The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, are an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. The islands are characterized by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas.
The Azores islands are consistently ranked as one of the best, most sustainable, and most affordable island travel destinations in Europe. Located between Europe and North America, the Azores are the perfect island getaway for those looking for a unique and beautiful destination.
There is plenty to see and do (and eat) throughout the nine islands to keep the most ambitious traveler busy and beyond satisfied; here’s just a starter.
Lets explore the top 10 things to do in the Azores:
Photo Credit: Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal | ARoxo/Moment/Getty Images
The Azores Geopark is a network of 121 geographically-dispersed sites of geographic heritage and marine areas that covers the nine volcanic islands of the archipelago of the Azores, representating the archipelago’s vast and varied volcanic geodiversity. There’s no place quite as geologically interesting and breathtaking as the Azores Geopark.
The natural beauty in the park include about 300 volcanic cavities, underwater geothermal sources, fumarolic fields, crater lakes, dry calderas and so much more.
Photo Credit: © Pixabay
Whale and Dolphin Watching
If you’ve ever dreamed of discovering the world of wild dolphins and whale, then look no further. Many species of whale and dolphin pass by the Azores on their annual migrations. The Azores attracts huge numbers of dolphins and whale, many of whom are very interactive both with boats and swimmers. Whale are, undeniably, one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful and majestic creatures, so it’s only natural to want to see these marvelous animals up close and personal.
This is of the most unforgettable experiences for the whole family includes sailing through the Atlantic in search of these majestic marine mammals. Most of the islands have guided tours available. The largest of the nine islands, Sao Miguel — some of the biggest highlights lie in the vast ocean that surrounds it. And probably the easiest way there with companies in Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca do Campo.
April through June is the best time to see blue whales, but you can still see other kinds of whales and dolphins the rest of the year-round.
Photo Credit: © alterra.cc
The waters that surround the Azores are a diver’s paradise, filled with all sorts of fish species and amazing rock formations, but diving isn’t a year-round pursuit. Each island brings something different to the table: For diving enthusiasts, the very best can be found in the waters of Terceira, near the old port of Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira there’s an underwater anchor graveyard of ancient ship anchors and marine life like eagle rays and octopus, while the awesome topography of Pico Island continues beneath the waves with sheer volcanic cliffs.
Off São Miguel there are volcanic canyons at low depth, providing habitat for octopuses and triggerfish.
Throughout the islands, there are more than 100 diving spots with over 3,000 marine species, vertical walls, clean waters and incredible encounters with manta rays, mobulas and even whale sharks.
You can dive the Azores any time of the year, but the best offshore dive sites are only really accessible during the summer.
Photo Credit: © Pinterest
Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
There’s a lagoon in the middle fed by the ocean on the landward side, and so completely shielded from the ocean currents. This strange, beautiful spot fills up quickly on sunny days. You can take a short boat ride from the Pier of Vila Franca do Campo to get to this amazing location
Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. You can enjoy an afternoon on the slopes of the ancient caldera or go for a swim within the Islet’s crater. This tiny island is just a kilometer away from São Miguel’s coast. Spot beautiful and vibrant vegetation, a gorgeous lagoon shielded from the ocean’s currents, and marvel at the natural cone that the islet creates.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Sete Cidades Caldera
This landscape has been shaped by successive volcanic events over the last 38,000 years. The last eruption might have been as recent as the 1400s, just before the island was colonized.
Nothing can prepare you for the astonishing views of the Sete Cidades Massif on the west side of São Miguel Island. Twin green and blue lakes are ensconced in evergreen vegetation and shielded by a massive volcanic crater that rises like ramparts is one of the scenic highlights of the Azores. Sitting inside the crater of an extinct volcano, a bridge divides the lake into two sections. They each have quite distinct colors. Visit on a clear day if possible, as that’s when you’ll get those perfect breathtaking views.
The natural beauty of this twin lake is breathtaking with lively hues of green blanketing the surrounding landscapes. The twin lakes, which are relatively small and are ecologically unique, are connected by a small square and can be crossed via a small bridge. They are known simply as the Green Lake and the Blue Lake
Boca do Inferno translates as the Mouth of Hell, is likely to be one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever visited. With just a few minutes walk, you’ll see a breathtaking panorama that you can’t imagine.
You can see the small town of Sete Cidades visible in the distance, and it’s one of the best places on Sao Miguel to see how volcanic activity has shaped the island.
If you are driving, don’t park in the car park off the main road, but continue driving on the dirt road opposite for a few minutes until you reach the end. The dirt road runs along the top of the caldera, and you walk walk directly alongside where you park the car.
Photo Credit: Tiago Ferreira / Flickr
Terra Nostra Park
A visit to the Terra Nostra Gardens is like spending time in a secret paradise tucked away at the Azores, one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Over 200 years old, the Terra Nostra Gardens are internationally renowned for their incredible beauty which is showcased in a sprawling 31-acre complex. Visitors to the gardens can see beautiful plant life from all over the world such as Rhododendrons from Malaysia, a collection of Cycads and Camellias, the exceptional Victoria Cruziana, and even over 300 kinds of ferns. Full of tropical and subtropical plants from the Azores and around the world, it’s easy to spend an hour or more exploring these large, impressive gardens.
Terra Nostra Park The Botanical Park´s next highlight is the famous thermal water pool. The volcanic hot spring nourishes the pool with temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius.
Photo Credit: madeinazores.eu
Pico Island Wine Country
With all of the volcanos surrounding the Azorean islands, the Pico Island Wine Country has been producing world-class wine since the 15th century. The stone homes and stone-walled vineyards that were built to protect the 2,439 acres of vineyard from fierce Atlantic winds and surges of salty ocean water from centuries ago can still be seen today in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Criação Velha wine region, in the municipality of Madalena.
Tour the vineyards with a local guide during the day and spend the late afternoons and evenings sipping and tasting all of the gorgeous wines that Pico Island has to offer.
Photo Credit: wikipedia
Montanha do Pico
At Pico Island you can climb the mountain, 2351 meters (7713 feet) above sea level. The Montanha do Pico is one of the highest Atlantic mountains, it’s the tallest in Portugal and twice the elevation of any other peak in the Azores. The Montanha do Pico is classified as a basaltic stratovolcano and was declared a nature reserve in 1982 because of its spectacular beauty and wildlife. With a summit that often disappears into the cloud.
You can climb the mountain in the afternoon so you can see the sunset when you are in the top or enjoy a remarkable view of the Faial, Graciosa, São Jorge and Terceria Islands. The steep, nearly 3-mile trek takes about three hours. In addition to magnificent vistas, you’ll see lava tubes and fascinating rock formations too.
The Montanha do Pico is classified as a basaltic stratovolcano and was declared a nature reserve in 1982 because of its spectacular beauty and wildlife.
Photo Credit: azoresontravel.com
Poca da Dona Beija
Take a break from your tour of Sao Miguel with a relaxing swim at Poca Da Dona Beija, a small spa featuring three natural pools of iron-rich water known for its therapeutic properties. Fed by a series of hot springs, the small pools remain at about 39 C (102 F), an ideal temperature for soothing tense muscles and easing pains associated with chronic rheumatism.
Today, Poca da Dona Beija has been lovingly renovated and update to exude a rustic charm with its brick pools that are fringed by vibrant tropical vegetation. After the hot bath, you can enjoy the tropical landscaping and the gift shop of the facility. Keep in mind that the yellowish water can leave stains on your clothes.
Photo Credit: Jorge Santos / olhares.sapo.pt
Lagoa das Furnas
There are three spectacular lakes on São Miguel Island and one of them is the Lagoa das Furnas. Lagoa das Furnas is unique in scenery and experiences. One of the most unique features of Lagoa das Furnas is the clear and amazing sign of volcanic activity that takes place on the lake’s northwestern shore. Furnas is the place to visit if you want to see the hot springs. It has an active caldera with steam vents, mud pots and geysers, locals cook food in earth ovens available in picnic areas. This hot spring and most touristy city of the island is situated in the east inland of Sao Miguel in the middle of mountains and forest.
On a raised boardwalk guests can navigate to get a great view of the small calderas and pools at the lake spouting steam.
These small craters are even used by restaurant chefs in the town of Furnas who bring their pots of cozido (meat and vegetable stew) and let them simmer in the hot ground. And after that you may be enticed to head to town to taste traditional food cooked with volcanic activity.
Check this official video about Azores from VisitPortugal. Don’t forget to check their Youtube channel for more and unforgettable videos about Portugal.
If this article inspires you to start packing to visit Azores, check out our other post about 20 Useful Things to Know Before You Visit the Azores
Photo Credit: Hansueli Krapf