The people of the Azores are not exactly happy when you say that their islands are “at the end of the world”. The inhabitants of the archipelago, which is bursting with strength, take a completely different view. For them this region is something very special, even if their national homeland is the distant Portugal.
They proudly point out that the Azores are home to Portugal’s largest mountain. And the 2351 metre high Sao Jorge is not just any rocky giant – it is a picture-book volcano as a product of primeval nature. Even far away from the continents the earth once raged and created impressive islands. It is a quiet world between Europe and America, and when the islanders look west at the Atlantic Ocean, they look at four thousand kilometres of the sea.
Many a visitor does not get out of amazement because nature has given wonderful landscapes to the people who live here on this island in the vastness of the ocean. With craters, floating islets, a paradise for hikers and climbers as well as fertile valleys.
Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in the Azores.
It is the differences in altitude that characterise the landscape on the sparsely populated island of Flores. It is a fragile world for hikers, for many a one has broken into the moss, which looks like a sponge, away from the path. One should therefore not leave the hiking routes on this wonderful island.
No less than two dozen waterfalls rush into the valleys on Flores and seven crater lakes point to the volcanic origin. This is the Eldorado for people who cannot be stopped even by wind and weather and for whom trekking is anything but a foreign word. Flores deserves this name because hydrangeas and roses bloom here everywhere.
2. Ponta Delgada
Baroque trains carry some of the old houses of the capital Ponta Delgada. 65,000 people live here and in the university city most inhabitants see their “gateway to the world”. On the threshold of the 16th century, the current metropolis of the Azores was founded as a fishing village called Sao José. But the “harvest” from the sea did not make the inhabitants rich.
This changed in the 19th century, when the archipelago became a trading centre for citrus fruits. During this time a number of villas were built, which announced fresh prosperity and outlasted time. Today the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique is the meeting point of the locals and one of the most beautiful sights of the Azores. Also ideal for extensive strolls. Landmark of the city is the photogenic Portas da Cidade.
3. Park Terra Nostra
One of the biggest attractions on the island of Sao Miguel is a thriving paradise – the Terra Nostra Park. The former American consul Thomas Hickling rendered outstanding services to this complex when he chose Sao Miguel as the seat of his summer residence in 1780. Much later the park became a kind of playground for imaginative botanists from England and Portugal.
More and more Terra Nostra changed his face and was supplemented by water areas and large flower beds. From Yankee Hall, the former residence of the consul, became a hotel and in the middle of the complex there is now a thermal bath. Terra Nostra has earned the reputation of being one of the most impressive gardens in the world.
4. Lagoa de Fogo
Framed by volcanic mountains, the picturesque Lagoa de Fogo lies on the island of Sao Miguel. The lake is located at a height of six hundred metres above sea level and is one of the most photographed and visited sights in the Azores, especially in the early afternoon the water appears in its most beautiful splendour.
The so-called “lake of fire” was created after the eruption of the volcano Pico da Sapatena in 1563. The region around the crater lake is under a strict nature protection as it is the breeding ground of numerous rare birds. The Lagoa de Fogo is especially popular with hikers.
5. Castelo de Sao Baptista
In the Middle Ages, the Azores were of strategic importance for passages to America and Brazil. During the long voyage, water was refuelled and food was taken in here. This also led to a certain prosperity of the inhabitants of this “fortress” in the sea. Angra do Horoismo was the capital of the archipelago in those days.
The Italian military architect Benedetto designed the Castelo de Sao Baptista in 1567. Here the treasures that the Portuguese conquerors kidnapped from Central America were reloaded. The mighty fortress is well preserved and well worth a visit.
6. Pico Alto
Hikes along Pico Alto, Portugal’s highest elevation, are for many one of the highlights of a stay in the Azores. Up to the summit, which is often surrounded by clouds, there is not only a hiking trail but also a road.
Those who want to walk up to a height of 2.351 metres will pass extensive forests with blueberry trees and Japanese crescent firs during the ascent before reaching a plateau. The view from the summit plateau is magnificent. Even vines thrive on the slopes of the Pico.
7. Algar do Carvao
This is a pitch black cave that was formed by the eruption of the volcano Pico do Carvao about two thousand years ago. The so-called “coal grotto” can be found on the island of Terceira and is around one hundred metres deep. During the eruption of the volcano, part of the glowing magma flowed back into the vent.
It froze to drops and stalactites on the walls. The visit of the cave is also suitable for families with their children and the light in the tunnel at noon is a special experience. Then the rays of the sun with the mosses and lichens on the walls compose a magnificent spectacle.
About five thousand people live on this small island of the Azores and they are obviously very religious. Because they never miss an opportunity to celebrate feasts with a Christian background. Graciosa can only be reached by boat or plane from Terceira.
The island is also famous for its hearty fish stew, which is served in a restaurant above the port of Folga and which is called “Caldeirada”.
The hot springs of Furnas are one of the biggest attractions of the Azores. Already centuries ago the sulphurous water was said to have a healing effect. Rich farmers settled on this island in the 18th century and their mansions still bear witness to a certain prosperity today.
Furnas benefits from its sheltered position in the shade of the lava rocks and presents itself in the summer months with a Mediterranean variety of plants. At the eastern end of the valley there are a total of 22 hot springs, the so-called fumaroles. Applications are offered in the Kurmittelhaus. They are supposed to help against rheumatism, bronchitis and skin diseases.
10. Sete Cidades
The Sete Cidades, the “lake of seven cities”, is a water-filled crater of a volcano on Sao Miguel. Numerous legends entwine around the idyllic lake, which is characterised by a special feature – it is divided into two parts.
The northern part is called Lagoa Azul and shimmers under the sun’s rays in a bluish colour, while Lagoa Verde is blessed with greenish floods. On the shores of the lake, several hiking trails have been laid out that lead to the Vista do Rei viewpoint, among other places.
More things to do and activities for your Azores holiday
Best time to visit Azores
We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Azores:
April, May, June, July, August, September, and October
You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Azores.