A little planning goes a long way when it comes to getting around the Azores. And if you fancy going on an Azorean island-hopping adventure you’ve come to the right place. This post contains all the information you need so you can hop, skip and jump your way around these green and beautiful isles.
What is the best month to visit the Azores?
Regardless what month you visit, pack those warm layers!
The 9 Azores islands are scattered about 1500km off the coast of Portugal and the weather in the Azores is notoriously unpredictable. Even in the height of summer, sunny days aren’t always guaranteed and the average temperature in August (the warmest month in the Azores) is a not-so-tropical, but still very lovely 22 degrees.
If drier, warmer temperatures are what you’re after - the months between June-September will be best for your travels, with July being the driest month and August being the warmest (a word of warning for the budget-conscious travellers about August, since this is the month that draws the most visitors which means prices are at their highest on the islands).
If you are thinking about travelling in the winter, we’d strongly suggest rethinking those plans. From October - March the islands are normally blanketed under cloud and fog and the conditions can be pretty wet. Unless your plan is to cosy down in Azorean cabins, or drive around in the rain to an atmospheric playlist, these aren’t the best months for island hopping. Especially in a place that offers so many amazing outdoor activities.
Getting around the Azores - should you plan your Azores island-hopping trip in advance?
I’s a good idea to get everything - from travel to accommodation - lined up before leaving.
Getting between each island means booking a plane or ferry and this is something best done ahead of your trip to secure a seat. There are also no big resorts on any of the islands, or masses of places to stay (especially on the smaller islands).
Island-hopping by plane or boat?
✈️ By Plane
- Pros - For longer routes, flying is a good choice as making use of the flight services can allow you to visit more islands in a shorter space of time. Plus, ferries don’t run between all islands so sometimes flying will be your only choice.
- Cons - SATA is not a budget airline. You’re looking at an average of about 90 Euros for a short one-way flight (this includes a checked in bag of up to 23 KG) which could quickly add up once you’ve made your way around a few islands.
⛴ By Boat
If you use ferries - we recommend booking through Atlanticoline (there is a “Multiple trips” option to choose when booking, handy for island-hopping).
- Pros - For shorter routes, we recommend using the ferry service. At an average of €12.00 per ticket, it’s the more budget-friendly (and eco-friendly) option. They are reliable, popular and well-connected ferry routes that can get you to nearby islands.
- Cons - Since there are only a cluster of central islands that are close together, using ferries can somewhat limit how many islands you can travel to during your trip and they don’t run every day, so you’ll have to spend a bit more time figuring out your ferry schedule.
The Azores are made of Western, Central and Eastern Islands. We suggest using the ferry to get to islands in the same group, and taking a plane to reach the islands in different groups.
Which are the best Azores islands to visit?
Here is a run-down of some of the highlights and characteristics of each island (yes, they're all beautiful but we have some faves).
💚 = our faves
São Miguel — The biggest and most populous island in the Azores. There is enough to do on São Miguel to keep you busy for the entirety of your trip. Highlights include natural swimming pools, a network of winding trails through unbelievable volcanic scenery, and Chá Gorreana - the only tea plantation in Europe. 💚
Santa Maria —Santa Maria a short fifteen minute flight (or 3 hour ferry ride) from São Miguel. A small, unassuming island, it's actually the southern and sunniest of all islands in the Azores, and the only place in the Azores with golden sand beaches (the rest are characterised by black volcanic sand). Santa Maria is a reported favourite with Azorean locals for their holidays.
Pico — Pico is home to Montanha do Pico, a 2351m stratovolcano that’s hard to miss. If you’re a hiker (or just keen for jaw-dropping views) getting to the top of this volcano is a must. Rugged and wild, Pico is the second largest island in the Azores but the youngest out of all 9 volcanic islands. Its unique vineyards are another intriguing part of the island landscape. 💚
Faial — If you end up visiting this island, head to Capelinhos. This 2km western peninsula is made of new land that was created in the 1950s from volcanic eruptions. Cabeço Gordo is another gem (a viewpoint at the highest point on the island) as is Praia do Almoxarife (a beach that gives you epic views of the volcano on Pico).
Terceira — Volcanic caves, charming towns and banana trees and more. There is so much to discover and explore on the island of Terceira, including Angra do Heroísmo, one of the biggest settlements in the Azores and a UNESCO World Heritage city (that feels more like a village). It’s popular for off-road buggy tours and easy-breezy days spent exploring the countryside.
São Jorge — This is not an island to miss. São Jorge is hailed as one of the most scenic islands in the Azores. Dramatic sea cliffs, natural pools, inland coffee plantations and idyllic pastoral hills will leave spellbound and wanting more. 💚
Graciosa — This island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of the most unique places in Graciosa is a stunning underground sulphurous lake which you can get down to via an 80-year-old stone spiral staircase. Furna do Enxofre.
Corvo — Corvo is the most Northern of all islands in the Azores, and sits in the Westerly group of islands as a neighbour to Flores. Corvo has stunning volcanic landscapes, and is marked by a giant caldera which is one of the most noticeable features of the island.
Flores — Flores could be the poster-island for the Azores. Insanely lush and verdant, it’s pure island magic and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve full of waterfalls and gorgeous lakes. It’s also one of the most remote of all islands in the Azores and home to Faja Grande - the most Westerly village in Europe tucked beneath huge green cliffs (google immediately). 💚
Wondering what the best Azores island-hopping routes are?
Nailing your route is key to getting the most out of your Azorean trip. The islands aren’t all close together so you'll have to do a bit of mixing and matching to figure out a route that fits with your travel plans.
Can you fly direct to the Azores?
Planning your route starts with where you fly in from.
Most travellers fly into Ponta Delgada Airport, which is located on the biggest island of São Miguel and has direct flights from quite a few European and North American locations.
In our opinion, regardless of where you’re originally travelling from, if you get a flight into mainland Portugal and travel to the Azores from there, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to what islands you can get to.
We recommend flying from Lisbon, which means you’ll be able to fly to some of the bigger islands, as well as the smaller islands like Terceira, Faial, Santa Maria and Pico. (In general, it will be a 2.5 hour flight to the Azores from Lisbon).
Island-hopping route ideas:
Pico ⛴ São Jorge ⛴ Faial
Geographically very close, these three islands make up the ‘Ilhas Triangulo’ - a well-connected triangle of islands.
São Miguel ✈️ Pico ⛴ São Jorge
This allows you to explore the biggest island, while getting a flavour of the smaller ones.
São Miguel ⛴ Santa Maria
If you only have limited time to explore the Azores or want to take things a bit more slow. São Miguel and Santa Maria make a great duo.
Pico ⛴ São Jorge
The adventurous alternative for a two-island trip (these islands are a bit more raw and rugged).
Pico ⛴ São Jorge ⛴ Faial ✈ Flores ✈ Faial
We're going to call this one the Azorean all-star route since it takes you to the most wild and gorgeous islands in the Azores.
Do you need a car in Azores?
Yes. Public transport is a bit limited and the freedom and independence you’ll get when renting a car is incomparable.