Discover the best Azores Island according to your travel style
Curious to find out what the best Azores Island is? Often referred to as Europe's “Best Kept Secret”, the Azores have become an increasingly popular destination with year-round appeal for travelers. This cluster of nine idyllic islands 900 miles off the coast Portugal is an off-the-beaten path destination packed with natural beauty, striking landscapes, and tangible authenticity.
Though the Azores Islands are similar to one another, each has its own distinct set of characteristics that set it apart from the rest. What makes each Azores Island unique? And, how do you know which Azores island(s) you'll enjoy visiting the most? We break down each of the 9 Azores Island here with some authentic Azores travel tips for your dream Azores vacations!
The Eastern Group of the Azores
Is São Miguel the best Azores Island?
The Green Island of the Azores
São Miguel Island is the biggest of the Azores and the most populated with almost 137k inhabitants (2011 data). As soon as you start planning your Azores getaway and visit São Miguel Island, you’ll soon disclose why this Azores Island is nicknamed ‘’The Green Island of the Azores’’. São Miguel’s lush landscapes and rolling verdant hills keep no one indifferent as it is the most visited of the Azores Islands -- and Terceira Island is just one step behind.
Even though the Azores have never officially recognized Ponta Delgada city in São Miguel Island as their capital, it is indeed the economical hub of the Azores Islands. Ponta Delgada evokes all the charms of Europe with cobbled streets, sidewalk cafes and a thriving culinary scene.
Some of the Azores’ most iconic views and famed crater lakes are found on this island at Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo and the iconic village of Furnas. São Miguel is also a geothermal spot - you’ll see that on your visit to Furnas, meaning you can find warm water to swim in year-round in one of the natural spas and hot springs inland or tucked along the rocky coast.
So... Is São Miguel the best Azores Island?
If you’re looking for a paradisiacal Azores Island surrounded by unparalleled beautiful and unspoiled nature but with a slight touch of the modern world, São Miguel, Azores is to put on your bucket list! The island offers a great array of tourist infraestructures such as hotels, restaurants and tours for every taste and budget. São Miguel, Azores has the PERFECT TOUCH of the modern world! Just the right amount. You will never get bored in this Azores Island. From luxury to on budget, São Miguel, Azores has the perfect fit for any traveller!
Is Santa Maria the best Azores Island?
The Yellow Island of the Azores
Santa Maria Island is the closest to São Miguel and it is also the ‘’mother island’’ of the Azores because it is the oldest! You know that greater things come with age, so Santa Maria Island is quite different from any other of the Azores. Around 5k inhabitants call this Azores island home and they’re proud to live in the only one with white sand beaches -- you heard us, the Azores have a secret Caribbean look-alike island.
Santa Maria Island is a bit flatter than the other Azores Islands, making it the ultimate beach vibe island with white sand and warm crystal water year-round. But Santa Maria seas have witnessed it all! Even Cristovao Colombo stopped by on his come back trip after discovering America. Santa Maria, Azores, is one of the best spots in Europe for diving due to its previled location at the doorstep of the Dollarat bank and of the natural reserve of Formigas! Actually, diving with jamantas is one of the most famous touristic activities of this Azores Island.
Another interesting fact about this Azores Island is that every village has a color, so the houses of every village are all colored the same. While in Santa Maria Island, also behold the old world architecture of its houses - pay particular attention to the traditional chimneys, and discover unique sights in the whole Azores archipelago. Other famous sights in Santa Maria are the Gonçalo Velho lighthouse, the Aveiro waterfall and the Poço da Pedreira.
So... Is Santa Maria the best Azores Island?
If you’re into white sand beaches and crystal warm waters, in Santa Maria you’ll find a quaint beach retreat. If you’re into diving? Absolutely. Santa Maria is also home to some of unique sights in the whole archipelago - aside from the only Azores white sand beaches, it is home to the ‘’red desert of the Azores’’, the Barreiro da Faneca, where walking on will have you feeling like you flew to Mars. If you’re into unique stuff, Santa Maria is the island to go!
The Central Group of the Azores
Is Terceira the best Azores Island?
The Lilac Island of the Azores
Terceira Island is a favorite amongst travellers who fly out of Boston to Azores or from Toronto to Azores. Not only it is closer, as it is a very unique island where you can spend a full week without ever getting bored. There’s a reason why people say the Azores have ‘’8 Islands and an Amusement Park’’, and Terceira Island is the Amusement Park!
Nearly 56,5k persons (2011 data) call this beautiful island home. Terceira is the perfect Azores Island for those seeking a relaxing but adventurous vacation, meaning adventure is never more than a 20 minute drive. Besides the dozens of gorgeous natural swimming pools to dive in the summer, Terceira Island also has some tricks in its sleeve regarding what to do in the winter. Terceira Island is also home to the Azores most iconic patchwork landscapes - a gorgeous scenery reminiscent of the Irish and Iceland countryside, and to one of the only visitable lava tubes in the world - no joking! Terceira Island is also home to the only UNESCO city in the Azores Islands! Angra do Heroísmo is the most picturesque and beautiful city of the Azores. Other famous sights of Terceira Island are Monte Brasil, Serra do Cume, Lagoa das Patas and so much more you won’t want to miss!
The immense rich culture of Terceira Island also makes a visit to the Azores an unforgettable experience. There is always some popular festivitie going on in the streets of Terceira Island year-round, so feel free to join the locals! Also visit local artisans shops and get in touch with the amazing Azores culture in this particular island. Azores Getaways has its own local tour guides in Terceira island, so you’ll be in the best companion ever.
So... Is Terceira the best Azores Island?
If going inside a volcano it’s on your bucket list, start planning your Azores getaway to Terceira Island with this particular amazing Azores travel deal! The Algar do Carvão, an ancient volcanic cave that you can walk inside and home to some of the largest stalactites in the world. If strolling around city streets that reminds of the streets of Cuba appeal to you, then Terceira Island and its UNESCO World Heritage city are the perfect fit for you! Angra do Heroísmo is characterized by Renaissance buildings with colorful facades that line windy cobbled streets. Great food and wine? Terceira Island has it all!
Is Graciosa the best Azores Island?
The White Island of the Azores
This small island is serene enough to live up to its name, which translates as Enchanting. Graciosa Island is home to over 4,000 inhabitants who’re proud to live in such a peaceful retreat. The famous and delicate queijadas da Graciosa are originally from here - one of the Azores preferred sweets. This Azores Island has more to offer than many think, as it also has a couple of ancient lava tubes to explore - Furna da Maria Encantada and the major landmark of Furna do Enxofre.
Graceful white rocks line the coastline, and red-turreted windmills dot the landscape. Graciosa’s windmills are of flemish origin and they’re today accomodations for those who’re looking for an authentic and unique stay in experience. These windmills are emblematic of this Azores island and as you stroll around its streets, they quickly steal your attention. Graciosa is also home to the famed Azorean dwarf donkeys — a species on the verge of extinction. You can book a donkey ride and stroll amongst scenic tree-lined roads.
But… that’s not all. São Miguel isn't the only island in the Azores with thermal baths. That's right -- Graciosa Island is home to a small therapeutic thermal spa known as the Termas do Carapacho, located in the tiny village of Luz. The inviting thermal waters of Carapacho are packed with beneficial mineral properties and reach a temperature of around 40°C (104°F), perfect for a relaxing and therapeutic bath.
So... Is Graciosa the best Azores Island?
Graciosa is one of the most underrated and less visited islands of the Azores, so it’s perfect if you’re seeking to explore a destination that doesn’t feel touristic. You’ll still appreciate the beauty of the Azores' nature, walk inside an ancient lava cave and so much more adventure that awaits you.
Is Pico the best Azores Island?
The Grey Island of the Azores
Nove islands emerge from the deep blue of Atlantic, but Pico Island stands taller than the rest! Pico Island is the Island of the Mountain of the Azores, home to a mystic beauty that attracts visitors from far wider than Boston to Azores or Toronto to Azores. Nearly 15k people call Pico Island home, and they sure woke up to some of the best views in the Azores - Pico Mountain and glistering ocean views as far as the eye can see.
In fact, Pico Mountain is Portugal’s highest peak measuring over 7,000 ft tall and hiking it is one of Europe’s most popular hiking trails! If you’re interested in this ultimate adventure, click here to book your hiking Pico Mountain experience during the day, at sunrise or overnight. But that’s not the only fascinating thing about Pico Island in the Azores.
Characterized by black volcanic soil, Pico Island is covered with basalt (lava rock) lined vineyards that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Locals have been producing wine here since the 15th century and even have a museum dedicated to its rich history. Pico’s red and white varieties grow in the shadow of Pico Mountain. Pico Island also boasts one of the world’s longest lava tubes, where you can see rare stalactites and stalagmites that have been unaffected by outside or artificial light and dozens of natural swimming pools and other sights that will have you dreaming about your Azores trip for quite some time! Other sights in Pico Island include Lagoa do Capitão, Lajido da Criação Velha, whaling museums and much more!
So... Is Pico the best Azores Island?
If the ultimate trekking adventure appeals to you, Pico Island is the perfect place to start your Azores trip. As you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with the best of nature. Plus, if local spirits and traditions are calling you, there’s another reason to visit Pico. Visit several wineries and tell us later what’s your favorite Pico wine type. Learn all about the making process and you’ll see it is even more special than you think. Are you ready to start planning your Azores getaway to Pico Island?
Is Faial the best Azores Island?
The Blue Island of the Azores
Nicknamed the “Blue Island” for its bursting of blue hydrangeas that cover the island in the summer months, Faial means home to slightly over 15k inhabitants who’re proud to wake up everyday with amazing views to the neighboring islands of Pico and São Jorge.
Faial Island is also the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in the Azores which took place along the coast of Capelinhos village in 1957 - known as the Capelinhos volcano. This volcanic eruption started underwater, eventually boiling to the surface, spewing enough ash, sand, and lava to form a new land mass, almost completely burying the nearby lighthouse. Many people lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the eruption and as a result, the Azorean Refugee Act was signed in 1958 by JFK, authorizing the emigration of those affected. To sum it, the Capelinhos volcano left behind one of the most emblematic landscapes in the whole world!
Most famous as a port, Faial historically has been (and remains to this day) a popular stopping point for sailors crossing the Atlantic. The main city, Horta, though small, has a cosmopolitan feel, with travelers from all over gathering at the restaurants and bars along the harbor to swap stories and take in views of Pico Island across the bay. In downtown Horta you’ll find the Azores most famous sailing bar - Peter’s Café Sport, which visit is mandatory whether you’re a sailing soul or not. Make sure you try the signature gin and enjoy the authentic and rustic vibe of the place. Head to Genuíno’s restaurant for the ultimate dining scene and get to know the man who sailed the world twice in solo! Find out about its adventure by speaking to him or simply appreciating the themed-menu and decor -- and you’ll be gifted with some amazing views over Porto Pim Bay. Start planning your Azores vacations to Faial Island.
So... Is Faial the best Azores Island?
If volcanic jaw dropping landscapes and inspiring stories that seem to be taken out from books, paired with natural wonders appeal to you, make sure you include a visit to Faial Island in your Azores trip! Other sights in Faial Island include the iconic and beautiful Caldeira, Praia do Norte and Almoxarife.
Is São Jorge the best Azores Island?
The Brown Island of the Azores
São Jorge may be a small Azores Island, but its shape is one of the most iconics - São Jorge Island has 53 km of length and 8 of width. It is home to over 9K inhabitants (2011 data), but we can assure right away that São Jorge Island’s scenery is dramatically beautiful, shouldered with mountains that tumble into deep ravines, rocky cliffs, crater lakes and characteristic fajãs (plains formed by lava flow). These fajãs are unique and emblematic of this Azores Island and they sure are idyllic places to rest and connect with the abundance of the Azores' nature. We highlight the Fajã dos Cubres, accessible by car, and the Fajã do Santo Cristo, only reachable by foot or moto -- both are incredibly gorgeous.
The fertile brown soil and dark rock striations lend it its nickname, and this Azores island is a favorite among outdoor and adventure enthusiasts — you can do everything from mountain biking to canyoning, hiking, canoeing and spelunking. Of course, no visit to São Jorge is complete without a stop at the island’s cheese factory where they produce the famed Queijo São Jorge, a robust, aged cheese characterized by its spicy, tangy flavor.
Aside from the cheese, don’t skip a visit to Europe’s only artisanal coffee plantation in Fajã dos Vimes - Café Nunes, and explore the plantations and savor this delicious coffee as you enjoy the perfect view to Pico Island. Explore the city of Velas by foot and appreciate its traditional architecture and amazing natural swimming pools along the main avenue. Make sure you try the local clams caught in the fajãs -- São Jorge is the only island of the Azores where you’ll find this delicious seafood.
So... Is São Jorge the best Azores Island?
If you’re seeking a lesser known island but with amazing hidden surprises ahead, make sure you place São Jorge Island on your Azores bucket list. If you’re into surfing, let us also confess that some of the best waves can be surfed in the fajãs seas. Enjoy the thrill of the São Jorge hills and connect with its abundant nature and cuisine wonders.
The Triangle Islands of the Azores (Pico, Faial and São Jorge)
You’ve probably heard about the Triangle of the Azores but didn’t know what it was. It’s indeed in Faial, São Jorge or Pico Island that you have that true sense of living in an archipelago because you have views to the other Azores Islands in the horizon. Due to their geographical proximity, there are people that go to work in any of the other islands and come back in the evening by boat. So, if you’re visiting any of the islands above you can always plan a day trip to any of the others! Our suggestion is that you take some time to explore every of them.
The Western Group of the Azores
Is Flores the best Azores Island?
The Pink Island of the Azores
Flores Island is the true definition of a heavenly paradise. The island gets its name (meaning Flowers) from the luxuriant botanical garden of a landscape covered in goldenrods and pink and blue hydrangeas. Flores Island in the western tip of the Azores is home to less than 4K inhabitants (2011 data) but this small population couldn’t live in a more perfect place, seriously.
Flores Island is one of the few UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world, which is a protection given for natural landscapes, but that’s not the only unique thing about it. This Azores Island is known as the ‘’Island of Waterfalls’’, being a favorite by outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The waterfalls of Poço do Bacalhau, in Fajã Grande, is perfect to dive in at sunset time, when the mountains are illuminated, and the Poço da Ribeira do Ferreiro and its more than 20 waterfalls are a scenery that will take your breath away at any time of the day year-round.
Flores gets high annual rainfall, which pays off with an abundance of lagoons, deep blue crater lakes and dozens of waterfalls. This island has a set of 7 lagoons to appreciate and several natural swimming pools tucked along the coast that innvide immediately for a dive. Hit the island many hiking trails and enjoy its hidden waterfalls and amazing views to Corvo Island, the smallest of the Azores.
So... Is Flores the best Azores Island?
If you’re looking for an enchanting, wild and perfect nature and under the radar vacation destinations, you just found your Eden in the Azores. Unspoiled, quiet and non-touristic! Simply authentic. You’ll feel nothing but pure air and excitement here.
Is Corvo the best Azores Island?
The Black Island of the Azores
The smallest of the Azores, Corvo Island has only one village, which is home to 468 locals — one of the smallest communities in Europe, but also one of the only where you have that true sense of community and kindness. It’s case to say that living in Corvo is like living amongst one big family, so if you visit their island you’ll be heartily welcomed as well.
The properties are divided by the same black basalt rocks that many of the homes are built out of, and locals still speak in a medieval dialect of Portuguese. Corvo is also a favorite among bird-watchers, as many rare migratory species can be spotted here, and divers who visit for the skylit caves full of submerged lava formations.
The island's only paved road leads to the breathtaking Caldeirão, a crater that resulted from the island's single volcano of origin. Boasting an impressive 3.7 km (2.3 mi) circumference and 300 m (985 ft) depth, this gigantic crater can be reached by spectacular hiking trails or from the viewpoint above. The crater also has two lakes with a few tiny islets, which locals like to say represent the islands of the archipelago.
So... Is Corvo the best Azores Island?
If you’re curious to find out how life in a 468 people community is like, make sure you put Corvo in your Azores bucket list. One of the most popular tours that people take in neighboring Flores Island is the day trip to Corvo.