The Azores (or Açores in Portuguese) is an archipelago or group of 9 islands that’s located in the Atlantic Ocean between continental Portugal and North America. Although the islands are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, they’re closer to Portugal than they are North America: the flight time from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada is around 2 hours and 10 minutes while the flight time from Ponta Delgada to Boston is around 5 hours and 40 minutes. The islands were formed due to shifting plates and volcanic activity, and this is characteristic of the islands’ landscapes. São Miguel is made up of beautiful “lagoas” or lakes inside the craters of former volcanoes. São Jorge is made up of “Fajas” which are cliffs that have collapsed and formed new, tiny peninsulas of land – and many of them were formed during earthquakes. Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain on the island of Pico, was once a volcano and, when you get to the top, you’ll actually be inside the crater of a former volcano. These islands are unlike anywhere in continental Portugal. Not only do the islands have a different landscape because of the previous volcanic activity, but the weather is different: it’s more tropical and humid than mainland Portugal. It’s a fascinating Portugal that most people have never heard of. It’s expected to explode in popularity very soon, which obviously will change the DNA of the islands completely. If you are able to visit the Azores, now is the time to do it!
Islands in The Azores
|São Miguel||137,830 (2001)|
|São Jorge||9,171 (2001)|
|Santa Maria||5,552 (2001)|
Which islands should I visit?It depends on how much time you have. If you only have time to visit one island, São Miguel is probably the one to visit first. There’s plenty to see and do and, just as importantly, there are also plenty of flights there. After that, Terceira is the second most popular island to visit. It also has flights to mainland Portugal and to some international destinations, so you *might* be able to finish your trip there and fly home from Terceira Lajes Airport without having to fly back to Ponta Delgada Airport on São Miguel. (Note: Terceira and São Miguela aren’t the only two airports with flights to continental Portugal. Many of the other islands, including Pico, Horta, and Santa Maria, offer flights to continental Portugal but there are usually fewer services and the flights are usually more expensive than flights from either Terceira or São Miguel.) After that, it really does depend on how much time you have. The 9 islands are split into 3 different clusters, so it makes sense to think a little bit in terms of those clusters. This is especially important if you’re planning on using the ferry to get from island to island (which is much cheaper than flying).
- The Left Cluster: Corvo, Flores
- The Middle Cluster: Terceira, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa
- The Right Cluster: São Miguel, Santa Maria
An overview of the 9 Azores islands
São MiguelKnown for its beautiful lagoas (lakes), hot springs, tea and pineapple plantations, this is not only the most popular island in the Azores but one of the most beautiful islands to visit.
FaialFamous for natural attractions – including a former volcano that you can walk around the edge of – as well as being home to the bar where the gin and tonic was apparently invented.
PicoPico is famous for three things: whales, wine, and Pico mountain (Portugal’s tallest mountain).
São JorgeKnown as the island of fajãs, São Jorge is famous for its wild and rugged landscape.
CorvoThe smallest island in terms of population, with just over 400 residents.
How much time do I need for each island?2-3 days is a good average per island, with a little more time for São Miguel, but don’t expect it to be as easy as just allocating 2-3 days per island! There are two things you need to take into account:
- The weather in The Azores changes constantly (every few hours often) and it’s good to have a bit of flexibility rather than being on a tight deadline – especially if you want to actually see the attractions (and get good photos).
- There also isn’t a constant supply of transportation options. You may not be able to find a flight or a ferry crossing exactly when you want it.