The Azores Travel Guide
Good to know
↠ Timezone: AZOT UTC/GMT -1 hour – Summer AZOT UTC/GMT
↠ The local currency: Euro
↠ You need a European power plug adapter (type F). The standard voltage is 230 V.
↠ Bring your credit card along
↠ Make sure to bring cash on your trip as well
↠ You can’t drink the water from the tap, but It’s good for brushing your teeth
↠ The main language is Portuguese, but they do speak English very well
↠ The Azores are part of Europe but located in the Atlantic Ocean
Planning your trip without breaking the bank – Flight tickets
The Azores is an archipel composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. And one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (along with Madeira). There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial. In the centre, you’ll find São Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Reef towards the east.
São Miguel is the largest island and therefore the best location (and cheapest) to start your trip. Most airlines will fly you (directly) to Ponta Delgada. They have planes coming in from Amsterdam, Boston, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Lisbon, Porto and Toronto. If you want to travel to the Azores without breaking the bank I advise you to take a good look at the plane tickets before setting your dates. You’ll thank me later.
When you want to visit multiple islands you can travel by boat or by plane. The Azores have their own airline, SATA International. This is the only airline that offers trips between the islands. And the tickets are available form €60,00.
Best time to go
The climate of the Azores is very mild and remain mild year-round. The daytime temperatures normally fluctuate between 16°c (61°F) and 25°C (77°F), depending on the season. What is also very typical for the Azores is that they can have 4 seasons in one day. So make sure to pack different outfits and to bring a raincoat along.
It’s hard to say when it’s truly the best time to travel because that depends on what you want to do on your holiday. If you are looking for a sunny and party destination, the Azores are not your cup of tea. There are beautiful sunny days, but when it comes to the green landscapes, they are this green for a reason. There are showers all year-round. But June, July, and August are known for the dry months. August is the warmest month, and the winters are known to be the warmest in Europe.
If you are traveling to the Azores to see some whales and wildlife, you are in the right place. The Azores are one of the fastest growing whale-watching destinations in the world. In spring and autumn, you can see up to 20 different species of whales and dolphins such as the Blue Whale, the Minke Whale, and the Humpback Whale. The Sperm Whale is the most frequently observed whale during the summer months. They live in the Atlantic Ocean all year-round.
I highly recommend booking your ticket at Moby Dick Tours, because sustainability and safety for both the animals and the tourist are high on their list.
How long in the Azores?
São Miguel is the largest island. And if you love slow traveling as I do, you’ll need at least a week to discover the beauty of São Miguel. I know people who claim you can see the whole island in just two days. And if you look at the size of the island, it is really not that big. But trust me, this is not a destination you want to rush. You’ll want to take your time, clear your head and go on a few spectacular hikes. This destination deserves so much more attention, rather than taking a few pictures at the highlights and move on to a new place.
Thomas and I spent 11 days on São Miguel and it was the perfect trip (we are still talking about it on a daily basis). We saw everything that was on our wishlist, and we were able to plan our day trips around the weather forecast. So we were able to make the most of it. This might become handy when you plan your trips to the lakes, waterfalls and especially for whale watching because the weather can be quite unpredictable.
If you want to see more islands I recommend you take your time and spend at least a week on São Miguel before moving on to a new island.
How to get around the island
The island of São Miguel covers 760 km2 (290 sq mi) so it’s a very good idea to rent a car. There are too many beautiful places where you can’t get to with public transport. And renting a car is always cheaper than booking a few tours. It’s easy to drive around the island if you are not afraid of heights. Because the roads lead you through the most spectacular hills and mountains. Including sharp curves, steep hills, and narrow roads. But most roads are of good quality and there are not a lot of cars on the roads, so it is never very busy on the roads. Which makes it easy to adapt.
The villages on São Miguel were built hundreds of years ago, so these streets are often very narrow and one-way traffic. That’s why I recommend hiring a small car because it makes it so much easier to get around the island.
The cheapest option when it comes to car rental is to book a car at the same time you book your flight tickets. Because prices do go up in time. If you don’t want to break the bank I suggest you book a rental at the airport in Ponta Delgada, that’s a cheaper option than picking up a car in the city center. Small cars are available from €100,00 per week. There is one thing you should keep in mind is that all the rental companies charge you a €900,00 deposit on your credit card. Which is huge!
Thomas and I rented our car through EasyTerra. At the airport, we got a brand new Renault Clio and it was the perfect car to discover the island. We booked a smaller and cheaper car but got a very cheap upgrade at the airport. And selected the ‘worry free’ option on the website, so the insurance was covered and we had no nasty surprises at the airport while picking up our car. We did enjoy the air conditioning and car navigation. Because it made it possible to enter coordinates since natural parks don’t have an address.
Parking in São Miguel
Most carparks are free at São Miguel. We only had to pay in the city center of Ponta Delgada, other big cities and at Furnas Lake. Parking in the city is still very cheap and free after 7:00 PM on workdays, after 1:00 PM on a Saturday and free on a Sunday. If you choose to park on the side of the roads. Most parking garages will charge you 24/7. São Miguel is also a safe island when it comes to parking your car. While traveling around we had no problems while leaving our luggage in the car. But there was this one time at Praia de São Roque when a local walked towards us and told us we shouldn’t leave anything with value in the car. The locals are very sweet and will help you anytime they can.
Refueling your car
Some people may think petrol is quite expensive in the Azores. But that depends on where you are from. Comparing to the Netherlands petrol is a bit cheaper than here. In 2018 it will cost you about €1,44 to refuel your car. This is a fixed price around the island. You have the refuel the car by yourself and you pay inside. Make sure you always have some cash in your wallet because in some service stations they don’t accept foreign bank cards. Because it is just too expensive for the locals to subscribe to any bank.
One day Thomas had to leave me at a gas station as a deposit because we were a few Euro’s short with our cash. But the lady behind the counter was very surprised I stayed as a deposit because she had good faith we would come back. They are so innocent and sweet!
Packing tips for the Azores
When you made it this far you probably know that you need to bring clothing for four different seasons to the Azores. Make sure to pack a swim suit and a very old swim suite if you are planning a trip to the hot springs in Furnas. Bring some good footwear and make sure to bring slippers with a good footbed. When you are planning to go on long hikes you might want to bring your raincoat just in case, because clouds often seem to linger around the mountains.
While São Miguel had mild temperatures around the day, the nights (and the mountains) are much cooler. So bring a jacket or a nice and warm vest. We didn’t see any mosquitos around the island but it’s always a good idea to bring some anti-Insect Deet and a tick tweezer. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
And make sure to bring your camera along, you’ll want to capture every breathtaking view!
Are you planning a trip to the Azores?