7 best places to visit in the AZORES
The Azores is a volcanic archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. It is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (along with Madeira).
Known for its exceptional natural beauty, the Azores are a great destination for outdoor lovers and hikers.
Plenty of different hiking routes, great natural beauty, and volcanic activity — these are the things the archipelago is famous for.
Rich marine ecosystem and crystal clear waters make Azores one of Europe’s most fascinating diving destinations. The archipelago is also a great whale and dolphin watching spot.
Sounds enticing? So, do you want to come and explore the Azores?
But what to see in the Azores?
To help you with the task of planning we’ve created this list of some of the best places to visit in the Azores.
7 best places to visit in the Azores
1. Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
Ponta Delgada is the economic capital of the Azores and the busiest town in Sao Miguel, the largest and most varied of the islands.
Ponta Delgada is a very beautiful town with a rich cultural and historical heritage. The town boasts baroque and gothic architecture and splendid palaces.
Among the city’s historic buildings you’ll also see high-quality modern-day art — Arta Urbana (or graffiti).
With its narrow streets and cozy restaurants, it is a very popular destination for vacationers who love peace and quiet. Despite being island’s busiest town, it is surprisingly quiet, as not many tourists visit Ponta Delgada.
Your visit is incomplete without a visit to mesmerizing José do Canto Garden. Known for its natural richness, José do Canto Garden is one of the best places to visit on Sao Miguel.
Ponta Delgada can be your base for exploring the island’s volcanoes and crater lakes.
2. Sete Cidades Lake, Sao Miguel
Sao Miguel island is a land of lakes nested in volcanic craters, and the most iconic one is situated in Sete Cidades.
Being home to some of the best viewpoints, Sete Cidades lake is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Azores. Also, it is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.
Just like anywhere else on the island, there are hiking trails around the area of Sete Cidades lake. One of the most famous ones is the Lagoa do Canario — Sete Cidades trek. It makes its way around the immense Sete Cidades crater, before finally finishing up in the town of Sete Cidades.
3. Capelinhos, Faial
Capelinhos is a volcano on the western coast of Faial Island in the Azores. It’s a part of the black volcanic desert in Ponta dos Capelinhos.
Definitely climb the Farol dos Capelinhos — now-abandoned lighthouse which survived volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of 1957 and 1958. These seismic activities added an extra area of around 2.5 sq km to the landmass.
While walking on the volcanic ashes you’ll see the grey, desolate landscape which is somewhat similar to the one of the moon.
4. Caldeira, Faial
Faial’s Caldeira is an immense volcanic crater. Being 1.5 km wide and 400 m deep, it is one of the largest craters of the archipelago.
Faial’s Caldeira is the crater of an extinct volcano, from which the island originated.
Being a nature reserve, Caldeira is one of the island’s and archipelago’s major natural attractions to visit.
There is a path leading all around the crater rim. It’s a beautiful and scenic hike. But it should be only taken when the weather is good.
It’s not the only hiking option in the area. Also, the Ten Volcanoes hike starts at the Caldeira Viewpoint. This trail runs through 10 of the main volcanoes responsible for the formation of Capelo Peninsula.
5. Montanha do Pico, Pico
At 2351 meters above sea level, Montanha do Pico, or Mount Pico, is the highest peak in Portugal.
Pico is a stratovolcano, with a pit crater on its summit. The crater (Pico Alto) is about 500 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep.
Mount Pico is a part of the Madalena Volcanic Complex, one of three volcanological units the island of Pico is composed of.
Hiking Pico mountain is one of the best things to do in the Azores. It’s a must-do for many hikers and outdoor lovers visiting the Azores. We recommend you to hike with a guide, or to conquer the summit as part of an organized group.
6. Lagoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel
Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire) is a stunning crater lake situated at the bottom of an ancient volcanic crater of the Agua de Pau Massif stratovolcano, and also one of the best places to visit in the Azores
Lagoa do Fogo is the highest lake located on the island of Sao Miguel and one of the largest of the bodies of water in the Azores. It is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.
The area around the lake and the caldera boasts lush endemic vegetation and birdlife.
Head to Pica do Borossa for the best views of the inky blue lake.
7. Algar do Carvao, Terceira
Algar do Carvao is an ancient volcanic chimney located on the island of Terceira, the third largest island in the Azores.
A cave opens to the volcanic chimney, which plunges 100 m below the surface and widens into a cave and lake system.
After 2000 years of complex geological and biochemical phenomena, beautiful stalactites and stalagmites have formed in the cave system, as well as the endemic cave fauna.
Azores travel tips
- You don’t need a visa. As the Azores is Portuguese territory, EU nationals do not need a visa to travel to the Azores.
- The weather is unpredictable. It can change very quickly. Be prepared for all of it — sun, wind, rain, and clouds.
- Clothing. As the weather is unpredictable, bring a rain jacket, sturdy water-resistant footwear, and fast-drying clothes. As the evenings can get chilly, do not forget to pack a sweater.
- Fly between islands to save time. But book the tickets well in advance.
- Traveling by ferry. The best way to travel between the close-by islands is ferries.
- Renting a car is possible, too. In fact, the best way of getting around inside each island is to rent a car. Taxis are expensive, and the bus network is not that great.
- Don’t expect picture-perfect white or golden sand beaches. Yes, there are a couple, but most beaches in the Azores are with dark sand — of volcanic origin. Also, the island is best known for its nature, not its beaches.
- The Azores is an affordable vacation spot. Prices are almost the same as in mainland Portugal.
Whale and dolphin watching is one of the best things to do in the Azores. The best time for whale and dolphin watching is from early April to late June.