A few groups and only nine islands are what make up the Azores archipelago. I had the privilege of getting acquainted with one of these groups, namely the Central Group which included the islands Faial, Pico, and Terceira. I’ve had the pleasure to experience some of the splendors that these islands offer!

Faial, Azores

Faial

Beginning my trip in Lisbon, I took a flight landing at my first stop Faial island. From the airport, I headed to the islands main settlement, Horta. This town housed the hotel where I stayed, the Azores Faial Garden which had a view of the sea in every direction, from here you’re able to see the entire island!

 

Horta is very quaint and a wonderful place to walk through. I highly recommend walking through the town’s Marina and visiting Peter Cafe Sport. While in the Marina, it only makes sense to try the fish! There are quite a few authentic restaurants in the marina all serving fresh and locally caught fish! This was a delightful treat I really enjoyed and strongly recommend!

 

One of the most charming things about this town is that everyone seems to know each other. This was a great help when finding a rental car company since everyone can point you in the direction of someone who can help you out. Even more, help is that the island is very affordable, considering that the exchange rate is in your favor!

Faial, Azores
One of the many views of the summit

Having a car enables you to hike on some of the trails around the island and it’s a must to get up and close to nature here… with the proper apparel. Volcanos can be dangerous, so it’s imperative to bring quality hiking boots since the trails can be very steep and slippery, but again, well worth it! On my trip, I chose to trek the Caldeira trail, an 8 KM trek around the Caldeira of an ancient volcano.

While in your car, another good vantage point to see the island is to drive up to Monte da Guia and Monte Queimado. These two mountains surround Horta and present you with some of the most stunning views of the sunset over the town and the beach of Porto Pim, which lies near the center of the island.

Finishing a visit to Faial, I took a trip to Capelinhos volcano. An active volcano that had its most recent eruption back on September 27th, 1957. Capelinhos is 501 meters above sea level and is worth the visit for the Interpretive Center of the Volcano and the lighthouse. The Interpretive Center of the volcano is an underground museum that explains the entire history of the volcano and it’s a humbling reminder of our place on this beautiful and complex planet. Leaving the museum, the lighthouse is nearby and worth a climb. From here is a great viewpoint to see the lunar landscape of the newest lands in Europe, courtesy of that eruption in 1957!

This was my last day in Faial and after this island, I was excited to head to the Marina to catch a ship to my next destination a mere 8.3 KM away: Pico.

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Pico

Continuing my journey, I went to Pico island where it is very notable that the volcanos here are active. The ground was covered in immense volcanic rock which was also used to create walls for small walls. These walls are called curraletas and make the perfect insulation for vineyards. This insulation shields the vines from the drastic temperature fluctuations that come from the sea and produce some pretty unique flavors which help the production of wine!

 

The conditions here produce grapes which yield a fresh, fruity, and somewhat saline wines. When you come here, you must participate in some wine tastings! This area is so special that the Pico Island Vineyard Culture Landscape was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After sampling these wines I have two clear favorites: The Frei Giant and Curral Atlantis. I strongly recommend sampling these wines! Another drink produced on the island is their Czar, which is a liqueur wine. According to Mr. Fortunato, the producer of Czar, this is the only liqueur wine in the world that is not fortified with alcohol! It reaches 20 C naturally through a prolonged fermentation which lasts up to 12 months. This wine has a great aromatic complexity that needs to be experienced!

A landscape shot of the vineyards on the Azores island Pico
The volcanic landscape of São Miguel
The flora on the Faial

My lodging on this island was in the small tourist village of Jeiroes do Mar, a nice quiet place with beautiful vineyards dotting the landscape and a view of Faial Island off in the distance. One thing I’ve noted was the swimming opportunities on this island. Near one of the tourist resorts on the island, there is a Municipal pool with direct access to the sea!

 

So just like Faial, I’d recommend renting a car to get around the island and, if you’re into adventure, to climb the highest point on the archipelago! On the island is Pico’s Mount, which is the highest point on the Azores at 2351 meters! This climb has a pedestrian route which is of medium difficulty and this warrants more preparation. Due to the irregular ground, steep hills and the temperature change, it’s highly recommended to bring a coat with you and maybe a stroke of good luck!

 

The climb up to Piquinho, as it’s called by the locals, starts at Casa da Montanha which is a great launching point where you can gather all information about how to safely climb the mountain. One of the most important things to note is that you can do this climb either alone or ask for someone to accompany you if you need it!

 

Pico is very beautiful in that the island is littered with both mountains and breathtaking green landscapes. This island is a great opportunity to get close to nature, the wildlife and natural pools. The natural pool Lajido Natural Pool is very close to another village, Madalena, which is actually where I spent one of my nights in Pico.

 

For a social and relaxing afternoon activity, I really enjoyed sampling the great wine and cheeses that are produced on the island. In the same village of Madalena, I went to the Cella Bar, which had a delicious selection of cheeses and wines from the island!

 

From Pico, I continued onto Terceira island by plane. Although I’ve opted to go by plane, there was a boat which would have had stops in the other islands of Graciosa and São Jorge. The distance between Pico and Terceira is about 185 Km.

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Terceira

So my last stop on these islands was on Terceira island where I stayed in Azores Angra Garden, situated in the center of Angra do Heroísmo. Here I strongly advise a visit to the Marina and, if the weather is good, to visit the island’s fantastic beach Prainha. Afterward, I recommend taking some time to visit Duque da Terceira Garden where you will find a magnificent landscape and pleasant views of the islands. It’s worth all of the stairs you’ll have to climb!

 

For food on this island, I strongly recommend the restaurant O Cachalote, more specifically their meatloaf. And of course, there is fresh fish for sale that’s just delicious. For great fresh fish, I must suggest Caneta restaurant which is located in Altares on the north side of the island. Just next to it you’ll find the town of Biscoitos and, in it, the Wine Museum. The museum is worth the visit, simply because you’ll have the opportunity to learn the history of wine on the island and the details of the wines’ unique characteristics.

 

Again here on Terceira, I’ve rented a car so I could have the independence to explore the entire island. Stopping at the Belvederes that are around the island and admiring the peaceful and gorgeous green landscape make a rental car worth everything.

A look through a glass ball refracting a close up shot of the beach on Faial
The landscape on the Azores

Just as on Faial, you can visit the Interpretation Center of the Sierra de Santa Bárbara to learn more about the interesting characteristics of the island and the volcanos on it.

 

Two last things you must do is to take a trip to the Algar do Carvão, where you will see the most beautiful jewel of the Azores and enter the Gruta do Natal. Here you’ll enter a lava tube where lava has flown and eroded away creating an underground cave where lava once flowed! A good tip is to purchase a joint ticket to both of these places in order to save money.

 

I must reiterate to try all of the different varieties of cheese and wine. It’s here on these islands that you’ll find the best Portuguese cheeses!

 

With that, that’s my entire trip to the Azores! My trip to the Azores was only ten days because I went with my daughter was only 5 months old. The Azorean islands are an excellent choice for holidays if you have kids! For the adventurous type, this is ideal because of the plentiful trekking trails of various difficulty levels that showcase the beauty and splendor of each corner. This gives the holiday a challenging and rewarding aspect.

 

I hope you come soon and experience all these islands have to offer!

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