Hiking in the Azores has recently become a thing and one of the main reasons people go to the islands. It’s no wonder people choose to spend their holidays in the Azores like that, since there are so many trails to hike on. In addition to that, you will be mesmerized by the stunning views of the ocean or the serenity of almost untouched forests and hiking trails. I think that hiking and tranquil forests combined, are making the Azores true heaven for avid hikers like me. So…
This guide for hiking in the Azores has everything you need to know before you go:
Hiking In The Azores
Hiking is no easy task, but here in the Azores it is more about enjoying the tranquil nature & the stunning views of the ocean. With more than 80 hiking trails in the Azores you will have plenty of options to choose from. Also, each trail has different length, landscapes, difficulty level or altitude, so you can choose which trail to hike based on your preferences.
Official Azores hiking trails
You might wonder what official hiking trails means, since almost every path in the Azores looks like a trail. The official hiking trails are the ones that are approved, maintained and signed by the Azores Tourism Board in order to guarantee safety and reassurance to hikers.
Hiking in the Azores is almost as anywhere else, thus you always have to pay attention to the signs and check the weather before going out. In order, to make your hiking in the Azores a bit easier you can check the Azores Tourism Board. It’s a website where you will find plenty of information on the hiking trails of the Azores, leaflets with step-by-step explanations & detailed maps to easily navigate through the islands.
Off the beaten path hiking trails
Of the beaten path trails are common in the Azores and there are lots of them on the islands. However, these trails are not marked or maintained by the Azores Tourism Board, which makes them not officially approved or safe.
, one way or another you will always end up in one of those trails, as there is plenty of them and don’t worry – it is not as scary as it sound. Personally, I have ended up in a trail like that and really enjoyed the hike, which took me to entirely different direction, but still was worth it.
To make sure that I will be able to get out of such trails or paths I use MAPS.ME, which is a really cool app to use when you don’t have online connection. You can download it to your phone and then download the maps. On them you will see these small paths or roads, which you can follow, so that you can safely return back to the right hiking trail. Also, you can bookmark places or make your own maps and use them offline.
Types of hiking trails in the Azores
There are two types of hiking trails in the Azores – linear and circular. Linear trails never end at your starting point, while circular trails do.
If I have to be honest, I prefer the circular trails, but sometimes you have no choice and you end up on a linear trail. And for example, if you have a car parked at the starting point you will have to go back to it, either on foot or by any other means of transportation. So if you are tired and you don’t want to go back the linear road you can arrange a transport for yourself.
Hiking Trails In The Azores
The Azores have so many trails that is can be quite hard for a hiker to decide which to choose. However, most of the trails in the Azores are on the island of São Miguel, which has 29 of them and they are also one of the most beautiful trails. On the other hand, Pico has 14 trails in total and you can also climb up the highest peak in Portugal there, so that is also tempting. In addition, there are also 4 Grand Routes on four of the islands for you to explore. That being said, it is indeed hard to decide where to go. Still, you can always start somewhere…
|Santa Maria||6 hiking trails + The Great Route of Santa Maria|
|São Miguel||29 hiking trails|
|Terceira||8 hiking trails|
|Graciosa||3 hiking trails + The Great Route of Graciosa|
|São Jorge||7 hiking trails + The Great Route of São Jorge|
|Pico||14 hiking trails|
|Faial||9 hiking trails + Faial from Coast to Coast hiking trail|
|Flores||4 hiking trails + The Great Route of Flores|
|Corvo||2 hiking trails|
Best Azores Hiking Trails
I’ll be honest with you. There is NO “best trail” in the Azores. All the trails are unique and beautiful in their own way. That’s why it is hard to decide which trails are the best in the Azores. But speaking from experience here are some of the best trails in the Azores:
Vista do Rei - Sete Cidades - São Miguel
The Vista do Rei trail in the Azores is one my favourite trails on the islands. It’s absolutely stunning, especially on a sunny day!
The starting point of the trails is at Vista do Rei viewpoint, following the signs you will slowly descent down to the village of Sete Cidades. This trail is really nice for observing the lakes of Sete Cidades & the caldera, on your right side and the western coast of São Miguel Island on your left side.
While doing so, you will reach the viewpoint of Lomba do Vasco, which will surprise you with a stunning vista of the ocean and also the caldera. Once you reach this, go on the right and follow the unpaved path until you reach the village of Sete Cidades where you can have a nice lunch at Lagoa Azul.
Usually, it takes around 2 hours of hiking to reach Sete Cidades, but it depends on your pace. Also, bear in mind that this trail is a linear one, which might require you to go back to the starting point if you left your vehicle there.
Mata do Canário - Sete Cidades - São Miguel
Mata do Canário hiking trail starts at the parking lot near the Canário lake, which you can easily visit before you hit the road. Following the dirt road ahead, turn left and follow the aqueduct until you see a wall with 9 windows.
Then, continue left and after a while you will reach the Miradouro of Pico da Cruz where you can rest for a bit. From here, just follow the path and look for a sign that says Sete Cidades is near. Follow the path after the sign and once you reach the bridge of Sete Cidades you can turn right and visit its old church, which is actually the end point of the route.
This trail is pretty easy for hiking and takes around 3 hours of walking. Again, it is a linear type of trail…
The Beach of Lagoa do Fogo - São Miguel
This trail is not an official trail, but one I used to walk around the Lagoa do Fogo. Once you get up to Lagoa do Fogo you can head straight to Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa. From there you will enjoy an amazing view over the lake and the ocean surrounding the island. If you want to explore a bit you can go further to the right where you will reach couple of peaks from where you can see the Villa Franca do Campo Islet and also the city.
Once you are done with exploring the lake from above you can head down to the parking lot. From there, head straight down to the trail for the beach. It is sort of a tough trail, as sometimes you have to climb stairs (especially if you are short like me). However, just keep walking until you reach the beach where you can have some rest and enjoy the serenity of this mesmerizing lake.
The trail is a circular one, so you will have to walk back to the parking lot. It takes around 2 hours to hike on this unofficial, but well known trail.
Faial da Terra – Salto do Prego - São Miguel
The hiking trail to Salto do Prego starts near the end of the road to the north in the Faial da Terra village. You can park your vehicle somewhere near and soon you will see the signage for the trail. The trail goes along the left side of the stream and is mainly on a dirty road, so wear proper shoes.
After some time you will see a bridge that you will cross, so go for it and cross on the other side of the trail. The vegetation will become thicker the deeper you go and you’ll find yourself in an almost untouched rainforest. I guarantee you that you will enjoy the climb up! Yes, there is climbing and if I have to be honest it was not the easiest, but was totally worth it. Sooo, in almost no time you will be in front of Salto do Prego. I promise you, you will love it!
That particular trail is a circular one and you have to go back. Depending on your pace it usually takes around 2 hours.
Mistérios Negros - Terceira
You can start hiking on the dirt road next to the parking lot of Gruta do Natal. After some time on that hiking trail you will see a water tank and you will have to go on the left, which will lead to other 3 small lakes.
Then, continue through the forest and after passing it you will find yourself on a asphalt road. Keep on going until you reach the sign for Pico do Gaspar. If you still have any energy left climb it up to enjoy the view from a long gone volcano cone.
To finish the trail you have to go a bit further on the asphalt road, exactly to your starting point – Gruta do Natal.
This is a circular hiking trail that is taking around 2 hours, but is quite hard, so be prepared.
Tips for Hiking In The Azores
Hiking in the Azores is a wonderful experience, which will fill your eyes with dreamy vistas and heart with a nice tingling feeling. However, while hiking, it is also advisable that you are aware of the surroundings. For your own safety, of course…
Before You Go
Before you go hiking in the Azores, it is advisable that you study your trail, how much time it takes, is there much of climbing and whether it is for experienced or new hikers. Check weather forecast. Or web cams in the Azores. And I am serious here. Weather in the Azores is quite unpredictable, so you better check it before going. Inform someone where you will go and how much time it will take for you to return. Prepare warm clothes, food and plenty of water. You can also carry a First Aid Kit.
My advice to you is to always be prepared before you go hiking in the Azores. Also, don’t drink water from streams, it is not considered safe.
During The Hike
First and foremost, pay attention to trail signs. It is really easy to get lost even here, especially if there is fog. So, do pay attention to signs. Set the right pace for your hike, don’t leave anything behind, i.e. collect your trash and do not take anything from the trails like rocks, flora or natural objects. Let nature’s sound be the only sounds. Control your pets at all times. Last but not least, always let people that are climbing first.
What to wear?
Wear proper and comfortable clothing. You are going hiking after all. I would suggest that you always put some additional warm clothes in your backpack. Also, wear hiking shoes. Waterproof if possible. Do not forget to put a hat on, or you will be really sorry. Use sunscreen and apply it to all visible areas. Oh, and do not forget to have fun!