Have you heard about the Azores?! May be you have, since you are already reading this. Well, let me tell you a bit about these 9 volcanic islands in this 10 day Azores Itinerary!
The Azores Islands were discovered back in the 14th century by a Portuguese maritime expedition and became settled ever since. And why not? These islands are absolutely amazing with their evergreen vegetation & mild weather. Not only that, but they all have emerald green lakes, lush tropical forests, fascinating ocean views, awesome food & friendly people. Even though, they are far away from Mainland Portugal, they attract many tourists each year with their tranquility and dramatic views.
After visiting this paradise in the middle of the Atlantic ocean I created a 10-day Azores travel itinerary. This itinerary includes all well-known places in the Azores, as well as hidden gems across the islands. It is divided between the two main Azorean islands – São Miguel (6 days) & Terceira (4 days).
However, when using this itinerary, my advice to you is to be flexible & make changes to it according to your liking. Also take into consideration the almost unpredictable weather of these islands. I would suggest that you check the weather here every time before going out.
São Miguel Itinerary
The island of São Miguel or the “Green island” as they call it, is actually the biggest and most popular island of all the Azores. It is mainly visited for it’s tropical forest trails, amazing vistas & thermal pools. One of the most famous sites here are the Sete Cidades village & Lagoa do Fogo, but for me there is so much more in that island that you can see & explore.
While on São Miguel island you can start your trip around the island by reaching it’s west part first, especially if you are close to Ponta Delgada – the capital of the Azores.
São Miguel Map Itinerary
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 1: Exploration
Day 1 will be your first day on the island of São Miguel & one of the most hyped ones. However, it will also be the start of your adventure, so you better do it in a proper way. For example, with a soothing dip in the ocean water?! Then, continue straight up to the Sete Cidades village & enjoy the truly mesmerizing views of the lakes there & some tasty food.
Ponta da Ferraria
The viewpoint of Sabrina (Ponta da Ferraria) is one of the most breathtaking vistas on the island of São miguel. In addition to that, you get to experience the swim of your life in a natural geo-thermal pool right in the ocean surrounded by gigantic lava rocks. Here, you can have a really nice swim in hot thermal & cold oceanic water, all at the same time. Unfortunately, there is no beach there, so you will have to find yourself a spot somewhere on the rocks.
Also, bear in mind that the road to the pool is extremely steep & you might find it hard to drive, so keep your eyes on the road.
Lagoa Azul & Lagoa Verde
Next on your list is the hike to the lakes of Sete Cidades. Hiking in the Azores has become a thing recently, so I suggest that you do try it as there are lots of trails.
If you happen to be hungry, head straight to Lagoa Azul restaurant – a family run restaurant offering one of the most delicious local dishes & a friendly atmosphere. You should definitely try it!
After that you can explore both of the lakes of Sete Cidades. There are nice trails surrounding the lakes, where you can enjoy the serenity of this magical place. To easily distinguish the lakes check for the color of their waters – Lagoa Verde is the “green lake” and Lagoa Azul is the “blue lake” and also the bigger one.
To make this place more magical & appealing to you I will tell you a local legend about how the lakes got their colorful waters. As the story goes, the two lakes were created when a princess and her shepherd lover had to part ways. The tears they shed at their farewell became the lakes and the water was colored like their eyes – blue & green. And that is pretty much the whole story. Beautiful, isn’t it?!
Lagoa de Santiago
Going further you can find the emerald green waters of Lagoa de Santiago next to Sete Cidades. It is one of the perfect places on this island where you can actually take some rest, photos, enjoy the nice view and re-charge yourself.
The viewpoint of Lagoa de Santiago is also a good starting point for a hike to Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Sete Cidades lakes.
Lagoa do Canário
Lagoa do Canário or the “Snapchat lake” as they call it nowadays is a small lake on the path leading to Boca do Inferno. Most probably you are wondering why people are calling it the “Snapchat lake”? No, it’s not because they are taking lot’s of photos with all kinds of filters, or may be they are? I am not really sure, but anyway… It’s simply because if you look at it from above it does really resemble the Snapchat logo.
You can make it a stop on your way to Boca do Inferno & enjoy the mistiness of this lake on a cloudy day. I promise you, you will love it! Also, there are lots of canaries flying around.
Boca do Inferno
Yeah, you most probably have seen this view, right? It became famous only recently & is actually the view that everybody associates the Azores with. Nothing wrong with that. Actually, this view is quite fascinating.
You will have a look at the ocean, the Sete Cidades lakes, the Santiago lake & the beautiful sky. I am not exaggerating when I say that this view simply took my breath away & made me stay for a little while here.
Before you go, check the weather in the Azores or the web cams. If it is rainy in this part of the island, there is a little chance that you will see anything, except clouds & fog. Thus, it’s better to skip it & go to a sunnier part of the island.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
Miradouro da Vista do Rei or King’s view seems to be the perfect place to finish your first day in the Azores. Enjoy the view of the two lakes of Sete Cidades and their mesmerizing beauty. If possible, stay for the sunset and capture the moment…
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 2: A day by the lakes
On day two you will be heading to the middle of the island to explore crater lakes and spend some time above the clouds. Also, if you are an animal lover you can go for some whale watching in the Azores at Villa Franca do Campo town and join a tour.
The Fire Lake
Lagoa do Fogo is located in the middle of the island in a long gone volcano crater. It is the largest waterbody on the island and is rich in endemic Azorean plant species and various small birds. If you have the chance to go there in May or June you will be lucky to find some seagulls looking after their chicks & be careful, because they are very protective of them.
As you may already know, weather in the Azores can be quite unpredictable & especially at Lagoa do Fogo you have to act quite quickly. Lagoa do Fogo is such a gem on this island and you have to be extremely lucky to see it on a sunny day. Why is that you ask? Well, you are going to be in the middle of the Atlantic ocean on an island and weather here is prone to change a lot. That’s why. And as I heard from locals, weather at Lagoa do Fogo is rarely sunny & clear. But, if you have this chance & the sun is up for you, do not miss it! However, if you would like someone to take care of this matter for you, contact a local tour agency & consult with them on a trip here.
If you would like to spend a little more time without the crowds, then wake up early and come here around 7:00 am. Walk around at Pico da Barrosa to capture the fascinating views of the lake above. Then head straight to the bottom of it and enjoy some beach time.
Vila Franca do Campo
After your trip to Lagoa do Fogo head south to the old town of Vila Franca do Campo. The city was the first capital on the island of São Miguel. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1522 and thus they moved the capital to Ponta Delgada. However, since then the city of Vila Franca do Campo was rebuilt and today it’s a thriving fishing and yachting port.
Up high on the hill of the town stands the beautiful chapel, Our Lady of Peace Chapel. You can climb up the chapel to enjoy a truly fascinating view of the town, the ocean and the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo.
There is actually a way to visit the beautiful Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, which is basically a crater of an ancient submerged volcano & have some fun there diving & snorkeling. It will be even better if you are an animal lover & join one of the whale watching tours that Terra Azul offers in Vila Franca do Campo. On this tour you will have the chance to see not only whales, but dolphins, tortoises, other marine species & will get close to the Princess Ring islet.
Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro became one my favourite spots on the island of São Miguel.This fairy like emerald green lake in the middle of the island is perfectly hidden in a lush forest among rows of fields. It’s serenity & quietness are so deafening that the only thing that can disturb you are the splashes of the fishes in the lake or the song of the birds.
You will need around 20 minutes down the trail for the magic to happen. Just follow the signs & you will be pleasantly surprised at the end of the trail.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes & clothes. The path is steep and can be quite muddy on a rainy day, which will make it hard to climb back.
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 3: Tasty food & Geysers
This will be your wind down day. I am pretty sure you will need it, especially after so many hikes. On this day you can go to the city of Furnas & enjoy some local cuisine or a swim in the thermal pools or both.
City of Furnas
You will know for sure that you are somewhere near Furnas by the smell of sulphur. The city of Furnas is located in the southeast part of the island & was found sometime after the earthquake in Vila Franca do Campo in 1522. Back then, the early settlers were coming in this area to gather wood in order to rebuilt the old capital. However, later they settled after finding out that the land was fertile and had lots of hot springs.
Nowadays, Furnas is known for its geysers, thermal pools, hot springs and unique cuisine nowhere to be found. You will need 4-5 hours to fully enjoy your trip in Furnas & try all it offers.
You can start your exploration of Furnas by going up the hills where you can enjoy a nice view over the Furnas lake. Going further in the town you will find stands selling sweet baby corn boiled in the geysers around. It is totally worth trying & is one of the sweetest corns I’ve ever tasted. Then, you can go down to the geysers of Furnas and check for yourself how the traditional meal of Furnas – Cozido is prepared.
Cozido das Furnas
This traditional dish has been cooked by locals since decades when they had no electricity. Back then, locals were digging holes near the geysers, where a sack full of meat was put in the hole. However, this made the meat really dry and hard to chew. Nowadays, they put it in a pot of steel, so that the juices are kept. This makes the dish really nice and with a slight scent of sulphur.
The traditional dish of Cozido consists of pork, chicken, beef, sweet potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
One of the best restaurants in Furnas where you can try cozido is Caldeiras e Vulcões in the middle of the city. It is a family restaurant that has their own unique recipe for preparing cozido & also fish stew. It is definitely recommended to try it!
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 4: Trails & Waterfalls
Day 4 of your holiday in the Azores islands you will head to the southeast part of São Miguel. It’s gonna be a day of hiking, exploring & finding hidden waterfalls. So pack your bags & let’s explore!
Hot waterfall of Ribeira Quente
The Hot waterfall of Ribeira Quenta is almost impossible to be found or reached. That is simply due to its location, which is between two tunnels on the way to Ribeira Quente. Not many people know about it, which makes it kind of an unspoiled pure nature gem.
The waterfall is one of the biggest waterfalls on the island and is no longer that hot, but warm, so you can try the water.
In order to visit the waterfall I would first & foremost advise you to be extremely careful when going inside the tunnel. Second, DO NOT STOP OR PARK YOUR VEHICHLE INSIDE THE TUNNEL. Third, do not attempt to go inside the tunnel if there is low visibility i.e fog.
The path leading to the waterfall is between the two tunnels. Thus, you can park your car before the tunnel, as there is space for couple of cars. Then, really carefully cross the road to the right side of it and walk till you reach the gap between the two tunnels. There, you will see the path you have to follow and voila – you are next to the hot waterfall.
I am pretty sure you won’t be tired enough after visiting the hot waterfall, but will be trilled instead. So keep it going to the next waterfall of Salto do Prego.
Salto do Prego
The hike to the waterfall of Salto do Prego is one of the greatest hikes on the island São Miguel. The lush tropical forests surrounding the path get ticker with every step you make & tropical vibes enhance with every breath you take. The real magic happens when you finally reach the waterfall by simply following the signs. Then, you can even swim in it if you are hot & would like to cool down. However, bear in mind, that the water is quite chilly, so you will need some time to get used to it.
Furthermore, if you would like to continue your waterfall chasing, there is also a path to Salto do Cagarrão waterfall. So if you are not that tired you can go for another hike & explore further the terrain.
It’s best to visit this waterfall in the morning, as it can get quite crowded. Also, make sure to wear tourist shoes, as the path to the waterfall can be quite muddy & slippery.
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 5: Miradouro Chaser
On this day you can spend a little more time to admire the beautiful views around the island of São Miguel. Just sit, stare & relax…
Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego is one of those viewpoints that will make your jaw drop showing you all kinds of blue shades. In addition, it has a lovely garden with lots of places to sit & enjoy the beauty of the ocean. There are even barbecues where you can cook your own food.
From this viewpoint it is possible to see other miradouros like Fajã do Araújo , Ponta da Madrugada and Ponta da Marquesa near Nordeste.
Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos
The viewpoint of the boats, as they call it is another viewpoint where you will be stunned by the beauty of this island. In the distance you will have the chance to see the old Farol do Arnel, which is the oldest lighthouse in the Azores.
If you would like to go down to the lighthouse I recommend that you do that by foot, as the path is really steep & there is a chance for your car to stuck in.
Miradouro do Salto da Farinha
This miradouro offers great view along with a nice picnic area & couple of barbecues that you may use to prepare yourself a nice meal. In addition to that there is a path to Salto da Farinha waterfall.
However, if you are planning on visiting the waterfall you have to do it in the spring, because in the summer there is nothing left of it.
Gorreana Tea Factory
It’s not the typical miradouro spot in the Azores, but the view from the tea plantation is simply breathtaking. Established in the year of 1883, Gorreana Tea Factory has been supplying all Europe with the finest green & black teas nowhere to be found. The factory is mainly famous for it’s fine produce & using no chemicals to grow it. Not only that, but they are still using the old ways of harvesting & drying the tea.
At the plantation you will have the chance to walk around the fields & enjoy beautiful vistas. Additionally, you can grab a cup of tea & tour inside the factory where you can see for yourself the whole process of producing tea. If it happens that you like the tea you can buy it from their shop inside the factory or here.
Miradouro de Santa Iria
At Miradouro de Santa Iria you can finish your day, breath in the fresh breeze & enjoy the view. It’s gonna be the last vista for the day, but a memorable one & even if there is overcast it is pretty spectacular.
Actually, the two pictures were taken in a single day – the first one in the morning & the second one is at noon. So yeah, weather in the Azores can be quite unpredictable & can change a lot in a single day. Moral of the story – be prepared for every type of weather in the Azores!
Azores Itinerary - São Miguel Island Day 6: Laurissilva Paradise
On this day you will truly feel the Azorean nature full of Laurel forests & hidden streams along the way. Not only that, but you will have the chance to take a dip in them unbothered & feel the power of nature…
First on your list should be Poco Azul, a cave like little waterfall where you can dip in the water uninterrupted. It is quite hidden from the masses & you may be it’s only visitor for the day. However, I can assure you that it is totally worth it.
The path itself takes around half an hour to hour to get you to the bottom of it. After all, it might be a little harder to climb it up afterwards, so spare some energy for that too.
Another thing I would like to add is that the water might be quite cold, but in a hot day it will be nice on your body. So go there & make some splash!
Parque Natural dos Caldeirões
Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park is a protected area on the north side of the island. In the park you can observe a lot of Macaronesian flora & lush Laurissilva forests. Moreover, you will find huge Hortensias & cedars in the park that will make you stare for a long time.
Actually if you ask me, this is one of the places where you will feel so detached from everything & if you get the chance to rain, you are guaranteed a true rain forest experience!
Additionally, at the park there are 5 watermills dating back to the 16th century used by the families as the only source of income. Nowadays, they are transformed into crafts shops & a cafe where you can find some really cool stuff & re-fresh yourself.
It’s the end of a day full with climbing & hiking, so you better end it with a nice swim with a gorgeous view. Caldeira Velha offers exactly what you will need after such a day – the greenest thick forests surrounding tiny thermal pools!
Actually, it is a natural heritage of the Azores along with 3 thermal pools that you can dip in. While there you can see one of the biggest ferns on the island among some Laurissilva species.
Not to mention how magical of a place this is & not that crowded, especially if you go in the morning. It’s advisable to go there on a rainy day, so that you can enjoy your swim in the pools, but it’s not that bad on sunny days either.
Just to mention, you are allowed to stay a maximum of 2 hours at the pools & not more.
Terceira Island Itinerary
Terceira island or the “Third” island of the Azores was also one of the first islands that the Portuguese people inhabited. Not only that, but here sits the oldest city of the Azores – Angra do Heroísmo, which is also the historical capital of the archipelago & a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island of Terceira is quite different from São Miguel, as it is more plain & not that hilly. This makes Terceira island easier for exploration, as well as for hiking.
Azores Itinerary - Terceira Island Day 7: Wind down
Day 7 is a best option for a wind down after hiking for the past couple of days. Below, I have included some options for relaxation around the island of Terceira.
Praia da Vitória
It will be exactly 1 week after your started your Azorean adventurous vacation and now is time for a wind down. So, I would suggest that you catch the earliest flight with SATA Azores to your next destination – Terceira. The flight takes around 30-40 minutes & in no time you will be on another Azorean island. The airport of Terceira (Lajes) is only 6 minutes drive away from Praia da Vitória where you can enjoy some sun at the beach, or a walk around the colorful town.
In case you would like to see the whole marina & city from above you can climb up to Monumento do Imaculado Coração de Maria. As well as anywhere else on these islands, you can just sit here, rest & fall in love with the vista.
Miradouro da Serra do Cume
The viewpoint at Serra do Cume is really impressive. It overlooks the green fields of local farmers & also the city of Praia da Vitória. Locals advise to come here on sunset, as the vista is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to do so, but I hope you will have it.
Natural swimming pools of Biscoitos
Biscoitos is a well-known locality for it’s fine wine produce & it’s natural swimming pools attracting many bathers. It is a really nice option for your rest, especially if you are in the Azores in the summer. The water will be warm & pleasant on your body & there will be a very little chance of rain.
In addition to those picturesque swimming pools you can explore further in the little town the Wine Museum of Biscoitos. There you will learn the history of wine making in the Azores, how was the wine bottled, stored, sorted & sold. You can even grab a glass of wine & try it for yourself or get a whole bottle to bring back home.
Azores Itinerary - Terceira Island Day 8: Island Drive Thru
This day will be all about hiking & exploration around Terceira, so you better prepare yourself for a lovely day in the wild parts of the island.
Reserva Florestal Natural Parcial do Biscoito da Ferraria
If you are a nature lover clap your hands or just go for a hike to the Pico Alto volcano or what’s left of it! Yes, you heard that right. You can walk inside a volcano & not get hurt by the lava, cause it is long gone. At the Nature Reserve of Biscoito da Ferraria you can have a nice walk around some cedar forests & endemic Azorean flora. On your way there you can even encounter lots of little birds & even buzzards, as well as some goats & cows.
Lagoa das Patas
Lagoa das Patas or the “Duck lake” is an artificial lake in the middle of Terceira island full with azaleas, hydrangeas and other bushes and trees. Fun fact is that the lake is getting its water from the Serra de Santa Bárbara range so that they can keep the ducks here.
At this reserve there is plenty of space for you to sit & unwind or enjoy the quietness of this tranquil place. In addition to all this serenity, there is a chapel above the lake. You can reach it by climbing a few steps up a staircase on the right side of the lake. There is also a playground for the kids where they can also have some fun.
Furnas do Enxofre
The trail of Furnas do Enxofre is one of the must-do trails in Terceira. It was created so that it secures the safe visit of people, as well as the protection of habitats here.
While walking you will see lots of sulphur geysers & lots of steam coming out of the ground. Although, the smell is not the most pleasant at times, it is totally worth to visit the park.
Azores Itinerary - Terceira Island Day 9: The road to Angra do Heroísmo
On the road to Angra do Heroísmo or the Bay of Heroism you will have the chance to visit the highest part of the island and overlook the other islands. Continuing your journey along the road, you will enjoy the colourful streets of the oldest town of the Azores & everything that surrounds it.
Miradouro da Serra de Santa Bárbara
The highest point on Terceira offers a jaw dropping view of the other Azorean islands. On a clear sunny day you will be able to see Pico & São Jorge on the left, as well as Graciosa on the right side. Continue walking up and you will have a good look over the whole island and most importantly to Angra do Heroísmo, Monte Brasil and the Cabras Islets.
Angra do Heroísmo
Angra do Heroísmo or the Bay of Heroism was a city of great importance to the Portuguese people ever since the islands were discovered. It was the main port for the fleets coming from Africa & the Indies, as well as the seat of the Azorean bishop & some government entities. Angra do Heroísmo was such an important city to Portugal that it even became its capital during the Liberal Wars.
It’s importance never seem to have ceased and in 1983 it was classified as a World Heritage Site having a huge cultural & historical significance for the Portuguese people. Nowadays, Angra do Heroísmo is recognized for its colorful houses, narrow lively streets and charming gardens spread all around the city. In this city of heroes you can enjoy some pretty views, a walk around the town or climb up to Monte Brasil.
Monte Brasil is a hill in Angra do Heroísmo and although it was used before as a place for defense from pirates & various privateers, it is now a peaceful place ideal for relaxing. It has charming lush forest with lots of places to rest, a mini deer park and a bird zoo. Also, the old fort of São Filipe still stands strong and steady awaiting silently in the beginning of the hill. If you look at it, its like time stopped and nothing has changed ever since the old times.
To get a good view over Monte Brasil you can visit the Alto da Memória at any time. It’s a small memorial place built in the memory of Pedro IV of Portugal & the Portuguese Civil Wars.
Once you are in Monte Brasil you can visit another historical monument with a fantastic view – Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas. At this viewpoint you will enjoy a panoramic view over the Historical Center of Angra do Heroísmo, the Cabras Islets & Santa Bárbara mountain.
Azores Itinerary - Terceira Island Day 10: Cave Exploration
Day 10 is about cave exploration and finding out what was happening in the Azores millions of years ago. Or did they actually existed back then ?!
Gruta do Natal
Gruta do Natal is a cave with a system of lava tubes in the middle of Terceira island. Althought, it is not quite clear how the cave formed, it is believed that it emerged as a result of the larger lava fields that have flowed through during the higher volcanic peaks.
Visiting the cave brings on the adventurous spirit as soon as you put that helmet on and are let to explore the cave on your own. On your visit in the cave you will see lots of huge lava tubes and traces of where the lava was passing by. It’s really interesting to see how everything froze in time and be able to walk on lava!
Following your cave exploration you can head to Pico Gaspar, which is actually an extinct volcano. You can climb up to it and explore it from within. However, be extremely careful when going up and watch every step you make.
Algar do Carvão
Once a huge lava tube, today Algar do Carvão is home to many cave creatures & is covered in rich plant tapestry, especially its cone. The cave has a huge cone in the very beginning of the trail, which brings some light into it. Walking down the path you will notice a huge ball-shaped like indentation, which is the result of a enormous gas sack explosion. And going further you will find the pond of the cave, as well as some other cave rooms to explore.
I would say that this is not a normal cave where you would expect to see lots of stalagmites and stalactites. Actually, you will find yourself exactly in the middle of a volcano and will be able to explore it safely.
If you plan to visit both of the caves it is better to purchase combined ticket for both caves, which is 12.00 €. Just ask at the cash desk of whichever cave you go first.