Volcanoes and the Azores go hand in hand: almost all volcanoes found on Portuguese soil are located on these islands. Their power can be seen on the Faial Peninsula, formed in the 1950s, or in the geothermal activity around the town of Furnas on the island of São Miguel, where local chefs use geothermal heat to cook their food.
There are also calm, dormant craters on the island of San Miguel, which have been transformed into lakes of ferns, juniper bushes and conifers lining the crater. With such a magnificent natural beauty and mild subtropical climate, the Azores are a great place to be outdoors, hiking, diving or watching the many whale species that congregate at sea.
Let’s explore the best things to do in the Azores:
1. Sete Cidades Crater
Nothing can prepare you for the majesty of the Sete Cidades Massif on the west side of the island of São Miguel.
Here, the twin lakes of green and blue are surrounded by evergreen vegetation and protected by a huge crater that rises like a city wall.
Over the past 38,000 years, successive volcanic events have shaped the landscape.
Before last eruption probably in the 1400s, the island was colonized.
There’s no shortage of vantage points for stunning views, but watch out for the Vista do Rei Lookout on the South Rim next to the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel.
From September 1957 to October 1958, when the Capelinhos volcano erupted, the outline of Faial Island changed forever.
This spawned a whole new island, which was then connected to Faial by the isthmus.
In addition, even if there were no casualties, the destruction forced 1,800 people to permanently emigrate to the United States.
60 years ago, only one can stand on the sea of land, or see the ashes flooded roof, a bit of a hurry.
Photos don’t give you a real impression of the stunning size of this new black volcanic desert.
Check destroyed the lighthouse, the lighthouse has been incorporated into the museum about the volcano.
3. Angra do Heroísmo
Until the steam era, traffic across the Atlantic in order to bypass this important port on the island of Terceira 19th century.
Especially in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was a stepping stone for exploring the New World.
Angra do Heroísmo is a lovely, vibrant city with mostly buildings dating from the 1700s.
Rua da Sé is a treat, with mosaic walkways and traditional house door and window frames painted in bright colours.
Stop for a photo of the cathedral, browse the shops, and get in touch with the rich history at the city museum.
4. Montanha do Pico
Pico Island is the highest point in Portugal, Montanha do Pico at 2,351 meters above sea level.
Often seen disappearing into clouds, this stratovolcano looks dangerous, with its most recent eruption in 1718. But at first glance, you might not realize that it’s not difficult at its size and requires no advanced gear except for a good hike.
You must sign in at the visitor center before departure. The entire route to the top of the mountain is marked with wooden poles every 50 meters or so to tell you the altitude.
If you’re lucky enough to reach the summit on a clear day, you’ll have unobstructed views of Graciosa, Faial, Terceira and São Jorge.
5. Lagoa do Fogo
There is another huge crater lake on the island of São Miguel, which is one of the largest bodies of water in the Azores.
Given the tranquility of the scene, and the surrounding steep slopes with flora endemic to the Azores, it seems unlikely that the last eruption occurred in 1563. There is a nature reserve to keep the lake unspoilt atmosphere.
You’ll start by driving to the edge, an adventure around hairpin bends.
Then stop to take pictures and walk slowly to the shore.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to time your visit on a sunny day, as the crater is often shrouded in mist.
6. Monte Brazil
This material protruding into the ocean south of Angra do Heroísmo is the remains of another volcanic cone.
Given that it is located between the city’s Faneuil Angela and the Gulf, it’s just a place fortifications.
The fortress of São João Baptista dates back to 1567 and is fortified by five fortresses on the isthmus.
Since the 1960s, it has been transformed into a Pousada de Portugal (a luxury hotel). If you are ready to walk to the top of the hill, you can join trails directly from Angra do Heroísmo, not more than one hour.
At the top is a monument to the Portuguese occupation, WWII-era forts and cherished cityscapes.
7. Algar do Carvão
In the center of Terceira, you can descend 100 meters into an ancient lava tube.
You’ll be able to enter the magma chamber of an actual extinct volcano, a surreal experience as you look up and see the sky through the cone high above your head.
The volcanic geology and the protection of these rooms from the elements allow moss and ferns to give the upper part of the cave a beautiful green hue.
Further down, the walls are covered with silica stalactites, and at the bottom is a huge lake with clear water.
8. Lagoa das Furnas
Our third lake in San Miguel also has something special to help it stand out as there are clear signs of volcanic activity on the northwest shore.
On the raised boardwalk, you can enjoy views of the swimming pool and the small steam-spitting crater.
These small craters are even used by restaurant chefs in the town of Furnas, who bring their pots of cozido (meat and vegetable stew) to simmer in the hot soil.
If you come around noon you will see them fishing from the crater.
Afterwards, you may be tempted to head to town to taste traditional food cooked by volcanic activity.
9. Poça da Dona Beija
Whatever the weather, you can spend some blissful time at this spa complex near Furnas, near San Miguel.
The pool is fed by hot springs gushing from the cave at a temperature of 40°C. Originally people bathed in caves until it became safer to run the water into man-made pools, each with a different temperature.
Furnas is known for its hot springs, which help nurture local yam farms.
The pool complex was recently updated and is surrounded by tropical vegetation.
In this stunning caldera in central Faial, you will realize how the landscape of the Azores is constantly changing.
Before Capelinhos erupted eastward in the 1950s, it was a lake like the kind you see in San Miguel.
Now the crater, which is nearly 1.5 kilometers in diameter, is mostly dry, but full of vegetation, with shades of green that change depending on the light and time of day.
The rim of the crater is up to 400 meters high, and if you have the right equipment, you can reach it by following an 8-kilometer trail that, while challenging, is by no means arduous.
11. Marina da Orta
Faial Island is the main leisure port of the Azores.
It’s an important stopover for transatlantic regattas, as well as for amateur sailors crossing the ocean, so you might be surprised how busy it is.
People come here from around the world, the super yacht moored in the harbor across from the mini yacht can accommodate one or two people.
But they all have a sense of superstition: The walls and floors of piers, piers, and breakwaters are plastered with paintings that almost every captain would pass by, telling you the name of the vessel and the date it sailed.
12. Villafranca do Campo Island
Not many people can say they sunbathe on the slopes of the ancient caldera and swim in its crater.
But that’s exactly what you can do on this tiny island a kilometer off the coast of San Miguel.
A short ferry service is available from the marina in Vila Franca do Campo.
On arrival you will encounter a partially submerged cone with rich vegetation on its walls.
There is a lagoon in the middle, which is fed by the ocean on the landward side, so it is completely unaffected by currents.
It’s a strange and beautiful place that fills up quickly on a sunny day.
13. Wave Movement
Washed by the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, and waves shaped by the volcanic seabed, the Azores are a surfer’s paradise.
A little break, reef break and beach break, along with healthy swells from tropical storms, have missed the archipelago hundreds of kilometers south.
Every island has some great attractions, but the one with the most and the best infrastructure is probably San Miguel.
On the North Shore, the beautiful Santa Barbara Volcano Beach is served by a handful of surf schools and has hosted World Surf League events since 2010.
14. Whale Dolphin Watching
In the not-so-distant past, whaling was the source of many livelihoods in the Azores.
About 25 species of cetaceans, both resident and migratory, are happy visitors to these waters.
You can even wrap your entire vacation around nature, as there are adventures at every pier and your chances of seeing something amazing are high.
Whales and dolphins are found all year round around the Azores, but some species are seasonal.
In spring, blue and fin whales pass through the area, while sperm whales are easier to see in summer.
Given the latitude of the Azores, diving is not a year-round pursuit.
But when the water is warmer, from June to October, the volcanic geology and amazing biodiversity allow for once-in-a-lifetime dives.
Each island has something different: near the old port of Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira, there is an underwater anchor cemetery, while the awe-inspiring terrain of Pico Island continues to connect with steep volcanic cliffs under the waves.
There are low-depth volcanic canyons near San Miguel Island that provide habitat for octopuses and triggerfish.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in the Azores, Portugal
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