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.

Pernambuco, Brazil

Porto de Galinhas & Tapioca Crepes

Porto de Galinhas Beach

Located in the northeast of the country, Porto de Galinhas is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, because of its mesmerising natural pools and corals. The fishing town is fairly isolated and small compared to its surrounding cities, such as the capital of Pernambuco, Recife, which is just an hour away (63km) by car.

The town has been preserved as a local area from the rest of the world. In consequence, the town is really laid back and can be pretty difficult to find Wi-Fi outside of your hotel, inn or resort. So if you want to tune off from the world and practice your Portuguese, this is the perfect place.

The center is full of colourful and cute open air traditional restaurants, artisanal stores, kiosks and aquatic sports agencies. With the city center situated directly in front of the beach or very close by. I recommend staying at a resort because they have English speaking staff and are ready to help you plan and book your vacation. It might be pricier than staying at a pousada (inn) but it will save you a lot of stress and time. Plus, most of them are located directly in front of a beach, which is the best part of the area.

Porto de Galinhas is a great destination for a family trip, because you can safely let your kids play at hidden low tide beaches, while relaxing by the shore drinking coconut water. The beaches are usually very quiet and pretty empty so you will always have plenty of space and peace.

There are many exciting activities to do like scuba diving by the coral reefs at Praia do Porto de Galinhas, which covers a large part of the ocean shore separating the waters and creating different shades of blue throughout the beach.

You can also have unique adventures, like observe first hand where the guaiamum ( the blue carb) and the uça crabs live at mangroves, where the trees and the beach meet. Take a ride on a buggy, a common transportation in Porto de Galinhas which you can book from your hotel or from the town center. Make sure to ask for a driver that can speak English or your own language. The buggies can take you to different beaches or on a tour around the town. You can also book taxis for a day and go on a day visit to Recife and the beautiful Olinda. The drivers are always very nice and well informed on the region’s history.

At night, the restaurants become even more full with lively Brazilian music, where you can have a fun night out with caipirinhas and dancing. Frevo is the traditional music of the Pernambucan region, so if you go to Brazil during February, make sure not to miss the carnival shows and Frevo dances.

Tapioca Crepe with Ham, Brie Cheese and Oregano

Pernambuco is not only known for their delicious seafood, but also for their tapioca crepes, which is one of my favourite Brazilian foods. ❤

In Portuguese, tapioca (a.k.a cassava root) is the name for both the vegetable and the dish, since the crepe is made only from the starch extract. The root was inherited from the indigenous people that lived in Brazil before it was colonized by Portugal. The great thing about the vegetable, is that it can be made in many ways, with salty or sweet ingredients and it can be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Since the country does not produce a lot of yeast to make bread, Brazilian people use tapioca to make flour, and gain the nutritious benefits needed. Since it’s full of iron, calcium and many other nutrients, with a low level of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Which helps improve blood circulation by maintaining good levels of blood pressure. It also helps lose weight and fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore because of all these benefits, the most common time to have a tapioca is in the morning with ham and cheese to give you energy for the day ahead.

Tapioca Crepe with Nutella, Banana and Cinammon

I personally enjoy eating tapioca for breakfast as well and as a desert, with Nutella, banana and cinnamon powder.

The tapioca crepe is incredibly easy to make, once you have the flour, but it can be pretty hard to find outside of Brazil or in other regions, because it’s a regional dish. But in Porto de Galinhas, you can find it at almost every restaurant and café.

Mandioca is another dish that can be made from the tapioca root. It’s also very easy to make, by just cutting the root into medium pieces and boiling or frying it. The side dish goes perfectly with dry meat and roasted onions, which are also typical dishes from Pernambuco.

Best season to go to Porto de Galinhas is at the end of the year when its summer in Brazil. Pernambuco is not as insanely hot as Rio, but you can definitely get a tan and enjoy your days by the beach.