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what to do on the azores

What to do on the Azores- 15 Things to do on Azores São Miguel Island

Waterfalls, volcanoes, thermal hot springs, rolling hills, beautiful landscapes, and more cows than you can imagine. That’s what you can expect when visiting the amazing Portuguese islands of the Azores. There are a total of 9 islands in the autonomous region of the Azores, all offering something different. I had the great privilege of spending an entire month on the largest and most popular island, São Miguel and it blew me away with natural beauty. I’ll be telling you all what to do on the Azores in this ”15 things to do on the Azores” guide.

These islands are a nature lovers’ paradise, offering every kind of outdoor activity that you can imagine. And the best part, even in the dead of winter the temperature is never too cold to be outside. I visited during the month of February and while it was chilly, it was never too cold to enjoy the island. Now you may be wondering what to do on the Azores when you get here. Well in this guide, I’ll be going over my favorite 15 things to do on the Azores São Miguel island. So let’s get into it.

Book fun things to do in the Azores on Expedia!

Best 15 Things to do on Azores São Miguel Island

1. Hike

Without a doubt, one of the best things to do on Azores São Miguel is to go for a hike. The Azores are an outdoors lovers’ paradise for sure and there are countless great hikes to do. There is really great infrastructure all over the island with many official parks to hike through. The landscape on these islands changes so drastically that there are so many different things to see on these hikes. One minute you are hiking around the rim of a volcano, the next you are scaling waterfalls in a lush forest. Along with the official hiking trails through the parks, the entire island is pretty hike-friendly. You’ll find hiking markers for trails pretty much anywhere you look. There are hikes for every skill level, from super easy for beginners all the way to very difficult.

2. Visit a Thermal Hot Spring

Thermal Hot Spring at Parque Terra Nostra

If you are visiting the islands during the cooler months and wondering what to do on the Azores, visiting the thermal hot springs may just be your favorite activity. These natural hot springs are heated from the earth’s core and are an extremely relaxing way to spend your afternoon. This was probably one of my favorite things to do on Azores islands because I love to relax. There are multiple places on the island where you can find these hot springs, each offering a different experience. One thing to note, due to the mineral contents of the water your skin and bathing suit will turn slightly orange after using the hot springs. It washes off in the shower but be sure not to wear any light-colored clothing or else it will get stained. The minerals in the water are supposed to be good for your skin.

For more information on the thermal hot springs, check out my full blog post on the best hot springs in the Azores!

3. Go Whale Watching

Whale watching is a very popular activity on the Azores. Actually, the Azores is well known for being one of the best areas in the world for seeing whales and dolphins. Due to its location in the middle of the ocean, the islands serve as a refuge for these animals for breeding. The best times of year for whale watching are the spring/summer months, but you can still see something year-round. There are many different whale watching tours available on São Miguel all at different price points.

Follow this link to book your whale watching in Azores experience with Terra Azul on Expedia!

My Airbnb host recommended the company, Azores Whale Watching Terra Azul out of Vila Franca do Campo. This was on a much smaller boat so it was nice to be in a small group. I visited during February which isn’t necessarily the best time of year for whale watching. We saw lots of dolphins though and had a great view of the island from the sea. We didn’t get so lucky that the seas were very rough on our day so I was a bit sea-sick but that is something that cannot be helped sometimes. Be sure not to eat a large breakfast beforehand just in case the seas are rough and you get sick. Overall, it was a fun experience, and being able to see these animals in their natural habitat was amazing. I’m sure seeing actual whales would’ve made it even more magical.

For more information on whale watching in the Azores, check out my full blog post guide here!

4. Enjoy the many Viewpoints

The Azores have some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen and there are plenty of viewpoints to enjoy this from. All over the island, you’ll find these viewpoints, sometimes with a little parklet, showcasing the natural beauty of the area. You could honestly spend your entire trip just jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint and still have a fantastic time. The government has clearly invested a lot into the tourism infrastructure because these viewpoints all look very new and are well maintained. As you are driving around the island, just be on the lookout for the ”Miradouros”. These are the viewpoints and almost all of them are worth stopping to look at. But just in case you don’t want to stop at every single one, here are a few of my favorite viewpoints on the island that you can find on GoogleMaps.

  • Best Viewpoints on São Miguel in the Azores
    1. Ponta do Sossego
    2. Ponta da Madrugada
    3. Por-do-Sol
    4. Salto da Farinha
    5. Pico do Ferro
    6. Pico da Barrosa
    7. Cerrado Das Freiras

5. Visit the Many Waterfalls

Some fun things to do on Azores São Miguel island is to go find all the waterfalls. There are lots of beautiful waterfalls all over the island ranging from big to absolutely huge. Obviously, the water flow of these waterfalls depends on lots of environmental conditions, but they are absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t believe how big some of these were. As I mentioned before, I came in February when it was not warm enough to swim. But if you come in the warm months, it would be so fun to swim under these waterfalls. There were some people swimming in some of them, but I wasn’t brave enough to swim in the ice-cold water. If you are really looking for a breathtaking what to do on the Azores activity, this would be a good one.

  • Some of the best waterfalls on São Miguel Azores Island:
    1. Salto do Cagarrão Waterfall
    2. Salto do Andrea e Martin
    3. Cascata do Salto do Prego
    4. Cascata da Ribiera dos Caldeirões

6. Drink Tea at the Tea Plantations

Cha Porto Formoso Tea Plantation

Fun Fact; the Azores is the only region of Europe to grow tea. And a great way to spend an afternoon on the island is to go to one of the tea plantations. There are a few but I opted to go to Cha Porto Formoso because it was closest to my Airbnb and because it looked a bit less touristy. And I was correct seeing as we were the only people here. The tea grown here is black tea and it is quite delicious. They have a small video guide for you to watch and then after the video you can enjoy a nice cup of tea in their tea room. They also sell tea for you to take home. After you’ve enjoyed your tea, you are allowed to browse the tea plantation. I highly suggest you do this because the entire plantation is beautiful. This is a great down-day activity for what to do on the Azores.

7. Explore Ponta Delgada

Downtown Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada is the capital of São Miguel island and is a very cute Portuguese city. There is some beautiful architecture and a developed waterfront with shopping and dining. Ponta Delgada is a small city so there isn’t that much to do here but it is worth a walk to the main downtown area. The beautiful square and churches make for a really nice place for a stroll. Grab an espresso at a nearby cafe, nibble on some yummy pastries and lose yourself in the city streets. You could probably see the whole city in half a day of walking around so it’s a good, quick thing to do.

8. Have a Traditional Portuguese Meal Cooked in a Volcano

Cozida Das Furnas at Terra Nostra Garden Restaurant

Something very unique to these islands to do is eating a meal that was cooked inside the volcano. This traditional method of cooking called ”cozida das furnas” uses the natural heat within the volcano to slow cook your meal. They have holes dug into the volcano and the slow cooking takes between 6-8 hours depending on the type of food. There are many places on the island where you can have a meal prepared like this. You can even be a part of the cooking experience and watch them remove the food from inside the volcano. This traditional dish is typically a beef stew but you can find seafood and vegan variations at some places. I went to the restaurant at the Terra Nostra Garden hotel and they have a vegan version. It was mostly just stew vegetables over couscous but it was definitely delicious. I imagine it would be a more exciting meal to be a part of the experience.

There is an eco-hotel on the island that offers this vegan experience, but sadly they were closed for renovations during my stay. If you are lucky enough to be on the island when they are open be sure to check out the Solar Branco Eco Estate.

9. Visit the Many Beautiful Parks

what to do on the azores
Parque Terra Nostra

In line with the ”outdoors paradise”, the Azores is home to some truly gorgeous parks. There are several national parks that are very well preserved and well maintained all over the island. I know I’ve said it a few times already, but the infrastructure on this island is absolutely amazing when it comes to these parks. The tourism board clearly understands that the main draw to these islands is nature because all of the parks flow very seamlessly with the surrounding nature. The biodiversity on these islands is incredible. You will see so many different kinds of plants from all over the world. Thanks to the moderate temperature and lots of moisture, the Azores is like heaven for plants. The air here is so clean and crisp wherever you go and the best place to experience the plant life in full effect is at one of the parks.

  • Some of my favorite parks on the island:
    1. Parque Terra Nostra– This beautiful park is also home to one of the best hot springs on the island. The park itself is very large with lots to see. I think it is well worth the 10 euro admission fee.
    2. Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caleiroes- This park is a bit smaller compared to Terra Nostra but is still gorgeous. There are several waterfalls that lead into a small river where you can walk along the waterfront and an old mill.
    3. Grená Park– More of a hike than a park, this park is situated in Furnas. You can view the bubbling hot springs and then hike one of the best hiking spots on the island.
    4. Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego– The best viewpoint on the island that also has a small parklet.

10. Go Kayaking in a Volcano

what to do on the azores

One of the most unexpected things to do on Azores São Miguel island was kayaking on one of the lakes inside a volcano. We were wandering around the town of Sete Cidades and stumbled upon a man offering kayak rentals. It was honestly one of the highlights of the trip. Since we were visiting during the off-season, we were the only people out on the lake. The views of the surrounding landscape were incredible. This was a very unique way of seeing the crater. You’re literally kayaking inside what was once a volcano. That is so incredible. I can’t recommend this experience enough. I imagine during the warmer months that there are lots more boats on the lake. But either way, this is a must-do when in Sete Cidades.

11. Explore the town of Sete Cidades

what to do on the azores

The town of Sete Cidades is set inside the crater of an old volcano and is probably one of the most popular areas to visit on the island. The town itself is beautiful, with gorgeous old architecture. As pictured above, there is a beautiful church and much to see on a nice little stroll. Many people just come to do the hikes around the town, but I highly recommend driving into the town and exploring. Don’t expect there to be lots of things to do on Azores town Sete Cidades, but it is definitely worth a visit.

12. Visit Farol de Arnel Lighthouse

what to do on the azores

Along the east coast of the island is the town of Nordeste. Our Airbnb was actually in this town and we loved the area. It was a bit farther away from the main attractions but there’s still lots to see and do. One of which is visiting this old lighthouse, Farol de Arnel. The lighthouse is situated at the bottom of a very steep road but worth the walk down. The surrounding views are incredible, with some of the most gorgeous cliff views available on the entire island. When we visited the lighthouse wasn’t actually open to enter, but that may have just been the wrong time to go. Honestly, the best part of it all is seeing the outside of the lighthouse and the sharp cliffs that surround it. For what to do on the Azores, this is definitely worth the drive.

13. Nossa Senhoura Chapel

what to do on the azores

I’m not usually one who cares about visiting churches or anything religion affiliated, but this chapel is pretty cool. Located in Vila Franca do Campo, the Nossa Senhora chapel overlooks the entire town with beautiful views of the little island crater off the coast. I’m sure for religious folks, this is what to do on the Azores as a must-visit. I am not particularly sure of the religious significance, but it is still a very beautiful chapel. I could sit at the top looking at the surrounding views for a long time. If you are going to find somewhere in the world to pray, this isn’t a bad place to do so.

14. Visit the Abandoned Hotel

what to do on the azores

An extremely popular attraction to visit when on the island is this old abandoned hotel that overlooks the Sete Cidades crater and lakes. The hotel was built in the 1980s but went bankrupt shortly after opening and was abandoned. In recent years, the hotel has become a very popular spot for tourists to come see an abandoned structure. There are signs everywhere saying ”do not enter”, but they’re literally like hundreds of people here. Seeing how nature has started to reclaim this hotel after only a few decades is really interesting and weirdly beautiful. The views you get from the hotel rooms are some of the best on the island. I’m sure if this hotel were still in operation they could charge a very high price for these rooms. Obviously, enter at your own risk because it is not operational and there are loose nails and such. But just proceed with caution and you’ll have a great time. It’s one of the most popular what to do on the Azores activities.

what to do on the azores

15. Furnas

what to do on the azores

The town of Furnas is located in the center of the island and is situated at the bottom of the crater formed by the volcano. The town is very cute and worth a visit. Many of the things to do on Azores on this list are located in Furnas such as some hot springs, parks, and dining experiences. The town itself is worth a walkthrough for sure. There are beautiful homes situated in this cute town and everything is covered in moss. There is a nice park along the water that flows from the hot springs. If you are looking for what to do on the Azores that doesn’t require much effort, be sure to visit and pay a visit to the adorable town of Furnas.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of things to do on Azores island São Miguel. And I’m sure I missed lots of things as well. Keep in mind this is just one of the nine islands in the archipelago. Sadly, I did not have time to visit any of the other islands this time around but I hope to return to the Azores someday to see what to do on the Azores island. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on São Miguel. Honestly, I think I enjoyed it more than I initially thought. The entire island is so peaceful and quiet. The landscape really allows you to settle your thoughts and just be. The lack of ”sights” compared to being in a city takes a lot of pressure off of the experience here. You can just enjoy nature and the natural beauty of the world. You are sure to love your time here on the Azores. I can only imagine how special this place is during the warmer months. You can find more content on the Azores here.

I genuinely hope that you found this blog post to be informative about your trip. As I said, the Azores holds a very special place in my heart. If you found this blog post to be informative, please let me know in the comments below. If you’re planning a trip, what things to do on Azores are you most excited for? You can sign up for my e-mail list to be notified every time I post new content. Be sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date with all of my current travels and travel content. Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

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Hayden

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