The Azores is an archipelago consisting of nine islands. Including, Sao Miguel, Faial, Sao Jorge, Pico, Terceira, Santa Maria, Flores, Corvo and Graciosa.
These islands are located in the North Atlantic Ocean.1500km from Portugal and 3900km from America and are easy to reach (more on that later).
You may not know much about the Azores, or you may have never even heard of them, but trust me, if you visit, you will fall in love.
Each island is unique to one another, and each has its natural beauty, but all of them have so much to see and explore.
It doesn’t matter if you travel as a family, as a couple, or solo, the Azores has something for everyone, it is impossible to feel bored.
The question is, which Azores Island should you visit? Which one out of these 9 unique islands should you choose?
In this post, I will talk about the 3 islands I think should be on the top of the list and why. Sao Miguel, Faial, and Pico are three beautiful islands that you can add to the same itinerary and visit during the same trip.
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How to get there
From the UK
You can fly direct from London Stansted to Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel and also to Terceira airport with Ryanair.
If you are travelling from other UK airports you will need to fly with TAP Portugal indirectly via Lisbon. Depending on the connection time you can do this route to any of the islands, but usually, the bigger islands have the better connections. If you are trying to get to one of the smaller islands you may require an overnight stay either in Lisbon or in Sao Miguel.
From the USA
Boston Airport is the only one to offer direct flights to Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel with Azores Airlines. Other options are with TAP Portugal via Lisbon.
Click here to check for the best flight options.
Travelling between islands
Getting between islands is pretty simple. There are daily flights between all islands. Depending on the island and also on your travel dates you may have a stopover on a different island. However, connection times aren’t usually long.
Faial, Pico, and Sao Jorge are the only three islands that you do not need to fly between. You can get a ferry. This takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on which islands you are travelling between.
Best time to go
When you research this, you may see a lot of posts saying the best time to go is between April and October, and whilst this can be true, going between November and March can also be just as good.
The weather is warm all year round, though it can sometimes be unpredictable where there can be strong winds or lots of rain causing flight delays and cancellations.
Made up of six volcanic complexes, Sao Miguel is the biggest of all nine islands. It is packed with panoramic views, an amazing coastline, and truly beautiful lakes.
I recommend spending at least four days here to appreciate what Sao Miguel has to offer. But, if you can go for a whole week or longer, that’s even better.
The charming town of Ponta Delgada is the capital of Sao Miguel. Therefore, you can not visit this island without a stopover here. Packed with amazing restaurants where you can have a taste of the delicious local gastronomy and Azorean bars to unwind after a long day of exploring, Ponta Delgada is never crowded no matter what time of year you visit.
One of my favourite things to do in Ponta Delgada is the water activities. You can do fun things like whale & dolphin watching and swim with dolphins.
Ponta Delgada also offers a selection of tours that are worth adding to your itinerary. Many of the tours will take you to other parts of the island to see the most breathtaking points, as well as guided walks through nature and other interesting activities.
Do not miss Ponta Delgada’s most famous landmark, the city gates, which are located in the square ‘Praça de Gonçalo Velho’.
On the Western side of the Island you will find Sete Cidades (translates to 7 cities). Home to one of Portugal’s Natural Wonders, you will see two lakes, one blue and one green.
Legends believe that the different colours are due to a forbidden love story between a princess and a shepherd. But whether you believe in this story or not, you will want to see the stunning views from the lakes and their surroundings.
I visited Sete Cidades while on a jeep tour of the island. The two viewpoints we stopped at were ‘Miradouro Vista Do Rei’ and ‘Miradouro da Boca do Inferno’. I recommend both these viewpoints as you get to see the lakes from different angles as well as different views of the Island.
Please do not leave Sao Miguel without visiting the town of Furnas. This is where you will get to experience the Azorean lifestyle and also learn about what makes this island so unique.
Make your first stop at Pico do Ferro viewpoint for spectacular views of the crater lake and the town of Furnas. You can either follow the hiking trail to the top or drive up to the viewpoint. If you are feeling adventurous, you can book a 2-hour canoeing session on Furnas Lake and admire the beautiful scenery around you while discovering what makes the water warm enough to cook in (more on this next).
Furnas is home to the ‘Cozido das Furnas’, a traditional meat stew dish slow-cooked underground using volcanic steam taking up to 8 hours to be ready. Stop at one of Furnas’s restaurants for lunch to taste this amazing dish made of different types of meats, potatoes, and vegetables. The ‘ Cozido’ is an important part of the Azorean culture so you do not want to give this a miss.
One of the main reasons people visit Sao Miguel is due to its famous hot springs, and the Terra Nostra Hotel in Furnas is the number one chosen location for this thanks to its unique and massive outdoor thermal pool. The temperature is an average of 35 degrees making it great for you to have a swim and experience this famous landmark. You do not need to be a guest at this hotel to use the thermal pool, although, if you are staying in Furnas then the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is a great option.
Pico is the second largest Island in the Azores and is home to the highest point in Portugal thanks to Pico Mountain at 2351m. It is also known as the Grey Island due to the grey rocks left by the volcanic eruptions.
It is possible to explore Pico on a day trip, but if you don’t want to rush and want to make sure you see as much as possible, then you may want to stay for a night or two.
You can see Pico Mountain from any part of the island. If you are up for a real challenge then you can do the hike that will take you right to the top. Bear in mind that this can take around 7 hours to achieve. But I guess once you are up there, it’s worth it just for the views.
Pico is also known for its tasty wine. You may want to add visiting the wine museum or a couple of wineries to your itinerary.
The best way to see the Island is by booking a guided tour. This will make sure you explore everything Pico has to offer as well as learn about its history and traditions.
Another interesting fact is that Pico is home to the largest lava tunnel in Portugal. The tunnel is completely dark and takes about 1 hour to walk through. Before you enter you will be provided with a head lantern.
The Island of Faial is known as the blue island due to the beautiful blue hydrangeas that cover the island during the summer months. Faial is located in the centre of the Azores. It is also part of a triangle with the island of Pico and Sao Jorge.
I recommend staying for two days so that you are not rushing around and making the most of everything Faial has to offer.
Caldeira is the most popular natural attraction on Faial. Here you will see the location of the volcano that created the Island of Faial. From the top, you will be met with gorgeous views of Faial and on a clear day, you will also get magnificent views of Pico Mountain in the distance. It is possible to hike down to the volcanic crater but you can only do this with a guide due to safety reasons.
Capelinhos was my favourite place to visit. This is where the last volcano eruption of the Azores happened, from September 1957 until October 1958. Today, Capelinhos is covered in black ashes making it an incredible site and an important part of Azorean history.
To learn more about this eruption there is an underground museum in Capelinhos. It takes about an hour to see the whole museum but it is worth it if you would like to learn more about the history of Capelinhos. It was built underground to prevent it from ruining the beautiful landscape.
I recommend climbing to the top of the lighthouse if you wish to see truly breathtaking views.
The charming town of Horta is home to most of the island’s hotels and restaurants. It is the perfect place to go for an evening stroll by the harbour taking in the stunning views around you.
The best way to end the day is by visiting the most famous bar in Faial – Peter Café Sport. A bar packed with history and a stopping point for many sailors crossing the Atlantic.