wines, a cooperative, or at the Azores Wine Company, which recently opened an architecturally impressive winery with views across the squares of dry-stone corrais that comprise the vineyards. Pico makes the more well-known wines but Biscoitos, on Terceira, has a similar landscape and also produces great stuff.

Beaches, swimming, dolphin- and whale-watching

10 of the best things to do in the Azores (1)

There are beaches across the Azores, but since these are volcanic islands the sand is dark or the shore is rocky. Swimming “pools” dot the shoreline of all the islands: sometimes ladders hang on the edge of rocks, some can be accessed directly from the shore, and others are in little harbours. In August, the sea temperature can reach 23C, but given this is the Atlantic, the water is cold for much of the year. There are also waterfalls and volcanic springs to plunge under and into. Dolphin- and whale-watching trips are widely available.

Cakes and biscuits

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The islands have their own cakes and biscuits, of which my favourites are Dona Amélia, small cakes made from melkana (like molasses, brought from Brazil), sugar, eggs, cornflour, cinnamon and raisins. Created to celebrate the visit of King Don Carlos and his wife, Dona Amélia, in 1901, try them at Pastelaria O Forno in Angra do Heroísmo. Pudim conde da praia is made from potatoes, sugar, butter, lemon, eggs and cinnamon. Espécies de São Jorge are horseshoe-shaped cookies stuffed with a spiced filling that includes fennel, black pepper, cinnamon and lemon – those made by Dulçores on São Jorge are good.


When the Portuguese discovered the Azores they shipped over livestock to the islands to see if the animals could survive. They did, especially the cows with abundant grass to graze on grazing. Butter, milk, cream and cheese produced across the Azores are likely to be some of the best you have ever tasted. Two cheeses have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status: tangy Queijo São Jorge (try it at Queijaria Canada on São Jorge) and buttery Queijo do Pico, but every island produces wonderful ones (O Morro on Faial is incredible). The ice-cream, yoghurt and ghee (from Azorghee) are also exceptional.


10 of the best things to do in the Azores (2)

Drive, walk or cycle along the roads of the Azores and you will be greeted by banks of hydrangeas, often tall bushes full of large floral heads in shades of blue, pink, white and purple. Faial is also known as the blue island – a volcanic eruption in 1957 left behind a fertile soil full of acidity and aluminium, which makes the flowers blue. Hydrangeas are not an indigenous species – they were introduced by Portuguese settlers in the 17th century – but became invasive because of the conditions (the rain, the rich earth) and had a devastating effect on some of the local flora. They were used like walls to keep the cows to certain fields. Hydrangeas begin to bloom in late April and flower until early September.

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Formed from lava flows that stopped at the sea, fajãs are mostly steep cliffs running down to the coast and are most concentrated on São Jorge. Being volcanic, fajãs are exceptionally fertile and were used by settlers to grow yams, maize and vegetables. These days coffee and tropical fruits are grown along the more gentle slopes. Take the spectacular walk from Fajã dos Cubres to Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, the only place on the archipelago where clams are grown (it’s also a magnet for body boarders and surfers). Eat the clams at Restaurante O Borges before walking back to Fajã dos Cubres.

The cult of the holy spirit

10 of the best things to do in the Azores (3)

The holy spirit (or holy ghost) festivals are the primary annual event for Azoreans, 90% of whom are Catholic. The festivities have common threads but the celebrations and traditions vary from island to island. They centre around impérios (empires) – small shrines to the holy spirit – highly decorated and maintained with care. Their architecture also varies: on Terceira, where there are 73, they are topped with an imperial crown. The festivals are also social and family celebrations, with singing, processions and eating and drinking. The “cult” arrived with the first settlers, with the Azorean people becoming more devoted as communities came together to worship, isolated from the mainland.

Seafood and fish

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The Azores has fabulous tuna. Much of it is exported as well as canned, but eating it fresh on the islands is a must. Other species include blue jack mackerel, chub mackerel, forkbeard, red porgy and swordfish, while lobsters, slipper lobsters, crabs and spider crabs are abundant. But there are two types of seafood that are particular to the Azores. The first, more widely available, are lapas, limpets which are usually grilled (try them at Sabores Sopranos on São Jorge, which often has lapa branco, which is more orange, and lapa mansa more black). The other is cracas, barnacles that look like rocks, but have small holes inside that are home to sweet, almost lobster-like meat, which has to be picked out. Cracas are more easily found on Terceira – try them at Beira Mar de São Mateus.

Tea and coffee

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Tea is grown on two plantations on São Miguel – Gorreana and Porto Formoso, both on the north coast, producing black (primarily orange pekoe, pekoe, moinha, oolong and broken leaf) and green tea. You can visit the plantations and factories to learn about their teas. Tea is thought to have been introduced to the islands at the beginning of the 19th century, when it was realised that the climate was good for its cultivation. High-quality, fruity coffee is grown on fajã slopes on São Jorge – sample that produced by the Nunes family at Café Nunes at Fajã dos Vimes.

A geopark

Nine islands, one geopark. There are 121 geosites across the archipelago’s land and the sea bed. There are dry caldeiras, lakes in craters, fumarolic fields, hot springs, caves, grottoes and crevices, many of which are the result of the volcanic nature of the islands. The sites include Mount Pico, which you can climb to the top of. Capelinhos volcano, on the westernmost point of Faial, resulting from an eruption between 1957 and 1958, has a 2km-wide surface caldeira around the crater, which is a nature reserve. On Ilha das Flores, the walking trail at Fajã de Lopo Vaz, probably one of the first places to be settled on the islands, is also a geosite.

(Video) Best Things to Do in the Azores Islands, Portugal


What is Azores famous for? ›

The Azores are best known for whale and dolphin watching. The archipelago is a pit stop or home for about a third of the world's cetacean species. Year-round residents include sperm whales, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

How many days is enough for Azores? ›

Seven or eight days is an ideal amount of time to spend in the Azores. Travelers with only a week to explore the Portuguese archipelago can focus their time on the island of São Miguel, adding on a trip to Terceira for whale watching if they have an extra day or two.

Which is prettiest island in Azores? ›

Of the islands that make up the Azores archipelago, São Miguel is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Its heavenly beaches and lush vegetation have earned it the nickname “the Hawaii of Europe.” Measuring almost 750 km2, it is the largest island in the Azores.

What is the best month to visit Azores? ›

For many, July and August are the best time to visit the Azores. Being the hottest months, it's peak season and the most popular time to visit all the islands – particularly Sao Miguel and Terceira as they're both well-connected to the outside world by direct flights from the UK, USA, Canada and mainland Portugal.

Are the Azores like Hawaii? ›

Just like Hawaii, the Azores offers captivating coastlines and plenty of places to step away from the hustle and bustle of the busy world and simply soak up some sunshine while watching the soothing ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides.

Can you get around Azores without a car? ›

Visiting the Azores without a car is not an easy thing but it is not impossible. Consider where to stay according to places you can reach by bus. Ponta Delgada has certainly the most connections by bus. Be ready to spend on cabs or private excursions to reach sights that are outside towns.

Are Azores cheap? ›

Although prices, in general, were slightly more expensive than mainland Portugal, we found the Azores still quite cheap. To give you an example: For a regular meal, we paid around €12-€15 per person. The gas was even cheaper than on the mainland.

What is the most beautiful town in the Azores? ›

Terceira Island is also home to the only official UNESCO city in the Azores Islands, Angra do Heroísmo! This charming city is the most picturesque and beautiful one in all of the Azores. Other famous sights that are must-sees in Terceira Island are Monte Brasil, Serra do Cume, and Lagoa das Patas, just to name a few.

Can you swim in the ocean in the Azores? ›

Yes, there are beaches on the Azores, as well as natural lava rock pools, thermal pools, and many little harbors where you jump off the docks and go for a swim. June to September are best for swimming. The water temperature goes up to about 23 °C in August, which is fresh but really nice.

Do you tip waiters in the Azores? ›

In the Azores, it is not expected to tip like you would in the US. For example, you will not need to tip your regular 15%. What is this? If service was very good, you can leave a couple extra Euros as a kind gesture.

Is tipping customary in Azores? ›

It's not usual to tip in the Azores like you would in the United States, where you tip at least 15% of the meal's whole cost. Of course, if you enjoyed the service and felt it was very good, you are free to leave some euros as a kind gesture.

Can I drive in Azores with US license? ›

You May Need an International Driver's Permit

If you come to the Azores from the United States or Canada, the official law is that you are allowed to drive here for up to six months.

Do the Azores have mosquitoes? ›

Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases in Azores. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.

What is the best time of year to see whales in the Azores? ›

The main 'season' runs from April all the way through the summer to October and during these months different species pass by the Azores on their migratory paths – April and May are usually a good time to go for a chance to see the larger whales such as blue, fin and sei whales, whilst October can be a good time to ...

Is the water cold in the Azores? ›

Water temperatures

The ocean temperatures are like in January, 17°C (63°F). They only get warmer in May. However, you can still go swimming all year round in the Azores.

Can you speak English in Azores? ›

The official language in Azores is Portuguese. Otherwise, most people involved with tourism speak at least enough English to communicate with English-speaking tourists.

Does Azores have good food? ›

The archipelago's many unique microclimates, abundant water supply, and the volcanic nature of the islands make it possible to offer a large variety of delicious dishes. Based on a rich and hearty, peasant-style of cooking, Azorean cuisine is so scrumptious, it will leave you asking for seconds.

Can US citizen live in Azores? ›

If you are an American, you will need a Residence Visa to live in the Azores. You should know that this is not available in the US Embassy or consulate in Portugal anymore. Now, you need to go to the Embassy in Paris, since all the processing has been moved there.

Can I use my phone in the Azores? ›

However, even if you are coming from a country or region that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone should still work in Portugal. Portugal has a well-developed 4G network, with much of the country having access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity. This includes the island communities of Madeira and the Azores.

Do you need a negative Covid test to enter Azores? ›

As of July 1, 2022, passengers entering national territory (including Azores and Madeira) are no longer required to present proof of a test with a negative result for COVID-19 or to present a COVID-EU digital certificate or vaccination or recovery certificate issued by third countries, accepted or recognized in ...

Are there Ubers in the Azores? ›

Getting Around in Sao Miguel

You will want a car rental in the Azores. There are not car sharing services (like Uber or Lyft) available on the island and you will want to be able to get around and explore the island on your own schedule.

Do hurricanes ever hit the Azores? ›

The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, has experienced the effects of at least 21 Atlantic hurricanes, or storms that were once tropical or subtropical cyclones. The most recent storm to affect the archipelago was Tropical Storm Gaston in 2022.

What is the hottest month in the Azores? ›

August is the hottest month in Ponta Delgada with an average temperature of 22°C (72°F) and the coldest is February at 13°C (55°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 9 in August.

Are the Azores islands safe? ›

The crime rate is low in the Azores. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, though uncommon, does occur. Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times. In some areas, streets may be poorly lit and deserted at night.

What movies have been filmed in the Azores? ›

The Dreamseller (2014)

A Young Man, with a big depression, listens to advice from his consciousness, and goes on vacation to the Azores.

Where is best to stay in the Azores? ›

Overview of the best places to stay in the Azores
Cílio HouseSão Miguel ( Ponta Delgada)Apartment
Furnas Boutique HotelSão Miguel (Furnas)Hotel
Quinta da MoSão Miguel ( Furnas )Quinta
Casa do PoemaSão Miguel ( Furnas )Vacation house
19 more rows
Jan 10, 2022

How long does it take to drive around Azores? ›

You could drive around the perimeter of the island in one day. According to Google Maps, without any stops, total driving time would be about four hours. If you only allow yourself one day of exploring, though, you'll only leave yourself wanting more!

Are there sharks in Azores? ›

As well as the cetacean and majestic mobulas, the Azores are also a hotspot for sharks. Between July and October, mako and blue sharks can be seen with surprising regularity at remote seamounts around the island of Pico. During these months, visibility peaks, with many days reaching 30 metres or more.

Is it OK to drink tap water in Azores? ›

Health & safety in The Azores

While mineral water is available in restaurants and shops, it's safe to drink the tap water in hotels and homes in the Azores, so remember to bring refillable water bottles and keep your family hydrated round the clock.

Are there great white sharks in the Azores? ›

In the Azores, especially in the islands of Pico and Faial, it was discovered that the observation of this species in its habitat is much more profitable than its capture. In the photo, you can see a Great White shark, a species that also inhabits the Azores.

What is there to do in the Azores at night? ›

  • The Gin Library. Bars & Clubs. Open now. ...
  • Lava Jazz. Dinner Theaters • Jazz Bars. By heathermE6794OX. ...
  • Arco 8. Art Galleries • Bars & Clubs. By janceyjh. ...
  • A Quinta - Furnas. Bars & Clubs. Temporarily closed. ...
  • Raiz Club. Concerts • Bars & Clubs. By clemjul. ...
  • Bar Do Pi. Bars & Clubs.
  • Diwine Azores. Wine Bars. ...
  • Bom Bom bilhares. Coffeehouses.

Is the water warm in Azores? ›

Sea temperature

From July to September, the ocean is not particularly warm, yet may be acceptable for swimming for those who are not sensitive to the cold. The water temperature is 22 °C (72 °F) in July and 23/23.5 °C (73/74 °F) in August and September. Below are the average sea temperatures.

Do the Azores have hot springs? ›

The Portuguese Azores, a series of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, is home to a series of incredible thermal pools and hot springs. If you're seeking a beautiful and rejuvenating adventure set against a lush and tropical backdrop, the Azores hot springs are the place for you.

What is the main industry in the Azores? ›

Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock, fishing, and tourism, which has become a major service activity in the region. The government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in the service and tertiary sectors.

Are Azores worth visiting? ›

The Azores has everything you could need from a destination, from affordable prices to spectacular scenery, delicious food options to deserted beaches, from dozens of hikes to even more viewpoints.

Do they speak English in the Azores? ›

The official language in Azores is Portuguese. Otherwise, most people involved with tourism speak at least enough English to communicate with English-speaking tourists.

What is the national dish of the Azores? ›

Cozido das Furnas of the Azores, Portugal

The most famous dish from São Miguel Island is the beloved Portuguese stew known as cozido, or in this case, Cozido das Furnas.

What race are Azoreans? ›

Taken together, our analysis suggests that the current paternal pool of the Azorean population is, to a great extent, of Portuguese descent with significant contributions from people with other genetic backgrounds.

What Portuguese island is like Hawaii? ›

Consider the Azores as Europe's other-worldly alternative to Hawaii. Hawaii 2.0, if you will, as the Azores—a stunning island archipelago off the coast of Portugal—not only have the same charms that have made the Aloha State so adored among travelers, but even surpasses the Pacific frontrunner in myriad ways.

Can you drink tap water Azores? ›

Health & safety in The Azores

While mineral water is available in restaurants and shops, it's safe to drink the tap water in hotels and homes in the Azores, so remember to bring refillable water bottles and keep your family hydrated round the clock.

Are there mosquitoes in Azores? ›

Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases in Azores. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.

Will my phone work in Azores? ›

However, even if you are coming from a country or region that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone should still work in Portugal. Portugal has a well-developed 4G network, with much of the country having access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity. This includes the island communities of Madeira and the Azores.

How much tax do US retirees pay in Portugal? ›

Taxes on retired expats in Portugal

You are considered a tax resident if you live in Portugal for at least 183 days during a tax year or if you have permanent residence there on 31 December. NHR status offers favorable tax conditions, including for earnings that would otherwise be subject to retirement tax.

Do I have to pay US taxes if I live in Portugal? ›

US Expat Taxes in Portugal

If you're living abroad in Portugal, you'll need to file both US taxes and Portugal taxes.


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