Azores Islands: a Vacation in Uncharted Lands

Azores Islands: a Vacation in Uncharted Lands

The Azores Islands are among the top five most popular locations on the planet for ecotourism development, which ended up winning them an award from the EU in 1995. The guides tell you with a smile that it’s a secret destination, yet it’s quite easy to get there. It’s just that not everybody realizes the sheer beauty that’s hidden in across those lands.

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Where to find them

This nine island archipelago of volcanic origin is found in the Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 km removed from North America and 1,600 km off coast of continental Europe. The islands are most often visited by people from Canada, the USA, and Western Europe.

How to get there

The largest and most frequently visited island on this Portuguese archipelago is São Miguel Island. There you will find the capital city, Ponta Delgada, as well as João Paulo II international airport. You can get there via a connecting flight in Lisbon or any other European capital (direct flights to the Azores from destinations outside Portugal are limited, so it’s totally fine to take at least one connecting flight).

Experience São Miguel: The crown jewel of the Portuguese archipelago, where adventure meets beauty.
Photo:Florian Fehrenbacher /

The best time to go

The optimal season for visiting the Azores is April to September. Starting in mid-Spring, bright blue, white, purple, and soft pink hydrangeas begin to blossom on these islands while blue whales swim past the shores. The temperature at this time is a very comfortable 21-23 °C / 69-73 °F while the sudden downpours and meandering fog that prevail in the off-season don’t prevent you from enjoying the landscapes of this Lost Atlantis.

Getting around

Even though nature dominates the islands, the roads and transport situation is totally fine.

  • Cars: Car rental prices start at EUR 30 per day.
  • Taxi: You can get from the airport to the center of Ponta Delgada for EUR 8.
  • Public transport: The cost of a trip depends on the particular route you take. For example, a bus from Ponta Delgada to Furnas will cost EUR 4 per person. There is a tourist information office in the city center where you can pick up a free map, including a timetable. Note that buses only service some of the routes a few times per day. It’s not always convenient, but you can plan your trip accordingly regardless.

If you are traveling alone and don’t have a driver’s license, we recommend taking a full-day guided tour. You don’t need to book in advance. All you have to do is show up at the embankment in the center of Ponta Delgada where you will find a number of Futurismo offices, in which you can choose the tour you prefer.

Navigate the Azores with ease: Affordable car rentals, taxis, or public transport. Your journey, your choice!

The upside is that they drive you around all day in a comfortable car while an experienced guide shows you around and gives you a detailed, interesting talk while answering all your questions, rather than just rattling off dates that they learned by heart. Moreover, lunch is often included in the tour program, so it won’t be just the views that fill you up. In the off-season, this tourist program costs EUR 60–70 per person.

If you have come to visit just for a few days, you could definitely do worse than to take a guided tour — otherwise you simply won’t have time to see all the places you have ventured so long to experience.

What to see

Without a doubt, the best sight on the Azores is its wild nature. So that you can see as much as possible, we’ve put together a three-day itinerary for you.

Embrace the wild beauty of the Azores: Designed for maximum exploration.
Photo: wirestock / Freepic

Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo, Ribeira Grande

Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the location that all the tourists head to.

The weather on the island is unpredictable. While Winter never comes to the Azores, it’s perfectly normal to experience three different seasons there in a single day. A downpour might hit you in literally seconds, then the sun might come out for a little while, and then it all starts over again.

From up high, you can see the breathtaking landscapes of Lagoa das Sete Cidades, located in a stratovolcano crater in the Northwest of São Miguel Island. At first glance, it looks like two water basins separated by a bridge, but really it’s one single lake with two picturesque lagoons, one green and one sky blue. Emerald hills planted with crops sprawl all around — an Azores idyll.

Ascend to the Azores’ fiery heights: From Lagoa do Fogo to the stunning vistas of Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Photo: diana.grytsku / Freepic

On the way back, you can make a short stop at the viewing platform Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado, and after that you can once again ascend the mountains, to Lagoa do Fogo — Lake of Fire — at a height of 947 meters above sea level in the caldera of Volcano Água de Pau.

You can also make a stop in the small town Ribeira Grande, located 15 km from Ponta Delgada. Every year on June 29 they hold Ribeira Grande day, a celebration which resembles a medieval carnival with a procession in national dress.

After that, you can head to the volcanic beach Santa Barbara – one of the best beaches on the Azores Islands. Here you will encounter wild elements, a breathtakingly beautiful coast, and fearless surfers riding the waves of the cold Atlantic.

Experience Santa Barbara: A volcanic beach where wild beauty meets fearless surfers in the heart of the Azores.
Photo: Vitor Miranda /

The tea plantation, Furnas Valley, and Parque Terra Nostra

The next day, you can visit the Gorreana tea factory and tea plantations reminiscent of faraway Sri Lanka.

The Azores Islands are the only place in Europe where tea is cultivated. Production began in 1883 and has never stopped since. All-comers can observe the preparation process for free, starting from plucking to sorting. And, of course, you can enjoy a taste of the aromatic Orange Pekoe.

Savor the Azores: The only place in Europe where tea thrives. From leaf to cup, experience the timeless tradition of Orange Pekoe.

Prices for tea at the factory are lower than in the local supermarkets, so it’s worth stocking up on a few packets while you’re still at the factory.

After learning everything you wanted to know about tea but were afraid to ask, you can set off for Pico do Ferro viewing platform. There you will enjoy a panoramic view of Furnas Valley with its mineral springs, calderas, geysers, and bubbling fumaroles — cracks in the volcano’s crater resembling boiling cauldrons from Hell’s kitchen.

Immerse in the Azores’ Eden: Parque Terra Nostra, a fragrant botanical paradise spanning 12 hectares.
Photo: alicina /

There, you will also find Parque Terra Nostra — the Azores’ calling card. Its territory of 12 hectares hosts fragrant botanical gardens as well as a thermal spring enriched with iron where anybody who wants to can bathe. The water temperature in this natural pool varies from 35°C to 40°C. So don’t forget your bathing suit to take advantage of open-air spa treatments. The entry fee into this nature park will run you EUR 8.

Sunset is the perfect time to visit the coast of the town of Vila Franca do Campo, where you can get to the Vila Franca nature reserve from, located 500 meters from São Miguel. From a bird’s eye view, the volcano’s sunken cauldron resembles a crescent-shaped blue lagoon. This uninhabited island, which you can reach by boat from June to September for just EUR 5, attracts tourists in droves with its landscapes as well as the chance to go diving.

Ponta Delgada

You can spend your last day at Ponta Delgada. Here you will encounter attractive black and white buildings in baroque style (São Sebastião Church, the city gates and Esperança Convent), botanical gardens, and a pineapple farm where these juicy tropical fruits are grown in greenhouses. Cultivating the fresh crop, which will later be sent to the shelves of local shops, for export, and for producing pineapple liqueur, takes on average 18 months. Tip: the ideal number of days to allocate to explore and soak in the beauty of São Miguel without having to rush is 5–7.

Unwind in Ponta Delgada: A blend of baroque charm, striking architecture, and serene botanical gardens. The perfect end to your Azores adventure.
Photo: De Visu /

What to try

Сozido das Furnas is a legendary dish of the Azores, cooked right in the red-hot volcanic pits of Furnas Valley. Vegetables and several different types of meat are placed in a huge pot, covered with lettuce, and steamed under natural conditions at a depth of 2–3 meters for 6 hours. Anybody, be they a tourist or a local, can hire a pit for EUR 3 and cook enough lunch for an entire football team.

You’re also recommended to taste the tender, young cheese, Queijo Fresco, which local restaurants offer as a snack, as well as crunchy cornbread and mineral water that is gushing from natural springs in Furnas Valley. The latter is absolutely free.

Savor Cozido das Furnas: A legendary Azorean dish, slow-cooked in the heat of Furnas Valley’s volcanic pits. A feast born from nature’s kitchen.

Accommodation options

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is probably the most famous hotel on the Azores Islands, located on the territory of Parque Terra Nostra. Decorated in art deco style, the hotel is harmoniously suited to the open nature. Guests are offered not only a wide selection of spa procedures but also a menu based on the experience of cooking food in the depths of the earth. And as a nice bonus: hotel guests get to visit the thermal springs park for free.

Commercial AZORES Guest House is a snow-white guest house with cozy rooms where guests are treated to freshly brewed Gorreana tea, while as a compliment from the establishment, they are gifted a jar of honey produced on the Azores. It’s a nice budget option in the very center of Ponta Delgada.

Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort is a resort hotel in Ribeira Grande with its own path to the beach, cozy studio rooms, and minimalist eco villas. One side of the hotel is bordered by emerald mountains, the other by the Atlantic Ocean.

Discover Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort: Nestled between emerald mountains and the Atlantic, offering a path to serenity with cozy studios and minimalist eco-villas.

On the other hand, the history of Monte Palace hotel with its panoramic view over Lagoa das Sete Cidades is brief and sad: this five-star hotel in São Miguel opened its doors in the 1980s. With 88 luxury rooms, two restaurants, a bar, a beauty salon, and even a night club — tourists were offered everything they could have possibly wanted for a perfect holiday on the island’s mountain peak. However, not many people wanted to book accommodation so far from the capital. As a result, the hotel only operated for a few years. Security with dogs patrolled the building until the mid-2000s, but even they eventually left the hotel for good.

What to bring home

You can bring home several types of local tea which you can obtain right at the Gorreana factory, pineapple liqueur which can be bought in the souvenir shop at the pineapple farm or at the liqueur distillery Mulher de Capote, and the famous Azores São Jorge cheese which can be found on the shelves of local supermarkets.

If you prefer drinks with a rich taste, don’t waste your money. It’s better to buy a packet of your favorite tea that’s already well familiar to you at the nearest supermarket.

Treasures of the Azores: Exotic pineapple liqueur and the renowned São Jorge cheese. Take a piece of paradise home with you.

The Azores are capable of turning your concept of an ideal holiday upside down. The archipelago’s wild nature will stun even the most die-hard traveler with its enrapturing beauty. The best recipe for an emotional detox and short retreat is the mountains and the ocean. The Azores Islands are a little piece of Paradise to totally recharge your batteries.

Watch the sunrise on the Azores

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