Choosing the best time to visit the Azores is much more than just looking at the good weather.
Eventually it all comes down on your interests and which activities are you most willing to experience in the islands.
I’m breaking down some factors to find out what is your best time of the year to visit the Azores islands!
For small islands, specially the ones in the middle of the Atlantic, weather takes a huge part on the overall experience for travelers. As much as a liberating moment it can be, no one really enjoys to be out in the wild with heavy showers.
November to March corresponds to winter time and to the rainy season in Azores. Even though temperatures don’t drop considerably, this is not a good time to travel if you don’t want to get wet.
Summer on the other hand (June to September) offers very warm air and sea water temperatures. This has a direct impact on all the outdoor activities you can do in Azores – hiking, surfing or paragliding for instance.
You can find more details on the Azores climate page.
Domestic flights and even tours and boat trips are much more frequent in the warmer months. The AtlanticoLine inter-island ferries have a limited yearly schedule and only run from April to October.
In winter they only run between Flores and Corvo islands. The private boat that runs to Vila Franca islet starts running on early June.
Plus, from November to February some flights can get cancelled/postponed due to storms and frequent foggy weather.
As you can see, there are significant differences in transportation between summer and winter months. If you want to maximize your mobility in Azores, you’ll want to avoid the latter.
Azores rarely get impossibly crowded and you can expect lots of space around while exploring the islands. Having that said, if you are looking for the fewer amount of people possible avoid the months of July and August. Some beaches and main sights of São Miguel island can get quite busy by then.
By avoiding the peak summer months of July and August, you also avoid the inflated prices in accommodation, flights and services. Like most places in Europe, winter months are significantly (at least 30-40%) cheaper.
If you are into capturing the islands’ essence through a lens, the Spring season might be the ideal time for you. From March to June flowers like hydrangeas, agapanthus and ginger lilies are in full bloom, adding some extra vibrant colors to your pictures.
The Azores are a top-notch whale-watching hotspot in the world and up to 30% of ALL known cetacean species can be seen in a single three-hour trip. These species are spotted by lookouts on the coast, who use powerful binoculars and guide the boats to spot the location of the dolphins and whales, ensuring a higher probability of sights for the tour operators.
If whale-watching activities are on your bucket list – they should -, it’s worth to check the time of the year with more species swimming in azorean waters. April to June are the months of the year where the migratory routes of cetaceans overlap the most. Follow this calendar to plan your trip accordingly.
Note some of the species have a sighting period of only a couple of months – e.g. the blue whale!
Santo Cristo Festivities – São Miguel island
The biggest festivities in the archipelago – Santo Cristo Festivities – happen in Ponta Delgada somewhere in April or May (2016 dates: 26th April – 3rd May).
Apart from some festivals and live music events, there’s an highly religious component to this. Every year, thousands of immigrants in the US and Canada return to the island of São Miguel to participate in the celebrations of Christ.
Red Bull Cliff Diving – São Miguel island
Cliff diving competition from Vila Franca do Campo islet in São Miguel.
Happens in July.
Running of the bulls – Terceira island
Tourada a Corda is a unique event where bulls with a single giant rope attached chase people in the streets. Not surprisingly, a few people get injured every year.
Daily from May to September.
Maré de Agosto – Santa Maria island
Maré de Agosto (August Tide) Festival in Praia Formosa, in the island of Santa Maria, joins several international musicians and artists. It’s probably the most charismatic music festivals in Azores.
Takes place every year in August.
Walk&Talk – São Miguel island
This street art festival features worldwide renowned sculptors, designers and video directors to perform cutting-edge festival of public performance and visual arts.
Taking place over two weeks in July.
Other important azorean events are:
- Sanjoaninas (June, Terceira island)
- Espírito Santo festivities (April to June, São Miguel island)
- World Surf League (September, São Miguel island)
As you can see, the overwhelming majority of events in Azores take place during spring or summer months.
DECIDING WHEN TO TRAVEL TO AZORES ISLANDS
As expected, the ideal time of the year to go to the Azores is a trade-off of several factors. Take a moment to realize what is most important for you to accomplish in the islands. The chart below might help put everything in perspective.
I will still throw in my two cents. After living in the Azores during many years, my favorite month in the islands eventually became September. Great warm weather (more stable than July and August), fewer people on the beaches, still a lots of things happening.
However, this is from a local’s perspective.
If I put myself in the shoes of a visitor, I’d probably take other factors in, specially the best time to do sea-related activities such as whale watching or inter-island ferries. Adding this criterion to the mix and compromising with other equally important (weather, transports, events), June looks like a winner to me.
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