המדריך המלא לטיול בפארק הלאומי יוסמיטי17/05/2023
12 Best things to do on São Miguel Island15/06/2023
Planning your trip to the Azores Islands
If you also recently found out about the Azores Islands, this is the post for you..!
The Azores, at least at the time of writing this post, is still a bit of a hidden destination for many travelers.
Therefore, compared to many other destinations, you may not find a lot of information regarding planning a trip to the Azores on the Internet.
But don't worry, that's what I'm here for :)
Given that it is indeed worth while to plan a trip to the Azores in advance, I will review all the different aspects of planning a trip there, such as - booking flights, car rental, hotels, various attractions and so on.
I really hope that the following post will put the various parts of your trip planning in order, so that you can arrive with peace of mind to one of the most special vacations you could ask for..!
So, shall we begin?
About the Azores Islands
The Azores is an archipelago that belongs to Portugal and includes 9 islands.
The archipelago is divided into three groups according to the location of the islands.
In the Western part you can find the islands of Flores and Corvo, in the eastern part are the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, and between them in the center are the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Faial and Pico.
All the islands are volcanic, and Pico volcano, located on Pico Island, is considered the highest point in Portugal, rising to a height of about 2,351 meters.
Since the islands belong to Portugal, the entrance requirements to the islands are the same as any country of the European Union.
At the end, the most important thing to know about the Azores Islands is that it's amazing there, and it's great that you have chosen to visit them on your next vacation :)
Important things to know while planning a trip to the Azores
Planning a trip to the Azores is a bit like putting together a puzzle.
Even after choosing which islands you want to go to, you will need to adjust the time of your arrival to the availability of services such as hotels and car rental.
Of course, if you want to stay within a reasonable budget, you should choose dates that offer attractive prices for flights and cars because the prices can certainly change significantly during the year.
In addition, if you are limited in terms of budget, there are islands where car rental and flights are significantly more expensive.
A different arrangement of the trip structure can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars.
In my opinion, the most complicated part of planning the trip is adjusting the times of the flights to or between the islands, to the times of the ferries and the duration of their sailing, in perfect coordination with availability, and prices of car rentals.
Therefore, this post is structured so that the order of the paragraphs often dictates the order of how you should approach the planning of your trip.
When is the best time to travel to the Azores?
In terms of seasons
Since the Azores are endowed with tropical weather, they can be visited all year long.
This also means, of course, that you can enjoy all seasons during your trip :)
Don't be surprised if in one day you can wake up to a warm sun, experience fog at every view point along the way (or a wind that will blow your hat off), and sum it all up with nice drizzles or stormy rain in the evening.
In short, you can experience any type of weather, no matter what time of year you choose to travel.
The good news is that the weather is quite constant throughout the year and varies between 15 and 23 degrees, with the summer months usually being the hottest, with a slightly lower rainfall average than the rest of the year.
If you want to fulfill the full potential of the sun - try to come during the summer months.
If you choose so, an important note for you - even in the summer there can be miserable rainy days, and in the winter there can also be beautiful sunny days.
A good friend of mine traveled there in January for almost a month, and it didn't sound like he suffered much (on the other hand, he was born in Russia, so he's immune to extreme weather conditions by default).
In terms of tourist density
Since summer apparently has relatively more favorable climate conditions, the peak tourism season is between the months of June and August.
It's worth remembering, there are also disadvantages when you arrive to a place in the peak season - all the beautiful places are more crowded with people, the prices are higher, and in the case of the Azores - it's harder to find rental cars or good hotels to stay in.
Therefore, if you are thinking of arriving during peak season, planning the trip in advance is more crucial in this case.
But, even months like May, or September and October are considered excellent in terms of weather, and are much less touristy - so you should definitely consider these months as an ideal option.
I personally arrived to the Azores at the end of May. It was a spontaneous vacation as we decided to go there just few days before, and we had no problem booking cars and hotels and with good prices too...!.
And of course, the weather was super good enough most of the time.
Where to check the weather forecast for the Azores Islands?
First of all, when you open Google weather to check the forecast, it might show you that in every day of your trip it is expected to rain.
Don't let it bring you down!
It is very difficult to trust forecasts in the Azores, so it is better to have a spontaneous approach on your trip.
The best advise I can give you is to stay updated in real time about where it is best to be, at any given moment.
The site that provided us with the most accurate forecast in the Azores was AccWeather.
We monitored the hourly forecast every day and that's how we usually planned where to go and when.
Tracking the rain radar also helped us a few times.
It doesn't show future rain radar, but also tracking the last hours was a good indication of what is expected.
Another very popular and effective site is spotazores (there's also an app).
In this website you can see the cameras scattered in different places around the islands, and watch in real time what the weather is like there.
Most of the islands are really small, and there is no problem to simply pack yourself and change the route a bit according to what the cameras show.
How to choose which islands to visit
The mother of all questions!
I have dedicated about two full days of my life to figure out which Azores islands we should visit.
I will try to summarize here the various options available, but I must point out that there is no specific combination that is better than the other, and everything mainly depends on the number of days of your trip, your budget, and of course the things you are most interested in.
The Azores are divided into three main areas:
1. Sao Miguel Island and Santa Maria.
2. The islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial.
3. The islands of Flores and Corvo.
In each of the areas you can create different combinations according to your preferences.
In terms of optimal trip plan, you should choose a combination of islands that are close to each other in terms of distance.
Which islands to choose for a one week trip or less?
The biggest and most recommended island is undoubtedly São Miguel.
If you only have a week to travel in the Azores, Sao Miguel is your best option in almost every possible way.
If you have already traveled to São Miguel, you can instead fly directly to Terceira and combine it with one of the islands closest to it (Or just travel only Terceira).
An alternative option can be the combination of Flores and Corvo, if the price of the flights does not deter you.
Which islands to choose for a one to two week trip?
In this time frame you already have more choices to choose from.
It is possible to combine Sao Miguel with one or two other islands (for example, we chose Sao Miguel and Terceira for a two-week trip, because we wanted a slow traveling experience, without many flights or island crossings).
But if you don't have a problem with moving quickly and planning your trip in a more detailed way, it's completely possible to consider the following combinations:
- Sao Miguel, Terceira, and Graciosa/Sao Jorge.
- Sao Miguel, Terceira, and Pico/Faial.
- Terceira, Pico, and Faial.
- Sao Miguel, Flores, and Corvo.
Which islands to choose for a trip of more than two weeks?
In this case, you can combine more than three islands if you want, again depending on your preferred pace of travel.
You can travel comfortably in Sao Miguel, Terceira, Pico and Faial.
Or you can choose a wider combination such as São Miguel and all the islands in the Terceira area.
Of course, there is also the option of combining Sao Miguel with some of the islands close to Terceira and adding Flores and Corvo too.
How many days should you spend on each island?
The division of days between the islands can be relatively clear if you look at the map and understand their locations.
However, it is also possible to give a rough allocation of days to each island if this will help you in planning your trip to the Azores.
Note that in your allocation, you should also take into account bad rainy days and give some room for maneuver, for days that are less good in terms of weather.
Of course your planning, in this case, depends very much on whether you prefer to go deeper into each island or run relatively fast between them, if you are interested in long hiking trails or if it is enough for you to pass between several waterfalls, lakes and viewpoints.
For example, I prefer slow, non-stressful trips in terms of transitions between places, so for a two-week trip I "only" got to visit two islands. But if you want to reach more places and travel in a faster pace, then you can absolutely add or subtract days as you see fit.
Sao Miguel - It is advisable to spend at least five days. A week is an ideal amount of time for a trip to the island in my opinion.
Terceira - Some would say that it is enough to spend 3-4 days on the island, but in my opinion it is better to aim for five days.
Pico - two to three days.
Faial - two to four days.
Sao Jorge - two to four days.
Flores + Corvo - three to four days.
How do you travel between the islands?
The first way to travel between the islands is to take a short flight.
All the islands have a small airport and most of the flights between the islands are short and efficient.
However, there are islands in which there is a stop on another island. This doesn't necessarily make the process more efficient or faster, but rather makes it more expensive.
The prices are usually fixed prices, so every day the price is the same, which makes it a easier to plan your trip when price fluctuation is no longer an issue.
Another way to travel between the islands is by ferry.
There are ferries where you can also transfer the car, if you want to arrive with a car you rented from another island.
The ferries pass between the small islands with regular frequency, but it is important to note that there are currently no ferries between the island of Sao Miguel and the other islands.
In this case you have to use a flight.
You can find the ferry schedule with the different lines and costs on the official website of Atlantico Line company.
An important note - the schedules of the ferries can greatly affect the structure of your trip, so you should check in advance the ways of traveling between the islands by ferry, and the expected time of arrival.
After checking this you should proceed to the other steps in planning the trip.
Booking a flight to the Azores
After you have decided which islands you want to visit and the division of days between them, the next step is to book suitable flights.
(It is possible that at this stage of your trip planning, things will change depending on the landing and departure times of the various flights).
Flight to the Azores
From Lisbon or Porto there are direct flights to Sao Miguel and Terceira that are about two hours long.
To fly to the other islands there is usually a connection stop at one of these islands that I've mentioned.
I always use Skyscanner in order to book all my flights, and in the case of the Azores the situation was the same.
Skyscanner as always provided me with the best prices.
Of course, you can also order directly from the airlines if this is your preferred option.
You should check combinations including a flight to a certain island and a return flight from a different island.
This option can help you minimize the number of flights you will have to take, maximize your stay on your first and last island, and sometimes even lower the prices of flight costs.
(We, for example, flew into Sao Miguel and returned from Terceira and this saved us another flight to Sao Miguel at the end of our trip).
Flights between islands
In the case of flights between islands, there is a main airline that provides service in the Azores called Azores Airlines and you can book through them, or of course through Skyscanner.
Traveling the Azores Islands soon? Don't forget to get travel insurance
Car rental in the Azores
The next part you should check while planning your trip to the Azores is availability of car rentals.
This is especially critical if you plan to arrive at the peak of the tourist season..!
In the Azores it is highly recommended to travel with a car so you could maximize your time there and explore every part you want.
Public transportation exists but is not very accessible, and believe me you don't want to wait for a bus during Azorean rain :)
Car rental prices can vary significantly depending on the season you arrive, and also the islands you have chosen.
Some islands are significantly more expensive for car rental than others.
Most of the time, the recommendation is to rent a different car on each island, but you absolutely have the option of moving with your car between some of the islands by ferry.
It is advisable to check how much it pays off in terms of costs and whether it is even possible to enter with a car (for example to Graciosa Island you cannot enter with a car).
The car rental process in the islands is completely standard, and the rental companies there are excellent.
Car rental through Rentalcars
Rentalcars is an excellent site through which I ordered the vehicles on the islands I traveled to.
They offer the best prices and a wide range of companies.
Car rental through Economy Bookings
Another excellent site for finding rental cars that also offers relatively good prices.
Booking accommodation in the Azores
After you checked flight prices, vehicle availability and the main structure of your trip, it is time to book hotels.
The earlier you book, the more options you will have to choose from and probably also better prices (especially if you are traveling in peak season).
The Azores Islands offer a wide variety of accommodations ranging from hotels, holiday apartments, camping sites and eco-friendly complexes.
I booked all my accommodations on the islands through the website Agoda, which always shows the best prices and variety of options to choose from.
Another recommended site for booking accommodation is VRBO which is great if you are more into holiday apartments.
Booking attractions and places to visit in the Azores
First of all, I must point out that most of the attractions in the Azores do not need to be booked in advance.
Most of the attractions on the islands are simply the surrounding nature, which is usually open and free for everyone :)
However, there are some places that require advance booking or tours that you should find information about a little before.
I recommend booking all reservations while you are already there, so you can have the option to change your route in case of bad weather. (unless it's for something very special that requires booking a long time in advance).
Useful apps in the Azores
The best app for navigating the islands by car.
You can mark places you want to reach on the map and thus easily navigate to any destination.
Excellent app for offline navigation.
You don't need internet to navigate with it, and can help a lot in areas where internet connection is bad.
I always use this app for navigating hiking routes. Highly recommended..!
If you are vegan or vegetarian, this is a really good app for finding places to eat or stores that sell vegan food.
The application I mentioned at the beginning of the post for checking the weather cameras in different places on the islands. It is highly recommended to use it.
SIM card and communication in the Azores
For devices supported by e-sim
So those whose device is modern enough to support e-sim, you won.
There are all kinds of options in this case, the best known being Airalo.
Booking through them allows admission to many destinations in the world, including Portugal and the Azores.
For other devices
If you are blessed with an old device like mine, you can always do a local sim card.
Portugal's communication networks also support the islands, so you can get a SIM card in Portugal itself if you arrive there before (in any case, make sure that the communication company does indeed support the Azores and don't just rely on what some travel bloggers tell you :))
We made an expensive package through vodafone at a cost of 25 euros for 10 gigabytes (per month).
Although the reception was excellent from our experience, there are definitely cheaper options that you can try.
The Azores is a wonderful place to travel, so don't give up in the middle of planning your route there.
I know it can be a bit exhausting trying to put everything together, but I hope I was able to give you information that can help you with this task.
If my content helps you during your travels, I would love for you to help me continue growing and creating more content.
The most wonderful way, apart from continuing to visit my blog and use my links, is to follow me on Instagram..!
Thank you very much for the support and I wish you an amazing trip to the Azores :)
All photos were taken by me, and may not be used without permission.
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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you book something through them, the prices are the same, AND you are getting me closer towards my first million ;)
My dream is to make a living from this blog, and I hope that while I help you fulfill your travel dreams, you can also help me get closer to my dream.
So if you appreciate the content you read and you trust the value of my recommendations, I would love for you to book your travel reservations through those links.
Enjoy your trip :)
For more posts about Portugal and the Azores