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What’s there to do in Sao Miguel, Azores?
Maybe you’ve heard about the Azores recently as these islands, especially Sao Miguel, have become one of the must-visit destinations in recent years. No doubt you have tons of questions about it that you need to be answered so that you can get the most out of your visit. Well, if that’s the case then you’re in the right place! (more…)
The Azores are often called the jewel of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Where are the Azores?
- How do I get there?
- Is it expensive?
- What is there to do?
- Why is it one of the top places to visit?
Well, if that’s the case then you’re in the right place! We just came back from the Azores and we got you covered. We’ll share some practical tips and information as well as some of our experiences on these beautiful islands. So let’s dive right in!
So first, why go to the Azores?
The Azores is all about unwinding and connecting to nature. There are beautiful forests, waterfalls, beaches and dramatic landscapes everywhere you look. It’s really a place anyone can enjoy. If you are looking to relax, you will enjoy the slower pace of life that islands are known for. If you are more into history and culture, you’ll get to experience the unique Azorian culture through the cuisine, history and people. If you are an adrenaline junkie, then these islands are full of activities for adventure travelers with some of the best diving, hiking, whale watching, spelunking, and more! It really is such a beautiful place that has to be seen to be believed!
Where are the Azores located?
The widely-separated Azores, 972 miles (1564 km) directly west of Lisbon, Portugal, includes nine islands (all volcanic in origin). Colonized by the Portuguese in the mid-15th century, their strategic position near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is their most valuable asset.
The Azores is an archipelago of nine islands located in the north Atlantic ocean, about 2 hours from Europe and 5 from North America. The Azores are divided into three groups: the eastern (Sao Miguel and Santa Maria islands), the central (Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial islands), and the western (Flores and Corvo islands).
The Azores island are in the middle of the Atlantic ocean about 1,000 km west of Portugal and it includes nine islands. The Azores islands are also a midway point between the United States west coast and Europe. This makes them ideal to visit for both Americans and Europeans.
Are the Azores part of Portugal?
Yes, the Azores are an autonomous region that is part of Portugal. This is great if you are already familiar with Portugal since the lifestyle is similar but even more relaxed. It’s amazing to be able to leave the hustle and bustle of western Europe and then just a few hours later be in such a peaceful and beautiful environment while still in Europe.
How to get to the Azores?
The best way to get to the Azores is to fly due to it’s remote location. However there are also cruise ships that visit the island. At the moment here are the airline companies that fly to the Azores:
- Azores Airlines
- TAP Portugal
- Primera Air
- TUI Fly
We chose Ryanair because they offer great rates and they have flights that leave from Lisbon and other main hubs around Europe.
The airport on Sao Miguel island is located in the capital of Ponta Delgada which is very convenient. There are daily flights from many European cities and weekly flights from the US and Canada.
When is the best time to go to the Azores?
The weather on the Azores can be very unpredictable in general due to its location. November through March is the winter time and also the rainy season.
We visited during January and we had pretty good weather with sun four out of five days. The day that it did rain though it was very heavy rain. Also there the weather can change often and become windy.
June to September is considered the summer and the weather will be warmer and more pleasant. If you are planning any outdoor activities or sports you will likely want to visit in the summer.
What should I pack when going to the Azores?
Keeping in mind that the weather on the Azores changes often it would be good to pack a variety of clothes.
- lightweight warm jacket
- sweater or pull-over
- hiking boots /comfortable shoes
- day pack
- swimming suit
- water shoes/flip-flops
- beach towel
- and don’t forget your camera!
During our time on the islands we wore t-shirts, raincoats, jeans, etc. Before arriving on the island we bought a light raincoat and some sturdy boots for hiking. This was definitely a good investment. I wore jeans and my boots along with a hooded jacket of medium thickness throughout the time. We also brought an umbrella just in case.
Kanicia wore a hooded jacket, jeans and boots. Keep in mind that whether you are in the outdoors or in the capital you will likely be doing a lot of walking on different types of terrain. This is why comfortable shoes are a must, especially some that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Which island should I visit in the Azores?
There are a total of nine islands in the Azores. They are as follows: Sao Miguel Island, Pico Island, Terceria Island, Santa Maria Island, Sao Jorge Island, Corvo Island, Gracisoa, Flores Island and Faial Island.
Here are some islands that we recommend visiting:
- The island of Corvo has only 430 people that live in Vila do Corvo. They have a distinctive dialect that comes directly from medieval Portuguese. Corvo is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with protected waters. This island is a perfect place to go if you are looking for a remote, peaceful place to enjoy birdwatching, hiking, snorkelling or scuba diving in amazing lava caves.
- Flores Island is definitely off the beaten track. However, for travelers who are canyoning fans its waterfalls and crater lakes will amaze you! The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve where you will find wild azaleas and hydrangeas growing and is the perfect place for birdwatching- around 40 percent of Europe’s roseate terns nest here. Monchique, is an islet offshore from the village of Fajã Grande, is the westernmost point in Europe.
- Looking for something a bit different? Leave behind the jagged peaks and head to Graciosa Island. It’s as if you have stepped back in time, you will see low, green hills scattered with villages where farmers still get around by donkey. This is definitely a place to relax with it’s easy-going atmosphere. This is a walkable island, with a 7km trail connecting the west and east coasts via gentle pastoral scenery. Also don’t miss the impressive cavern, Furna do Enxofre. Graciosa is also an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- Pico Island is the youngest of the nine islands. It’s dominated by a single volcano whose frozen lava reaches right down to the sea. A third of the island is a nature reserve. There’s much to see here- Pico has caves, heritage-listed vineyards and lanes lined with ancient heathers, ferns and hydrangeas. Since this was once the place of the whaling industry, you will find whales cruise offshore-it’s the perfect place for whale watching.
- Another diverse island is São Jorge with it’s mountains, ravines, cliffs, lakes and fajãs (coastal plains formed by lava flows or landslides) which form the perfect base for fans of hiking, mountain biking, canyoning, canoeing and caving. It’s also the place to learn about delicious traditions. It’s the home of dairy farming and the locals make delicious, strong unpasteurised cheese.
- Sao Miguel the largest island in the Azores and has enough to keep you busy for an entire trip. Outside of the city of Ponta Delgada, there’s much to explore inland, from canoeing across the crater of a dormant volcano to mountain biking past bubbling hot springs. If you are a lover of the sea there’s much to do as well- whale watching, dolphin watching, scuba diving and glass-bottomed boat trips are available most of the year!
- Terceira island has the second largest population, but if you want to relax go inland. You’ll find solitude in quiet meadows and ancient forests, hiding caves, lava tubes, volcanic chimneys and fumaroles. There is a deep channel that runs between Terceira and São Jorge- this is on the migration routes of blue whales, making these waters exciting to explore in spring, summer and autumn.
Do you need to rent a car in the Azores?
While we did meet some who just used public transportation during their whole stay we would recommend having a rental car.
This is because many of the things that you will want to see will be spread out and you will have the freedom to visit them at your own pace.
Some of the buses may not go everywhere and also there may be scheduling conflicts or sporadic times.
So if you can, we recommend that you rent a car. The company that we used is Sixt. There are other local and international companies available but we were happy with Sixt and will probably use them again.
What is there to do in the Azores?
There are many beautiful things to see and fun things to do in the Azores. The majority of what you will be doing will revolve around the outdoors. Things such as hiking, surfing, whale-watching, swimming and exploring the island are common. There are also many amazing natural parks and lakes to see. Find out what we did during our trip to Sao Miguel here.
Where to stay?
There are many options available for accommodations on the islands. There are options to cover every budget.
When we visited Sao Miguel Island, we stayed in three different options to fit every budget- a luxury villa, a wellness retreat, a mid-range hotel in the capital and a hostel. Read our review of each here.
Overall we were very happy with our time spent in the Azores (read about our trip here). We felt that we got a good feel for the island and saw some amazing things.
It’s a very relaxing place and it’s easy to just get absorbed into the island’s pace of life. Our favorite things about the island were the natural beauty, food, and relaxed pace. If you enjoy laid back vacations in beautiful settings with a lot of outdoor activities, you will love visiting the Azores Islands. We can’t wait to go back!