Azores Travel Guide – What you need to know before you go
A hidden gem in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, an archipelago composed of 9 volcanic islands, located about 1/3 of the way from Portugal to the east coast of America – the Azores!
The 9 Islands of the Azores sorted by their size (biggest to smallest)
- Sao Miguel
- Sao Jorge
- Santa Maria
Azores – Basic Info
The biggest island of the Azores is the main island of Sao Miguel with a population of about 140’000 inhabitants, followed by Terceira with about 57’000. These are also the only two islands with an international airport – Ponta Delgada Airport (PDL) on Sao Miguel and Terceira Lajes Airport (TER) on Terceira respectively. Direct flights from Lisbon take about two hours. Several airlines such as TAP, SATA, Ryanair and Easy Jet serve daily flights into PDL and TER. During high season there are also direct flights from Boston into Ponta Delgada airport on Sata Airlines. Still, traveling via Lisbon or Porto seems the easiest way to get to the Azores. Another great advantage of flying in from Portugal mainland into Sao Miguel or Terceira is, combining a Lisbon or Porto city trip before or after your time in the Azores.
Azores Climate Azorean weather is UNPREDICTABLE. On your trip be prepared to experience all 4 seasons in one day! It can be sunny and hot, windy and cloudy, stormy and rainy all in one day! Daily temperatures usually range between 15°C (59°F) and 25°C (77°F). The climate of the Azores is very mild, being subtropical oceanic, cool or mild for many months and pleasantly warm in the summer.
When to go? Temperatures vary very little. Even in the winter months (December – February) they are rarely lower than 14°C (57°F). Even though the Azores makes for the perfect mild summer season all year round, I still recommend to visit during the warmer months, which are also the drier months = June - September.
November - February are the winter months. It rains more consistently, days are cooler and the tourism drops off. Therefore, you won’t find as many flights nor ferry connections.
March – April the temperatures are starting to reach 20°C (68°) and tourists start flying in.
May – September mid May is when the more touristic season really starts. Which in the Azores is a good thing since many restaurants, stores, sightseeing tours and ferries only open when the touristy season is in full swing. Ergo traveling to the Azores in “High Season” is recommended.
During the Spring/Summer months there is so much you can do: - taking exhilarating hikes - swimming & surfing in the ocean - enjoy a walk around one of the many vibrant lakes - go on a whale watching tour - enjoy breathtaking sunsets by a cliffside viewpoint - bath in one of the many natural hot springs - or just simply drive around the islands with open windows and be amazed by the views!
October is when the ferry timetables become restricted and flights require a stop-over in Portugal. The temperatures start to drop and more rain comes in. The plus side is there are fewer crowds and more affordable options for accomodation. If you don’t mind wrapping up you can certainly consider early fall for your trip.
--> For top sightseeing tips read my blogpost: São Miguel Island, Azores – The ultimate guide to 4 days in São Miguel
Around an island
Once in the Azores I highly recommend renting a car. There is little reliable public transport and taxis you can only find in the bigger cities. There are lots of rental car companies especially on Sao Miguel. Some of them have a second office on Terceira Island. This is very convenient since you can take your car with you on the ferry and easily transfer from one Island to the other (consider ferries only ride frequently during the summer months June – September). Book your car before getting to the Island as many car rental companies require at least 24hours of advanced booking and especially during high season they could be sold out.
Car rentals are not expensive (30USD/ Day) – but be aware: these are MANUAL CARS! If you are looking to rent an automatic car: 1) It will be more difficult to find one 2) be ready to pay up to double the price
I booked through VIP Cars with MICAUTO Sao Miguel Vip Cars is an international car rental broker established with an objective of providing quick, easy and secure access to top rental suppliers across the world. --> vipcars.com --> micauto.com
Advice when driving: there are sooooo many narrow streets and most of them are ONE WAY! So make sure to familiarize yourself with European street signs before you go and be attentive before driving into streets!
For travel between Islands
If you are looking to travel between the islands, the fastest and easiest way is to fly! There are flights by SATA Airlines all year round for island hopping. Ferries between islands run frequently during the summer months. Please check schedules and prices on: https://www.atlanticoline.pt/p/p/.
Where to Stay?
There is great lodging for all types of budget. I booked all my accommodations on booking.com and found great hotels as well as bed and breakfasts. There are not that many accommodation possibilities on the islands, so I do recommended booking ahead of time, especially during the summer months.
On Sao Miguel I recommend staying around Ponta Delgada. Ponta Delgada's location is quite central on the Island and you will reach either side in less than an hour.
all Cafe's have free Wifi!
parking is easy: just park on the side of the streets =)
Azoreans working in tourism speak very good English
although there are many hiking paths, you can do them in tennis shoes as they are not terribly difficult
8 Things you Must pack when traveling to the Azores (independent of your travel month)
water- and windproof Coat
a sunhat and a winter hat (protect your head from the sun and your ears from the strong winds → 4 seasons in one day!!
clothes you can wear in layers! As the temperatures vary very quickly you want to be able to take off and put on clothes easily
camera to capture those breathtaking sights
swimsuit (although it is not the typical beach destination, you can enjoy one of the many natural hot springs all year round)
--> for more inspiration, tips and photos read my blogpost about the Island of Sao Miguel