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.

Top 5 Things to do in Montevideo, Uruguay

Season: Winter – June to August   Weather: Cold, cloudy & windy

Average temperature: Highest 18-16°C Lowest 10-8 °C

Montevideo is a popular summer destination in South America, but it is just as incredible during the winter as it is during the summer. The food, wine, cultural street art in almost every neighbourhood and the beautiful beach coast will make you forget about the cold.

I was in town for just two days, but it was enough for me to fall in love with the city, and here are my top five things to do.

1. STREET ART

Montevideo is overflowing with beautiful street art spread amongst the city’s neighbourhoods. Each with its own unique style, history and atmosphere. Especially in Barrio Sur, where vibrant graffiti tells the story of the first Africans that migrated to the city and the history of tango dance and music.

As I said before, I wasn’t in town for too long but honestly, I didn’t miss much, because the city is so full of cultural art (including statues and monuments) on almost every street that by just walking around the city’s history is told.

2. EAT, DRINK & REPEAT

To avoid the strong outdoor winds that feel like they are slapping your face, you can spend your trip inside trying authentic cuisine and drinks all day long, because you are on vacation! So why not, right? 

Uruguayan cuisine is so diverse that you will never run out of delicious dishes to taste. Particularly, the asado steak grilled on wooden parillas, the Milanese breaded steaks (similar to schnitzel), meat empanadas and freshly baked corvina fish. If you are looking for something simpler and faster the Chivito and Choripan sandwiches are fantastic choices.

Before my trip, I was told Argentina was going to have the best steaks and grills in South America, but after this trip, I must say that Uruguayan steaks were much more impressive. I don’t know if it was because I was luckier with restaurants in Uruguay than Argentina, but every meal was more delicious than the next!

As for the drinks, make sure to try the national Tannat red wine.

3. HAVE LUNCH AND/OR DINNER AT THE MERCADO DEL PUERTO

Fresh off the boat from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, I headed straight to this cuisine haven market for some late lunch. Unknowingly, we picked the prominent El Palenque restaurant that serves both authentic steaks and seafood, which turned out to have one of the best seafood spaghetti I’ve ever tasted!
The pasta itself was delicious but what blew my mind was the variety, quality and quantity of the seafood. The asado steak was equally delicious, of course, since you can’t go wrong with any juicy meat in Uruguay.

Make sure to save some space for desserts with dulce de leche, which is added to many of the traditional desserts such as pudim, crepe or just taste it straight from the spoon full of creamy caramel.

4. WALK ALONG THE COAST

The most fun activity I did during this trip was to just walk around from coast to coast along the Rambla Promenade. It is also an excellent first-day adventure to do so you can get familiar with the city and know where you would like to explore more in the next couple of days.

If you are not too tired from the walk, head towards Avenida 18 de Julio, for some shopping where you can buy leather and wool goods.

 My walk journey started at Playa de los Pocitos, walking along the Rambla Promenade all the way to the west coast and ending at Ciudad Vieja, where many historical places are such as Plaza Independencia, Theatre Solís, Puerta de la Ciudadela, Palacio Salvo and many others.

5. TAKE A YERBA MATÉ TEA BREAK

Drinking maté tea is probably one of the most beloved Uruguayan traditions and a very unique experience to try in Montevideo.

The local herb drink is made from the yerba mate bush and it is served with hot water on a beautiful leathery and metal cup called Gourd. Many cups come with its own metal straw called bombilla.

The reason why the gours and bombilla are made of metal is to make it easier for locals to carry them around and have anywhere you go! It’s the perfect souvenir for tea lovers.

6. BONUS: ARRIVE/DEPART IN A BOAT

This one is not exactly an activity to do in the city, but rather a fun way to get to or leave Montevideo. From Buenos Aires, I took a boat by Colonia Express that takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. It’s not every trip that you get to arrive on a boat!