Azores On a BudgetThe Azores are a group of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal. Although the islands were created through volcanic activity, there is far less activity now, making the Azores the perfect beach escape. Most people speak Portuguese, or a dialect of it, with English spoken primarily by those in the tourism industry.
The islands experience fairly warm temperatures year round, with winters staying in the 50's Fahrenheit and summers in the high 70's. Some of the best weather occurs from June through October when humidity and rainfall are at their lowest.
SightsEach island of Azores is naturally stunning, offering countless places to see and explore. On Faial Island, you'll find the Caldeira do Faial which is a crater in the center of the island which was formed by an extinct volcano. Here, you'll also find the Marina of Horta, a world famous marina that is often the linking point for many international regattas. At the marina, you'll find colorful walls painted by sailors over the years who believe you must create a painting before setting sail in order to have a safe trip!
On Sao Miguel Island, you can visit the Sete Cidades, which are twin lakes surrounded by tall mountain walls. The Sete Cidades natural beauty and lovely blue waters have made it a must see on the island. Continue exploring the natural beauty of the area on Terceira Island, where you'll find the volcanic caves of Algar do Carvao and Gruta do Natal. The caves have natural rock pools where you can actually swim in between the lava rocks! Also on Terceira is the Angra do Heroismo, a medieval castle where battles were fought between the Spanish and Portuguese.
The IslandsAzores has nine islands, some of which are more or less inhabited than the others. Despite this fact, each island offers incredible sights and perfect relaxation spots.
Corvo: The smallest and most isolated island where you'll find an extinct volcanic crater complete with lagoon, vineyards, and bull running.
Faial: Best known for the city of Horta, the capital city of the island full of historic attraction. The island is covered in beautiful beaches and lava fields.
Pico: The island is known for having the largest outdoor salt water pool as well as fantastic hiking trails.
Sao Miguel: Known as "Green Island" for its incredible natural beauty. It is the largest of the Azores Islands and home to the main international airport.
Terceira: A large island full of culture, lovely beaches, and bullfighting.
Sao Jorge: A popular island due to their delicious cheese production and many annual festivals.
Flores: A beautiful hiking paradise which comes to life in the summer when thousands of hydrangeas bloom across the island.
Graciosa: Also known as "White Island" due to the landscape which is covered in white stones, white clay, and a white mountain. It is a popular spot to visit vineyards and go snorkeling.
Santa Maria: One of the best islands to find traditional cuisine along with great beaches.
ActivitiesSwimming and hiking are the top activities in Azores; Pico island offers both with the largest man made salt water swimming pool and a hike up Pico Mountain, the tallest mountain in Portugal. The hike takes 2-3 hours to complete, but in the end, you are rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding islands and Pico below. For something more relaxing, take a dip in the Ponta da Ferraria on Sao Miguel Island, a natural geological formation of hot springs. The best time to visit is during low tide when the waters are the perfect temperature for relaxing.
Enjoy the natural beauty under water with the Faial Dive Azores Company who offers dives off the coast off Faial. The diving trips range from swimming with sharks to simply snorkeling off the coast. If you prefer to stay above water, you can catch a boat from Faial or Pico and go whale and dolphin watching.
Food and DiningThe Azores Islands are highly agricultural, especially with dairy and beef, and are also well known for their many vineyards producing delicious wines. Absolute must-tries are the cheese from San Jorge and the fresh pineapple from Sao Miguel. You'll have the most restaurant and food option on the islands of Faial, Sao Jorge, and Treceira. The other islands have fewer options, some have no restaurants, just snack shops or outdoor markets. Vegetarians may have some difficulty finding food as beef and fish are used in many of the dishes.
TransportationYou can get into the Azores either by boat from mainland Portugal or by plane to the Ponta Delgada Airport. Nearly every island has a landing strip which the local SATA Airlines flies into.
The larger islands have multiple bus services which cross through the main villages, while smaller villages may only receive one bus a day. You can easily get around by car -which can be rented from a larger island- taxi, or boat.