Do you have an upcoming trip to Portugal and are wondering what to do in the Azores Islands? Or maybe you’re just curious about them and want some more information before making an informed decision. Whatever your reason is, I’ve got you! I visited the Azores and I can tell you first hand that it’s 100% worth the trek. Not many people know about this little group of islands, so you’re definitely at an advantage already. Grab a pen and paper, sit back, and take notes because these insider tips are definitely too good to pass up.
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What to Do in the Azores: São Miguel Island
The Azores is the ultimate destination for backpackers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts, but São Miguel is by far the largest island in the Azores. And it offers a huge variety of activities and attractions for everyone. If you’re a city slicker, it has tons of urban adventures to explore.
1. Explore Ponta Delgada
Start your trip by exploring the capital city of Ponta Delgada. Wander through its historic streets, visit the 18th-century Church of São Sebastião, and admire the beautiful architecture. When I was there, I stopped by the Mercado De Graca. The produce looked ridiculously fresh and there seemed to be a decent fish selection available.
2. Visit the Stunning Sete Cidades
Sete Cidades is a twin lake system located in a volcanic crater and a famous São Miguel sight. Take in the panoramic views from the Vista do Rei viewpoint, or go kayaking or paddle boarding on the waters. There’s also the sweetest little tale about Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde.
They’re a single lake divided by a bridge, but look like two. One side has a blue color, the other a green color. A shepherd and a princess fell in love, but were forbidden to be together because of family status. The blue-eyed shepherd cried the blue lake, and the green-eyed princess cried the green. Cute, right?
3. Check out Monte Palace
If you like creepy spots, this one’s for you. Hotel Monte Palace opened in 1989 and was the Azores’ first 5-star retreat, complete with every imaginable amenity — restaurants, a bar, a nightclub, a hairdresser, and even a bank. A year later, it was awarded “Best Hotel of the Year” in Portugal, and then it closed. It’s perched on a mountaintop overlooking the super picturesque Sete Cidades lagoon and offers some of the best views on the island.
4. Take a Dip at Praia dos Moinhos
Enjoy a day at the beach by visiting Praia dos Moinhos, a black sand beach located in the town of Porto Formoso. Swim in the Atlantic waters, relax on the sandy shore, or have a picnic on the nearby grassy areas.
5. Experience Nordeste
Take a drive to the eastern part of the island and explore the picturesque village of Nordeste. Admire the stunning coastal views, visit the Nordeste Park, and discover the beautiful waterfalls in the area. A word of caution: this part of the island is known for being the most rugged and remote, so be aware of your surroundings and drive carefully.
6. Visit Tea Plantations
São Miguel Island is home to Europe’s only tea plantations. Take a guided tour of Gorreana (the oldest tea plantation in Europe) or Porto Formoso tea factories, learn about the tea production process, and enjoy a cup of fresh Azorean tea.
What to Do in the Azores: Santa Maria Island
Santa Maria Island offers a range of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails that showcase the island’s natural beauty, explore marine life through diving and snorkeling, or embark on boat tours to discover the coastal cliffs and sea caves. Santa Maria also has its own airport, so it’s super convenient to get to. Here’s some ideas for things to do during your visit to this island:
7. Explore Praia Formosa
Visit Praia Formosa, a beautiful sandy beach known for its clear waters and natural beauty. Relax on the beach, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
8. Discover São Lourenço Bay
Explore São Lourenço Bay, a stunning coastal area with impressive rock formations, cliffs, and sea caves. Take a boat tour or go snorkeling to admire the marine life and the scenic coastal landscapes.
9. Visit Anjos
Explore the village of Anjos, which has historical significance as the place where Christopher Columbus made his first stop on his return from the Americas. Visit the Christopher Columbus Monument and the Nossa Senhora dos Anjos Church.
10. Visit the Museum of Santa Maria
Learn about the island’s history and culture at the Museum of Santa Maria. Discover artifacts, photographs, and exhibitions that showcase the island’s heritage and traditions.
11. Explore Praia Formosa Vineyards
Visit the Praia Formosa Vineyards, known for producing the unique Verdelho wine. Take a tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and enjoy wine tasting sessions.
What to Do in the Azores: Terceira Island
This Azores island is chock full of history. The name Terceira actually means “third”; it was the third Azores island to be discovered in the 15th century. It’s the second most populated island in the Azores and the capital city was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. If you’re looking for things to. do on this island, here’s some suggestions:
12. Explore Angra do Heroísmo
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angra do Heroísmo, the island’s capital. Stroll through the charming streets, admire the colorful buildings, and visit historical sites like the Sé Cathedral and the Duke of Terceira Square.
13. Visit Algar do Carvão
Explore the unique volcanic cave of Algar do Carvão. Descend into the underground chamber and marvel at the stalactites, stalagmites, and the deep lagoon at the bottom. It’s a fascinating geological wonder.
14. Hike in Serra de Santa Bárbara
Lace up your hiking boots and tackle the trails in Serra de Santa Bárbara, the highest point on the island. Enjoy breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding ocean as you hike through lush vegetation and volcanic landscapes.
15. Discover the Gruta do Natal
Venture into the Gruta do Natal, a volcanic cave known for its stunning formations. Marvel at the lava stalactites and explore the underground passages with the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide.
16. Go Whale Watching
Embark on a boat tour from Terceira and head out into the Atlantic Ocean to spot whales and dolphins. The Azores are known for their rich marine life, and you’ll have the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
17. Explore Forte de São João Baptista
Visit Forte de São João Baptista, a 16th-century fortress located in the bay of Angra do Heroísmo. Take a guided tour to learn about the fort’s history and enjoy panoramic views of the city and the coast.
What to Do in the Azores: São Jorge Island
This island is unique because it’s entirely volcanic and boasts fantastic views of two other Azores islands: Pico Island and Faial Island. About 9,000 people live here and the island is also home to Europe’s ONLY coffee plantation. It’s definitely worth a visit. Here are some more things to do while you’re visiting São Jorge:
18. Explore the Fajãs
The fajãs are low-lying coastal areas created by lava flows reaching the ocean. These secluded and fertile plains offer a glimpse into the island’s agricultural traditions. Some fajãs, like Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, can be reached by hiking or by boat.
19. Visit Caldeira de Santo Cristo
Explore the beautiful natural reserve of Caldeira de Santo Cristo, located on the north coast of the island. This area boasts a lagoon, lush vegetation, and a unique ecosystem. It’s a great place for nature walks and birdwatching.
20. Taste Queijo de São Jorge
São Jorge Island is famous for its delicious cheese, known as Queijo de São Jorge. Visit local cheese factories, such as Queijo Vaquinha or Queijo da Fazenda, to learn about the cheese-making process and sample this traditional Azorean delicacy.
21. Visit Fajã de São João
Take a boat or hike down to Fajã de São João, a charming coastal village known for its traditional houses and agricultural terraces. Explore the village, interact with the friendly locals, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
22. Discover the Natural Pools
São Jorge offers several natural swimming pools where you can take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters. The natural pool of Fajã do Ouvidor is particularly popular, with its rock formations and easy access.
Four Out of Nine Isn’t Bad
The Azores is made up of nine islands total, so there’s definitely a lot more to do than what I shared here. But I’ll leave the rest up to you. My adventures in Europe are FAR from over, so follow me for more travel tips and in the meantime, check out my 7-Day Portugal Itinerary for more Portugal travel inspiration.
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