Just like the myth of Atlantis, it’s time for the islands of Azores to rise and shine from its long sleep. Yap, they’re on track to become the next big travel destination!

The puzzled face of people when I say I’m from the Azores is a frequent dejà-vu in my life.

And I understand: for decades the islands has been under the shadow of other destinations and remained as one of the most exotic and remote places in Europe. Eventually the conversation reaches one question.

How is it like in your home island?

I like to answer back: How do you think it is? and find amazing how different can preconceived ideas on the exact same thing be. 

Some people imagine Azores as the Canary Islands or even Malta: full of top-notch beaches and with warm dry climate all year. Nope. Others see it more like Madeira: flowers, impressive cliffs and hotels everywhere. Still very far away from the truth. Idilic rocky beaches like in some Croatian islands? *Wrong buzzer sound*.

Miradouro da Lagoa do Canário | Azores the next big travel destination
THIS is what you can expect in Azores.

Although I love how everyone thinks I come from some idyllic enigmatic place – wouldn’t mind to keep that mystery in the air -, I feel it’s about time to put some light on it once and for all, as I’m sure Azores can be the next big travel destination in Europe!

Where are the Azores?

Let’s start with the basics. Azores are a group of nine volcanic islands in North Atlantic ocean and a autonomous region of Portugal.

São Miguel is the biggest and most populous island (160,000 inhabitants) and also holds the largest city of the archipelago: Ponta Delgada.

They were first settled in the 15th century and today only 5-10% of the territory is build-up area, the rest is occupied by nature. The wild humid climate, dramatic landscapes, green pastures and fishing villages all result in a relaxing and remote-feel scenario. Excited already?



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Azores map in the Atlantic

next big travel destination - Azores map, where are the Azores
Azores location in the Atlantic. Yap, it’s quite remote.

A common misconception is that Azores are “just off the coast of Portugal”. That’s what I grew up thinking too. But after taking several 2-hour flights to reach mainland Portugal, I started thinking either the airplanes were terribly efficient or I lived far more remotely than I imagined.

Turns out the islands are about 2/3 of the way between the U.S. and Europe, so I was pretty much based in the Atlantic ocean.

So… how are the Azores like?

For a start, just think of Azores as if like one day someone grabbed Iceland, moved it south – no ice anymore, just greenery – and smashed it in nine pieces in the middle of the Atlantic.

Let’s get more visual. The landscape is actually insanely green in different shades with hills, meadows and lush vegetation as the most striking features. The craters from several volcanos are now occupied by awe-inspiring blue lakes and lagoons creating quite eye-catching contrasts.

The super black igneous volcanic rock makes up all the coastline. Finally some spots of white here and there from the numerous Frisian cows (they compete with humans for the most populous animal in the islands).

Frisian cow - why Azores the next big travel destination trend
When wandering around in Azores, be careful with black/white stuff on the ground. You might be stepping on a cow.

I now have this mental exercise of trying to define random stuff in #hashtags (don’t ask). If I had to do it for the Azores it would be something like the following.

#nature #islands #volcanic #relax #green #cows

Apart from this nature-designed scenery that can (and will) step you back in time, the standard of living is not from decades ago. There are restaurants, spas, cafés and a wide range of supermarkets. And yes, computers, mobile phones and wi-fi connections are all available and DO work seamlessly. I would say living in one of the largest cities/villages is now equivalent to living in any european small-medium sized city.

Find out more information about the Azores on my micro-page about the islands. Climate info, best time to visit and much more for your perfect holidays!

Why you should go to the Azores

1. Nature. Nature. Nature.

For some reason Azores are constantly named as one of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world (they have actually reached the top spot in a couple of occasions). The best motivation to go to the islands is to be in direct contact with nature.

Azores the next big thing in travel destinations - ilha de São Miguel Açores |
Hard to go back to my flat in chaotic Barcelona after this.

2. There’s a lot to do.

A few years ago Azores may have been a somewhat boring destination, but today there’s a tremendous potential in terms of activities to feed your adventurous and sporty side.

While they have always been sort of a diving mecca, they are now becoming increasingly popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, bird and whale watching and surfing. Here’s a quick introduction as what can you do in the island of São Miguel .

3. Kima.

If you ever are in the islands, you’ll see this name everywhere. Kima is a soft drink made from pulp of the passion fruit. It’s only available in the Azores so it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to drink this nectar of the Gods.

Start your search for accommodation in Azores with my pre-selected list of hotels/guesthouses/villas with wifi and best value-for-money relation in Booking!

4. The volcanic experience.

Due to its volcanic origin, across all islands it’s possible to find volcanic phenomena such as thermal baths, hot springs (the bathable ones) and hot hot springs (the ones you’ll get boiled alive). In Furnas, it’s even possible to use the energy of the planet to cook your lunch.

Also, beaches in Azores are slight different to what you might be used to experience, as the sand is of a dark grey colour – I’ve even had eeewww reactions when I shared this with some people. Seriously? Can’t understand why, golden beaches are so last century!

Volcanic activity in the Azores | Azores the next big travel destination
This is one of the HOT HOT springs, not advisable to be used as a jacuzzi.
Porto Formoso | Azores the next big travel destination
No reason to be racist regarding the color of the sand you put your towel in.

5. Four seasons of the year in just one day.

Yap. Even though the climate in Azores is tricky, don’t let it bring you down. The wind can get a bit crazy, it rains often and most importantly: the weather changes quickly and frequently. But that just adds to the thrill of it, right?

Azores the next big travel destination - azores
This photo and the cover of this posts were taken with a 2 hour difference. Quite a weather change!

6. The timing of going to Azores couldn’t be better.

In my opinion, this is key, When I was living in Lisbon, in a very good day I’d get a return deal to Azores from about 200EUR. Two years ago I even paid 430EUR. Sure it was kind of a last-minute purchase – my fault for not complying with the buying airline tickets most basic rules – but still, paying that amount of money for a 2 hour-long flight is ro-bbe-ry.

So… what has changed?

Short answer: everything!

Long answer: Since March 2015, the air space in Azores has finally been liberalised, which means literally any airline company can now fly there. Ryanair and Easyjet have already regular routes from Lisbon, Porto and London (they’ve promised more routes).

Nowadays, flights can be as low as 30EUR. To cater this herd of new low-cost tourists, guesthouses, hostels and other cool accommodation as well as new creative tours/things to do have been popping out like mushrooms. All of a sudden, EVERYONE IS COMING!

Anyway the islands are still gaining momentum in their state of semi-discovery. Which means now it’s that sweet spot where the minimum amount of tourism offers and services are in place to get you the maximum experience exploring the unspoiled nature of the islands. Take advantage of it.

Hike down Lagoa Fogo | Azores the next big travel destination
About to perform my double backflip, one-and-a-half somersault dive.



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The secret is unlocked!

So far the impact from the sudden improvement in Azores’ flight accessibility has been tremendously positive – with a respectable 30% increase in tourism already! – but there’s an obvious potential downside to this.

There’s a huge debate happening right now whether the islands will be able to maintain its seal of sustainable travel destination. If you want to help, here’s some things you need to know before going.

Don’t get me wrong. Portugal as a whole is damn good as a travel destination. But Azores have been doing even better all these years, possessing that kind of power to take you where nothing else can’t. It’s an injection of nature in its purest form that will make you want to not only fill up your lungs but also run, smell, climb and swim like crazy.

Whatever you decide to do in Azores, it’ll make you feel alive for a few days that will look like a few weeks in green volcanic craters, dark sand beaches and the bluest of lakes. A true nature therapy. 

Kayak dock at #setecidades. #azores #igers_azores

A photo posted by BRUNØ (@bruno_mb) on

The thing is: there is no turning back. Now that the secret is unlocked, the challenge is to remain exactly as it is: pure, inspiring, blissful. If it does like I think it will, I have got no doubts my home will quickly turn into the next big travel destination in Europe. Because nature always wins.

AZORES TRAVEL INFORMATION 

How to get to Azores Islands

You can reach the Azores islands by boat or much more conveniently, by plane. SATA, Easyjet, TAP Portugal, Ryanair and others fly regularly to Azores. Flights are considerably cheaper from Porto, Lisbon or London. 

Ponta Delgada airport has the highest number of flight connections. Note in some cases you can get a inter-island connecting flight for FREE. More info here.

Where to stay in Azores

Booking.com has a lot of accommodation available in Azores, from charming guesthouses to typical houses surrounded by nature. To make your life easier, use this list of the best-reviewed hotels/guesthouses/villas in the Azores with wifi.

Where to stay in São Miguel

If you are coming to Azores, chances are you will be at least spending some days in the largest island São Miguel. It happens to be my home island and these are my top recommendations for accommodation:

Hotel Marina Atlântico, Ponta Delgada
 
Modern design, close to the city center as well as the seaside. Great value-for-money.
Book now


 
 

Furnas Boutique Hotel, Furnas
 
Located in Furnas, its full-wellness program and nature-inspired-interiors make it the ideal place to relax. Book now

Search for yourself!

To make your life easier, you can start your search with my pre-selection of the hotels/guesthouses/villas in the island of São Miguel. This list only includes rooms with wifi and with good-to-excellent reviews, hard to go wrong with these!

São Miguel Flight + Hotel Deals

I usually don’t use travel agencies to book holidays. I have to make an exception for Azores Getaways because I really think they have some pretty good prices for flight + hotel to the Azores – starting at 499USD.

I particularly recommend using them if you:

  • Are flying from the United States
  • Don’t have much time to plan your holidays
  • Like to have everything sorted when arriving your destination

If you don’t fall into these categories, you’re better off by booking your flight and hotel in São Miguel independently!

More about the Azores

Find more tips and insider advice in my complete travel guide about the Azores islands. Including:

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31 comments

  1. what a great article on the azores, i go there often, it is precious, dont want too many people to come, just a few more…it is a fantastic destination !m

  2. Hello: will be visiting Ponta Delgada in July, thinking of doing a whale watching excursion with Fortisimo. They also offer a full day with ouch and snorklling at the islet. I know we can get to the islet on our own. Any recommendations? I have done a lot of reading and know that “the toaster” is a popular place but how long can one spend there without loosing interest? Thanks Janet

    1. Sorry, recommendations on what?

      I don’t think you need a tour to visit Ilhéu de Vila Franca. Hope this answers your question!

  3. is there any local delicacy that one can only get on Sao Miguel and not in Lisbon? we’re heading to both places in June.

  4. Hey! This is really great! My grandfather comes from the Azores and now that I am living in Barcelona and it is just a short flight away I definitely want to plan an extensive trip there to learn about my heritage. I will definitely be utilizing your site!

  5. Great post!! BUT all you have to do is go to another island in the Azores, Santa Maria, to find golden sandy beaches, as well as a stunning red desert. Santa Maria is unlike the other Azorean islands. It is composed of half volcanic and half sedimentary rock; therefore the only island with fossils! Due to its southern location, it is also the sunniest and least humid island in the archipelago.
    The Azores have lots to offer. Sao Miguel is spectacular and beautiful but don’t forget about the other islands!

    1. Thanks for the tip Cidalia.
      Unfortunately I don’t know much about the other islands, I’ve been flying between São Miguel and the mainland all my life. One day I will definitely dedicate some time to other islands and Santa Maria is on my list!

      Thanks again!

      Bruno

  6. Wow! I had no idea about the Azores.. adding this to my bucket list. If I ever make it to Portugal I definitely will leave enough time for a trip here too

    thanks!

  7. “All of a sudden, EVERYONE IS COMING!”

    I totally laughed at that, like I could hear the build-up in the paragraph and this was the punchline.

    My marriage certificate lists Vila Franca do Campo, and we talk up the Azores all the time to anyone who will listen… which is what we end up doing since most people either don’t know where it is, are curious how we chose it as a place to get married and honeymoon, or both.

    But I am also glad that we went before it became popular, which is also how I felt about visiting Iceland in 2007 before their banking crisis and tourism surge, and Cuba six months before that, which is now becoming a travel destination for mainstream American tourists.

    That’s why I think people should always choose unusual destinations rather than the well-known places, because of that “sweet spot” you mention. Once it gets touristy, it doesn’t return to the sweet spot.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story!

      Looks like you’ve been ahead of everyone else in several occasions, that can’t be a coincidence, well done. Personally I think the Azores are in the verge of becoming a really trendy destination. Sort of a warmer Iceland. And they are definitely in the sweet spot right now for most people, not too touristy, not overwhelmingly remote. I hope it can stay like that for as long as possible, because like you say, there’s no going back after it becomes massively busy!

      Thanks again and continue being an Azores embassador 😛
      Cheers!

  8. We are planning a trip to the Azores this september, so all the information is so usefull! Can’t wait to be there and enjoy this best kept secret of Europe! The pictures are amazingly beautiful, can’t wait to go and explore!

  9. My father (and aunts and uncles) is from Ponta Delgado and I’ll get there some day! Great information!

  10. Wow. Azores reminds me a lot of my hometown, Batanes! A veeeeery small island in Asia. 😀 Anyhow, I wouldn’t be surprised if this will be the next big travel destination! Will definitely take note of this in my travel list.

    1. Just googled it, funny how despite their distance they really look similar! Now when someone asks, I finally have a place I can compare Azores to :p

  11. All heil Kima! These photos are awesome and I know how hard it is to take a good one (in “good” weather I mean). Hope to go back home soon. Maybe I’ll fly in from London 😉

    1. It’s really hard to get a good picture, but when it’s good weather, they’re all stunning! You know what I’m talking about 😉
      And… Kima FTW!