Nine glorious and distinct islands make up the Azores – a stunning archipelago in the mid-Atlantic an autonomous region of Portugal which is sometimes known as the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic. Each of these islands has its own character, culture, charm and unique scenery including volcanic landscapes, green pastures, unusual crater lakes, and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas. With so much to see and do, I’d recommend finding a car hire rental in the Azores and ticking off all the best places. From my time spent exploring this up and coming European destination, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in the Azores, Portugal…
1. Sete Cidades – one of the most stunning places to visit in the Azores
This area could easily be part of one of the best road trips in the world. Sete Cidades is the central civil parish of Ponto Delgada and often described as a picturesque paradise.
High praise indeed and certainly accurate this charming village on the west of the island of São Miguel is a must-see for nature lovers. Volcanic craters and stunning lakes are just some of the beautiful sights you can see. There are also regular tours around the village and a ferry trip is a must!
You can also visit the many lagoons around São Miguel as well. Whether you want to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the calm and tranquillity or simply want to see some of the wondrous nature of the Azores a visit to Sete Cidades is a must.
2. Caldeira – a gorgeous beauty spot to explore in the Azores
Located in the middle of Faial, this caldera – a hollow that forms after volcanic activity – is nothing short of stunning to look at. Until the 1950s it was a simple lake, but now it is nearly 5,000 feet in diameter, which is something all tourists should see.
Although it is mostly dry, the caldera does contain some plant life and greenery that goes from light to dark depending on where you’re looking. There is even a trail that lets you hike up to the rim of the crater, which is nothing short of fascinating.
3. Pico Natural Park – offers some of the best scenery in Portugal
As one of the three natural reserves of the Triangle Islands, the Pico Natural Park is well worth visiting and very accessible if you’re hired a car. It is the largest of the three parks with over 20 protected areas and tours to the park are a must for animal and nature lovers.
Getting the opportunity to see some of the Azore’s natural wildlife up close is sure to be the highlight of any holiday! You can also explore the rest of the island of Pico as well and if you feel up to it you could even hike up the tallest mountain in the Azores as well which is called Pico.
4. Terra Nostra Gardens – a gorgeous and popular tourist attraction
Terra Nostra Gardens is one of two main areas on the islands – the other being Poca da Dona Beija – that allow you to swim in a geothermal pool, which contains water that has therapeutic value. The water always seems to be at the perfect temperature, and millions of people swim in it each and every year.
Surrounding the waters are some very interesting highlights, including various species of plants that make the gardens even more extraordinary. Between the beauty of the area and the nice warm water, this should be a stop for any tourist visiting the Azores.
5. Porto Pim Bay – one of the most beautiful beaches in the Azores
A rising star with holidaymakers Porto Pim Bay can be found around the coast of the city of Horta, on the Island of Faial. Formed by lava from the Monte da Guia volcano this stunning bay is a natural monument and the home of a relaxing fine sand beach.
It’s worth a drive here for visiting for the natural beauty alone the Porto Pim Bay area also makes a great place to visit thanks to the many surrounding bars and restaurants. Whether you are staying nearby in the city of Horta or stopping off for a short trip makes sure you have time to visit this stunning place.
6. Lagoa do Fogo – one of the best islands to visit in the Azores
The island of São Miguel is home to many lakes although none are quite like Lagoa do Fogo! Found in the centre of island Lagoa do Fogo is a crater lake and part of the Aqua de Pau Massif complex. Part of the São Miguel nature park this lake is an untouched paradise and a true marvel to behold.
Certainly awe-inspiring the Lagoa do Fogo is almost like stepping back in time and is one of the must-see places of the Azores! Offering an unforgettable vista, the Lagoa do Fogo really sums up the natural beauty of the Azores and is certainly worth seeing.
7. São Miguel Island – a stunning Azores island to explore
São Miguel Island has already been mentioned quite a few times on this list and for good reasons, there is plenty to see and do there!
The largest and most populous island in the Azores it is the prime spot for tourists to visit with a lot on offer and is definitely worth a road trip!
Nature parks and island tours are plentiful and there is also whale watching, sailing, and relaxing beaches to explore. São Miguel is also a popular stop for cruises and offers some great shopping experiences. There are untouched natural beauty spots, museums, hiking trails, and plenty of historic landmarks to see as well.
Hotels, beach houses, and guest houses are also available all around the island so you won’t be short of options when it comes to places to stay either. Nicknamed the “Green Island” because of the wondrous natural beauty and surrounding flora São Miguel is a paradise I defy anyone not to enjoy.
8. Marina Da Horta – a stunning spot to explore in Azores
You can probably already tell from the name that this marvellous marina is in the city of Horta. It quickly became a favourite with tourists thanks to its amazing views, you can see the towering mountain Pico in the distance from the marina and it is the perfect place to drive to and take shots for your Instagram.
Walking across the Marina Da Horta is the perfect way to spend a morning and there are many surrounding restaurants and shops to visit.
The beautiful boats and fresh sea air are simply delightful and you will get a real feel for island life. Many visitors have left artwork around the marina as well which is well worth seeing, it’s like taking a stroll through history and definitely a one of a kind experience.
9. Furnas – one of the prettiest villages to explore in the Azores
The village of Furnas is not as well-known as many of the tourist spots in São Miguel but it is well worth visiting! Furnas doesn’t have much in the way of beaches but it offers plenty of other amazing things to see and do.
There are some beautiful historic buildings like the Shrine of Senhora da Paz and the natural beauty of the Terra Nostra Gardens. The hot springs and thermal pools are a particular delight and the perfect place to rest and relax! You can also see another of Azore’s famous lakes the Lagoa das Furnas and see some stunning tropical landscapes.
10. Lagoa das Furnas – a beautiful Crater lake with geothermal hot springs
Located on Sao Miguel, this lake has raised boardwalks that give you great views of pools and the small surrounding calderas that are spewing out steam. There are small craters that cooks from various restaurants use to cook their meat and vegetable stew – called cozido – and if you head to the town itself, you can taste delicious local cuisine that you won’t forget after you leave the area.
Located on the northwest shore, the lake is easy to get to and offers lots of tourist-approved sights to enjoy.
11. Ponta Delgada – the beautiful capital of the Azores
There are a total of nine islands in the Azores, and Ponto Delgada is the largest city in all of them. It offers scrumptious food, some amazing history and culture, and gorgeous streets lined with exquisite architectural wonders, and some of the most amazing mosaics you’ve ever seen.
Between the churches, old buildings, and tree-lined streets, this city will lure you in like few others do, and it is without a doubt one of the easiest ways to experience all of the ambiance that the Azores have to offer.
12. Algar do Carvão – a stunning attraction to visit in the Azores
Terceira is one of the larger islands in the Azores and home to the Algar do Carvão a natural ancient lava tube and volcano pit! You’ll find this stunning natural wonder in the civil parish of Porto Judeu and if you want to experience a true ancient wonder then you will want to visit this awe-inspiring sight.
You can quite literally walk down into a volcano – not something many other people can say they have done. Stunning stalactites and a misty rain caused by the internal moisture will make travelling through the volcano almost otherworldly. A truly unique experience you won’t really be able to experience anywhere else.
13. Angra do Heroísmo – one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the Azores
Angra do Heroísmo (commonly called Angra) is another wonder to visit on the island of Terceira and one of the Azores three regional capitals. Found on the southern side of the island this stunning city offers plenty to see and do. The coast features some amazing caves and you can even go whale-watching as well!
The Monte Brasil park is another place worth travelling in your hire car. Nature lovers will love it and there are also some magnificent museums to see. The Duque de Braganca Market is well worth visiting if you want an authentic island shopping experience and biking tours are incredibly popular around the city as well.
14. Poça da Dona Beija – a fantastic hot springs facility featuring five thermal pools
I briefly touched upon the stunning thermal pools and hot springs in Furnas earlier but it also deserves a special mention of its own. Known as the Poça da Dona Beija these calming and relaxing pools are a must-see if you are driving to São Miguel. The Poça da Dona Beija spa is home to five different pools of different temperatures so they’ll be one suitable for everyone.
With onsite lockers, relaxing showers and even a gift shop the Poça da Dona Beija spa as everything you could need for a restful and relaxing experience. Sure to help soothe your muscles and boost your health and surrounded by stunning authentic architecture the Poça da Dona Beija is an amazing place to visit and can be enjoyed by everyone.
15. Terceira Island – one of the best places to visit in the Azores
The island of Terceira is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Terceira Island. You’ll find plenty of island tours with many of them focusing on the amazing caves around the island. The previously mentioned Algar do Carvão is just one of the great places to see there are plenty of others but if you prefer to stay above ground then the beautiful Vitoria Beach, in Praia da Vitoria is the place for you.
There is also some amazing architecture to see such as the 16th century Se Cathedral in the city of Angra. The hiking trails in the little parish of Agualva, Praia da Vitoria is another wonderous place to see and you can even escape the crowds and enjoy the quieter side of island life as well. Whatever you’re looking for you will be sure to find plenty to see and do on the Terceira island especially if you’re driving and can make as many stops as you like.
Hope you enjoyed my list of the most stunning places to visit in the Azores – from underground ancient volcanoes to bustling marinas and tranquil hot springs, I promise you there is always some awe-inspiring beautiful sights to see in this extraordinary archipelago.
16. Capelinhos – a unique and interesting beauty spot in the Azores
Although not stunning to everyone, this is a piece of land that was an ocean a mere 60+ years ago, so it is an awesome place to explore. Due to a volcano that erupted in 1958, Capelinhos is now a whole new island in the Azores, and the old lighthouse is now a museum that you can visit to find out all about the event that changed the area and affected more than 1,800 people, though there were thankfully no casualties.
If you’re a history or nature buff, just standing on the grounds is enough to give you reason to pause and consider Mother Nature and all the things she can do.
17. Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz – a pretty place to visit in the islands
Located a mere 550 yards from the Imperio in Terceira Island, this is a church that was built in the mid-1450s. Its architecture is unique and even though it has undergone several renovations due to numerous earthquakes, it is still a stunning structure that is guaranteed to catch your attention, especially if you are interested in history, architecture, or the church.
Marble portals are just one of the things that make this church so unique, but it is certainly not the only thing that does so.
18. Islet of Vila Franca do Campo – a small paradise located off the shore of a larger one
If you want to sunbathe on the slopes of a very old caldera, then swim inside of its crater, this is the place you want to be. Although it looks small in pictures, the crater is nearly 3,300 feet in diameter and therefore quite large.
There is lots of vegetation on the walls of the caldera, and there is even a lagoon on the landward side that is shielded by ocean currents, making it a great place to swim and relax in the water. If the day is sunny, you should head out there early because this is one area of the islands that fills up quickly on pleasant days.
19. Natural Pool, Mosteiros, São Miguel – a stunning natural swimming pool
The natural pools of Mosteiros can be found to the northwest of São Miguel along the cost of Mosteiros and are easily accessible by car. These natural pools aren’t the same as a trip to the beach they offer something totally unique and way more fun.
There are several natural pools along the coastline deep enough to accommodate several people and the tide even creates mini whirlpools. They are warm and relaxing and certainly worth visiting and you can also enjoy tours around Mosteiros as well. You can even see the stunning caves around the coastline up close!
20. Miradouro da Cruz do Canario – offering beautiful Azores countryside
Located a little more than six miles from Angra do Heroismo, standing on the coastline of this town and viewing what’s in front of you is nothing short of a mesmerizing experience.
You’ll see not only the seascape but also the perfect view of the Ilheus das Cabras, which is home to crustaceans swimming around in the waters and numerous bird species flying above you. In fact, you can see pretty far away whenever you visit this area, making this one sight that you will remember long after your visit is complete.
21. Montanha do Pico – a striking stratovolcano located on Pico Island
Located on the island of Pico, this mountain is the tallest point in all of Portugal at more than 7,700 feet, and one of the things people love most about it is that you can climb to the top with nothing more than standard hiking gear.
Signs are placed at every 50 meters (roughly 164 feet) so that you know how high up you are, and once you get to the top, you can view four of the islands that make up the Azores – Faial, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira. This is the perfect attraction for tourists who love beautiful views and enjoy a good hike.
22. Monte Brasil – the unique remnants of a tuff volcano
Located just south of Angra do Heroismo, this jutting out into the ocean houses several places of interest, including the Fortress of Sao Joao Baptista, which dates back to 1567; and the remains of another volcanic cone some time ago.
One of the most fascinating and the most beautiful places to visit in the Azores, it lies between the islands of Fanal and Angra bays and is even home to a luxury hotel. You can even hike up to the summit if you wish, where you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the city, not to mention a monument to the Portuguese occupation.
How to get around the Azores
Due to their unspoilt nature, easily one of the best ways to explore the islands and see the main attractions is to hire a car. The best time to visit is during the summer months of June, July and August when temperatures are high and can you expect long hours of sunshine – perfect driving conditions.
The well-maintained roads and the exceptional scenery ensures that the Azores offers one of the road trips in Europe – just make sure you stop every now and then for delicious food, amazing ocean views and incredible natural scenes. You can expect a good range of cars on offer from just £4 a day if you shop around for a good deal.