Azores or Madeira: Pros, Cons and Main Differences

Last updated: 7 January 2021 | Guides, Portugal

Azores or Madeira
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Azores or Madeira? Well, I would say “Why not both?!”

Azores and Madeira are two Portuguese archipelagos set in Atlantic Ocean. Both of them are prominent for their beautiful nature and tranquility. This made them become the nominal for the perfect vacation destination in Europe. And as a result, lots of people headed straight to their shores to enjoy a utopian vacation.

However, ever since both of the islands came known to the public, everybody is asking “Which is better Azores or Madeira?”, “Madeira or Azores for vacation?” “Honeymoon in Azores or Madeira?!” 🧐. It is a tough decision to make, as both of the islands are astonishingly beautiful and hospitable.

That is why, I have curated this detailed guide with all the details you should consider when choosing between Azores or Madeira. Once again, if I were you, I would choose both…

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Azores or Madeira beaches

Azores or Madeira: Pros, Cons and Main Differences

The archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores have been under the Portuguese influence ever since their very discovery during the Age of Discoveries. That is why, many think that the islands are the same as mainland Portugal. In fact, they are not. Azores and Madeira islands tend to be quite different from each other, but are also similar in many aspects. Keep on reading, so you can decide for yourself whether Azores or Madeira is better for your type of vacation…

Choose Azores if you want:

⛅ Cooler but sunny weather

⛱️ Black sand beaches

⏳ Longer trip

🏞️ Hiking

🧖 Hot Springs

😌 Tranquility 

Choose Madeira if you want:

          ☀️ Sunshine and hot temperatures

🏖️ Sandy beaches

⌛ Shorter trip

🌄 Trekking

🏊 Lava pools

🥳 Crowded places

The Azores Archipelago

The Azores archipelago consists of 9 heavenly beautiful volcanic islands, set in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the islands are named after their most characteristic feature, namely Corvo (Crow), Flores (Flower), Faial, Graciosa (Graceful), Pico (The Peak), Santa Maria, São Jorge, São Miguel (The Green Island) and Terceira (The Third). Every of the islands of the Azores is known for its own highlights and has to be explored separately.

Mainly, the Azores archipelago is known for its heavenly beautiful nature, hot springs, waterfalls, good food and wine. The terrain of the Portuguese Azores is not as rugged as that of Madeira and it is quite easy to explore the islands. However, the climate of the Azores tends to be quite unpredictable, which makes them more of a summer vacation destination. That is why, it makes many people question how both of the islands are so different in terms of their climate. Well, think of where are the Azores in relation to Madeira? The distance between the islands is 955 kilometers, which makes a huge difference between both archipelagos.

The Madeira Archipelago

The Madeira archipelago is gathering in itself 4 islands, two of which are uninhabited. Those islands are Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desertas and Savage islands. Madeira islands have been discovered before the Azores and were quickly settled afterwards.

The Portuguese island of Madeira is the most visited island of the archipelago and its mainly for its captivating landscapes and perfect climate. The terrain of Madeira is quite rugged, which can make it quite hard to explore, compared to the Azores. However, the island is more developed than the Azores, which makes it a desired vacation destination.

Hiking Azores or Madeira

Azores or Madeira: Getting to the Islands

Azores and Madeira have become quite popular the last couple of years, which only increased the air traffic to them. Honestly, travelling to these islands has never been easier and there are many flights every day to them.

Flights to the Azores

Most of the flights to the Azores islands are set to Ponta Delgada, which is the capital city of the archipelago and the biggest city in Sao Miguel island. The airport of Ponta Delgada is where most of the connections are done for the rest of the islands. Thus, if you plan to explore all of the islands, you will be flying to Ponta Delgada first. Once there, you will be able to make a connection to the rest of the islands. On top of that, it is quite easy to fly from the Azores to Madeira on a daily basis 🛫

The airline companies that have regular flights to the Azores are: SATA Azores (The Azorean Airline), Swiss International, TAP Portugal and Ryanair(low cost airline). Keep in mind, that the SATA Azores airline may provide you with a free flight if you are flying within the Azores from mainland Portugal.

Flights to Madeira

Madeira island has been a vacation destination for quite a while, thus the air transport is more developed than that of the Azores. The main airport of the island is in Santa Cruz, which is 20 minutes away from the capital of the island, Funchal. Madeira’s airport is a busy one and there are more than 30 flights arriving each day. It is good to note that it is relatively easy to fly for Madeira to Azores, which only make your trip more memorable…🛬

The airlines that have direct flights to Madeira regularly are SATA Azores, Binter Canaria, British Airways, Condor, Lufthansa, Jet2, TAP Portugal and EasyJet (low cost airline). Most of the airlines have more than 1 flights to the island, which makes it easier to get to it. However, keep in mind, that the weather in Madeira can be quite harsh during the winter period and cause delay in flights and even cancellations.

Getting Around the Azores and Madeira

Azores or Madeira: Getting Around

Public transportation on the islands is not as developed as in the big cities around the world. In fact, public buses on the islands are so rare that it will be easier to just walk back to your place. Thus, it is advisable to go around the islands by car. It’s way more convenient, saves lots of time in wandering and makes everything easily accessible.

Rent-a-Car in Azores

Renting a car in the Azores is quite easy and cheaper than renting a car in Madeira. Remember, the Azores are not as famous as Madeira, which results in lower prices for rental cars. So, renting a car in the Azores can cost as little as 20 EUR per day including full insurance and it is definitely worth it.

Although the Azores have only recently been introduced to the public, they can offer a full range of rental cars. Most of the well-known car rental companies in Europe have offices on the islands, so it is quite easy to get a car. However, my advice is book a car from a local rent a car company to save yourself unnecessary payments and deposits.

Rent-a-Car in Madeira

Exploring Madeira without renting a car will be an absolute nightmare. This mountainous island requires constant climbing, which can be quite tiring. Thus, renting a car is definitely a must if you want to have a good time. Unlike the Azores islands, Madeira has lots of local car rental companies, which have better terms and prices. However, renting a car in Madeira can be more expensive than renting a car in the Azores. Although, it is reasonable, as the local companies offer brand new cars and usually don’t ask for deposits.

Azores or Madeira: Accommodation

Both Azores and Madeira have lots of options when it comes to accommodation. Whether it be a guest house or a hotel, it is sure that there is everything for everybody…

Accommodation in the Azores

The Azores are more of a less touristy destination and as such, you won’t find huge resorts on its shores. However, you will definitely enjoy the beautiful guest houses, small hotels overlooking the ocean and apartments spread all over the island. In general, finding an accommodation in the Azores is not an issue and is relatively cheap. However, during the high summer season, accommodation options can be quite scarce, so it is best to book upfront.

Accommodation in Madeira

Madeira is known for its lavish resorts located on its staggering cliffs around the island. Unlike the Azores, in Madeira there is always plenty of places to stay at and there is rarely scarcity. The island is welcoming tourists 365 days of the year and has all sorts of accommodation options. Nevertheless, it is always good to book your stay in advance, so you can get a better deal…

Azores or Madeira: Pricing

Azores and Madeira tend to be relatively cheaper vacation destinations compared to rest of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. However, in many aspects the Azores are the cheaper vacation island…

Expense/IslandsAzores IslandMadeira Islands
Meal in Inexpensive Restaurant 7 EUR 10 EUR
Alcohol (Beer) 1.00 EUR 2.25 EUR
Coffee 1.17 EUR 1.47 EUR
Water(0.33l bottle) 0.57 EUR 1.12 EUR
Gasoline per liter 1.45 EUR 1.51 EUR
Accommodation per day 15 EUR 20 EUR
Rent-a-car per day (+full insurance coverage) 20 EUR 30 EUR
Azores weather

Azores or Madeira: Climate

Both of the archipelagos are known for their oceanic and subtropical kind of climate. While the Azores have more of a Mediterranean climate, Madeira is known more for its humid and tropical climate…

Climate in the Azores

The Azores are prominent for their hardly predictable weather. As the locals say “In the Azores you can experience four seasons in a day” and that is quite true. The weather on the islands changes quite quickly and while it is sunny you can get a pretty decent rainfall. Although, temperatures in the Azores never go lower than 10 degrees Celsius, which makes them the warmest winter destination in Europe.

Climate in Madeira

Many would compare the climate of Madeira to that of the Canary Islands and they won’t be wrong at all. Madeira is known for its tropical climate and all-year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. The island is highly influenced by Gulf Stream, which is the main reason for the island’s perfect weather. Madeira has one of the warmest winters in the Atlantic Ocean, where the temperature is never under 10 degrees Celsius.

Climate Averages / IslandsAzores IslandMadeira Islands
Hottest Month August (25°C) August/September (38°C)
Coldest Month January/February (12°C) January/February (10°C)
Most Rainy Month December (14 rainy days on average) December (13 rainy days on average)
Least Rainy Month July/August (6 rainy days on average) July (1-2 rainy days on average)
Sunniest Month August (7 hours of sunshine per day) August (8 hours of sunshine per day)
Food in Portugal

Azores or Madeira: Food

If you are a gastronome, you are guaranteed to have great time in both the Azores islands and Madeira. These islands are prominent for their fine traditional Portuguese cuisine, which is absolutely delicious and will leave you speechless 🥘

Food in the Azores

The Azoren cuisine is definitely luscious and mouthwatering. Although many would say it is like that of mainland Portugal, I would like to protest on that. The Azorean cuisine is highly influenced by the surrounding environment and relies only on what is grown on the islands or around them. On top of that, the Azoreans produce everything on their fruitful volcanic lands. Thus, you can expect to be fed with the finest local produce. While in the Azores of Portugal, you might consider trying:

🧀 Azorean Cheese: The cheese of the Azores is so good that it holds 50% of the cheese market in mainland Portugal. Thus, if you decide to try the Azorean cheese make sure it is produced in Sao Jorge island

🍍 Azores Pineapple: This pineapple is simply ambrosial… Trust me with that! It is absolutely divine 🤤

🍾 Azorean Wine: The Azores have 500 years of history in wine making and are one of the biggest wine suppliers of mainland Portugal. The most famous wine producer of the Azores is the Azores Wine Company, which is holding the vineyards of Pico island and produces the finest white wine… 🥂

Azorean Tea: Well, I wasn’t quite aware of that, but the Azores are also producing their own tea. In fact, they are home to the only tea plantations in Europe. If you are a tea junkie, don’t miss the free tour at Gorreana Tea Factory

🍲 Azorean Dishes: The Azores are well-known for their delicious food, which includes seafood, fine beef and lots of home-grown vegetables. Some of the most unique meals you have to try in the Azores is the Cozido das Furnas. The meal consists of meat and vegetables cooked in holes in the hot volcanic soil. You can also try out the baby corn boiled over the geysers in the city of Furnas, which is prominent for its sweet taste. The Azores are also prominent for their seafood meals and mainly for the so-called “Lapas”, which are very juicy grilled limpets 🦪

Food in Madeira

The food in Madeira is notable for being one of the most tasteful cuisines in Europe. It perfectly combines the traditional Portuguese cuisine with a pinch of oceanic taste. Just like in the Azores, locals produce all of their food on the island and can be pretty self-sufficient. Below are some of the things to try while on the island of Madeira:

🥭 Madeiran Fruits: Madeira’s climate allows it grow some of the sweetest tropical fruits. Among them are bananas, all types of mangos and passion fruit, papayas, avocados and anonas (sugar apple). If you yarn trying all of these head straight to the Farmers’ Market in Funchal… 🛒

🍷 Madeira Wine: The wine of Madeira is quite prominent for its sweet taste which ranges in sweetness. This liqueur type of wine, which is usually consumed with a piece of cake 🍰

🥃 Madeira Rum: Little known fact is that Madeira is actually a producer of sugar cane. In fact, the island has been one of the biggest suppliers of sugar cane for Europe. Nowadays, one of the things produced on the island of Madeira is the rum, which is made out of sugar cane. Yes, you read that right! Plus, you can try the Poncha, which is a Madeiran cocktail made with sugar cane rum… 😋

🥘 Madeiran Dishes: The cuisine of Madeira is rich and there are lots of local dishes to try. Among them is the Black Scabbard fish fillet with fried baby bananas, which is an absolutely incredible in taste. And for the fast food lovers there is Bolo do Caco, a local sandwich made with some fine meat, cheese and vegetables 👀

🥮 Madeiran Cakes: Madeira’s most prominent cake is the Madeira Sugarcane Honey cake. It is made out of sugar cane and honey, which is also made out of sugar cane. So, you can expect this cake to be too sweet, but in fact it is very nice and puffy… 

Things to do in Azores and Madeira

Azores or Madeira: Things To Do

Both, Azores and Madeira offer plenty of things to do. However, since the Portuguese islands differ very much in terrain and climate, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to do the same things on both of them. Thus, it is good to consider a couple of things before you visit either of the islands…

Things to do in the Azores

The Azores islands in Portugal might require you to stay for longer periods, so that you can explore all of islands. However, each of the islands is unique in its own way and offers different things to do…

🥾Hiking in the Azores: The Azores islands are prominent for their hiking trails and they can be found everywhere on all of the islands. The islands have more than 80 hiking trails, which are well-maintained and offer views over some of the most scenic landscapes in Europe. The most famous hiking trails are the trail to Pico, the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean and the hike to the Sete Cidades lakes, which offers utopian views over the island of Sao Miguel. Except for beautiful views, the hiking trails in the Azores are known to lead to the most beautiful lakes or gracefully mystical waterfalls…

🧖 Azores Hot Springs: The hot springs in the Azores are mostly located on the island of Sao Miguel. They are mostly known for their healing benefits and high temperatures. Some of the most famous hot springs in Sao Miguel are the Dona Beija and Parque Terra Nostra.

🏄 Surfing & Diving: The Azores islands are providing pretty good options when it comes to doing water sports. There are plenty of spots for surfing, such as the Santa Barbara beach in Sao Miguel or Cubres in Sao Jorge island. Furthermore, if you want to explore the depths of the ocean feel free to check out the diving tours at Vila Franca do Campo islet 🤿

🐋Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours: Additionally, there are plenty of tours for whale and dolphin watching, which make the Azores a very special place for both the animals and you. Keep in mind that the best time to see these mammals is from June to August when they pass through the islands 🐬

🏞️ Sightseeing: There are plenty of places to visit while in the Azores. Mostly they will be natural landmarks, but it is good to check out the cultural ones too. Angra do Heroismo in Terceira is for sure a city that is worth a visit for its rich history and cultural importance to the Azores. Back in the days, Angra do Heroismo has been of great importance for the islands. That is why, it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, it is also good to check the cities of Ponta Delgada, Furnas, Horta and the rest of the biggest cities on the island where small museums can be found to tell the story of the islands.

Things to do in Madeira

This idyllic island in the Atlantic Ocean has lots to offer to its visitors. There are lots of outdoor acitivites to take on and lots of things to learn along the way. Unlike the Azores, Madeira does not require you to stay for a lot of time, so that you can fully explore the island. Thus, it is up to you…

🥾 Hiking: Hiking in Madeira is a must, especially hiking the  levadas, which are one of the highlights of the island. Some of the most prominent hiking trails are the hike to Pico Ruivo, Levada das 25 Fontes and Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco…

🏖️ Beaching: Madeira is known for its fine sandy beaches, so going to the beach is sort of a must-do while on the island. Some of the best beaches for sunbathing are Machico, Formosa and Calheta beach, which have nice sandy beaches 🌅

🚡 Cable car: Cable cars in Madeira are incredibly convenient if you want to overcome some hills of the island. Some of the best cable car rides are those of Funchal and that of Achada da Cruz, which gives access to the most remote village on the island.

🛷 Toboggan ride: If you want to have some fun that would rush your adrenaline, then try the traditional Toboggan ride. In the past, Madeirans have been using these sledges to get fast to the city center through the hills. Nowadays, it is used only for fun, but it can be quite dangerous as there are lots of cars driving through those streets… 🤷

🐋 Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours: Just like the Azores, Madeira provides the perfect opportunity to all of its visitors to observe the marine life up-close. Thus, make sure to get on a boat and sail away into the deep ocean and explore all it has to offer.

🌄 Sightseeing: The island of Madeira has lots to offer in terms of sightseeing. If you want to explore the old town of Funchal, it is best to do it with a local guide, so you can learn more about the city. There are lots of museums, churches, palaces and gardens to explore, so make sure to have enough time for all of them. Near Funchal is also Cabo Girão, which is the highest cape in Europe with 580 meters of elevation…

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EarthOSea
EarthOSea

Hi, I'm Alex. For the past years, I have extensively travelled around Europe. In 2019 I have moved to Portugal where I spent a couple of months learning about the Portuguese culture, traditions and language.
My speciality is mainly in travelling in a sustainable and less harmful to the environment way. I am focusing more on ways to travel on a budget or money-for-value.

I hope you found that article useful! Which island would you pick for your next vacation?

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