When I first agreed to lead a tour in the Azores I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I can positively say that the Azores blew me away, and are one of the most incredible places I’ve ever travelled to.
If you’re thinking of heading over to the Azores, get ready to see magnificent landscapes, taste mouth-watering foods, and do some exciting outdoor activities.
Walking scenic landscapes and swimming in natural pools or piping-hot spring baths are some of the main attractions when visiting the Azores.
There are many activities offered on the islands. Each island has its unique ambience — some of the most popular things to do are trekking, kayaking, golfing, diving, and hiking.
I’m a big fan of hiking and the outdoors. And as an experienced hiker, I advise getting some great outdoor gear before you make your way to the Azores.
I am going to share with you the ultimate way to spend 10 days in the Azores. This guide will cover top hiking spots and share tips on how to have an unforgettable trip in this magical destination!
- 1 Getting to and around the Azores
- 2 Things to know when travelling around Azores
- 3 10-days around the best Azores Islands
- 3.1 Day 1: Arrive in Terceira
- 3.2 Day 2: Hike and Swim in The Natural Pools in Terceira
- 3.3 Day 3: Snorkelling trip in Terceira
- 3.4 Day 4: Fly to São Jorge
- 3.5 Day 5: Hike in Sao Jorge
- 3.6 Day 6: Visit the coffee plantations and hike some more!
- 3.7 Day 7: Ferry to Pico & go whale watching
- 3.8 Day 8: Hike up Mount Pico
- 3.9 Day 9: Day trip to Faial Island
- 3.10 Day 10: Back home – or onwards to Sao Miguel Azores?
- 4 4 fun facts about the Azores
Getting to and around the Azores
The Azores comprise of 9 Portuguese islands – Europe’s hidden gems. They are split into three groups.
- The Eastern Group is made up of Sao Miguel island and Santa Maria.
- The Central Group comprised of Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Faial, Pico, and Terceira
- Finally, The Western Group consists of Corvo and Flores.
The Azores are plain sailing to navigate around, by yourself or with friends. The Azores islands are relatively small islands along the North Atlantic ocean.
Unfortunately, public transportation is limited and mostly aimed around Azoreans and their work schedules.
On the islands, I suggest booking your car rental through brokers in advance, before the start of your trip. You will find that traveling around with your own wheels will be the easiest way to get around.
During the high season, there are many flights between islands. Ferry services can be timely, but most go throughout the year.
The best way is to carefully plan your trip before arriving. This allows you to get the best deals when booking your flights, accommodation and gives you the time to compare prices.
Things to know when travelling around Azores
The Azores are sparsely populated islands, the busiest island being Sao Miguel. Don’t expect an Ibiza-like party scene in the Azores. In essence, the Azores islands are a remote and peaceful place – and the locals are proud of it.
There are, however, small unpretentious bars used mostly as watering holes after a busy day. This means you will still find some low-key places to let your hair down.
And when it comes to the crime rate, it’s very low on these islands so you can relax into your evenings. Portuguese is the official language in the Azores.
However, English is widely spoken and is now a required language to learn in schools. The currency used is the Euro (€). When trying some of the delicious Azorean islands delicacies – try the alcatra, the famous king dish.
Year-round, the temperature is moderate and ranges between 57°F (13,8°C) and 71°F (21,6°C). However keep in mind that the weather is unreliable, and even on a sunny day there could be a moment of rain.
Some fun outdoor activities popular on the islands :
- Canyoning: jumping, climbing and swimming between canyons is a fun adventure. Waterfalls are surrounded by evergreen forests, making it a spectacular experience.
- Hiking: Doing one of the many hiking trails on the Azores Islands on the islands is undoubtedly a must-do. The most challenging one is hiking Mount Pico. It’s the highest mountain in the whole of Portugal (2,351m high).
- Whale Watching: Whale watching tours offer remarkable experiences up close to a vast range of aquatic species.
- Paragliding: There is nothing better than getting a bird’s eye view over volcanic craters in Sao Miguel island at Furnas and Sete Cidades.
- Sailing: There are many tour agencies offering sailing tours around the islands.
- Kayaking: You can rent a kayak in most of the large lakes in Sao Miguel.
- Diving: The Azores offers amazing spots over colourful
- Surfing: Portugal is well-known as a hot surfing destination around the world. It comes as no surprise that it holds the World Surf League on Sao Miguel island, in Ribeira Grande.
10-days around the best Azores Islands
The Azores are famously known for their stunning backdrops, blue-green hued lakes, and volcanic craters – the land of hydrangeas. Choosing which Azores islands to visit can be overwhelming.
This itinerary will guide you through the Central and Eastern Islands, giving you the best outdoor activities and must-do activities.
Day 1: Arrive in Terceira
The first day in the Azores should be spent getting a real feel of these magical islands and their surroundings. Get a fun-filled start to your ten-day Azores trip by starting in Terceira.
Terceira has its airport and is easy to access from mainland Portugal, other inter-island flights and North America.
Terceira is known as the best party island amongst the Azores islands. The highlight of this town happens downtown in June, where the locals hold a massive street party of Sanjoaninas.
It’s also well known for its beautiful untouched hiking trails, enticed by volcanic landscapes.
Stay in Angra do Heroismo
The island of Terceira is surrounded by a neat, well-paved road that circles the island and its main points of interest. I recommend staying in Angra do Herosimo, a colourful colonial town.
It’s the capital city of Terceira and the largest. The town centre was dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. You can also go on a guided city walking tour to experience this colourful city and its unique architecture.
If the weather does not permit, there are a lot of galleries and indoor attractions to see in this lovely flavour filled town. Once you arrive and you have a full feel of this super cute town, you should stretch your legs on the Monte Brasil hike.
Hike Monte Brazil
The Monte Brasil hike is a short circular hike around a natural reserve, the Relvão park. It’s a 7.4km hike with fantastic views over the ocean, the coast and the town.
The Monte Brasil hike is along with the remains of an extinct volcano. It’s covered in a thick, lush forest, filled with blooming brilliant flowers in spring.
The hiking trail leads to the exquisite summit. It’s great to do after a light meal or after some shopping in the town.
In Angra do Heroismo I stayed at Casa Flor d’Sal, a lovely independent apartment with a modern kitchen and spacious communal areas.
It’s right in the centre of the Angra do Heroismo historical centre so the perfect location to explore this town! There’s also a free car park just behind the apartment so that you have somewhere you can leave your car.
Day 2: Hike and Swim in The Natural Pools in Terceira
Now that you’re feeling more acquainted with the town and surrounds, you should be ready for the next adventure.
Hike in Serreta
One great way to start your morning off is with a 2h30m hike in Serreta. It’s a circular route around the Natural Reserve of Serra de Santa Bárbara and Mistérios Negros.
This trek offers picturesque scenery surrounded by the woods of Cedars and views of the impressive Pico Gaspar volcano.
We found the trails in the Azores to always be very well marked, and pretty busy with other hikers, but we were also a big group travelling in peak tourist season in August.
If you don’t want to hike alone you can take a guided tour to see the incredible landscapes this island has to offer.
Swim in the Biscoitos Natural Pools
Cool off in the Biscoitos natural pools. Terceira is well-known for its “volcanically made” rocky natural pools – ideal swimming pools. After building an appetite, you can enjoy some lunch at the café and stalls offered around these pools.
As someone who usually travels to beach destinations, rock pools were quite new to me. They reminded me of the fairy pools of Noosa in Australia.
We spent a few hours around lunch chilling on the rock slabs, swimming in the cool water and even diving from some of the bigger rocks!
Visit Algar do Carvão
Explore the cradle of the island in a dormant volcanoes chimney – the Algar do Carvão. It’s a unique experience and certainly a highlight in Terceira.
This extinct volcano has a 150-foot, vertical drop from the top to the cave, and then a further 150-foot descent to a lagoon. The Algar do Carvão is an enchanting and thrilling exploration.
The volcanos walls are filled with a surplus of minerals that have been around for thousands of years. Explore the caves by taking an underground caves tour, or visit the crater by yourself.
Day 3: Snorkelling trip in Terceira
Terceira island is also known for its array of tropical sea life. What better way to see what the marine life has to offer than by grabbing your snorkels and flippers, and get on a boat tour to the nearby island.
Go on a snorkelling boat tour
We organised our snorkelling trip through the Deep Blue Azores Diving Centre; and they were pretty phenomenal.
You will be provided with snorkelling equipment and will be able to see shipwrecks, a range of bright-coloured fish species and reefs. We also had the opportunity of swimming through caves and canyons and seeing sting rays.
You can also do a whale watching and jeep tour to get the most out of your island experience.
See the Miradouro Serra do Cume Viewpoint
Once your granny fingers have set in from exploring aquatic life, go to the Miradouro Serra do Cume viewpoint. Enjoy a perfect spot to take photos of the town, harbour and bay.
The view overlooks the bay of Praia da Vitória and the “patchwork”. The “patchwork” is famous on Instagram and amazing to see, where the island is divided by walls of volcanic stone.
The bay of Praia da Victoria lies just outside Miradouro Serra do Cume. It’s a popular place to bask in the sun and offers bars and restaurants.
Note: If you’re visiting in the summertime, you can witness the Azorian version of the traditional bullfighting – a Torada. It’s different from the Spanish Corrida – the intention is to have fun with the bull and not to kill him.
Here the bull is controlled and held with a rope by people called the “pastores”, with normal people teasing the bull and running in front of him, trying to get the bull to chase them. The event takes place throughout August, on a different part of the island every day.
If you’re an animal lover, it’s a bit of a strong experience and I wouldn’t recommend it. However it’s also a very typical Azorian tradition, which you might be interested in if you really want to live everything the Azores have to offer.
Day 4: Fly to São Jorge
São Jorge is a tiny island of only 8km in width. It’s known for its unpasteurized cheese, a paradise of fajãs (lava flows), and for being the island of trails. It offers ravines, lakes, ideal surfing pots and a remarkable vertical coastline formed by the fajãs.
To get to São Jorge, you can either fly from Terceira, or go by ferry. Arrive in São Jorge and settle into your chosen accommodation.
To be completely engulfed in nature, I highly suggest staying Fajã dos Vimes. It’s a charming little town with less than 100 people.
The villages of Urzelina and Calheta are a bit more populated and offer more, but they won’t give you the same experience. If you stay in Calheta, try out Café Calhetense – they have a delightful dinner option.
In Sao Jorge island we slept in an incredible place called Casas Dos Vimes. Located in Fajã dos Vimes these apartments had an incredibly local feel, with spacious communal areas, clean and cute bedrooms and huge outdoors areas with barbecue grills where you can have dinner with your friends
Swim in the Simao Dias Natural Pools
Afterward, spend a relaxed rest of your day at the Simao Dias natural pools. The natural swimming pool at Simao Dias is one of the most symbolic bathing areas on the island.
The volcano’s lava flow created it during the solidification and from lava cooling off. The Simao Dias natural pools are one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen.
The clear emerald sea water is hidden by the steep dark lava rock cliffs, creates a beautiful contrast and framing. The hike to reach them only takes around 10-15 minutes.
There isn’t much space to lie down and relax or tan, as the rocks are quite jagged and uncomfortable, but it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. You can spend your time there diving and swimming around the rock pools.
Day 5: Hike in Sao Jorge
On day 5 why not start with one of the most truly breathtakingly beautiful hikes in Sao Jorge? The trail takes you to the impressive fajãs (lava flows) on the island.
Do the Caldeira de Santo Cristo hike
One of the top attractions on the Caldeira de Santo Cristo hike is the fajãs. Start your trek from the Caldeira de Santo Cristo and make your way down the mountain to the to Cumbres.
It’s a fairly easy hike as it’s mostly downhill. So while it won’t be too physically challenging it can be tough on the knees so make sure to bring hiking sticks if you think you might need extra support.
The downhill hike also means that there are incredible views all throughout the hike. You will be hiking along a path surrounded by blue and purple hydrangea flowers, with the majestic cliffs and mountains all around you and the sea infront.
Santo Cristo is a small town, with zero transportation systems.
To get there you would need to walk by foot from the top of the mountain (Serra do Topo or by ATV). It’s a lovely town with charming restaurants that is famous for its natural swimming pools that lead into the ocean.
From Santo Cristo, start your majestic hike towards Fajã dos Cubres, another small town. Along your hike you will come across stunning waterfalls where you can go for a refreshing swim.
The hiking time is only around 3-4 hours, but if you factor in time for swimming and food breaks it can easily become a full day activity.
Since the start and end point of your hike aren’t the same you should organise with your accommodation to pick you up after your hike.
Day 6: Visit the coffee plantations and hike some more!
On day 6 you will be visiting the only place where coffee is grown in Europe, in Fajã dos Vimes.
Visit the coffee plantation
Start your morning by taking a drive to Cafe Nuns. For any coffee lover, visiting the only coffee plantation in the whole of Europe is quite an achievement.
Here at Cafe Nunes, they grow and roast their coffee – and supply the locals. I recommend trying their espressos to kickstart your day.
Hike in Fajã dos Vimes
While in Fajã dos Vimes, try this linear 1.5 hour hike. The hike travels along the South Coast of the island and ends in Portal.
This hike offers walks through vineyard terraces, dips into the Atlantic waters and possible viewpoints of the Pico Island.
Day 7: Ferry to Pico & go whale watching
Pico island is the second-largest island in the Azores. It’s the most volcanic island and boasts incredible landscapes. This island is home to vineyards grown in lava rocks, historic volcanic caves and refreshing tidal pools.
To get to Pico, we opted for the one hour Ferry ride from Sao Jorge Island, Velas to Pico. The Atlantico Line runs throughout the year connecting Pico, Faial and Sao Jorge. Once arriving on Pico island, we rented a car for flexibility to get around the island.
Pico island is considered one of the best areas for whale and dolphin watching. You can start a tour from Lajes do Pico harbour and start marking off some of the 28 cetacean species swimming around the Azores archipelago.
Most whale watching tours take up to 3 hours and include a briefing about the different species.
After a fun-filled day sightseeing and (hopefully) spotting one of nature’s gentle giants, go to the Cella Bar for dinner. The Cella bar is a famous winery and restaurant, shaped like a wine barrel and offers the most exquisite dinners.
Cella Bar is in Madalena, the capital of Pico Island. This city is rife with fascinating things to do and see, such as natural bathing areas, cetacean sightings and is home to a vineyard declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Day 8: Hike up Mount Pico
While in Pico, you have to hike up Mount Pico! This is the highest peak in Portugal. It stands 2351 meters above sea level and offers a range of hiking trails.
All climbers, with or without a guide – have to check-in at the starting point, at Casa da Montanha. There you will be given a GPS so that your location is tracked – for safety purposes.
Mount Pico is not to be taken lightly-heartedly; it can be dangerous and has a very steep uphill. It is one of the toughest yet rewarding hikes.
Note: Only 200 people are allowed to hike up the mountain around the same time. If you are sure you want to do this hike, I advise you to book a guided tour beforehand – it can get rather busy, especially in summer.
Otherwise, if you are looking for a great alternative, the Caminos de Santa Luzia is a fantastic hike (and less strenuous).
We were unable to hike up Pico due to adverse weather and wind conditions. We did the Caminos de Santa Luzia and found it great too, however we wish we would have been able to hike this famous mountain!
The Caminos de Santa Luzia is still a very rewarding hike, with the trail passing through lava fields and vineyards, and you can see Pico looming over you in the distance.
Day 9: Day trip to Faial Island
Take a day trip to Faial Island with the Atlantico Line. This island is ideal for sailing, whale-watching and mountain biking.
One of the top attractions on Faial island is in Capelinhos, a volcano that last erupted in 1957. It’s located in the Capelo Peninsular and extended the island by another 3 square kilometres.
Hike Cabeco do Canto
Another stunning hike in the Azores is on Faial Island; the Cabeco do Canto. This hike offers impressive views.
In one hike you will walk along the ridge of not one, not two, but three volcanoes!
You start off surrounded by trees and nature until you reach the final volcanic ridge on a cliff on the edge of the sea. Here the landscape changes completely to a barren rocky expanse, which feels very lunar!
Some steps are cut into the path to allow for easier access, whilst other parts of the trail are on muddy ground. It might not be the most challenging hike but it definitely had the most varied views.
Visit Peter’s Bar – A famous watering hole
After a day of exploring and using up those kilojoules, you sure can build a thirst. Visit Peter’s Bar – the most famous sailor’s bar!
Peter’s Bar was formerly a post office. Today, it’s a famous bar where all the sailors stop during their ocean crossings to quench their thirst.
The Cafe is embellished with hundreds of flags donated by the ships crossing over the Atlantic ocean.
Note: Near Pico and Faial island, there is a popular dive spot named ‘Princess Alice seamount’. It’s renowned for its remote location, shipwrecks and significant depth.
Day 10: Back home – or onwards to Sao Miguel Azores?
If you have some time on your schedule before departing home, you should, without a doubt, visit Sao Miguel island. It’s the largest of the islands and is a trip by itself – enough to keep you on the hop for at least a week.
You can get to São Miguel from almost all other island airports by plane, or by boat from Santa Maria and Terceira. Some of the main things you should see in Sao Miguel include:
See Sete Cidades Lake
Its top attraction by far is Sete Cidades Lake (Lagoa das Sete Cidades). The lake near the town of Sete Cidades Azores. It’s a favourite spot for stand-up paddling (SUP), kayaking, horse-riding, paragliding and relaxing at the shore.
You can do a half-day tour to see the Sete Cidades village and lake.
Hike the Praia-Lagoa do Fogo
São Miguel offers a third (28) of the hiking trails in the Azores. I suggest taking a scenic hike on one of the best hiking trails in the whole of the Azores; the Praia-Lagoa do Fogo.
It’s a circular trail that takes roughly 4 hours. You can take a guided tour to Lagoa do Fogo, an ideal hike offering views of Fogo Lake, which connects to Agua D’Alto Beach on the southern coast of São Miguel.
Bathing in Hot Springs
Another popular attraction is taking a bath at some of São Miguel’s naturally heated geothermal hot springs. Some of the most famous hot springs are in Caldeira Velha, which has a gorgeous jungle backdrop and Ferraria that is typically heated up to 30 degrees.
Try the Furnas hot springs tour at night along with dinner, it will be a lot of fun!
4 fun facts about the Azores
- The Azores used to be the leading suppliers of oranges to the mainland, Portugal. It was a successful supplier of oranges until disease wiped out the productive crops. Later, tea and pineapples were introduced. Today, Pineapple has become a part of the Azores cuisines.
- In San Miguel, two tea plantations offer tasting rooms. Tea leaves were first founded in the 1750s growing fierce in the Azores and later commercialised in the 1870s.
- The Azores are made up of nine diverse volcanic islands, extending out in the North Atlantic Ocean over 370 miles long.
- Colourful hydrangea flowers cover the islands. Faial Island, in particular, is known as the “blue island” due to the number of hydrangeas present.
Final thoughts on the Azores Islands
The Azores are well-known for their variety of cetaceans (aquatic mammals), natural landscapes and incredible hikes. It sits on a pedicle for many whale and dolphin species who choose the Azores Atlantic ocean as part of their migration route.
Visiting the Azores is all about plunging yourself into nature and unwinding. They offer some of the most fascinating island archipelagoes along the Atlantic seaboard.
The islands’ volcanic gestation left unmistakable smears on the island’s landscapes – also seen on the outcome of its vegetation. There are inviting, hot natural pools at every corner of the island.
And these islands offer fantastic experiences for travellers. I travelled to the Azores without any expectations, and was blown away by their natural beauty.
This Azores 10-day itinerary is based on my own trip to the Azores, and I hope you find it useful in planning your own time there! Keep my itinerary on-hand to ensure that you make the most of your travels to this beautiful destination!
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