Comprised of nine volcanic islands, the Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal, located approximately 1,500 kilometers west of mainland Europe.
I recently explored these spectacular islands and I fell in love with their breathtaking landscapes, boasting lush greenery, volcanic craters, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque green lakes.
Although it would be best to budget at least 15 days to see all the amazing highlights of these islands, I know that the majority of us don’t have the luxury of such a long vacation time. So in this post, I will try to squeeze the best of the Azores into a one-week itinerary.
I hope it will be helpful to plan your amazing vacation in the Azores.
Table of Contents
Azores Itinerary at a Glance: Things to Know Before Traveling to the Azores
Before we dive into the detailed itinerary, I would like to share a few important tips about the Azores islands, that will help you have an amazing time.
The Azores Islands are known for their natural beauty and diverse ecosystems, making them a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
In fact, the archipelago offers a wide range of activities, including hiking through scenic trails, exploring volcanic caves, swimming in natural pools, and whale watching in the surrounding waters.
Even if you are traveling on a budget, you should still consider renting a car, because it’s the most cost-effective way to explore the islands.
In this 7-day itinerary, I have included all the highlights of Sao Miguel, the biggest of the islands and the one with the highest number of attractions, a mix of historical sites, and natural gems.
I have also added an alternative option, which is spending 2 days in Pico which you can add to your 7 days in Sao Miguel. Or you can split your 7 days between the two islands.
Keep in mind that all 9 islands are spectacular and worth visiting. However, if the time is limited I have picked what I consider the most impressive sites.
Another thing to keep in mind is that In the Azores the weather is very unpredictable therefore you should be prepared to switch your plans around accordingly.
How to get to the Azores
Getting to the Azores is easier than you think. Azores Airline flies from Toronto, Montreal Boston, and Newark.
If you love cruises, some of the transatlantic cruises have a stop at Terceira Island and Sao Miguel, but in this case, you need to be happy with spending just a couple of days in this amazing destination.
There are no ferries from Lisbon to the Azores.
How to move around the Azores
Moving around the Azores is very easy as well. Azores Airlines (SATA) is very affordable with a one-way flight that ranges from 60 to 90 USD per person.
However, some islands, like Pico with Sao Jorge and Faial are interconnected by ferry in summer and winter, while other islands are reachable by ferry only in the summer months, June, July, and August, which is actually the high season in the Azores.
What’s the best time to go to the Azores
In my, very personal, opinion, the best time to go to the Azores is May, because there are still fewer crowds before the summer madness, and the weather is already warm. The water temperature may still be chilly but you should consider that you are in the Atlantic Ocean, so the water will never be as warm as in the Caribbean, not even in the summer.
Also, in May, you have better deals for hotels and flights.
However if you want the best weather you must travel in July and August but make sure you book your hotel, car, and tours way in advance and be prepared to find very crowded restaurants and main attractions.
The winter can be very rainy and windy but it’s not as cold as regular European weather. The coldest month is February with temperatures around 13ºC/57ºF.
The Azores: 7 days itinerary
Now that we have clarified the most important topic about traveling to the Azores let’s get to the day-by-day itinerary. Of course, this is just a suggested itinerary and you can switch around days and change places to your liking or according to the weather conditions.
Day 1 Fly into Sao Miguel
On the first day, you will be flying into Sao Miguel airport where you can pick up your car that you would have previously booked. I would recommend not staying in Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel capital, if you have a car.
It’s a nightmare to find a parking space and you don’t actually need a car to explore the city.
There are many beautiful and quiet areas to stay in Sao Miguel and with a car rental you can easily reach any destination.
There are many VRBOs and hotels in Sao Miguel. Here below I am sharing a couple of options.
Depending on what time you will be arriving, you can explore the surrounding areas of your villages or get to Ponta Delgada and walk around the city.
Or if you arrive in the morning you have time to squeeze in one of the below-mentioned attractions and make room for more exploring.
Best places to stay in Sao Miguel
Sensi Azores Nature and Spa (candelaria)
A beautiful oasis of tranquillity along the coast between Ponta Delgada and Mosterios and near many amazing attractions.
Terra Nostra (Furnas)
One of the best hotels in Sao Miguel as it’s located within the Terra Nostra Garden where the famous Hot Springs are located. If you are staying in the hotel you have free access to the pools even when they are closed to the public. They have a great restaurant too.
This hotel is located in the small village of Furnas which is one of the best areas to explore, brimming with many natural attractions, and lookout points. (more about it in a bit)
Pedras do Mar Resort (Calhetas)
A beautiful 5-star resort on the northern coast of Sao Miguel with spectacular beaches breathtaking views and where you find the famous Praia de Santa Barbara, the best beach for surfing.
Day 2 Mirador da Grota do Inferno + Sete Cidades
This is one of my favorite areas to explore in the Azores. I would start early morning not later than 7.30 am and immediately head over to Miraduro Grota do Inferno, where you will recognize the iconic shot of the Azores.
Being a very popular destination it gets packed easily and by 9.30 you won’t find any parking available, let alone the unspoiled view. So the sooner you get there, the better it is.
Mind that you won’t see anything if it’s foggy and you should switch your plans around. It’s very common in the Azores especially up in the mountains. So, be prepared.
After the spectacular views at Grota do Infierno, you can drive towards the pretty town of Sete Cidades and stop along the way at the Miraduro do Rey, for other stunning views of the Sete Cidades Lakes, the Lagoa Verde, and Lagoa Azul.
If you love hiking there is a beautiful hike that starts there and continues all the way to the village but then you will have to get a taxi to get back to your car, unless you feel like walking back, for a total of 14 KM hike (8.7 Miles).
If you are up for a short walk, drive down to the village of Sete Cidades park the car, and walk along the lakes. Although you cannot walk all the way around, there are nice trails on both sides.
By the Green Love restaurant, you can also find a tour company that rents kayaks to use on the lake, if you are feeling adventurous.
Also, check out the Church of Sao Nicolau and don’t miss the delicious cakes served at Casa Do Cha where you can also stop for a hearty lunch.
Day 3 Whale Watching + Swimming
Wildlife enthusiasts cannot miss this boat trip to look for whales and dolphins. There are many local companies that offer this tour and they are all pretty reliable.
You can also book the extra activity to swim with the dolphins.
Basically, you will board the zodiac wearing a wetsuit ready to jump in if you spot dolphins. It’s very common to find them. I took three whale-watching tours and I saw dolphins in all of them.
But even if you don’t feel like jumping in, only to spot them from the boat is an amazing experience and no matter when you go Sperm whales are resident whales so you could spot them all year round.
Day 4 Furnas
Furnas is a pretty town in the middle of the Sao Miguel Island. There is so much to see and do there, that you can spend one full day or even two, if you have the time.
In the Caldeira da Furnas you can check out the steaming geothermal pools and geysers, then drive to the Furnas Lake and visit the Capela Nossa Senhora das Vitórias included in a private property where you can take a small hike to a waterfall.
Check out the lookout point Miraduro da Pico do Ferro and the Cascata da Grenà and continue your day with an early dinner at Terra Nostra hotel (even more enjoyable if you stay there) and end it with a bang with a dip in the hot springs Poça da Dona Beija.
Day 5 Drive around the island
One of the most fun things to do in the Azores is driving around and soaking up the amazing views in the various lookout points scattered around the island, and check out some waterfalls. Among some of the best stops you can include:
- Miradouro da Ilha Sabrina
- Termas da ferraria
- Moisterios natural pool (even better at sunset)
- Santa Barbara beach
- Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
- Miradouro do Salto da Farinha
Day 6 Hike to Lagoa do Fogo + Ponta Delgada
If you are into hiking the trail to the Lagoa do Fogo is a very beautiful one. I did it with an organized tour but it’s totally doable on your own. Trails are very well marked in the Azores and it’s difficult to get lost. Since I travel alone, I just book a guided tour as I feel like it’s safer to walk in nature with other people.
It’s quite a long hike but very mild except for the first 500 mt which is quite steep. Also, make sure it hasn’t rained the days before the hike because that would make the path very muddy and slippery.
On the way back you can stop by Ponta Delgada and walk around the historical buildings along the black and white cobble roads, visit the old churches, and have dinner in one of the fancy restaurants.
Day 7 Fly Home
Today is your last day in the Azores. If your flight is in the evening you could make time to pay a visit to the Villa Franca and take a tour of the volcanic island where you can even snorkel and swim inside the crater (if you are traveling in the summer). Make sure you check out the Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz church and its spectacular lookout over the bay.
The Azores Alternative Itinerary Sao Miguel + Pico
If you want to squeeze in another island instead of spending the entire stay in Sao Miguel, I would suggest going to Pico.
The so-called grey island is popular for the typical lava stones cottages that you mainly see in the area of Cachorro, right behind the airport.
Pico is also known for being the home to the highest mountain in Portugal, Pico Mountain of course. There are tours that take you up to the top at 7,713 ft from sea level. They say the hike is strenuous, not much for the steepness but for the uneven terrain and the strong winds. However, the stunning views make it worth it.
If you want to take the challenge you should plan in advance and book your tour with a certified guide but keep in mind that it can be canceled last minute if the weather conditions are not favorable
Also, you need to pack warm mountain clothes. Otherwise, let’s see how to plan your Sao Miguel + Pico Itinerary.
You can squeeze the Sao Miguel Itinerary in 4 days choosing the attraction that appeal to you the most.
Then on the 5th day, you will be flying to Pico Island, with an early flight.
Also, I would book a VRBO in the Cachoro area, which is the most spectacular, and close to the airport. There you can get yourself a cute black stone house with a red roof, right in front of the rugged coastline and near the natural pools and lava formations.
In that area, you can also check out a volcano interpretation center and a small wine museum.
Day 5 Fly to Pico Island early morning
To make the most of your time I would recommend either booking a full-day island tour or renting a car and exploring on your own.
I did both which turned out to be a great choice. I took a full-day jeep tour of the island with Philip from Terralta and I had a blast.
In the remaining days, I rented a car and explored on my own. Having a car in Pico is also a great idea because you can reach amazing lookout points, natural pools, and restaurants that are in the middle of nowhere.
I loved Magma, in my opinion, the best restaurant in the entire Azores. I would go back to Pico just to eat there!
On this first day, you can drive all the way to Sao Roque and explore the coastline and the lookout points and then get to Magma for dinner. (They open at 7 pm)
Day 6 – Drive around the island all the way to Lajes (whale museum)
On your last full day, you can either book the above-mentioned full-day Jeep tour or drive around the island on your own.
If you choose the latter I would drive along the central road and take a peak of the Pico Volcano, drive to the Lagoa da Rosada, and continue all the way to Lajes where you can visit the Whale Museum and have a delicious but cheap lunch at the Comme si comme sa bar.
You can either continue the drive along the coast all the way to the Calheta de Nesquim and stop by one of the balnearios that you will meet along the way (usually natural pools) and then back to the Maddalena, the main city in Pico. Get to Madalena in the afternoon walk around and have dinner at Ancoradouro, another interesting restaurant.
Day 7 Departure
Today is your departure day. From Pico, you can only fly to Lisbon, Terceira, or Sao Miguel. Depending on your final destination you should pick the best connecting flights.
If you still have some time in the morning you can check out the Gruta das Torres, a huge spectacular lava tunnel where you get an exciting guided tour about the lava formations and volcanic activity in the Azores.
A great way to end your time in the Azores.
Azores Itinerary final thoughts
I hope this Azores itinerary will inspire you to plan your next trip. Whenever you decide to go make sure you check the weather forecast and plan accordingly, but always include a raincoat, hiking shoes, and a warm jacket, but also a swimsuit and a towel to jump in the chilly waters of the Atlantic ocean. Most of all be prepared for abrupt weather changes and don’t let it spoil your trip to the amazing Azores Islands.
Guest Author: Isabella is an Italian eternal expatriate and a nomad. After 7 years of living and working in Cancun, Mexico, she left her fancy corporate life to start her adventure across the world with a camera and a drone. She travels for the sake of traveling and her destination is the journey itself. You can follow her travels on Boundlessroads.com.
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