Island hopping in the Azores has been on my bucket list for a long time. And now I can tell you wholeheartedly: the Azores are highly recommended! Even more beautiful than I had hoped. In this article I will tell you which 6 of the 9 islands of this beautiful archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, located somewhere between Europe and the US, we visited, the highlights and costs.
Volcanic islands with waterfalls along bright green mountain sides, dolphins, whales, winding roads lined with endless rows of blue hydrangeas, crater lakes, vineyards… The Azores are stunningly beautiful!
In this article
- Azores island hopping
- Azores island hopping schedule 3 weeks
- Azores island hopping: Sao Miguel
- Azores island hopping: Flores
- Azores island hopping: Corvo
- Azores island hopping: Faial
- Azores island hopping: Pico
- Azores island hopping: Terceira
- Azores Island hopping: transportation between the islands
- Azores Island Hopping: traveling between the Islands
- Street party
Azores island hopping
The Azores consists of 9 islands. During our Azores island hopping trip we visited the following 6 islands:
- Sao Miguel 6 nights
- Flores 4 nights (including day trip to Corvo)
- Faial 1 night
- Pico 4 nights
- Terceira 4 nights
Total 19 nights / 20 days
If you have more time and want to stay longer, I would at least stay 1 night longer on Faial and/or the island of Sao Jorge for a few nights. On the largest island, Sao Miguel, I could have enjoyed myself for 10 days too.
If you want shorter, I would stay 1 night shorter on Terceira, or reduce the number of islands. Flores, Sao Miguel and Pico were my favorites. Please note that there are not direct flights and/or ferries available on all days and not between all islands. I’ll tell you more about that later in this article.
We did not visit the islands Santa Maria, Sao Jorge and Graciosa this time. Those are for the next Azores island hopping trip!
A volcanic archipelago that is reminiscent of New Zealand, Hawaii and Iceland, combined with a relaxed Portuguese atmosphere, food and prices… and all that at a 4 hour flight from Amsterdam-Schiphol airport!
Azores island hopping schedule 3 weeks
Basically our schedule was as follows (per day):
- 1: flights Amsterdam – Lisbon and Lisbon – Ponta Delgada (PDL, Sao Miguel), pick up the rental car and check in at our accommodation Pico de refugio – Casa de Campo in Rabo de Peixe
- 2-6: explore Sao Miguel
- 7: return the rental car at Ponta Delgada airport, flight to Flores (FLW), pick up new rental car and check in at our accommodation Casa do Pedro e da Marina in Lomba
- 8-10: explore Flores
- 11: return rental car at Flores airport, flight to Horta on Faial (HOR), taxi, check in at our accommodation Casa de Baia – Guest House in Horta
- 12: explore Faial (day tour), late afternoon ferry to Pico, pick up rental car at the port of Madalena and check in at our accommodation Casa dos Caldeiras in Lajes do Pico
- 13-15: explore Pico
- 16: return rental car at Pico airport, flight to Terceira (TER), pick up rental car and check in at our accommodation Casa Flor d’Sal in Angra do Heroismo
- 17-19: explore Terceira
- 20: return the rental car at Lajes airport in Praia da Vitória, flights Terceira – Lisbon and Lisbon – Amsterdam
Our Azores island hopping trip was from Thursday 7th to Tuesday 26th July, 2022. Normally I prefer not to travel in high season, but because of my boyfriend’s work this just happened. And Azores island hopping is ideal for the high season, because July and August have the best weather and the most pleasant temperatures. The temperature was always between 18 and 26 degrees Celsius.
Due to the high humidity it can feel a bit clammy and sweaty. There was also an occasional shower, but as you can see from the photos, we usually had nice weather. The Azores is not suitable as a winter sun destination.
Azores island hopping: Sao Miguel
Sao Miguel is the largest and most versatile island of the Azores, located in the eastern part of the archipelago. This island reminded me the most of New Zealand and Iceland. The tropical vegetation, birds chirping, occasional showers, wild rocky coast, crater lakes, geothermal pools… My boyfriend said that the green vegetated mountains on the east coast of Sao Miguel reminded him of Hawaii too.
Sete Cidades, made up of several crater lakes, is an absolute highlight. You can hike there and view the valley from multiple viewpoints. On the other side of the island, near Porto Formoso, you will find the only and oldest tea plantations in Europe (free). Pineapple and passion fruit are also grown on Sao Miguel. We visited a pineapple farm.
In and around Furnas you will find smoking fumaroles and bubbling mud pools in several places. Terra Nostra is a beautiful park from 1775 with beautiful trees, plants and a geothermal swimming pool. Caldeira Velha includes a number of small geothermal pools and a waterfall, surrounded by tropical rainforest. The nearby Lagoa do Fogo should be a wonderful walk from Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa, but unfortunately it was hidden in the clouds and fog all week.
From the capital Ponta Delgada you can go on a whale and/or dolphin tour. After a failed attempt in New Zealand‘s Bay of Islands in 2001, we have finally managed to swim with dolphins here – in the open sea! A magical experience. Moreover, in Ponta Delgada you will find the most restaurants, bars and a large outdoor pool by the sea with – oh yes finally – sunbeds.
The Azores is not a standard beach destination. The number of sandy beaches per island can often be counted on one hand. Often people swim around lava rocks at the coast. Usually there are stairs to the water, sometimes umbrellas, showers and changing cubicles. Locals sunbathe on the concrete blocks when the weather is nice.
Azores island hopping: Flores
Flores is the westernmost island of the Azores, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Flores is closer to the US than mainland Portugal! Accommodation, rental cars, etc. are scarce here, so if you want to go there, book on time! We had a lovely holiday home in the east of the island. You can get anywhere by car within half an hour.
The highlight of Flores is on the west coast of the island: Poço da Ribeira do Ferreiro, also known as Poço da Alagoinha. This is a series of waterfalls along a steep green rock face. It reminds many of the Opaekaa Falls on Kauai, Hawaii or Jurassic Park. It takes a tough, uphill walk on a stone path to get there, but it’s totally worth it!
Tip: use the Spot Azores webcams to see what a certain place looks like at that moment. That helps to visit at the right time.
On Flores you have the Sete Lagoas, or the seven lakes. These crater lakes can be visited via a round trip by car. We found Miradouro Lagoa Negra e Lagoa Comprida the most beautiful. Along the west coast of Flores there are some nice walks for advanced hikers. Unfortunately, these routes do not form circles, so you have to take the bus or arrange a taxi to bring you back to the starting point.
The capital of Flores, Santa Cruz, is small. There is a church, some houses, a whale museum, an airport and harbor from which the boats depart for the nearby island of Corvo. Local street art artist Morgan has brightened up the town with beautiful murals of various birds that live around the Azores.
Azores island hopping: Corvo
Vila Nova, the capital and only residence on Corvo, is the smallest city on the smallest island of the Azores with about 450 inhabitants. We visited Corvo as a day trip from Flores. You can take the “regular” ferry from Flores to Corvo for € 10 per person one way. However, it is often fully booked days in advance and only goes twice a day. Within 50 minutes you arrive on the other side.
A good alternative to the regular ferry is a day tour, in which you also sail along the northeast coast of Flores on the way to Corvo (or on the way back). There are waterfalls and caves. With a bit of luck you will encounter a dolphin or whale species along the way. On Corvo we walked in about 2 hours from the Caldeirão in the north along the hydrangea hedges and cows to Vila Nova in the south. Beautiful!
Azores island hopping: Faial
After arriving at Horta airport and a visit to Praia do Porto Pim, we settled down on the terrace of Peter Café Sport. This is a world-famous café on the harbor, mainly among yachtsmen. Delicious eaten there and sat for a long time, nice people watching.
As we only had one night on Faial, we didn’t have much time to really explore the island. But we have given a good impression by means of a day tour with a guide. Unfortunately the jeep broke down, so we went by bus, but only with one other British couple. The guide showed us things and told us things that you would not otherwise see and hear as a tourist.
Piscinas naturais do Varadouro are definitely recommended. Unfortunately Caldeira do Faial was hidden in the fog that day. At Volcano Interpretation Center of Capelinhos we learned more about the volcanic eruptions in 1957 and 1958, during which many Azorians emigrated. Outside you can see the crater and lighthouse. (Tip: don’t wear sandals there.) With more time I would have liked to go horseback riding on Faial.
Azores island hopping: Pico
From Faial we could already see the highest mountain in Portugal (2351m): Pico. The island of the same name was a must for me to visit. Not because I love mountain climbing, but because of the unique, centuries-old vineyards that you will find here. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Zona de Adegas consists of numerous small fields separated by piled black lava rocks and vine plants low to the ground, so that you can barely see the grapes. We visited 3 vineyards or wineries for Pico wine tasting and the wine museum (both on Pico and Terceira).
You arrive in Madalena by ferry. Due to low-hanging clouds we drove on the mountain road, where we had to stop regularly for groups of cows that walked on the road. We stayed in a nice guesthouse with shared kitchen and terrace at Lajes do Pico. The village is all about whales, such as Husavik in Iceland and Puerto Madryn in Argentina. Formerly whaling, now whale watching tours. There are also dozens of red windmills on Pico.
Azores island hopping: Terceira
Angra do Heroismo (or simply Angra) is the capital of Terceira, the oldest city in the Azores and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were lucky to be here with Festa Branca, where the locals are all dressed in white and there is music everywhere on the streets, stalls with local delicacies, etc. In Angra you will also find beautiful churches, a fortress, city gardens, terraces, good restaurants, etc. A beautiful, compact Renaissance city with a village atmosphere.
In the middle of the island you can take a staircase to the heart of an extinct volcano: Algar do Carvão. For those who have the time and mood, you can also hike in the area, visit a cave and watch volcanic activity in the form of a fumaroles field. We gave up on the sulfur vapor for a while, because we had already done this on Sao Miguel. We drove to Praia da Vitoria and Biscoitos (‘legendary lava rock pool’), but decided to go to the city beach of Angra after all.
Azores Island hopping: transportation between the islands
Our flights between Amsterdam and Lisbon were with TAP and the flights to/from and between the islands of the Azores were with SATA, the airline of the Portuguese archipelago. We bought two flight tickets per person: AMS-LIS-PDL and back TER-LIS-AMS was one return ticket. And we bought the flights PDL-FLW, FLW-HOR and PIX-TER as one ticket, whereby we got 1 of those 3 flights almost for free. TAP was the most economical option for us.
English speakers living in The Netherlands may find it interesting to know that Transavia and TUI have direct flights between Amsterdam and Sao Miguel (PDL), TUI also flies to/from Terceira (TER). But those direct flights were a lot more expensive in our case. Moreover, they often only go on weekends (and only in high season), while we wanted to leave during the week. TUI also has package tours for island hopping in the Azores. Eliza was here also offers package holidays to the Azores.
Otherwise, check out Skyscanner for flight possibilities to the Azores from the nearest international airport to your home.
If you have a flight with a transfer in Lisbon airport, I would advise you to opt for a longer transfer than only 1.5 hours (or less). Both TAP and SATA tend to get delayed; 6 out of our 7 flights departed considerably later than scheduled. On the way from Amsterdam to Lisbon we barely managed to make our transfer, only our luggage was missing/delayed for a day.
Useful to know for your Azores island hopping trip: there are not direct flights between all the islands, but via the largest islands, Sao Miguel, Terceira, and to a lesser extent Faial. These are also the airports in the Azores from which international flights depart and arrive. In addition, on certain routes there are no flights every day or a maximum of 1-2 per day.
For example, there were no direct flights between Flores and Pico. That is why we opted for a flight from Flores to Faial, and then the ferry from Faial to Pico. Otherwise you have to fly from Flores via Sao Miguel to Pico, which didn’t seem very efficient to me. And in this way we were also able to visit Faial briefly for a first impression (and reason to re-visit).
Flight comfort and ferries
The economy seats at SATA and TAP are not built on western European long legs and/or wide hips… In short, cramped! The same goes for CanaryFly, which occasionally does some airing for SATA. I (1.78m) sat with my knees pressed against the chair in front of me, I couldn’t put a finger in between. The flights between the islands are short, so it’s manageable for a while. If you are tall, consider paying extra for a seat at the emergency exit or upgrade to business class (from $ 150 p.p. for TER-LIS-AMS, for example).
No food and drink was served on board SATA, at TAP only for a fee and poor quality food. There are many eateries at Lisbon Portela Airport. At Versailles (around gate S18) they have delicious sandwiches.
Several large ferries run daily between the triangle Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico (7x a day, partly also possible by car). The same ferry company is active between Flores and Corvo, but these are very small boats, so the capacity (2x per day, not on Wednesdays) and price (3x as expensive) are not comparable.
In the summer (beginning of July till the end of September) there is also a ferry connection with the triangle islands (Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico) a few days a week, which continues to Graciosa (Mon/Fri) and Praia Vitoria on Terceira (Mon/Fri). Fri/Tue). There are no ferries between the other islands and on other days and only the propeller plane is an option. Book ferry tickets in advance.
Azores Island Hopping: traveling between the Islands
Public transport in the Azores consists of a bus and some taxis here and there, but that is really very limited. The best bus network is still on Sao Miguel. But the buses run irregularly and infrequently during the day, making exploring the island by public transport a ridiculous amount of time. I would really recommend renting a car.
Please note that rental cars at the Azores, especially from non-airport locations, such as the port of Madalena on Pico, are very limited. You should therefore book this well in advance, preferably at least 5-6 months in advance. The fact that you have to book a rental car on time applies to the Azores anyway, especially since COVID-19. Although it was very quiet on most of the islands and most roads, there is a persistent shortage of rental cars. There is a global shortage and prices are skyrocketing. But essential for a great Azores island hopping trip as far as I’m concerned!
On Pico I spoke to a Belgian couple who had not been able to find a rental car. They booked in April for mid July. They were, however, offered a rental car via via later: € 700 for 2 days. Hell, no! So they just walked and hitchhiked.
When you rent a car via Sunny Cars, you can cancel or change it shortly in advance free of charge. The deposit per rental car was € 700 with us, with many other landlords this was higher. If, like us, you rent a car on 4 islands, it will add up nicely to your credit card. Make sure that there is sufficient spending space on the main booker’s credit card.
Or, for example, book two rental cars in one name and two in the other name, provided you both have a driver’s license, of course. Often the 2nd driver is included in the price. After returning the first rental car, inquire at the rental station about the options for leaving the deposit and taking it with you to the second rental car, etc.
In our case, Sunny was also cheaper than for instance Ilha Verde and the waiting lines were shorter.
Like many Portuguese, Azoreans are traditional and religious (Roman Catholic that is). Bullfights are still practiced here, both in the arena and in the street on a rope, only the bull is not killed. Every day or weekend there is a party somewhere on the island. Especially between Easter and Pentecost feasts with the Holy Spirit. On Terceira you will also see many beautiful little houses that are not temples. In it is kept the crown of the Holy Spirit, which is taken out for an elaborate procession with the annual festivities.
There are also parties to welcome the emigrants who return to the Azores in the summer, for example we saw this on Flores. On Sao Miguel and Terceira, you will also see announcements for larger festivals featuring international artists. For example, on 22 July 2022, the Atlantis Concert for Earth took place at Sete Cidades, with Black Eyed Peas and Sting, among others.
Costs Azores island hopping
In total, we spent about 1000 euros per person per week for this Azores island hopping trip, including everything. Outside the high season it may be slightly cheaper in terms of accommodation, but booking on time also saves a lot, especially in terms of car rental costs. We had breakfast in our apartment, a lunch mix between making our own sandwich and eating out. For dinner we cooked about 5 times ourselves and for the rest we went out for dinner.
Main course around 10 euros, water or coffee 55 cents, glass of wine 2-3 euros, museum entrance 2 euros, whale and dolphin watching tour with RIB boat 40 euros p.p. The prices in the Azores are really not that crazy. It is cheaper here than in the Netherlands and Iceland, for example, where you can easily pay 120 euros for such a whale tour with RIB boat. The most expensive activity on this trip was snorkeling with dolphins: EUR 90 p.p.
- Flights TAP, SATA and ferry Faial-Pico EUR 1200
- Rental cars 4 islands (category BBA) and taxi Faial EUR 994
- Accommodation 5 islands EUR 1712 (average EUR 90 per night)
- Admission fees and tours/activities EUR 583
- Food and drinks approx. EUR 400 p/w (groceries and eating out)
- Souvenirs and other cash expenses approx. EUR 150
Map Azores island hopping
This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.
I hope you find this article helpful for planning your own Azores island hopping trip. Are you going to the Azores soon or has this article inspired you to do so? Feel free to leave a comment, possibly with additional tips if you have any, at the bottom of this article. I will share more detailed information and tips about Sao Miguel, Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico and Terceira in future articles specifically about these islands.
Special thanks to friend Nancy Alexander, who visited the Azores countless times and provided me with very valuable tips and advice.
This website contains two other articles about Portugal:
- Sintra: the 5 prettiest palaces & parks not to miss on a day trip from Lisbon
- Exploring colorful Lisbon street art
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Last Updated on 08/15/2022 by Elisa Flitter Fever