Everything You Need To Know Before Going To The Azores Island

Azores Colourful Shore
Azores Islands, Portugal

If you are considering travelling to the Azores as your next destination, I can tell you without a doubt that it will be one of the most rewarding and memorable trips of your life. It has been three years since I’ve visited these breathtaking Portuguese islands and honestly I feel like going back all the time.

The Azores are without a doubt the perfect destination to completely disconnect yourself from your usual daily life and just enjoy the nature around you. Disconnecting yourself from the world can be really hard to do but at every direction you look there is going to be an astonishing landscape like nothing you’ve ever seen before. 

In total, there are nine volcanic islands: Corvo, Flores, Graciosa, Faial, Pico, San Jorge, Terceira, Santa Maria and the capital, San Miguel. Each with its unique natural beauty, cuisine and activities to do. I suggest visiting as many as possible, since each island has its own unique environment and beauty. 

How to Get There

You can reach all nine islands with SATA airlines, from the east side of the archipelago the flight from Lisbon is just two hours away and from the west side it’s a four hours flight from New York. The international flights arrive at the capital and largest island of Sāo Miguel, at the Ponta Delgada airport. National flights from Lisbon go directly to other islands like Horta, Terceira, Santa Maria as well. During high-season (July and August), SATA offers flights to and from Boston, Oakland, Porto, Lisbon, Faro, Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, London, Amsterdam and the Canary Islands. 

Weather & Environment

As small islands located literally in the middle of the gigantic Atlantic Ocean, the weather of the Azores is perfect for a warm destination in the winter and a cool destination in the summer. It is always warm but not too intensely hot. Spring is probably the most beautiful season to visit the islands, especially in Flores, which directly translates to flowers. The islands’ volcanic origin has given the Azores several unique landscapes. Like the grey beach shore Steaming hot pools are everywhere …

Where to Stay

In order to preserve the environment hotels are limited but with high quality, making it much easier to choose where to stay. 

The most common housing accommodations are the rural farmhouse hotels, which are cute restored farmhouses and manor houses previously owned by locals. Majority of the houses face towards the sea with beautiful seashore at the front and green nature in the back.

The islands also have several beautiful resort hotels with great value for money.

Since there is so much preserved land, most hotels also include restaurants with local food and leisure areas. Local friendly owners always interested in making sure you have the best visit.

For the couples, there are also isolated cabins with incredible views of the sea.

Getting Around

As preserved islands, the only two ways to get around within the island is by foot and by car. Your hotel will most likely pick you up and drop you off at the airport. From the hotel, you can freely explore the beautiful landscapes, waterfalls and coastlines. Before heading out, I suggest talking to your hotel assistants to recommend which hiking path is best for the day according to the weather and the season.

If you do not want to explore by foot, renting a jeep, quad, tuk-tuk or a motorcycle is quite easy and cheap. Cemented roads and phone connection are quite rare in most islands, so make sure to have a physical map with you. But just in case you get lost, you don’t have anything to worry at all. The islands are completely safe from dangerous animals and crime. 

Hiring a taxi for half- day tour is cheap and the most comfortable way to get around with a local driver and guide. Azoreans are very proud and dedicated to their history and culture and are always happy to share it with visitors.

The best way to get from one island to another is by boat. Since the islands are quite close to each other it is quite easy to go on a day trip. During my trip, I was able to visit five of the nine islands but only stayed at two. From Flores island, I visited Corvo, Graciosa and Faial which is so close to Pico, that I had incredible views of it’s mesmerising volcano without actually going there. Island hopping is super easy with the local scheduled ferry boat services.

What to Eat

As a subtropical destination, many delicious fruits grow in the Azores, with pineapples as the national fruit.
Some delicious meals you should try Stew called cozida, which is prepared by placing a pot in a hole in the ground, as the volcanic warm ground naturally cooks. 

The cuisine of these volcanic farming islands is very simple but incredibly fresh, delicious and natural. If you are always looking for the freshest ingredients to cook with, then you will love Azorean cuisine. Each island has its own local dishes depending on what vegetables and animals are in the area.

Generally, seafood is a common dish

With the combination of endless open fields and humid weather all year round, Azorean tea plantation is very big especially in the main island of San Miguel.

Main Activities

Apart from hiking to the landscapes, the Azores Islands’ are famous for their aquatic activities. With so much unspoiled space, you can basically do all kinds of sports in the Azores – hiking, sailing, canyoning, surfing, horseback riding, you name it.

One activity I regret not doing was diving/snorkelling.

Faial island is especially famous for whale and dolphin watching. The boat ride takes a couple of hours heading to the open ocean around midday. The best season to see whales is spring and summer (April to September) are the best times to spot the fascinating blue whale. When in Faial, make sure to also visit the particular Ponta dos Capelinhos. A grey seashore that got its unique colour and shape from a volcanic eruption, visit the underground Capelinhos Museum of Interpretive Volcano and their iconic lighthouse.

At the main island of San Miguel, tourists enjoy playing golf at the wide landscapes and going cliff climbing. But one of my favourite activities of the whole trip was to visit the incredible Sete Cidades. Rent a jeep with a guide and explore the enormous caldera and its twin lakes. There are many beautiful walking trails that explore all the areas, including the popular 12km trail of the hydrangea- fringed.

First Timer’s Guide to Lisbon

Lisbon should be on everyone’s Europe travel list. As the oldest nation in Europe (founded in 1139) and one of the cheapest, Portugal is a great destination for anyone who is travelling to Europe for the first time or is on a budget. There is so much to see, delicious authentic seafood to try, constant blue skies and beautiful beaches just outside the city. What more could you ask for in a trip, right?
So without further ado here is everything you need to know before travelling to Lisbon for the first time.

What to Bring & General Knowledge

  • Walking shoes: Walking through the streets of Lisbon is like walking through a museum. There is so much to see outdoors that you will want to spend most of your trip exploring around.
  • Sunglasses: At the farthest west coast of Europe, Lisbon is usually a ray of sunshine so make sure to keep your eyes protected.
  • Safety: Lisbon is a very safe city with a very low crime and violence rate. But just like every capital, keeping track of your belongings is recommended.
  • Best areas to stay: Chiado, Rossio, Alfama, Avenida Liberdade and Lapa.
  • Currency & tax refund: Just like most European countries, Portugal’s currency is Euros and cash is usually king. So make sure to exchange and keep cash with you. As tourists, you can get tax refunds at rates between 12% and 15% for purchases of €61.5 and above.
  • Language: The native language is Portuguese and about 32% of the people can speak English. If you find yourself lost on the streets you can definitely find someone who can help you. As an European city, many locals also speak Spanish and French.

Weather

Lisbon has one of the best weathers with the most consistent sunny and clear-sky days. During the summer the weather is a mild average of 23.5 C with lots of sunny days. In winter the average temperature is about 11.5 C with some rain and wind coming from the ocean.

The best months to visit are May, September and October. Summer usually arrives a bit earlier in Lisbon, so if you’d like a head start into the season, head over to the coast. September and October are also great months to travel to Lisbon because just like the summer starts earlier, it also ends later.

Must Sees

Lisbon is an outdoor museum city, with lots of beautiful places to see outdoors and indoors. Vibrant old architecture, statues, museums, squares and promenades. Here are the main attractions to see as first timer’s.

  • Castelo do São Jorge (São Jorge Castle): At the highest point of the city is Lisbon’s fortress and castle from the Middle Ages. After the Great Lisbon earthquake in 1755, this archaeological site was one of the few places in the city that wasn’t destroyed. Now a museum, this place is a great activity to do with the family. Tourists can explore the walls and towers of the fortress, observe the magnificent view of the city from the observation terrace and spot the residential peacocks.
  • Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge): This massive suspension bridge connects the two sides of Lisbon – with Almada municipality on the left side of the Tagus River and the rest of the city on the right side. In front of the bridge there is a garden promenade (Jardim Docas da Ponte) waterfront where you can take a walk in the afternoon.
  • Praça do Comércio: This 18th century historical square is probably the first place you’ll see upon arrival. As the welcoming port of the city, this square was meant to impress and represent the city with its beautiful colonnades, triumphal arches, King José I statue and vibrant yellow colours that compliment the blue sky and ocean. Around the main square there are lots of restaurants and cafes where you can try some croquettes and have a glass of Portuguese wine.
  • Elevator de Santa Justa: Have you ever wondered how an elevator looked in the 1900s? In Lisbon you can take a ride on this Neo-Gothic elevator from Lisbon’s Baixa district all the way up to the Alto district.
    Tip: As a popular attraction, you should buy your ticket before your trip to avoid the long line.

As for the museums, Lisbon has many dedicated to history and culture:

  • The City Museum (Museu da Cidade): Located inside the beautiful 17th century Palacio Pimenta, this museum tells the story of Lisbon and the evolution from the prehistoric era to present day. Including archeological finds, paintings and engravings.
  • Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum): It is impossible not to fall in love with the beautiful Portuguese tiles when visiting the city and if you are wondering how they are created, you should visit this museum and even make your own tile as a souvenir. 
  • Casa do Fado e da Guitarra Portuguesa (Fado House and Portuguese Guitar Museum): A museum dedicated to Portuguese music and its main instrument. 
  • Museu Do Chiado – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea (Chiado National Museum of Contemporary Art): Portuguese art starting from 1820 to the present.

Local Dishes & Drinks

Apart from walking a lot, eating will probably be the second main activity you’ll do during your trip. Portugal has a really rich cuisine with a grand variety of dishes that will charm even the pickiest person. At almost every restaurant you can find a varied range of meats, vegetarian and seafood dishes. I haven’t had a single bad meal in all the times I have visited.

As a first timer, there is a long list of iconic dishes you must try in Lisbon, with several of them being bacalhau (cod fish) dishes. There is a saying in Portugal that you can eat a different cooked-type of bacalhau for every day of the year because there are over 365 different ways of cooking this delicious fish! On the oven, grilled, fried, raw, you name it. One of the most popular (and my personal favourite) is bacalhau à brás, a mouth-watering egg scramble with pulled codfish and other complementary ingredients. Other dishes that

Make sure to save some space for sweet pastries! Especially for the iconic pastel de nata, a creamy egg tart, that after the first taste, you will want to stop at every bakery for another one!

To accompany your meals, order the local Portuguese green wine. Of course this wine is not exactly green colour, but it gets its name because instead of using red grapes the Portuguese use green grapes.

On the weekends on a night out for drinks, make sure to try the deliciously sweet Ginjinha, a Portuguese liquor made of cherries. This is my all time favourite drink ever because not only is this drink super yummy but in many places it is served in a chocolate shot glass that you can eat it afterwards! If you are looking for a fun night in Lisbon, this is the Portuguese way to go.

Prices

It is surprisingly amazing how cheap things are in Lisbon and how exceptional the money value is. Food, drinks, transportation, hotels (especially hostels) and tourist attractions are cheaper than most capitals around the world. But it’s not every city that can combine low prices and high standards like the Portuguese can. It’s beautiful how they dedicate their time into making all of their businesses beautiful and to the best that they can. Which is why it is an affordable destination for anyone.

In a day, a student or a backpacker would spend:
€2 for transportation
€16 for food and drink
€7 for activities and entertainment
€25 for accommodation

Transportation

Lisbon has several sources of transportation; metro, busses, trams and taxis. A metro single ticket is €1,50 and a bus ticket is €.

The cute yellow “Remodelado” trams are the most popular transportation amongst tourists, but unfortunately they are not the cheapest, with a single ticket costing €3,00. If you are planning on using public transportation regularly, I suggest getting the 24-hour ticket that costs €6,40 that includes all transports.

Taxis are also quite cheap in Lisbon. A ride from the airport to Baixa district (center of Lisbon) is about €12-15 including the luggage surcharge.

Day Trips

  • Belém (20 minutes): Belém is technically part of the city of Lisbon, but with so many attractions, I suggest taking the day to fully explore the neighbourhood. Take the Remodelado yellow tram from Praça da Figueira (#15 or #127) and get off at Jerónimo’s Monastery. From there visit the other attractions by walking through the riverfront promenade. Make sure to visit the Torre de Belém, Padrão dos Descobrimentos (A Tribute to the Historical Figures of the Age of Discovery), walk around the beautiful Jardim da Praça do Império (Imperium Garden Square) and most importantly, have one (or a couple) of pastéis de nata from the iconic Pastéis de Belém Bakery.
  • Sintra (45 minutes): If you are looking for a fairytale European trip full of ancient castles and beautifully-designed gardens, then the town of Sintra is the magical place for you. Make sure to visit the colourful Pena Palace hidden on top of the hill trees and the gardens of Quinta da Regaleira.
  • Cascais (45 minutes): With its beautiful beaches and cliff coast, Cascais is the perfect day trip destination on a hot day. Just a short train ride from the Cais do Sodré station, this cute laid-back seaside town has a beautiful promenade with cute boutiques and lots of restaurants and cafes to dine at.

Where to eat in Dublin

Last weekend I went to Ireland with my friends and I was extremely excited to have Guinness beer and Jameson whiskey in their home country. I was sure the drinks were going to be the highlight of the trip, but little did I know delicious the food was!!
Tasting different dishes turned out to be the favourited activity and one of the most delicious foodie trips I’ve ever had!

Every dish kept getting better – all with rich flavours and high-quality ingredients. And it wasn’t just authentic dishes that the Irish perfected, even international foods like burgers and toasts were also top notch.

Here are all the delicious places I tasted this weekend:

1. SoMa – Brunch and Burgers
This cute restaurant is full of delicious dishes perfect for brunch. Complete with burgers, avocado toast, club sandwiches, juices, milkshakes and fresh coffee. 
One of their locations is right in front of the Spire monument, at the centre of the city, a great place to watch the street life.

I had the delicious avocado toast with poached egg and grilled potatoes.

2. Leo Burdocks Fish & Chips

This Irish restaurant chain has been serving fresh fish and chips since 1913. It has become a favourite by locals and highly recommended to anyone who’s craving a classic fish and chips.

The reason for their popularity is that fresh fish are cooked on coal-fired pans that give that special taste. The fries are perfectly done and the cod is also equally perfect cooked inside and crispy on the outside.

3. Bunsen – Straight Up Burgers

In all seriousness, this is the BEST BURGER I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. And trust me I’ve had a loot of burgers in search for the best burger and no ground beef has ever come close to this flavourful and crispy burger. 

Their success is expected from a joint that has dedicated to only specialising in burgers and fries. Visitors get to choose exactly what they want in their burger from a business card-sized menu and three different types of crunchy fries (including sweet potato fries!!).

If you have to pick between one of these restaurants to visit, this is definitely the one. 

4. O’Neills

This historical bar/restaurant/lounge/pub is over 300-years-old and is the perfect place to spend a typical Irish afternoon where you can have a delicious homemade dinner and have drinks all in one huge place!

Every nook and cranny (Irish slang for part of a place) is beautifully decorated creating a cosy atmosphere local beers and whiskey. When hunger strikes, head over to the restaurant where all the traditional food is cooked there. If you are in the mood for something lighter after all the beers, there is also a fresh salad bar right next to the restaurant. 

5. Third Space

This authentic Irish breakfast chain cafe is located in several locations of the city where you can taste the traditional all Irish breakfast in two different sizes – the large (hungover and hangry) and normal size.
The interior of this place makes you feel at home with big windows to let the sunshine in and books and tables everywhere.

The brewed coffee was also delicious and if you don’t have time to stay, you can also take it to go!

6. The Seafood Cafe by Niall Sabongi

This fresh seafood restaurant has won the 2018 and 2019 Irish restaurant award for its rich and fresh dishes and quality of ingredients.

The place is quite small, which could make it hard to find a spot (so make sure to book your spot as soon as you read this), but it also creates a cosy atmosphere and it gives you the perfect angles to watch the magic in the open kitchen happen.

I had the local oysters as appetizer then the fish taco and the clam chowder as main dishes. All incredibly delicious!

Overall, this foodie trip to Dublin was one of the best and most successful food trips I’ve ever had. Not a single bad or meh dish. Even the sandwiches I bought at the Guinness museum and at the airport were delicious!

Note: Although every dish was delightful, the prices were not as much. Judging from the cheap flight and hotel prices, I assumed the food prices wouldn’t be too far off. Although, everything was completely worth it for the quality and quantity of every food.

Brunch Places in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities in the world to brunch. As an entertainment city, the Dutch capital is full of delicious restaurants, cafes and bakeries where you can try authentic sweets like stroopwafles (caramel syrup crunchy waffle) and other international desserts, covered in Nutella.

Note: Majority of the brunch cafés in Amsterdam are “first come first serve”, which means visitors can’t make reservations, so make sure to show up before you get hangry. Luckily the waiting doesn’t usually take long.

Get ready to drool over these brunch heaven spots that will sway you to go visit Amsterdam just for the food.

1. Bakers & Roasters

Address: Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54
First come first serve – Opening hours: 8:30AM to 4PM

Starting off with my ultimate favourite cafe in the city, this Kiwi and Brazilian infused place offers everything you could ever wish for a hungover brunch. Rather you are looking for a detox juice cure, healthy dishes or a plate full of carbohydrates to suck up everything from the previous night.

My go-to dishes are always one of the egg benedicts accompanied by a plate of pancakes to share and a fresh cup of Brazilian brew.

2. Water & Brood

Address: Nieuwe Kerkstraat 84 First come first serve
Opening times: Tuesday – Friday 9AM to 5PM
Saturday – Sunday 10AM to 4PM

If you are opting for a less crowded place to brunch, Water and Brood is the destination. Located in the business area of the city, this minimalistic cafe is a great place to have a relaxing meal out. Everything about this place – the jazzy music, friendly staff and cosy decor create the perfect atmosphere.

With a shifting menu, this place serves different styles of egg dishes, truffled fries, waffles and chicken and many other heavenly dishes.

3.  The Pancakes Amsterdam

Address: Prins Hendrikkade 48
Opening times: Every day from 8AM to 8PM

Pancakes are one of the most popular breakfast and brunch dishes anywhere in the world, but it is also a beloved traditional Dutch dish.

There are numerous pancakes places but this particular cafe has both the classic and thin Dutch pancakes, plus the thick and fluffy American style with lots of side combinations. 

Another reason to visit this place is for the interior decoration, with big Dutch windows where you can watch the canal in front and the blue and white Delftware design.

Note: This pancake house is located in several areas of the city but I usually eat at the same one in the city centre.

4. Zoku

Address: Weesperstraat 105, 1018 VN 
Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 8AM to 2PM

Not only does this place have delicious fresh pastries and healthy lunch buffet every day of the week, but they also have four delicious weekend brunch dishes for the weekend. If you are in the mood to go all out, there is also the all-you-can-eat breakfast spread which includes unlimited coffee and juice.

The restaurant is located inside the Zoku hotel’s rooftop where you can enjoy the charming city view at one of their multiple terraces decorated with comfy sofas and an incredible glass-garden. 

5. Sumo

Address: Vijzelstraat 26, 1017 HK 
Opening hours: 12pm to 10:30PM

What better way to beat the weekend hangover than with an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet?

Their chain restaurants are always beautifully decorated with Japanese interior and sakura (cherry blossom) trees. Their menu includes a large variety of fresh warm and raw dishes.

This Japanese cuisine restaurant is another chain that I always go to when in Amsterdam. I actually crave for the days until I can eat all the amounts of sushi possible.

FREE Museum Destinations in Europe

Not many people place the words travel and education in the same category since travelling is usually associated with relaxation, but it is just a matter of finding a museum that suits you. It’s even more enjoyable when you can see legitimate evidence right in front of you and most importantly, all free!

From art to history museums, go watch your school textbooks come to life and make your own interpretations of what’s right in front of you without having to spend a dime.

1. LONDON, ENGLAND

The historical British capital is home to numerous gratuitous museums. With impressive and extravagant collections from the nation and from across the globe. Including one-of-a-kind pieces such as the Rosetta Stone, the Cat Mummies, Hoa Hakananai’a Moai Statue and many othersatthe British Museum.

London museums usually take Mondays off, so make sure to plan your museum visits accordingly.

2. PARIS, FRANCE

Paris shouldn’t just be a romantic destination for couples but also for young adults under the age of 25, since they can enter majority of the museums in the city for free. If this wasn’t motivation enough to visit the beautiful British capital, Paris also has an abundant selection of some of the most beautiful (and expensive) art pieces in the world. Which include pieces by French artists such as Geourges Braque, Henri Matisse and Édouard Vuillard.

3. ROME, ITALY

No free museum list would be complete without the ultimate outdoor museum city in the world. Just by strolling through the streets of Rome you will bump into ruins, statues, monuments, buildings, churches and of course, museums older than any person in the city. If you are a history admirer, make sure to visit this Roman capital and its beautiful museums.

4. MADRID, SPAIN

Spain is home to magnificent artists such as Titian, Velasquez, Goya, El Greco and many others, which also makes this European city an acclaimed art destination. With collections that are over two hundred years old, along with private pieces donated by the Spanish monarchy from the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

5. LISBON, PORTUGAL

As one of the oldest cities in the world, Lisbon is full of timeless museums. Along with fascinating museums, the Portuguese capital also includes historical architectural landmarks such as the Torre de Belém. A masterpiece that combines the architectural styles, Gothic and Romanesque.