What Inspired Me To Take This Trip to the Azores
Being Portuguese, I was starting to get those ‘how come you travel so much and you haven’t been to the Azores yet?’ kind of questions. If you don’t know, the Azores is a Portuguese archipelago of 9 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, 1448 km / 900 miles west of continental Portugal. So going on trips around the world was great (and still is) but I started getting really curious about the beauty of the Azores that everyone was talking about.
The nine islands are: Flores, Corvo, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, São Miguel and Santa Maria.
I’ve only been to São Miguel, but I’m really looking forward to going to Pico – which has the highest mountain in Portugal –, Flores and Corvo. But all of them bring something different and new to the table, to be honest.
Out of the nine islands, São Miguel is probably the most well-known and known for its vibrantly colored pasture greens, colorful hydrangeas, out-of-this-world volcanic craters, and whale watching, among many other attractions. I cannot recommend you highly enough! It's so beautiful, peaceful, yet not too touristic, which is ideal if you want to avoid the crowds.
My Day-by-Day Itinerary
So I ‘divided’ the island into sections and explored each section on different days. This way I wouldn’t be going back and forth.
I stayed there for three days but I had to rush a little, especially on the first day. My advice is to stay 4 days in São Miguel.
Day 1- Central/East side:
• Salto do Cabrito
• Caldeira Velha
• Lagoa do Congro
• Terra Nostra Park
• Poça da Dona Beija
• Ribeira Quente
• Lagoa do Fogo
Day 2– The West Side:
• Termas da Ferraria
• Miradouro da Vista do Rei & Lagoa das Sete Cidades
• Miradouro Boca do Inferno
• Lagoa do Canário
Day 3– The East Side:
• Porto Formoso
• Fábrica da Gorreana
• Ribeira dos Caldeirões
• Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
• Salto do Prego
On the third day, I was short on time so I only visited Ribeira dos Caldeirões and Salto do Prego, but you may want to include these five in your itinerary.
If you want to get all the details about these places, click here.
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How I Packed for this trip
So, before I get into what to pack, I should talk about the weather in the Azores in general. Given its location in the center of the Atlantic, it has a reasonably temperate subtropical climate year-round. The average temperature in So Miguel ranges from 15°C (59°F) to 27°C (80°F), but the weather is super unpredictable! Because all four seasons can occur in a single day, people should come prepared. However, it will never get too hot or too cold.
Although the temperatures never change significantly, the best months to visit São Miguel are May through October. Meanwhile, the months of November to February have the coldest temperatures and the most rainfall. September is probably the best month.
September is probably the best month to visit, given it has lower crowds and nice weather. However, you will never be able to completely avoid the rain because it most likely will fall at some point.
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Regarding what to pack, it depends on what you’re doing- for example, are you camping? But here’s a list of things an average traveler will need in São Miguel, the Azores:
• Camera: Well, of course! If you’re into photography, take all your lenses with you, if you have different ones. A wide-angle lens (16-35 mm, for example) is needed to capture as much scenery as possible in one photograph, as is a zoom lens (e.g., 70-200 mm) to get closer to action – for example, if you go whale and dolphin watching.
• Hiking boots: This is a must! The wet weather in the Azores gets the ground quite muddy and slippery at times, so wearing hiking boots will help you a lot. I actually wore sneakers on the first day and regretted it.
• Rainproof clothing: It will rain at some point, so a waterproof jacket will definitely come in handy and whenever you’re close to waterfalls. If you want, you can even take a small umbrella with you, but a raincoat might be enough.
• Thick socks: Especially if you want to explore and do some hiking. This way it will prevent you from getting blisters.
• Trekking poles: I didn’t take trekking poles but they have saved me tons of time on other trips so I can’t recommend you enough. Especially, when the terrain gets slippery and muddy, it will help you ascending and descending without falling over – trust me they can be life-savers;
• Light thin sweaters: In the Azores, you won’t need bulky sweaters because it doesn’t get that cold. A light thin sweater for cooler periods is needed though. However, having a warmer sweater might be good for mountain peaks, volcanic craters, among others.
• Comfortable shorts/trousers: You’ll be out in nature so comfortable clothing is a must.
• A hat, cap or/and a beanie
• Binoculars: If you go on one of São Miguel’s greatest adventures – whale watching – you’ll be happy to have a pair of binoculars
• Bathing suit: In São Miguel, there are many hot springs, thermal pools, and ocean all around so a bathing suit will be needed. But I advise you to bring a dark-colored and old one. Some of the hot springs and pools like Terra Nostra, Caldeira Velha, Poça da Dona Beija, etc. are rich in minerals so it’s better to wear an old one. You might also want to wash it before it dries to make sure it doesn’t get stained.
• Sandals: You will need it on the pools, etc.
• Towel: For the same reason. The dark colors also apply here
• First-aid kit and basic medicine: To be honest this is a must, always. Dealing with pharmacies abroad is a hassle. You might want to take sickness pills if you go on a boat on a whale-watching excursion for example;
• Reusable water bottle: Besides being good for the environment, you’ll save money on bottled water. The tap water in the Azores is drinkable so you can refill it wherever you want
• Something to navigate: Google maps? A map? I think Google maps will be enough!
• Travel adapter plug & voltage converter:
The plugs in the Azores are type C and F, with a voltage of 230 V and a frequency of 50 Hz. If your devices aren't suitable for this, you'll need to carry a travel adapter plug and a voltage converter.
How I Managed Accommodation and Flights
Of course, it depends on your starting point. I was flying from Lisbon. There are many flights between Continental Portugal and the archipelagos (The Azores and Madeira), so I booked my flights 2 or 3 months in advance on Momondo or Skyscanner.
Then I booked my hostel through Hostel World. I stayed at A Bica Hostel in the capital of So Miguel, Ponta Delgada, and everything was really great.
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Why The Azores Is a Great Place for Solo Female Travelers
It’s great because it’s super safe – the crime rate is close to zero. So if you want to explore nature by yourself, enjoy some time alone and feel 100% safe, then the Azores is the best place for you!
Since it’s a little quiet, it can get lonely sometimes though, but it’s great to unwind from our busy lives and just relax and enjoy nature to its fullest.
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Must-Try Food in the Azores
The Azores is very well-known for their gastronomy. The Azoreans take their cuisine very seriously and there’s a lot to enjoy, such as:
• Cozido das Furnas, a one-of-a-kind stew with kale, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and different types of meat such as beef, chicken, sausage, and pork. The ‘Cozido’ is prepared in a hot underground pot heated by volcanic steam for about 5 hours
• Cheese – the Azorean cheese is very well-known and a must-try
• Fish and seafood, which are cooked in a variety of ways. Octopus stewed in wine is a famous dish there
• Kale Soup
• ‘Bolo Lêvedo’ (yeast cake)
• Locally-grown pineapples – you might even want to visit Arruda Pineapple Plantation, it’s very popular.
In São Miguel in particular, you may want to try the following restaurants:
• ‘A Tasca’ is one of the most popular restaurants in Ponta Delgada and is super friendly and warm. Make sure you make a reservation in advance because the restaurant is always busy. If no one picks up the phone (that happened to me), you might want to try and show up. Maybe you’ll be lucky.
• Bar da Caloura;
• Associação Agrícola – make sure you book it in advance as well.
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Favorite Memory From This Trip
Probably driving on those beautiful tropical roads. I absolutely love road trips so driving through amazing sceneries while listening to music and having that feeling of freedom speaks to me in a way that I just can’t explain.
I also have fond memories of Lagoa do Fogo, a big crater of 3 km long and 2.5 km wide, which is probably my favorite spot in São Miguel. It’s absolutely breathtaking and nothing less than remarkable. I actually teared up for a second when I got there.
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How I Avoided Fees When Withdrawing Money
I was traveling on a tight budget, but I was aware of how much I could afford. Plus, everything is reasonably priced, so there's no need to be concerned.
The Azores' currency is the Euro (€), so if you're coming from a country with a different currency, you might want to exchange your money beforehand – for example, when you get to the airport – or use a Revolut card to avoid fees when withdrawing money. ATMs are widely available in Ponta Delgada.
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Recommendations on Hikes and Sights Not To Be Missed
There are a few hikes in So Miguel, but the ones to Lagoa do Fogo and Salto do Prego are well-known.
In terms of Lagoa do Fogo, you can either go to the ‘Miradouro Lagoa do Fogo' for the best view from above or do a 4 km or 11 km hike. All you have to do is search for it online or ask the locals. Everyone is super friendly and helpful.
The one to Salto do Prego will take you an hour and a half (round-trip) and this hidden haven is so worth it!
In my view, the following attractions should not be missed: Lago do Fogo, Caldeira Velha, Lagoa do Congro, Terra Nostra Park, Cascata da Ribeira Quente, Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (Lagoa das Sete Cidades), and Salto do Prego. But, to be honest, everything is beautiful!
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My Suggestions for People Doing This Trip for the First Time
To be honest, I recommend staying longer than three days; otherwise, you'll be rushing as I did – but four days in So Miguel should be enough. I advise you to visit the other islands, Pico, Flores, and Corvo at least. Overall, everything about the Azores is beautiful!
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