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Traumhafter Blick auf den Azoren, Bild: Vicky SP / shutterstock

Discover the Azores – the holiday paradise in Portugal

From time to time it is necessary to get a little distance from everyday life. Work can sometimes be quite time-consuming and exhausting, and appointments are also getting out of hand in the private sphere. You should treat yourself to a little rest. And the best way to switch off is still on vacation. But where do you want to go? A real insider tip are the Azores, the Portuguese islands that are located in the middle of the Atlantic.

Azores Map
Image: Peter Hermes Furian / shutterstock

Here you can expect not only beautiful nature during your holiday, but also various sights that are waiting to be discovered. If you spend your holidays in the Azores, you can choose different islands as your destination. So everyone can enjoy their dream holiday and look forward to carefree days on the archipelago.

Important information about the Azores

The Portuguese archipelago of the Azores consists of nine large islands and several smaller islands. The main island is São Miguel. The entire archipelago is located almost 1370 km from the European mainland. It is about 1930 km to the American mainland. That’s how far Newfoundland in Canada is from the Azores island of Flores. New York is located at a distance of about 3600 km. This means that the holiday paradise is located in the middle of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, the Azores belong to Portugal, they are part of the autonomous region Região Autónoma dos Açores and thus also fit into the European Union.

View of Faial, the fifth largest island in the Azores

The area of the Azores is 2330 square kilometers. The archipelago lies on the plate boundary of the European Plate and the North American Plate. On the North American Plate are the western islands of Corvo and Flores.

The official language on the archipelago is Portuguese. But even people who understand this language very well will be surprised. In some parts of the Azores, the locals speak with a strong accent, so that there are sometimes slight communication difficulties.

In total, about 250,000 people live in the Azores. The largest municipality is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel with around 68,000 inhabitants, Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira and Ribeira Grande, also on São Miguel, each with over 30,000 people.

The islands and subdivision of the Azores

Azores, Flores
Waterfall on Flores, Image: Lukasz Janyst / shutterstock

The nine large islands of the Azores archipelago are divided into several groups. There is the central group (Grupo Central), the northwestern group (Grupo Ocidental) and the southeastern group (Grupo Oriental). Grupo Central includes São Jorge, Faial, Pico, Graciosa and Terceira. Grupo Ocidental includes the two islands of Corvo and Flores on the North American Plate. São Miguel, Santa Maria and the Formigas make up the Grupo Oriental.

How to get there: What is the best way to get to the Azores?

Since the Azores are quite far from the mainland, it is a good idea to book a flight to get there. The plane takes you directly to your dream holiday in the Azores in a quick and uncomplicated way.

On the main island of Sao Miguel is the largest airport of the archipelago, the Ponta Delgada. Other destinations include Sao Miguel, Picom Faial and Terceira. To get to these smaller airports, however, you will have to change planes once during the flight. You first fly to Porto or Lisbon and from there on to the island. There is a direct connection to Ponta Delgada from Frankfurt am Main, among other places, and in the summer time this airport is also served from Düsseldorf .

Once you have arrived on your holiday island, it is best to take a bus from the airport to get to your destination. There are many private buses that are in use on all the islands, with the exception of Coco. Look for a tourist office on arrival. The bus timetables are available there.

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Important: Boarding is only allowed with a valid ticket. Ticket checks take place frequently. Therefore, you should definitely buy the card from the respective driver when you get into the vehicle.
The flight time to the Azores is about 5 hours. Remember to set your watch back two hours if you land on one of the islands.

The climate in the Azores

Have you had enough of the dreary grey of the weather at home? Then the Azores are just the place for you. Here you will experience days full of sunshine and enjoy the pleasant temperatures. There are no extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year, and the climate is fairly balanced all year round. The classic division according to seasons is therefore not necessarily given.

Image: Vicky SP / shutterstock

However, different weather conditions can alternate throughout the day. But that’s no reason to worry, even with a short rain shower, it often stays up to 25 degrees. In summer it is only slightly warmer than in winter, unlike in this country. On the other hand, it cools down significantly every evening, the night temperatures are about 5 to 10 degrees, during the day an average of between 15 and 27 degrees is reached throughout the year.

The water invites you to swim and splash around all year round. Because the temperature of the water is always between 17 and 22 degrees.

By the way, morning fog is nothing unusual in the Azores. Most of the time, it dissipates quickly and reveals the bright sun. Short showers and winds can also occur again and again. This change is typical for the Azores. This is because the archipelago is located near the equator in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to this climate with small showers and constant temperatures, many plants find optimal conditions here that cannot be found anywhere else. This is how a unique flora and fauna was created in the Azores.

And don’t worry: There are neither long cold spells nor almost unbearable heat spells. Only on the Pico, the highest mountain of the archipelago, there is snowfall.

The best time to travel to the Azores

If the weather is anything to go by, then the time between June and October is particularly recommended for holidaymakers. Especially in the weeks of July and August, the most hours of sunshine and the highest temperatures are measured. In addition, rain is least likely to occur during this time. Therefore, most holidaymakers are drawn to the Azores, especially during this time.

And that’s also the small catch: Because during this time, there are correspondingly many tourists in the holiday paradise. Also because there are better flight connections. Many locals therefore recommend choosing spring as the time to travel. While it is sometimes even difficult to find a car as a rental car in the summer months, you will have no problems with it in the springtime. And the temperatures are also very pleasant. Overall, you will have a little more peace and quiet when you go on holiday in spring.

What to do in the Azores?

Of course, you can spend a few relaxing hours on the beach. However, you will not find endless beach areas in the Azores, as is the case in well-known tourist regions. Therefore, it is a good idea to immerse yourself in the nature of the picturesque archipelago. Hikers and nature lovers in particular get their money’s worth in the Azores.

Whale watching

Whales Pico
Whale watching off Pico, Image: wildestanimal / shutterstock

In the past, the Azores were a starting point for whale hunters due to their location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But fortunately, those days are over these days. Rather, holidaymakers now have the opportunity to experience the majestic aquatic animals up close. Because there are numerous whales around the archipelago. About a third of all known whale species are at home here.

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On a whale watching tour you will experience the animals in the wild – an impressive spectacle. Among other things, with a little luck you will see sperm whales, fin whales and even blue whales.
The tours are mostly offered from the main islands. Here’s how to book a guided boat tour from the islands of Sao Miguel, Faial, or Pico. You will be on the road in high-speed Zodiacs, with which you can get close to the aquatic animals. In addition to one-day tours, you can also opt for a multi-day tour with a boat.

If you prefer to avoid the water, you can also position yourself at one of the many viewpoints. Here, several scouts constantly keep an eye on the water with binoculars to discover the animals. Once they have located the position of the whale, they pass it on to the boats via radio.

Some whale species can be found around the Azores all year round, while other species just pass by. Sperm whales are most common, males all year round, females mostly in summer. You also have the chance to see pilot whales all year round.

Take hiking tours in the Azores

Pack your backpack and off you go! A highlight of every holiday in the Azores is a hike to the highest mountain Pico Alto. A hiking trail leads you to the top of the elevation. Sometimes you even have to walk through cloud fields. When you reach the top of Pico Alto, you will be amazed by the magnificent view. The hiking trail to Pico Alto takes you through forests of blueberry trees and along Japanese sickle firs, among other things.

An equally popular hike is the tour of the tea plantations on São Miguel. On the north coast of the island, tea grows, through which a well-marked path leads. There is the possibility to stop at the tea factory. Here you will not only get an insight into tea production as it has been carried out for 100 years, but also have the opportunity to taste the specialties.

The specialties of the Azores

The archipelago in the Atlantic also has a lot in store for holidaymakers in terms of culinary delights. And just about everything you eat on your holiday comes from the islands.

Cozido – the casserole from volcanic soil

A real classic is cozido, a stew prepared in volcanic soil. In the morning hours, the cooks place the pots in the ground and then let the mixture of different types of sausage, beef and pork as well as cabbage, various vegetables and potatoes stew. After about six hours, the dish is ready. You should definitely watch the digging of the individual pots out of the ground, it is an impressive spectacle that the locals present to visitors.

Fresh pineapple

Pineapple Azores
Pineapple farm in the Azores, Image: Renato Dias / hutterstock

But the archipelago is not only known for hearty food. Wonderfully sweet pineapples also grow here. In many cases, these are served as a dessert. Pineapple cultivation became established in the Azores towards the end of the 19th century. The plants grow in greenhouses and benefit from the many hours of sunshine.

Tip: The less sweetened pineapple fruits are processed into a delicious chutney that you should definitely try. For example, it goes very well with the strong São Jorge cheese, which is available for both breakfast and dinner.

The most famous sights of the Azores

Faial, Azores
Faial, Image: sarionunes / shutterstock

During your holiday in the Azores, you will of course also want to see the sights of the archipelago.

For example, the Terra Nostra park is very popular with its wonderfully flowering plants. It is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

The Lagoa de Fogo is located on the island of São Miguel. It is framed by volcanic mountains and is located six hundred meters above sea level. Visit this lake in the early afternoon to marvel at a magnificent shiny water surface. The lake is also known as “Feuersee”, it was formed during a volcanic eruption in 1563.

In earlier times, the archipelago was of great importance for ship journeys from Europe to America . In this way, many port cities also became very wealthy. Witness to this is, among other things, the Castelo de Sao Baptista, which was built by the Italian military architect Benedetto in 1567. This is a striking fortress that is well preserved to this day and can be visited.

Thus, the Azores have something suitable for everyone.