The Azores archipelago (Açores in Portuguese) lies about 1,000 miles west of mainland Europe and is made up of nine volcanic islands: São Miguel (the largest), São Jorge, Terceira, Pico, Faial, Ilha das Flores, Santa Maria, Graciosa and Corvo, which you can cross by ferry or plane.
Colonised by the Portuguese in 1432, the Azores is now an autonomous region. During the period known as the Discoveries, Portugal had the largest high-seas fleet in the world, with many of its ships stopping to replenish stocks in the Azores as they travelled back and forth to Brazil, India, Japan and elsewhere, bringing with them spices that changed Azorean cuisine from simple. plain dishes to ones spiced and flavoured with new-world produce, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
The weather can vary even across a day, with locals (about 245,000 residents) often calling each other to find out where on an island the sun is. Lots of rain makes for a lush landscape with many waterfalls and hot springs. Tea and coffee are grown here, as well as pineapples. The town of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira and the landscape of Pico’s vineyard culture are Unesco world heritage-listed sites.
What the Azores produces is astonishing: not just for its quality but because the vines are grown in seemingly inhospitable cracks in rocks and hardened lava, buffeted by winds and storms. These conditions provide distinctive salty notes. The most famous Azorean wines are from Pico, an island dominated by Mount Pico. Try them at Pico Wines, a cooperative, or at the Azores Wine Company, which recently opened an architecturally impressive winery with views across the squares of dry-stone corrais that comprise the vineyards. Pico makes the more well-known wines but Biscoitos, on Terceira, has a similar landscape and also produces great stuff.
Beaches, swimming, dolphin- and whale-watching
There are beaches across the Azores, but since these are volcanic islands the sand is dark or the shore is rocky. Swimming “pools” dot the shoreline of all the islands: sometimes ladders hang on the edge of rocks, some can be accessed directly from the shore, and others are in little harbours. In August, the sea temperature can reach 23C, but given this is the Atlantic, the water is cold for much of the year. There are also waterfalls and volcanic springs to plunge under and into. Dolphin- and whale-watching trips are widely available.
Cakes and biscuits
The islands have their own cakes and biscuits, of which my favourites are Dona Amélia, small cakes made from melkana (like molasses, brought from Brazil), sugar, eggs, cornflour, cinnamon and raisins. Created to celebrate the visit of King Don Carlos and his wife, Dona Amélia, in 1901, try them at Pastelaria O Forno in Angra do Heroísmo. Pudim conde da praia is made from potatoes, sugar, butter, lemon, eggs and cinnamon. Espécies de São Jorge are horseshoe-shaped cookies stuffed with a spiced filling that includes fennel, black pepper, cinnamon and lemon – those made by Dulçores on São Jorge are good.
When the Portuguese discovered the Azores they shipped over livestock to the islands to see if the animals could survive. They did, especially the cows with abundant grass to graze on grazing. Butter, milk, cream and cheese produced across the Azores are likely to be some of the best you have ever tasted. Two cheeses have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status: tangy Queijo São Jorge (try it at Queijaria Canada on São Jorge) and buttery Queijo do Pico, but every island produces wonderful ones (O Morro on Faial is incredible). The ice-cream, yoghurt and ghee (from Azorghee) are also exceptional.
Drive, walk or cycle along the roads of the Azores and you will be greeted by banks of hydrangeas, often tall bushes full of large floral heads in shades of blue, pink, white and purple. Faial is also known as the blue island – a volcanic eruption in 1957 left behind a fertile soil full of acidity and aluminium, which makes the flowers blue. Hydrangeas are not an indigenous species – they were introduced by Portuguese settlers in the 17th century – but became invasive because of the conditions (the rain, the rich earth) and had a devastating effect on some of the local flora. They were used like walls to keep the cows to certain fields. Hydrangeas begin to bloom in late April and flower until early September.
Formed from lava flows that stopped at the sea, fajãs are mostly steep cliffs running down to the coast and are most concentrated on São Jorge. Being volcanic, fajãs are exceptionally fertile and were used by settlers to grow yams, maize and vegetables. These days coffee and tropical fruits are grown along the more gentle slopes. Take the spectacular walk from Fajã dos Cubres to Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, the only place on the archipelago where clams are grown (it’s also a magnet for body boarders and surfers). Eat the clams at Restaurante O Borges before walking back to Fajã dos Cubres.
The cult of the holy spirit
The holy spirit (or holy ghost) festivals are the primary annual event for Azoreans, 90% of whom are Catholic. The festivities have common threads but the celebrations and traditions vary from island to island. They centre around impérios (empires) – small shrines to the holy spirit – highly decorated and maintained with care. Their architecture also varies: on Terceira, where there are 73, they are topped with an imperial crown. The festivals are also social and family celebrations, with singing, processions and eating and drinking. The “cult” arrived with the first settlers, with the Azorean people becoming more devoted as communities came together to worship, isolated from the mainland.
Seafood and fish
The Azores has fabulous tuna. Much of it is exported as well as canned, but eating it fresh on the islands is a must. Other species include blue jack mackerel, chub mackerel, forkbeard, red porgy and swordfish, while lobsters, slipper lobsters, crabs and spider crabs are abundant. But there are two types of seafood that are particular to the Azores. The first, more widely available, are lapas, limpets which are usually grilled (try them at Sabores Sopranos on São Jorge, which often has lapa branco, which is more orange, and lapa mansa more black). The other is cracas, barnacles that look like rocks, but have small holes inside that are home to sweet, almost lobster-like meat, which has to be picked out. Cracas are more easily found on Terceira – try them at Beira Mar de São Mateus.
Tea and coffee
Tea is grown on two plantations on São Miguel – Gorreana and Porto Formoso, both on the north coast, producing black (primarily orange pekoe, pekoe, moinha, oolong and broken leaf) and green tea. You can visit the plantations and factories to learn about their teas. Tea is thought to have been introduced to the islands at the beginning of the 19th century, when it was realised that the climate was good for its cultivation. High-quality, fruity coffee is grown on fajã slopes on São Jorge – sample that produced by the Nunes family at Café Nunes at Fajã dos Vimes.
Nine islands, one geopark. There are 121 geosites across the archipelago’s land and the sea bed. There are dry caldeiras, lakes in craters, fumarolic fields, hot springs, caves, grottoes and crevices, many of which are the result of the volcanic nature of the islands. The sites include Mount Pico, which you can climb to the top of. Capelinhos volcano, on the westernmost point of Faial, resulting from an eruption between 1957 and 1958, has a 2km-wide surface caldeira around the crater, which is a nature reserve. On Ilha das Flores, the walking trail at Fajã de Lopo Vaz, probably one of the first places to be settled on the islands, is also a geosite.
Of the islands that make up the Azores archipelago, São Miguel is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Its heavenly beaches and lush vegetation have earned it the nickname “the Hawaii of Europe.” Measuring almost 750 km2, it is the largest island in the Azores.What is the nicest part of the Azores? ›
Of the islands that make up the Azores archipelago, São Miguel is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Its heavenly beaches and lush vegetation have earned it the nickname “the Hawaii of Europe.” Measuring almost 750 km2, it is the largest island in the Azores.What are the Azores famous for? ›
The volcanic nature of the Azores is the architect of its appeal and manifests in the dark heart of the stone used in the old buildings and the black sand of the beaches. When visiting São Miguel, you can feel it on your skin. The iron-rich thermal springs provide warmth emanating from the island's inner depths.How many days is enough in Azores? ›
Seven or eight days is an ideal amount of time to spend in the Azores. Travelers with only a week to explore the Portuguese archipelago can focus their time on the island of São Miguel, adding on a trip to Terceira for whale watching if they have an extra day or two.What is the most beautiful city in the Azores? ›
Terceira Island is also home to the only official UNESCO city in the Azores Islands, Angra do Heroísmo! This charming city is the most picturesque and beautiful one in all of the Azores.What month is best for Azores? ›
The best time to visit the Azores is late spring to early autumn (Fall), June-October, but the sunshine and warmth can often run into November. Saying that, October-April, (Low Season) can be the perfect time for hiking in cooler temperatures.What time of year is best to visit Azores? ›
For many, July and August are the best time to visit the Azores. Being the hottest months, it's peak season and the most popular time to visit all the islands – particularly Sao Miguel and Terceira as they're both well-connected to the outside world by direct flights from the UK, USA, Canada and mainland Portugal.Is English widely spoken in the Azores? ›
The official language in the Azores is Portuguese, but English is widely spoken in all of the islands.Why did so many people leave the Azores? ›
At first glance, it might seem an unlikely place for a population exodus to California. Azoreans faced many hardships that led to emigration from their homeland, including high birthrates, lack of available land for farming, and economic adversity stemming from a decline in prices for exported goods.What race are Azoreans? ›
Ethnicity: The Azorean Population is composed mainly of Portuguese immigrants from southern Portugal and Madeira, but with a significant population from Flanders, as well as smaller groups of Jews, Africans, Spaniards, Bretons and Moors.
Visiting the Azores without a car is not an easy thing but it is not impossible. Consider where to stay according to places you can reach by bus. Ponta Delgada has certainly the most connections by bus. Be ready to spend on cabs or private excursions to reach sights that are outside towns.What is the cheapest month to visit the Azores? ›
Cheapest Time To Visit the Azores
If you're looking to get the most out of every penny when visiting the Azores, plan to stay in the winter months between November and March. This is the cheapest time to visit the Azores.
There is no visa required for U.S. citizens traveling for business or tourist purposes for a maximum stay of 60 days. A valid signed U.S. Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of entry) is required.What is the least visited island in the Azores? ›
Graciosa. Moving more to the north in the Central island group you will find the island of Graciosa and Terceira. Graciosa is the smaller of the two and is also one of the least visited Azores islands.Are the Azores cheap or expensive? ›
Is Azores expensive? Overall, we'd say it's just a touch pricier than the mainland of Portugal, coming in with an average price tag of about $1,570 per person for the whole week.Can you walk in the Azores? ›
The best hiking trails on Terceira, Faial, Sao Miguel and Pico Offer the Perfect Outdoor Adventure. The Azores are a world-class destination for adrenaline seekers and nature lovers alike, and the best way to truly discover all the hidden gems around the islands is by hiking.Is there a hurricane season in the Azores? ›
Fall is usually the hurricane season in the Azores, mostly at the end of September and throughout the month of October.Is Azores cold to swim in? ›
The ocean temperatures are like in January, 17°C (63°F). They only get warmer in May. However, you can still go swimming all year round in the Azores.
The ocean in Azores can be rough and big waves and strong currents are common. Always pay attention to the color coding of beach flags. Yellow: swimming is disencouraged, although you technically can go into the water for a quick dip. Green: safe for swimming.How do you get around the Azores? ›
Inter-Island Ferry Connections
Taking a ferry from island to island is the most inexpensive way to explore the Azores. It often takes time and not all ferries run year-round. In the central Triangle Group of the Azores, which consists of Faial, Pico, and São Jorge Islands, you can hop on a ferry for a day trip.
Even so, the Azores do not get the overwhelming summer crowds like other European destinations, and you'll easily be able to find off-the-beaten-path empty beaches and quiet trails. Flights and ferries are also running frequently, allowing easier access to the less visited islands of Faial and Pico.How do you get to Azores from the US? ›
There are daily flights during the high season and at least 3 flights a week outside these months. The flights are provided by United and Air Azores. Air Azores flies from New York JFK, United from Newark. The alternatives are a flight with a stop in Lisbon or flying from Boston on TAP or Air Azores.Is tap water safe in Azores? ›
Health & safety in The Azores
While mineral water is available in restaurants and shops, it's safe to drink the tap water in hotels and homes in the Azores, so remember to bring refillable water bottles and keep your family hydrated round the clock.
There are many comparisons between Hawaii and the Azores. Both are volcanic islands created from volcanic eruptions more than 70 million years ago. Both are a chain of islands, none of which are close to each another. Therefore, both island chains require air transportation between their scattered islands.Are there sharks around the Azores? ›
As well as the cetacean and majestic mobulas, the Azores are also a hotspot for sharks. Between July and October, mako and blue sharks can be seen with surprising regularity at remote seamounts around the island of Pico.What illness do people in the Azores have? ›
What Is Azorean Disease? Azorean disease is a disorder that causes impaired brain function, vision problems, and muscle control. It is named after a group of nine Portuguese islands called Azores, where the disease was prevalent.Can Americans live in the Azores? ›
If you are an American, you will need a Residence Visa to live in the Azores. You should know that this is not available in the US Embassy or consulate in Portugal anymore. Now, you need to go to the Embassy in Paris, since all the processing has been moved there.Can an American retire to the Azores? ›
Moving to the Azores as a non-EU national
Non-EU citizens moving from North America and the United Kingdom must apply for a long-stay visa and a residence permit to live in the Azores permanently.
Afro-Portuguese (Afro portugueses or Lusoafricanos), African-Portuguese (Portugueses com ascendência africana), or Black Portuguese are Portuguese citizens or residents of Portugal with total or partial ancestry from any of the Sub-Saharan ethnic groups of Africa.Were there slaves in the Azores? ›
After 1400, when the Portuguese turned to West Africa to enslave its people for its sugar plantations in the Azores Islands, they found slavery well entrenched.
The Azorean people are deeply religious, an ardor for their faith that is reflected in the celebrations they organize throughout the year in order to pay homage to the divinity.Can I drive in Azores with US license? ›
You May Need an International Driver's Permit
If you come to the Azores from the United States or Canada, the official law is that you are allowed to drive here for up to six months.
As of July 1, 2022, passengers entering national territory (including Azores and Madeira) are no longer required to present proof of a test with a negative result for COVID-19 or to present a COVID-EU digital certificate or vaccination or recovery certificate issued by third countries, accepted or recognized in ...Is Uber in the Azores? ›
Uber is Not Available in São Miguel Island
Uber is available in many European countries now, including mainland Portugal. However, Uber is not currently available in the Azores. If you need a transport to or from the airport, there are local taxis you can take.
It's also surprisingly affordable. The Azores has a fantastic climate and fertile land, which means the islands are all self-suficient and don't need to import food from mainland Portugal in order to survive.What currency does Azores use? ›
The currency of Portugal is the euro (EUR).How much money do you need to live comfortably in Azores? ›
The total monthly cost of living in Azores Portugal can vary depending on your lifestyle and location. However, you can expect to pay between $979 – $3,563 (€909 – €3,319) Per Month for all of your expenses.Can you fly direct to Azores from us? ›
The only airlines flying directly to Azores from United States are Azores Airlines, TAP Portugal and United. You can fly directly via Boston or New York. The U.S. routes target not only tourists, but also the strong Azorean community living in these countries.Are there mosquitos in Azores? ›
Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases in Azores.Can an American buy a house in the Azores? ›
Both foreigners and locals can purchase a property in the Azores, without hitting restrictions or other difficulties. Legislation in Portugal does not impose restrictions on foreigners wishing to buy property in the Azores, as long as they are not state-owned.
The classic pairing for a two island stay is/are Faial and Pico. Both islands are well-connected to Lisbon by air – Faial more so than Pico; there are daily flights in and out of the former and bi-weekly flights for the latter.Which island in the Azores has the best beaches? ›
1. São Lourenço Bay, Santa Maria. The island of Santa Maria is the most southerly of the Azores, giving it warmer climates that pair perfectly with white sand beaches such as this one.Can you island hop in the Azores? ›
With nine islands spread across 650km of wild, whale-friendly Atlantic Ocean, island hopping holidays in the Azores are the only way to get a full understanding of this archipelago.What is unique about the Azores? ›
Since the Azores have a volcanic origin, these nine volcanic islands are just a thermal paradise! The core set of the hot springs & thermal baths can be found on one of the archipelago's largest islands, São Miguel.What is the average income in the Azores? ›
|Average Household Income||$71,386||8.0%|
|Median Household Income||$57,779||4.7%|
|People below Poverty Level||10,348||1.9%|
|People above Poverty Level||55,730||17.2%|
What are the cheapest areas in the Azores Islands? While the cost of living in the Azores Island is quite low, you might not expect the actual prices of rustic and urban properties. As far as living costs are concerned, the Angra do Heroísmo district is the cheapest district in the Azores.What is the best part of the Azores? ›
São Miguel's lush landscapes and rolling, verdant hillsides inspire and awe everyone who experiences them, which makes it comes as no surprise that São Miguel is the most visited of the Azores islands, soon followed in popularity by lovely Terceira Island.How long does it take to drive around Azores? ›
São Miguel is small. You could drive around the perimeter of the island in one day. According to Google Maps, without any stops, the total driving time would be about four hours. If you only allow yourself one day of exploring, though, you'll only leave yourself wanting more!Do you need hiking shoes in Azores? ›
While it might be a nice and warm day, once you've reached high altitude, things will start getting a little chiller. Hiking Shoes – Wearing a good pair of shoes is advised. The terrain varies from island to island, and bringing along a pair of durable hiking boots is a plus. And if they're waterproof it's even better.Where do most expats live in the Azores? ›
The Azores archipelago is made up of 9 islands, each with its own unique traditions and natural beauty. Locals even say that the accent changes from one island to the next. Most expats choose to live in São Miguel, Terceira, and the Santa Maria islands.
Sao Miguel. Without a doubt, the most visited island of the Azores is Sao Miguel. For the majority of people, the main town of Ponta Delgada is used as the home base. This is where the airport is located and where you will find the most accommodation & restaurant options.Which island of the Azores is the sunniest? ›
Santa Maria is the most southerly of the nine islands of the Azores. It's also the sunniest, with some of the best beaches in the archipelago making it a favourite holiday destination for many Azoreans.Which Azores island is most like Hawaii? ›
This Island Is Called the 'Hawaii of Europe' — With Volcanic Peaks, Lush Landscapes, and Beautiful Waterfalls. São Miguel, an island in Portugal's Azores region, is an otherworldly paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.Can you swim in the ocean in the Azores? ›
The ocean in Azores can be rough and big waves and strong currents are common. Always pay attention to the color coding of beach flags. Yellow: swimming is disencouraged, although you technically can go into the water for a quick dip. Green: safe for swimming.Is the water warm in the Azores? ›
Water temperatures are about 22ºC (72ºF) in July and 23ºC (73ºF) in August and September. It is the perfect temperature to swim in the Atlantic heated by the Gulf Stream. The great advantages to visiting the Azores in the summertime are that days are longer.Can US citizens live in the Azores? ›
If you are an American, you will need a Residence Visa to live in the Azores. You should know that this is not available in the US Embassy or consulate in Portugal anymore. Now, you need to go to the Embassy in Paris, since all the processing has been moved there.Do you need a car to get around the Azores? ›
Visiting the Azores without a car is not an easy thing but it is not impossible. Consider where to stay according to places you can reach by bus. Ponta Delgada has certainly the most connections by bus. Be ready to spend on cabs or private excursions to reach sights that are outside towns.Does it get cold in the Azores? ›
Due to this, the islands of the Azores never get too cold or too hot, which makes it a great destination to visit at most times of the year. During the winter months the average temperatures can hover around mid 50s F (14 C) while in the summer months in the 70s F (22 C).