By: Heather Keys
An archipelago in the North Atlantic, the Azores are comprised of nine volcanic islands, each with its own distinct charm. An autonomous region of Portugal, the Azores are known for their vineyards, historic port cities, whale and dolphin watching (not to mention birdwatching), volcanic peaks and lava tubes, and much more.
Whether you’re a seasoned beachgoer, an outdoor enthusiast, or just looking to unwind, the Azores have a spot that’s perfect for you.
Let’s look at just a few sights you can see on each of these islands!
The largest island of the Azores, São Miguel is known for its Lagoa das Sete Cidades—a twin-lake located within a volcanic crater—as well as the Furnas Valley, which is home to hot springs and geysers, perfect for relaxation.
Other attractions include the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden, an 18th-century garden with a massive amount of palms, bamboo, aquatic plants, trees and shrubs, and much more. You can also find the Gorreana Tea Plantation on São Miguel. It’s the oldest (and currently only existing) tea plantation in Europe, and is open to the public and hosts tours where you can learn about the tea manufacturing process and the history of the family-owned factory.
Terceira’s historic port city of Angra do Heroísmo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, and colorful houses. Another can’t-miss historical village and marina here is Praia da Vitória on the north coast.
If you’re more interested in the outdoors, you’ll love Terceira’s unique volcanic landscape with highlights like Algar do Carvão, an ancient lava tube and cave that adventurous travelers are invited to explore.
Here you’ll have the opportunity to see the highest mountain in Portugal, Mount Pico, which stands at 2,351 meters and has challenging hiking opportunities for adventurous travelers. Be sure as well to explore Gruta das Torres, a fascinating volcanic cave and the largest lava tube in Portugal.
If you’re more interested in food and wine, Pico has many historic vineyards, which produce a unique white wine called Verdelho. Pico’s vineyards are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring a landscape of black basalt walls that protect the vines from the elements.
Faial is most famous for Horta Marina, which is a popular stopover for sailors crossing the Atlantic and offers a lively atmosphere with bars and restaurants.
The island is also home to the Capelinhos Volcano, which last erupted in 1957, creating a unique lunar-like landscape that can be explored through the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre. Faial’s Caldeira, a massive volcanic crater, is also a must-see for nature lovers.
São Jorge is known for its rugged coastline with dramatic cliffs and unique geological formations called fajãs. The island is also popular for hiking and birdwatching, with numerous trails that lead through gorgeous landscapes and provide opportunities to spot endemic bird species.
Traditional cheese-making is an important part of the island’s culture, with the delicious São Jorge cheese produced here.
On the island of Flores, you will be able to see lush vegetation and waterfalls—notably the beautiful Poco do Bacalhau and Ribeira Grande waterfalls. The island’s unique species of flora and fauna make it a paradise for nature lovers—and for adventurers, Flores offers excellent opportunities for canyoning, diving, and exploring the island’s picturesque villages, such as Fajã Grande.
The smallest island of the Azores, Corvo has a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. If you have the chance to visit, don’t pass up birdwatching, as Corvo is host to many migratory species!
The island’s main settlement, Vila do Corvo, offers visitors a glimpse of traditional Azorean life, with its small harbor and whitewashed houses.
Graciosa is characterized by calderas, volcanic cones, and picturesque windmills—enjoy a visit to its vineyards, or seek adventure by exploring its unique underground lava tunnels, such as Furna do Enxofre, which were formed during volcanic eruptions.
Graciosa is a fantastic destination for water sports, including diving and snorkeling, as well as birdwatching, with several endemic bird species inhabiting the island.
If you’re looking for a beach getaway, Santa Maria is a wonderful option! Known for its stunning beaches—including Praia Formosa, which is one of the most popular on the island—Santa Maria has white sands and bright blue waters. It is also known for its unique red soil (much of it being clay), which is a result of volcanic activity, giving the island a distinct appearance.
Santa Maria’s charming towns, such as Vila do Porto and Anjos, showcase traditional Azorean architecture and a laid-back atmosphere.
And for outdoor enthusiasts, the island offers excellent opportunities for hiking, cycling, and exploring the fascinating geological formation of Pedreira do Campo, a former quarry turned into a geological park.
Have you had the chance to visit the Azores—or the rest of Portugal? Share your stories and advice with the Frayed Passport community!
Featured image by Tom Swinnen on Unsplash