Azores or Madeira: Pros, Cons and Main Differences

Azores or Madeira

Azores or Madeira?! Azores or Madeira for vacation? Azores or Madeira which is better? This question has always stood up, so I would definitely say “Both!”

If you’re dreaming of a Portuguese island escape, you are in the right place! Azores and Madeira are both drop-dead gorgeous and the best islands in Portugal. Each offers a totally unique vibe. Lucky for you, I’ve got the inside scoop to help you decide which island is your perfect match. The world is your oyster!

Azores or Madeira beaches

Azores or Madeira?

The Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, each a jewel born of maritime exploration during the Age of Discovery, are often mistakenly perceived as mere extensions of mainland Portugal. This, however, is a misconception, as both island chains, with me on a journey to unearth their individual charms, enabling you to discern whether the verdant landscapes of the Azores or the dramatic vistas of Madeira better suit your wanderlust.

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

Nine volcanic jewels, the Azores Islands, lie scattered across the vast Atlantic. Each isle, christened for its distinct character – Corvo (the Raven), Flores (the Flower), Faial, Graciosa (the Graceful), Pico (the Peak), Santa Maria, São Jorge, São Miguel (the Green Isle), and Terceira (the Third) – promises unique enchantments. Celebrated for their ethereal landscapes, thermal springs, cascading waters, and cuisine delights, the Azores beckon exploration. Their topography is less rugged than Madeira’s, invites wanderers, though their capricious climate favors summer sojourns.

A query often arises: Why such climatic variance between the Azores and Madeira? The answer lies in their geography. The Azores to Madeira distance is some 955 kilometers, rendering their climates as disparate as their terrains.

The Madeira Archipelago

The Portuguese island of Madeira is part of an archipelago of four isles (two uninhabited) – Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas, and Selvagens. It boasts a history intertwined with exploration and settlement. Madeira, the archipelago’s crown jewel, captivates with its spellbinding vistas and idyllic climate. Though its rugged terrain presents challenges, the island’s development surpasses that of the Azores making it a heaven for visitors.

Hiking Azores or Madeira

Azores or Madeira: Getting to the Islands

Azores and Madeira tourism has been peaking ever since. Both islands have been stealing hearts lately, and it’s no wonder why. These stunning Portuguese islands are more accessible than ever, with flights arriving like a flock of seagulls on sunny days.

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Flights to the Azores

Most flights touch down in Ponta Delgada, the bustling capital of the Azores and the heart of São Miguel Island. This is your gateway to the archipelago, with connections to all the other islands. Think of it as your island-hopping HQ!

SATA Azores (the local airline), along with Swiss International, TAP Portugal, and the budget-friendly Ryanair, offer regular flights. And here’s a little secret: If you’re flying from mainland Portugal to the Azores with SATA, you might snag a free flight within the islands. Talk about sweet!

Flights to Madeira

Madeira’s been a holiday haven for ages, so it’s no surprise its air travel scene is a well-oiled machine. Santa Cruz Airport, just a hop and a skip from the Madeira capital, Funchal, welcomes over 30 flights daily. Plus, hopping from Madeira to the Azores is a breeze, adding a whole new layer to your adventure.

You’ll find flights with SATA Azores, Binter Canaria, British Airways, Condor, Lufthansa, Jet2, TAP Portugal, and the ever-so-affordable EasyJet. With multiple flights from most airlines, getting to this island paradise is a piece of cake. Just keep in mind that Madeira’s weather can get a bit moody in winter, so be prepared for potential delays or cancellations.

Azores or Madeira: Getting Around

Getting around these stunning Portuguese islands presents a unique challenge and opportunity. Unlike bustling metropolises, public transportation isn’t always the most efficient option. In fact, catching a bus on these islands might feel like a rare sighting, making a leisurely stroll seem more appealing! So, gear up for an island adventure on four wheels and let’s dive into the car rental scene.

Rent-a-Car in Azores

The Azores, with their hidden gem status, offer a delightful surprise when it comes to car rentals. The prices are delightfully lower compared to Madeira, making it a budget-friendly choice for explorers. Picture this: a reliable ride for as little as 30 euros per day, complete with comprehensive insurance – a steal, right? You can find that on Discover Cars, where you can even avoid paying a deposit and have your travel protection!

You can also consider local car rental companies for a chance to save some extra euros and potentially skip the hassle of hefty deposits.

Rent-a-Car in Madeira

Now, let’s talk about Madeira, an island of dramatic landscapes that demand a bit more from your transportation choices. Imagine tackling those steep slopes and winding roads on foot – not exactly a relaxing vacation vibe! So, renting a car becomes less of a luxury and more of a necessity for a stress-free experience.

Unlike the Azores, Madeira boasts a lively local car rental scene, offering a wider variety of choices and often better deals. While prices might be a tad higher than in the Azores, the trade-off is often worth it. You might find yourself cruising in a brand-new vehicle, and some local companies even wave goodbye to those pesky deposits.

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Azores or Madeira: Accommodation

Accommodation options abound in both the Azores and Madeira, catering to all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re seeking a charming guesthouse or a luxurious hotel.

Accommodation in the Azores

The Azores Islands have become quite famous the past couple of years. Thus you can expect cool places to stay to be booked, especially during the summer months. Keep in mind that, during the peak summer season, availability can become limited, so it’s wise to book in advance. Here are some of the best hotels in the Azores Islands:

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel: Nestled amidst lush gardens and boasting a natural hot spring pool, the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is a haven of tranquility. Its elegant rooms, world-class spa, and gourmet restaurant make it a top choice for discerning travelers.

Azor Central Lodge: With its sleek design, panoramic views of Ponta Delgada, and rooftop infinity pool, the Azor Lodge offers a contemporary and stylish stay. Its central location makes it an ideal base for exploring the city’s attractions.

Lava Homes: Experience Pico island’s volcanic heritage firsthand by staying in one of the Lava Homes. These charming houses are built from lava rock and offer a truly authentic and memorable experience.

Accommodation in Madeira

 Known for its opulent resorts nestled on dramatic cliffs, Madeira offers a different experience. Unlike the Azores, Madeira boasts a wide range of accommodation options with rarely any shortages. Welcoming visitors year-round, the island caters to all preferences. However, it’s still recommended to secure your stay ahead of time to snag the best deals. Below are some of the best places to stay in Madeira:

Belmond Reid’s Palace: Perched on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic, Belmond Reid’s Palace exudes old-world charm and luxury. Its Michelin-starred restaurant, subtropical gardens, and private beach make it a truly unforgettable experience.

The Vine Hotel: Inspired by Madeira’s winemaking tradition, The Vine Hotel features a sleek design, rooftop terrace with panoramic views, and a spa offering wine-based treatments. It’s a stylish choice for urban explorers.

Aqua Natura Madeira Hotel: Located directly on the seafront, the Aqua Natura Madeira Hotel offers breathtaking views, direct access to natural swimming pools, and a range of wellness facilities. It’s a great choice for families and nature lovers.

Azores or Madeira: Pricing

Both the Azores and Madeira are relatively budget-friendly compared to other islands in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Overall, the Azores tend to be slightly more affordable.




Meal in Inexpensive Restaurant


10 EUR

Alcohol (Beer)

2.25 EUR



1.90 EUR


Water(0.33l bottle)

1.35 EUR


Gasoline per liter

1.60 EUR

1.60 EUR

Accommodation per day

20 EUR

30 EUR

Rent-a-car per day (+full insurance coverage)

30 EUR

40 EUR

Azores or Madeira: Climate

Madeira vs Azores weather?! Sure! Both archipelagos share an oceanic and subtropical climate, but with some key differences. The Azores lean towards a Mediterranean climate, while Madeira is known for its humid and tropical conditions.

Climate in the Azores

Be prepared for unpredictable weather in the Azores. Locals often joke that you can experience all four seasons in a single day, and it’s not far from the truth! The weather can change rapidly, with sunshine quickly giving way to rain showers. However, Azores in December can still be quite warm. Temperatures rarely dip below 10 degrees Celsius, making the Azores a surprisingly warm winter escape in Europe.

Climate in Madeira

Often compared to the Canary Islands, Madeira enjoys a tropical climate with plenty of sunshine and warmth throughout the year. Thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, the island experiences consistently pleasant weather. Similar to the Azores, Madeira boasts one of the warmest winters in the Atlantic, with temperatures rarely dropping below 10 degrees Celsius.

Food in Portugal

Azores or Madeira: Food

Hungry for adventure? Both the Azores and Madeira serve up unforgettable foodie experiences. These Portuguese islands are famous for their mouthwatering cuisine, which blends traditional flavors with unique local ingredients.

Food in the Azores

The Azores cuisine isn’t just tasty – it’s a reflection of the islands themselves. Everything is grown or caught locally, thanks to the rich volcanic soil. Get ready to savor:

Azorean Cheese: So good, it dominates half of Portugal’s cheese market. Try it on São Jorge island – you won’t regret it!

Azorean Pineapple: This isn’t your average pineapple – it’s the sweetest, most divine fruit you’ll ever taste.

Azorean Wine: With 500 years of winemaking history, the Azores know their grapes. The Azores Wine Company on Pico Island crafts some truly exceptional whites.

Azorean Tea: Yep, they grow tea here! The only European tea plantations are in the Azores. Take a free tour at Gorreana Tea Factory for a unique experience.

Azorean Dishes: From fresh seafood to tender beef and homegrown veggies, the Azores has it all. Don’t miss Cozido das Furnas, a hearty stew cooked in volcanic soil. And try the sweet baby corn boiled over Furnas’ geysers! For seafood lovers, grilled limpets (“Lapas”) are a must.

Food in Madeira

Madeira’s cuisine is a fusion of Portuguese classics and ocean-fresh flavors. Like the Azores, the island is self-sufficient in food production. Here’s what to try:

Madeiran Fruits: Thanks to the perfect climate, Madeira’s tropical fruits are bursting with sweetness. Head to the Farmers’ Market in Funchal for bananas, mangos, passion fruit, papayas, avocados, and sugar apples.

Madeira Wine: This sweet, fortified wine is a local specialty. Enjoy it with a slice of cake for a true Madeiran experience.

Madeira Rum: Surprise! Madeira produces sugar cane, and their rum is something special. Sip a Poncha, a local cocktail made with sugar cane rum, for a taste of island life.

Madeiran Dishes: Black scabbard fish with fried baby bananas is a flavor explosion you won’t forget. For a quick bite, grab a Bolo do Caco, a local sandwich stuffed with delicious fillings.

Madeiran Cakes: The Madeira Sugarcane Honey cake is a must-try. Made with both sugar cane and honey (also from sugar cane), it’s surprisingly light and airy.

Things to do in Azores and Madeira

Azores or Madeira: Things To Do

The Azores and Madeira, both jewels in Portugal’s Atlantic Oceans crown, offer wildly different experiences. Think dramatic volcanic landscapes versus lush subtropical gardens. But which one is the perfect fit for your dream vacation? Madeira or Azores for hiking?! Let’s dive in:

Things to do in the Azores

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

🥾Hiking in the Azores: Lace up your boots and conquer trails like the ascent to Pico (Portugal’s highest peak!) or the mesmerizing Sete Cidades lakes to find the natural beauty of these islands!

🧖 Azores Hot Springs: Sao Miguel island boasts natural hot springs like Dona Beija and Terra Nostra Park, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.

🏄 Surfing & Diving: Surf Santa Barbara Beach on Sao Miguel, dive the Vila Franca do Campo islet, or embark on a whale and dolphin watching tour. (Peak season is June-August!)

🐋Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours: Embark on a whale watching tour and learn more about those cateaneats. 

🏞️ Sightseeing: Explore the UNESCO-listed Angra do Heroismo on Terceira island, and don’t miss the museums and local charm of Ponta Delgada, Furnas, and Horta.

Things to do in Madeira

Madeira, a single island brimming with diverse landscapes, is your go-to for levada hikes, stunning beaches, and a unique toboggan ride. You can easily experience the island’s highlights in a shorter trip.

🥾 Hiking: Follow ancient irrigation channels (levadas) through lush forests. Top hikes include Pico Ruivo, Levada das 25 Fontes, and the Ponta de Sao Lourenco peninsula. Nature in Madeira has never mislead anyone!

 🏖️ Beaching: Madeira’s not just about mountains! Lounge on Machico, Formosa, or Calheta Beach and soak up the sun.

🚡 Cable car: Ascend by cable car in Funchal or Achada da Cruz, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try the traditional toboggan ride down the streets!

🛷 Toboggan ride: If you want to have some fun that would rush your adrenaline, then try the traditional Toboggan ride. 

🐋 Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours: Madeira offers fantastic whale and dolphin watching opportunities too! Prices are either per person or per small group. Trip could also be private in Madeira island and with a travel advisor.

🌄 Sightseeing: Uncover the history and culture of the island’s capital, from museums and churches to palaces and gardens. Don’t miss the dizzying heights of Cabo Girão, Europe’s highest sea cliff.

Read More About the Azores Islands:

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