The Azores is certainly one of the most special places I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic, the group of Portuguese islands reveals a collection of stunning places including volcanoes and beaches. In this post I’ll bring you 15 best things to do in the Azores, Portugal
Surrounded by a blue sky, more than a thousand kilometers from the European coast, the Azores is one of the best preserved lands in the world. One of the most beautiful and untouched places, divided into 9 islands where you can find a range of attractions like volcanoes, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, fauna, flora, developed cities and a friendly and easy-smiling people.
The Azores is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Europe and the United States.
The archipelago is group of nine islands: São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa, Flores and Corvo.
How to get there
The island of São Miguel is the gateway to the Azores, João Paulo II International Airport – the main airport on the islands – is located in Ponta Delgada. Other airports in Azores, such as Santa Maria and Lajes and Pico have direct daily flights from Lisbon.
The best way to get to São Miguel is via Lisbon, there are several daily flights operated by TAP Air Portugal, SATA Azores Airlines, Easyjet and Ryanair.
SATA Azores Airlines and TAP Portugal offer daily flights from Porto to Ponta Delgada, as well. The city in São Miguel Island also receives direct flights from other cities, such as Frankfurt, New York (EWR and JFK) and Boston.
How to choose an island
With so many islands, it’s okay to have some doubts about which island to visit. If you are planning to visit the Azores, I recommend starting with São Miguel and then exploring the other islands. There are beautiful lakes, volcanoes, tracks in the middle of nature, waterfalls and beautiful cities. I think São Miguel Island is a complete package to have the best experience in the Azores.
15 best things to do in Azores (São Miguel Island)
1) Sete Cidades (Seven Cities)
This is one of the most famous landscapes in the Azores and popular attraction. Two lagoons in green and blue in the middle of a huge volcano caldera. That’s Sete Cidades, one of the most spectacular and breathtaking natural landscapes I have ever seen. To have this view, take a light trail to the viewpoint called Grota do Inferno.
While I was planning my trip to Azores, I saw hundreds of images of this place, but being there, at the edge of the volcano, it’s a privilege and something unforgettable. In addition to the blue and green Lagoons, we also can see Lagoa Rasa and Santiago.
2) Vista do Rei
The Vista do Rei (King’s View) viewpoint is close to the Sete Lagoas viewpoint that I mentioned above. This half-blue, half-green lake crater had more than 4 km long and 2 km wide and the difference in colors is due to the depth and concentration of algae on one side, what curiously doesn’t happen on the other side.
3) Village of Sete Cidades
We cross the bridge that separates the two lagoons to discover this small town. The village of Sete Cidades is in the middle of the lagoons that we saw from the top of King’s View and right in the center of the volcano crater. It is an incredible feeling to be in the center of volcano. The city has good restaurants, some good places to grab something to eat before heading across the island.
4) Ponta da Ferraria
Ponta da Ferraria is located outside the great caldera of Sete Cidades. The place is famous for its natural pools in the Atlantic Ocean, heated by the hot water that comes from the volcano. The temperature is warm and pleasant even in winter. Ponta da Ferraria has a good structure for tourism, like a restaurant and an area to changing clothes before to get into the water. You don’t have to pay for anything to use these facilities.
5) Lagoa do Fogo
Another important lagoon in Azores and one of the most beautiful places on the island of São Miguel. We have the most beautiful view of the lagoon at Pico da Barrosa, the highest point on the island.
It is cold up there at any time of the year. It is curious how the temperature changes quickly in the Azores, just walk a few kilometers to have another experience. This is one of the characteristics of the island.
Due to the difficulty of access and the importance as a drinking water supply, it is the most best preserved lake on the island.
6) Porto Formoso tea factory
There are two tea factories in the Azores, Porto Formoso and Gorreana. Both are the only tea producers in Europe, from tea plantation to production. For those who don’t know, all the tea sold in Europe (and the world) comes from asia.
The visit is cool, the factory is beautiful and old, it was founded in the 1920s. Worked until the 80s and then reopened in the late 90s. You can drink and buy some tea for a very low price, just 3 EUR a box.
7) Pico do Ferro
On the way to Furnas, I recommend a quickly stop at Pico do Ferro viewpoint. From up there we can see the entire crater of Furnas a huge green crater lake and the Village of Furnas down there, including the amazing volcanic manifestations.
In the surroundings of Pico do Ferro we passed through some green fields that looks like that classic Windows XP wallpaper (yes i’m getting old) stunning hydrangeas all over the place.
8) Village of Furnas
Furnas is one of the most interesting places on the island of São Miguel. It is the region with the largest volcanic manifestation on the island and contains the largest hydropolis in the world. There are several boilers with bubbling water, lots of smoke and the strong smell of sulfur in every corner.
Want to hear an old story? When the first explorers arrived here and witnessed the smoke coming out of the caves, they were scared. They thought they had found the door to hell. Especially in the Caldeira de Pero Botelho, which had a very particular sound, it’s like a buzz or maybe a heart beating. The ancient explorers were terrified.
9) Cozido de Furnas
Cozido de Furnas is the most traditional food in the Azores and one of the most curious as well. As Furnas is in the middle of a volcano crater, restaurants cook it using Furnas’s natural volcanic heat. The vision is very curious and different for those who doesn’t live in the Azores.
A traditional stew loaded with seven types of meat and a farmers: beef, pork, chicken, potatoes, carrots, yams, chorizo and batter.
To eat this traditional stew, I recommend the Banhos Ferreos restaurant, which works where until recently there was a thermal bathhouse and today it works as a pleasant restaurant. At the beginning they had a mix of traditional cheeses, like São Jorge and the brand new Cheese from Furnas, I loved it.
I have to confess, the food is very good, it exceeded my expectations. It’s not the most beautiful food in the world, but it is very good. As a dessert be sure to order a generous slice of pineapple or one of the traditional queijadas, such as the one from Vila Franca do Campo. Lunch price: 12 EUR with drinks (two beers) and dessert.
10) Thermal baths
The Furnas is also known for thermal baths. There are two places for bathing, one is in the Terra Nostra Park and the other one is Poça da Dona Beija.
Poça da Dona Beija has 5 pools, the temperature ranges from 39 degrees to 28 degrees. Entrance costs 4 EUR and they have a place for changing clothes.
The water is sooo hot, it takes a little time for the body to get used to it, but then, it is one of the most relaxing sensation you can have. The water contains a lot of minerais, so don’t wear white clothes. One tip for those who have hypertension, take a few minutes between baths.
Caloura, the southernmost point on the island of São Miguel and one of the most expensive regions to live in. The place is full of beautiful mansions and properties. From the top of the hills surrounding the village, we have one of the most beautiful views in the region.
12) Vila Franca do Campo
Near to Caloura we find Vila Franca do Campo, the village was the main city on the island. Take a look at the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz seems to float on top of the mountain.
The chapel was built in 1764, replacing a more primitive temple, probably from the 16th century. Would you like to hear another history? This is the place where a farmer found an image of the Virgin in a cave that served as a shelter. Then, the Portuguese decided that there should be a chapel on that hill. What else?
13) Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park
A recent park created in 2005 in the ruins of the village’s old water distribution system. The park has a beautiful waterfall, streams and that natural beauty places that we only find in the Azores.
14) Salto do Prego
This is one of the coolest tracks to do in the Azores, the itinerary starts in Faial da Terra and goes to Salto do Prego Waterfall in the interior of the island, a pleasant 6 km walk.
On the way, we passes through an abandoned village decades ago. The village of Sanguinho, a small village with typical Azorean architecture in the middle of forest.
A few minutes later we reach the Salto do Prego Waterfall. Yes, it’s beautiful there! The waterfalls have an incredible energy, a really special place that I recommend.
15) Ponta Delgada
The city of Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel is the starting point for explore the Azores. Even being perfect base to explore the island, Ponta Delgada has some really cool places to visit in one day.
Portas do Mar
In 2008 the Ponta Delgada waterfront had a huge revitalization process and became one of the most pleasant places in the city. Great for walking, enjoying Azorean architecture, not to mention the some volcanoes in the background. In the summer you can enjoy the natural swimming pools in the ocean, as well.
The place has several restaurants, bars and the marina, where boats for whale watching tours depart. Just to give you an idea, the Azores have approximately one third of the 86 species of cetaceans in the world. From the giant blue whale, which can reach 27 meters in length and weigh 120 tons, to the dolphins that sometimes approach to the shore.
Mother Church of São Sebastião
Even for those who have no religion will fall in love with this church full of personality and history. The architecture has a Gothic style with influences from the Manoelino and Baroque styles.
São Brás Fort
São Brás Fort hosts the Military Museum of the Azores. The fort is very well preserved and was built in the 16th century to defend the city from pirates. The museum have a huge military collection, but the cool thing is explore the walls and enjoy the great view of Ponta Delgada.
Entrance costs 3 EUR (adults) and 1 EUR (children and teenagers), it is open from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and on weekends from 10 am to 1:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 6 pm.
Around the center of Ponta Delgada, there are two gardens good to visit. One of which is where the Santana Palace is located, the administrative headquarters of the island and the gardens are open for visitation, the entrance costs just 1 EUR. Another beautiful garden is the José do Canto Botanical Garden. Both place that I recommend.
Walking on the streets
This is one of my favorite activities anywhere and I did it in a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The perfect way to appreciate so much better the Azorean architecture. The center is full of small streets, reminiscent of Lisbon’s alleys in full of baroque architectural elements.
How to getting around
The best way is booking a tour, definitely. I did all my tours with FUNtastic Azores. But you can book a tours in the links below with all the convenience and savings a lot of money.
Where to stay in the Azores
I stayed at the Hotel Vila Nova, the place is well located and with excellent value for money. A comfortable room with an excellent breakfast. The location is great, right on the edge of Ponta Delgada shore, on the corner of São Brás Fort and has an excellent view of the city.
Some rooms at Hotel Vila Nova have a small balcony, telephone, safebox, air conditioning, a good living area with sofa and TV. In the bathroom we find a nice bathtub, hairdryer, and amenities. The staff were kind and helpful.
The Canadiano Hotel is a 3-star hotel located in the historic center of Ponta Delgada, in a very quiet place just 10 minutes walk to the waterfront. An old hotel and was the first in Ponta Delgada, but don’t worry, the place is not dated, and it is very comfortable. The rooms at Hotel Canadiano are huge, much larger than most hotels in this category.
But if you want to be stay even better located, I recommend the Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico. The hotel is in the heart of Ponta Delgada, has comfortable rooms and an excellent value for money.
It is very important and mandatory to have a good travel insurance to visit the Azores, especially in areas of wild nature. I recommend World Nomads travel insurance, which is easy to buy and flexible for all types of travelers.