by

Island Hopping on the Azores: A Full Information

If you seek for Azores journey blogs you’ll most likely rapidly discover one thing odd: most of them solely discuss São Miguel!

That is merely the biggest island and essentially the most touristy one, however there are in reality 9 islands within the archipelago—and every of them has one thing completely different to supply.

I spent practically 4 weeks on the Azores on two journeys in 2016 and 2018. I visited not solely São Miguel but additionally Pico, São Jorge, Faial, and Terceira, so I can provide you just a few tips about the place it’s good!

I’ll additionally share with you some little-known journey hacks that may get you discounted ferries and even free flights.

When you’re searching for an entire information to the Azores (okay, nicely… virtually full), then you definately’ve come to the best web page.

Me at a miradouro on Sao Miguel Island during my Azores travel blog trip

The north coast of São Miguel

On this Azores journey information:

 

Why it’s best to go to the Azores

Located in the course of the ocean far off the coast of Portugal, the Azores have an edge-of-the-world really feel.

When you don’t but know a lot about this far-flung Atlantian archipelago, then you definately don’t must really feel too embarrassed. Even devoted globe-trotters may battle to pinpoint the Azores exactly on a map — although it’s slowly develop into a bit higher recognized lately.

When you make it to this outermost level of Europe, you can be rewarded with some superb alternatives for mountaineering, caving, scuba diving, canyoning, whale watching, and lots of extra journey actions.

It additionally has a beautiful native tradition that’s proudly completely different from the mainland of Portugal—and it has some fascinating historic connections with the USA as nicely (you’ll see many properties with each a Portuguese and American flag outdoors).

We’ll discuss every island in a second, however listed below are what I believe are a number of the prime causes to go to the Azores.

Volcanoes galore

The Caldeira on Faial

For the reason that Azores are proper on the fault traces between three tectonic plates, they’ve extra volcanoes, calderas, steam vents, and lava tube caves than you may shake a stick at. These volcanic options flip the islands right into a playground for cavers, bicyclers, and climbers.

Don’t miss the eruption website of Capelinhas on Faial, the Sete Cidades caldeira on São Miguel, or the 2351m tall cone of Pico on the island of Pico.

So many cute rural locations

However not all locations on the Azores are epic. Most will merely make you go “awww, that’s so good”.

There are so many cute cities with historically black-and-white painted homes (or black-and-red within the case of Pico), pastures on gently rolling hills, meandering coastal roads, and mini-lagoons alongside the shore the place many locals come to take a dive in the summertime.

Since there aren’t any white sand seashores and for the reason that local weather is considerably unpredictable, the Azores have principally been spared from any mass tourism. It’s a delicate and tranquil place.

Dolphins and whales!

The Azores as soon as supported itself partly via its whaling trade. Whereas this observe stopped just a few a long time in the past, now you can take a ship tour from just about any island to see the whales up-close.

I used to be fortunate to see a number of sperm whales on my tour. Seeing their tales stick out of the water simply earlier than a deep dive was a reasonably magical sight.

There are additionally quite a few dolphins across the Azores all year long—at one level I discovered myself surrounded by a pod of not less than 150 of them, which was epic AF.

The superior locally-sourced meals

Limpets with native cheese and honey

You possibly can anticipate loads of culinary delights on the Azores. The dishes usually are not essentially extraordinarily distinctive, however the components used are sometimes insanely contemporary and high-quality.

The fish is expectedly nice, however so is the meat. Domestically sourced beef tastes superb because the Azores has simply small-scale manufacturing with pleased cows. The numerous micro-climates additionally make the Azores appropriate for rising a variety of merchandise from each temperate and tropical climates, so most stuff you eat there are most likely grown regionally. Wine, espresso, and tea are all produced on the archipelago as nicely.

Digging right into a scrumptious shrimp cataplana

Don’t miss the prospect to pattern the seafood; moreover many kinds of fish there’s clams, limpets, squid, and way more to select from. I had my first-ever barnacles on Terceira, a bizarre however enjoyable expertise that has you utilizing just a little specialised hook to get the meat out.

On São Miguel, strive the furnas de caldas. It’s a hearty stew cooked in a volcanic vent!

The outside and journey actions

Exploring some undeveloped caves in Pico

Wish to get energetic? Effectively, tou gained’t have any excuse to sit down nonetheless on the Azores. Other than quite a few implausible mountaineering trails, you too can go canyoning, paragliding, swimming, cliff diving, scuba diving, kayaking, browsing (notably on São Miguel and São Jorge), spelunking, and a lot extra.

A great deal of locations across the shore develop into swimming holes in summer time

 

Azores islands at a look

The above map will provide you with some thought of the situation of every island. Take note it’s to not scale and there’s fairly a little bit of distance between the three island teams.

It will possibly make sense to select one island group and to keep it up, as to reduce your time spent touring between them.

These are the islands I visited (in no explicit order):

Pico

The 2,351m tall volcanic peak of Pico on Pico Island

The darkish volcanic island of Pico is one among my favorites within the Azores. It’s blessed with picturesque landscapes and loads of fascinating issues to do, however with out being fairly as touristy as São Miguel.

The one query it’s best to anticipate to listen to at any time when mentioning Pico is “will you do the climb”. Its huge conical volcano peak (its namesake) will be seen simply from different close by islands and makes for an apparent goal for an epic hike. At 2351m tall the climb will likely be a stiff one. Clouds can obscure the views on the prime on a foul day, so ensure you go when the skies are clear.

Moreover its volcano, Pico can also be recognized for its wineries and vineyards. You’ll see little partitions of volcanic rock defend the vines towards the cruel parts—a typical characteristic that earned elements of the island UNESCO world heritage standing. You’ll additionally discover a number of implausible caves to discover, a whaler’s museum, many cute villages, and a few nice strolling trails previous higgity-piggity pastures and thru mossy forests.

Learn Extra: Wine, Tradition & Journey on Pico Island

 

São Jorge

When you like going a bit off the standard path, this may simply be the perfect island for you. It has essentially the most stunning landscapes I’ve seen on the Azores. When you’re somebody who can admire some stunning nature and cute villages, then you definately owe it to your self to go to São Jorge—it’s severely attractive.

A central mountain vary runs alongside virtually the complete size of the island, forming kind of an elongated plateau. Down the shoreside cliffs are so-called fajãs, that are small plains as soon as shaped by lava flows or landslides. At these fajãs you’ll discover tiny villages that may be reached solely by windy roads or generally by strolling path solely.

No matter you do, don’t miss the Caldeira de Santo Cristo hike. It’s superb! You possibly can learn extra about it in my story on São Jorge.

São Jorge doesn’t have that many eating places or typical vacationer points of interest as a number of the others, but it surely’s the Azorean island I personally most fell in love with. I believe it’s an underappreciated gem.

Learn Extra: Right here’s Why You Ought to Go to São Jorge Island

 

Faial

There are a number of very cool issues about Faial that make it a must-visit when you’re within the central island group.

Firstly, it has may simply be the prettiest city on the islands, as Horta is located on some pretty hills moreover a reasonably crusing harbor, with a number of previous church towers poking up from completely different elements of city.

Secondly, it’s the place the place leisure sailors crossing the Atlantic prefer to make a stopover. This offers the island a vigorous ambiance throughout summer time. Alongside the harbor  obstacles you’ll discover colourful work left there by sailors to commemorate their journey, whereas Peter Sport Cafe serves as crucial assembly spot the place you may gawk at years and years of crusing memorabilia.

Capelinhas on Faial

Thirdly, Faial has some nice volcanic landscapes, notably its lush inexperienced central Caldeira, and the eruption website of Capelinhas — the place a volcano erupted in [   ]. Strolling across the gray and dusty panorama right here will make you are feeling such as you’ve landed on the moon.

I believe Faial has a number of the most fascinating sights of the central islands, but it surely’s additionally pretty small. You may need to spend two days or so right here, earlier than taking the 30-minute ferry to Pico the place there are extra vineyards, museums, and different smaller sights to go to.

Learn Extra: 10 Incredible Issues to do on Faial Island

 

Terceira

 

Terceira is the second most populated island (after São Miguel) and is house to a US Air Power Base, enjoying an essential financial function within the Azores. It has a a number of nice issues to see, most notably the Algar do Carvão lava tube cave, which is vastly spectacular and larger than the Gruta das Torres on Pico. The fort on the foremost city of Angra can also be of nice historic significance, because it’s the one place that held out towards the Spanish invasion of 1583.

However Terceira principally has the fame of being a little bit of a celebration island in summer time. Thoughts you, not within the sense of this being Ibiza, as a result of it’s a delicate rural island. Terceira is merely the place essentially the most village events and festivities happen in the summertime, making it the proper place to have some enjoyable and rub shoulders with the locals.

I beloved witnessing the custom of Tourada à Corda, the place bulls are let free on the streets, giving chase to locals whereas stored on a protracted leash by a crew of shepherds. Folks will spectate from balconies and backyard partitions, chatting and consuming whereas sometimes watching a bull rumbling previous. (They aren’t bull fights, by the best way. It’s only a good natured recreation the place the bulls get egged on a bit after which everybody runs away.)

Simply off the southern coast are the Ilhéus das Cabras (or Goat Islands), which appear like two elements of a rocky island that’s been cracked open. You will get a ship out to those islands, enter a number of the caves, and bounce off the boat for a refreshing swim.

Whereas São Jorge and Pico are my private favourite islands, I believe it’s value testing Terceira as nicely in the course of the get together season, particularly if that is the place you’ll be flying from (its airport is the second most linked after São Miguel).

 

São Miguel

Salto do Cabrito waterfall on Sao Miguel island

Salto do Cabrito waterfall on Sao Miguel island

Final however not least, there’s São Miguel. As the biggest and most populated island, it advantages from having extra lodging choices and amenities. Since São Miguel is the best to succeed in by airplane, many Azores journeys focus solely on this island, making it essentially the most touristy vacation spot.

When you restrict your self to São Miguel, you’ll be lacking out on another nice islands. However to be trustworthy, São Miguel is a superb place to go! It has an incredible number of sights and actions in a comparatively compact space.

You’ll discover some epic volcanic caldeiras at Sete Cidades and Furnas. I like to recommend not simply stopping right here briefly for a fast photograph; I beloved mountaineering round Furnas lake, and renting bicycles to experience round Sete Cidades. Belief me, it’s value it! You’ll get a significantly better really feel for the place.

São Miguel has by far essentially the most secondary volcanic exercise of any of the islands — in different phrases, issues bubble, boil and steam round right here! This implies it’s additionally the proper place to take a soothing bathtub in some sizzling springs. The city of Furnas even has so many volcanic vents that you just’ll see a great deal of steam stacks billowing from locations throughout. In some locations, you may odor the sulfur within the air. It’s most likely why some guides have referred to as Azores the Iceland of the south.

São Miguel is superior, however it could get tremendous busy in August. Locals have complained about vacationers leaving trash alongside the seashores and swimming pools, or overcrowding sure places, so be a respectful customer and attempt to go to within the shoulder season when you can.

Learn Extra: Crater Lakes and Thermal Baths on São Miguel Island

 

Different islands

I haven’t but visited Corvo, Graciosa, or Santa Marta — although these are very small and locals inform me aren’t essentially the most fascinating.

However the one island I nonetheless desperately need to go to is Flores. It may be a ache to get to; ferries take a very long time and it has solely a tiny airport (I attempted to go there however then my flight received cancelled attributable to robust winds).

Flores is understood for being the greenest island with essentially the most spectacular waterfalls, and whereas it’s not as accessible because the others, I’ve received a sense it is likely to be essentially the most stunning one. Subsequent time I’ll be within the Azores, that is the place I’ll be heading!

 

Flying to the Azores

Flying in: The Azores have develop into way more accessible lately, particularly since Ryanair and Easyjet started flying on to São Miguel and Terceira from numerous locations in Europe.

SATA (often known as Azores Airways) prices a bit greater than the finances carriers however offers many extra connections internationally. Inside Europe, they fly immediately from London, Munich, Frankfurt, Lisbon and Porto. And because of the Azores’ historic ties with the US there are additionally many direct flights from North America, together with from Boston, Oakland, Toronto and Montreal.

Visiting on a stopover from US: since Azores is about halfway between the US and Europe, it may be an amazing stopover place. Azores Airways in reality promotes this risk, letting you add a number of days on the islands with no enhance in airfare. Azores Airways has info on stopovers, and I additionally wrote an article about planning a stopover.

Cash Saving Tip: you will get free transfers from São Miguel to different islands!

Free inter-island flights on the Azores: sure, you learn that proper… you will get sure flights totally free of charge on the Azores. When you fly in to São Miguel on any service, you will get a free onwards flight with Azores Airways to a different island. The catch is that it’s important to fly in from the Portuguese mainland. You can also’t keep on São Miguel for longer than 24 hours — it really must be a transit there and never your closing vacation spot. You possibly can ebook a free inter-island connecting flights on the SATA web site.

 

Getting round on the Azores

In some circumstances, flying is likely to be one of the best ways to go. Most islands have small airports that allow you to hop between the island teams fairly simply by air.

There are additionally ferries between all of the islands, although not all are essentially linked on direct routes. Island hopping is best between the central islands of Pico, Faial, and São Jorge — as they’re all comparatively shut by (about 30 to 90 minutes aside) and you may simply take ferries between these islands year-round.

There are additionally ferry companies between the bigger island teams, however these can take some time and solely run from Could three till September 29. To provide you an thought of the journey instances, listed below are just a few of the longer journeys:

  • São Miguel to Terceira approx 5 hours
  • Terceira to Faial approx eight hours
  • Faial to Flores approx 9 hours

You’ll find extra schedule info at Atlantico Line, which is the one firm working on these routes.

A few of the scheduled ferries go at evening so some passengers will carry sleeping luggage and sleep on the chairs. A lot comfier 1st class rooms are additionally out there upstairs; you may test for upgrades to those on the reception desk contained in the ferry. (I paid about 30 EUR for a non-public room with ensuite from Faial to Terceira, which I believe wasn’t too dangerous for the wonderful sleep I received.)

Cash Saving Tip: underneath 30? It can save you some huge cash on ferries by getting an Azores InterYouth Card. Both purchase one at a sale level, or use the app to get one. For 40 euro you’ll get limitless ferry journey (just a few limitations apply).

 

Transportation throughout the islands

Utilizing public transportation is nearly do-able on the largest island of São Miguel, however do not forget that it’s nonetheless a small island the place companies are rare.

One of the simplest ways to get round anyplace on the Azores is to have your individual transportation. Renting a automotive will provide you with essentially the most freedom to go as you please. There have been additionally bike and scooter leases on all of the islands I visited.

There are some taxis on the islands however not very many; it’s value accumulating the cellphone numbers of taxi corporations so to name one, as solely the most important cities may need any taxi ranks.

Don’t make the error of counting on public transportation—until possibly you completely need to—as this can make issues very difficult.

 

Journey prices on the Azores

Opinion differ on the journey prices, however let the numbers communicate for themselves.

  • Respectable lodge room, guesthouse or finances Airbnb: about 30 to 40 EUR an evening
  • Renting a compact automotive: 20 EUR a day
  • Lunch: 7 to 10 EUR
  • Dinner with wine: 14 to 20 EUR

I’d say that’s good worth by northern European requirements, although I suppose these usually are not fairly rock-bottom costs. Prices enhance rapidly when shifting between the islands, as ferries and inter-island flights do add up.

When you’re a finances traveler your finest wager to maintain prices down is to share an condominium and automotive rental with a bunch of mates. When you’re the backpacker kind, you’ll discover that solely São Miguel has actual backpacker hostels. A dorm mattress there prices about 15 EUR an evening on common.

 

No, the climate isn’t at all times good!

Some blogs declare that the Azores has good climate year-round, however that’s a little bit of a false impression. Locals will truly typically say you can expertise all 4 seasons in sooner or later.

Make sure you at all times pack each sunscreen and a rain jacket!

Because of its location in the course of the ocean, the climate can change utterly at only a snap of the finger. Generally the climate will be completely completely different simply relying on which aspect of the island you’re, as clouds can get trapped behind mountains.

Climate stories aren’t at all times so helpful, however an effective way to test the stay climate state of affairs all around the Azores is to view the webcams utilizing the SpotAzores app (Android, iOS) .

There may be nonetheless fairly distinct seasons although. After I went in August, the climate was ten instances higher than once I went in February. In comparison with year-round sunny locations like Madeira or the Canary Islands, the Azores are nonetheless at a reasonably excessive latitude resulting in gentle temperatures and fairly changeable climate, so ensure you pack for several types of climate it doesn’t matter what time of yr you go.

Disclosure: my first go to to the Azores was with help from the native tourism board. (I traveled independently on my second go to.)

 

Comments

comments