The Azores is the Atlantic Ocean’s own secret garden of untouched landscapes and natural beauty that not many people know about. It’s an archipelago of 9 islands scattered along the ocean, about 1600kms off the coast of Portugal.
With volcanic origins, the lands have now been transformed into natural beauties, hosting incredible waterfall hikes, unique attractions and lush forest landscapes.
It’s a shame that many people haven’t heard of the Azores because it’s a hiker lover’s dream come true. I didn’t really know what to expect from the Azores, and I can confidently say they blew me away with their natural beauty.
In this Azores hiking guide I’ve listed some of the best hikes that you’ll find among the Azores islands, as well as some practical information to help you plan your hikes in the Azores. These are ideal for a variety of different hiking levels.
- 1 Visit the Azores Islands: the three geographical groups
- 2 General info about hiking in the Azores
- 3 What to bring and wear when you visit the Azores
- 4 The best Azores Islands and their hiking trails
- 5 My personal favourite Azores hiking trails
- 6 Where to stay in the Azores Islands
Visit the Azores Islands: the three geographical groups
No matter which island you decide to travel to, you’ll find an abundance of trails. Most of the bigger islands have international airports, I flew into Terceira from Lisbon.
To travel within the islands if depends on how far you plan on going, you can jump on a plane or boat to hop between the islands.
The Eastern Group
- Santa Maria
- São Miguel
The Central Group
- São Jorge
The Western Group
General info about hiking in the Azores
Circular vs Linear hikes
While planning a hike in the Azores, you’ll notice that most trail maps will indicate if a trail is circular or linear.
The circular trails will take you around a loop, so you’ll essentially begin at one place and end here too. Circular trails are great because you can turn around whenever you’ve had enough.
The linear trails start at one point and end at another. Because the trail is linear, you’ll need to organize transport with a local taxi to collect you at the end of the hike.
Or if you’re feeling particularly hardcore I guess you could hike it both ways, but this isn’t usually recommended.
Finding and following the trail markers
Don’t worry about not knowing your way around the trails. Because the Azores is such a popular hiking destination, the city has ensured that all the trails are correctly marked and mapped out.
Along the trails, you’ll see wooden signage that indicates which way you should be going. The signs will let you know if you’re going the wrong way, if you’re going the correct way, and when to turn left or right.
Like with all trails, there may be times where you’re not entirely sure you’re going the right way. The best thing you can do is continue along the path until you see another marker.
Before you set off on a hike make sure to check the official website for the Azores trails. Here they outline how to find the start of each hike, as well as a brief description of what to expect from every hike.
You can also download the Azores hiking trail app from here. It’s incredibly useful because you can download all the maps and use them freely offline.
The unexpected weather in the Azores
The weather in the Azores has a mind of its own, and when you’re not familiar with these ever-changing patterns, you should always be prepared. On any day, you might encounter rain, wind, sunshine or fog.
Don’t be surprised if it’s downpouring on one side of the island, while it’s blue skies on the other. Although you can still hike in most weather, you’ll be at a bit of disadvantage when it comes to experiencing all the different viewpoints.
The clouds often prevent you from witnessing those magical ocean views you climbed all that way to see. The terrain can also get quite tricky when it’s wet, which isn’t ideal for inexperienced hikers.
Best time for Azores hiking
The best time for travelling to the Azores for hiking would be over the summer period. The weather is typically good, and it’s generally pretty dry. The weather in the Azores in summer usually …
But that’s not to say that the weather is always going to be perfect. You never know what Mother Nature’s got planned.
It’s recommended that you check out the live weather cams to make sure you have some kind of idea as to what you’ll be heading out to.
What to bring and wear when you visit the Azores
So now that you know the weather can be a bit unpredictable, you’re going to want to come prepared for it all.
Rain Jacket – A lightweight rain jacket and something to keep you warm are probably the two most important things to bring along. 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.
Layers of clothing that you can easily store in your backpack for emergencies
A reusable water bottle – save some money and use less plastic, it’s a win-win!
Snacks for along the road (some of the trails are long and there won’t be any shops along the way)
Trekking poles to assist you up the steeper parts of the trails
Don’t forget your camera! So you can capture the best of the Azores
Swimsuit – there are so many natural rock pools in the Azores, you don’t want to miss out on going for a swim there!
The best Azores Islands and their hiking trails
Hiking in the Azores is one of the best things you can get up to on the islands. With such rich landscapes, you’ll find trails along the beautiful ocean coastline line, throughout the green forests and amidst turquoise lakes.
The official website for the Azores trails outlines an extensive list of the 86 trails. That’s quite a lot of hikes and if you only have a limited time in the Azores, you probably won’t be able to do all of them.
In this guide I’ve outlined some of the most popular hiking trails in the Azores, as well as my own personal favourites.
Pico – Hiking Mount Pico
- Category: Circular
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Length: 17 km
- Average Duration: 7h
If you’re a hiking enthusiast looking for the best hike in the Azores, put Mount Pico at the top of your list.
The trail will lead you to the top of the mountain, which happens to be the highest point not only in the Azores but the whole of Portugal. It’s one of the most popular Azores tourist spots, too.
Keep in mind that this is quite a challenging hike. The terrain is often harsh with volcanic debris leaving the ground rocky. You’ll need to be in good shape for this one, but the trek is definitely worth the effort.
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll overlook the ocean and the central group’s islands.
Also, attempt this hike when the weather is good. You don’t want to put in all the effort to reach the top and find that clouds are covering your view.
Keep a pico trail map, which you’ll find on the app, on hand in case the weather starts affecting your bearings. Take some time on your way down to explore the remaining lava craters that have come to live with indigenous vegetation.
This hike is particularly popular because of the landscapes draped in the lush vegetation and beautiful wildflowers. It’s usually recommended to hike Pico with a guide.
Keep in mind that only 200 people at a time are allowed to hike up the mountain.
If you book a tour beforehand you will automatically have a spot in those 200, whilst if you show up to hike alone you might have to wait hours for someone else to get down the mountain first.
Faial island – Cabeço do Canto + Dez Vulcoes
- Category: Linear
- Difficulty: Medium
- Extension: 20 km
- Time average: 5h00
This hike actually combines two trails in one. Start your hike off surrounded by lush trees and nature before things take a surprising turn and lead you to three volcanoes.
The rocky landscape is pretty mind-blowing when you compare it to the rest of the greenery.
The initial part of the trail is along two crater edges which belong to the Cabeco do Canto trail. This would be a circular hike that goes around the craters and back to the start.
However instead of going back we carried on along towards the sea, on the Dez Vulcoes trail. This is where the third volcano and rocky landscape come into play.
It’s not too challenging of a hike. Although some of the volcanoes are quite steep, there are steps to make it easier to follow.
Overall, it’s a stunning hike with varying landscapes you can explore. I loved how it changed so quickly from the greenery to the barren volcanic grounds.
São Jorge – Fajã dos Vimes
- Category: Linear
- Difficulty: Medium
- Length: 3.2 km
- Average Duration: 1h30
If you’re looking at hiking something a little less challenging, Fajã dos Vimes is ideal. Hike along the south coast of the island and continue inland to explore the history of the island.
The trail will lead you along vineyards terraces and you’ll spot some traditional wine cellars that are still used by the locals. You can also visit the ruins of Francisco de Lacerda’s house.
He was a Portugues composer who lived on the island for 8 years. Look forward to visiting traditional handicraft workshops that produce beautiful quilts.
Taste the locally produced coffee while you’re here too. Once you’ve finished your tasting, head back to the coast to take a dip in the ocean.
My personal favourite Azores hiking trails
These hikes offer fantastic experiences for travellers who are visiting the islands for the first time.
Even though the Azores seem to be nature’s little secret, I found all the trails to be pretty well-marked and there were always other hikers around.
Pico Island – Caminos de Santa Luzia
- Category: Circular
- Difficulty level: Medium
- Length: 10,5 km
- Average duration: 3h
If you’re travelling to Pico but are looking for a less strenuous hike, Caminos de Santa Luzia is a fantastic alternative.
The trail descends from picturesque vineyards right down to the ocean. Along the way, you’ll also see lovely fig trees and interesting lava fields.
Sao Jorge – Serra do Topo, Caldeira do Santo Cristo & Faja dos Cumbres
- Category: Linear
- Difficulty: Medium
- Extension: 10 km
- Time average: 3h30
Not only is this one of my favourite hikes in the Azores, but it’s also one of the top tourist attractions in Caldeira de Santo Cristo. The trek starts from Caldeira and continues up the mountain to the Cumbres.
Blue and purple hydrangea flowers surround the path, and the incredible mountains and cliffs are spectacular. It’s even more magnificent when you’re climbing downhill and get to overlook the ocean.
A perk of this adventure is that you get to visit charming towns and stop at natural swimming pools that lead into the ocean. It’s possibly one of the most scenic hikes I have ever done.
Terceira – Misterios Negros
- Category: Circular
- Difficulty: Hard
- Extension: 4.9 km
- Time average: 2h30m
This scenic hike is done along the Natural Reserve of Serra de Santa Bárbara and Mistérios Negros, home to beautiful scenery in the Cedar forests.
Along the way, you’ll pass three lakes that have become an important place for some migratory birds. Continue past the lakes and you’ll soon see the impressive Pico Gaspar volcano peeking out behind the forest trees.
You can also book a guided tour that takes you along the heart of the Misterios Negros trail. You’ll be able to see the impressive Pico Gaspar volcano and volcanic domes.
Where to stay in the Azores Islands
On my trip to the Azores we stayed in the islands of Pico, Terceira and Sao Jorge. For each of these islands we stayed at the following accommodation:
Terceira Island: In Terceira we stayed in Angra do Heroismo, a lovely colonial town with cute colourful houses.
In Angra we stayed at Casa Flor d’Sal, a lovely apartment right in the centre of the town with spacious rooms and a parking area right behind the apartment.
Sao Jorge Island: In Sao Jorge we had a magical stay at Casas dos Vimes. This is the small town of Faja dos Vimes, a town surrounded by nature and with only 100 inhabitants.
There aren’t many amenities in the town (obviously) but as long as you have a car to get around it’s an incredible place for a unique stay.
Pico Island: In Pico you will want to stay either in Madalena or Lajes do Pico. One is the main harbour from which you can go to the neighbouring islands, the other is the main departure spot for whale watching tours.
In Lajes do Pico there is a great property that you can stay at called Casa das Caldeiras.
Final thoughts on the trekking trails of the Azores
The Azore is praised for its incredible hikes, an enormous variety of vegetation and beautiful coastal landscapes. With such a wide variety of hiking trails, the Island is perfect no matter how experienced you may be.
It’s essential to bring along some good trekking wear if you’re up for the challenge of hiking as many of the magical islands as possible.
But other than that, you don’t need to have any previous experience of the island to enjoy all of its unique wonders.
For a hiking lover like me, the Azores was a dream destination. I didn’t know what to expect from the Azores and they blew me away with their natural beauty.
The Azores is also a great destination if you want to do some whale watching. If you love being outdoors and aren’t sure where to travel to, the Azores are the place for you!