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The Azores in the Atlantichavet: A journey to another world, from Sao Miguel to Pico

Pico - Atlantichavet
The Azores are Portugal's own island paradise out in the Atlantichavet. We guide you to island hopping from Sao Miguel to Pico
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The Azores in the Atlantichavet: A journey to another world, from Sao Miguel to Pico for himself is written by Laura Graf in collaboration with local partners in the Azores. All opinions are, as always, the author's own.

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the Azores - Azores, Sao Miguel - Pico - Atlantichavet

The Azores in the Atlantichavet is a world of its own

Out in the middle of the Atlantichavet lies a paradise for both adventure-hungry outdoor types and those looking for peace, tranquility and beauty: the Azores. The archipelago belongs to Portugal and consists of nine islands, each with its own atmosphere and delicacies.

Since most of the islands are quite small and close together, island hopping is the perfect way to experience and explore more of them, even if time is tight.

A visit to the four islands of Sao Miguel, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial is a good introduction and it is a trip to the Azores with a wealth of activities to choose from.

  • Azores - Atlantichavet
  • whale watching - Atlantichavet - whales
  • Volcano crater

How to get around the Azores

Most flights to the Azores land on the main island of Sao Miguel, where the largest airport is. Here the big planes can land, and from here smaller propeller planes from the Azores' own airline SATA fly to the other islands.

As there are a limited number of flight departures and limited space on the planes, it pays to plan well in advance and book tickets in advance.

Depending on the season, you can also get around between the islands by ferry, across the Atlantichavet. The islands of Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge are only a short ferry ride away from each other.

Because the Azores lie where they do in the middle of the Atlantichavet, the weather can be unpredictable and affect both planes and ferries.

  • Faial - Azores - Atlantichavet
  • Faial
  • Faial - Azores - Atlantichavet
  • Azores - Faial - Atlantichavet

Faial, a small island with great experiences

A little over an hour's flight from Sao Miguel is the archipelago's fifth largest island, Faial. A well-known name among sailors, as the marina in Horta, the main town on the island, is typically the starting or ending point for the yachts that cross the Atlantichavet.

The coastal town with its 6400 inhabitants reflects the charm and character of the Azores. Here are cozy cobbled streets, chalk-white houses framed by deep black volcanic rocks, idyllic green parks with bright red gazebos and a kaleidoscope of flowers in an explosion of all kinds of colors.

As part of the 'standard equipment', of course, the island has its own volcano in the middle, the Caldeira, which arose more than 10.000 years ago. In fact, Faial has two volcanoes and one of them has been active not too long ago.

In September 1957, a 13-month-long eruption from an undersea volcano began off the island's west coast, causing Faial to grow in size. This natural phenomenon created the area of ​​Capelinhos, with its surreal moon-like landscape and dark gray sand, which stands in stark contrast to the otherwise lush green vegetation of the island.

It is a fascinating sight that must be experienced in reality, as it is almost impossible to capture in pictures.

The Caldeira do Faial volcano, on the other hand, is covered by a thick blanket of laurel, which is a special type of forest that you otherwise only find on other islands in the Atlantichavet such as Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.

Faial's volcanic landmarks can be visited by car or on foot, and you will be rewarded with an impressive view of the island. At least if the weather is clear and the volcano is not shrouded in clouds. To be on the safe side, you can check online the webcam at the top of the crater before departure, and be ready to slip up there when the weather is right.

If you want to explore the crater, be prepared for it to be a steep hike. Also be aware that there is a limit on how many people can visit the crater in one day, and access is only possible in the company of a guide.

Because Faial is relatively small, you can easily get around the island by car in a day, and still have time to stop and experience the main attractions.

If you want to spend longer on Faial, check out the island's hiking trails and mountain bike tours or explore alternative tours, which takes you off the beaten path and shows you the way to the locals and their customs.

  • Pico – Mount Pico - Azores
  • Pico - church
  • Pico - Azores trip
  • Pico wine tasting

Pico: Local wine in the shadow of the volcano

Did you know that the Azores produce their own unique wine? This is actually the reason why, at first glance, the island of Pico can look a bit barren and 'hostile' - especially in winter and in early spring before the leaves appear on the vines.

The Azores do not have a warm, stable climate suitable for wine, so the locals have found another clever way to grow wine: they build small fields on a few square meters of the volcanic rocks, of which they have plenty. Here they then plant the vines.

After the sun warms the dark stones during the day, the stones themselves give off heat at night, helping the wine to grow. On some parts of Pico there are black volcanic rock walls as far as the eye can see. It is hard to imagine the impressive work that goes into growing and harvesting wine in this way.

If you want to try the local wine, Pico's wineries themselves offer wine tastings, and some local companies have special tours that take you around the farms.

Pico – like the other islands – has a lot to offer the active traveller. However, Pico also has something quite special compared to its neighbours, namely the 2351 meter high mountain that shoots up from the western part of the island. Yes, the extinct volcano far out in the Atlantichavet is actually Portugal's highest mountain.

The mountain Montanha do Pico is known to be a little 'shy', because it often hides the top under a layer of clouds. However, you may be lucky and see the mountain in all its power and majesty on a sunny day. It is possible to climb the huge volcanic peak, but it is a really good idea to do it with a local guide, as the weather can change quickly and the path to the top is steep and rocky.

If you prefer a more relaxed way to explore the island, they have local companies such as Tripix Azores a range of full and half day tours which show you different parts of the island, offer local food and everyday life and take you to secret caves, picturesque fishing villages and beautiful viewpoints.

  • Sao Jorge – Velas - Azores - Atlantichavet
  • Sao Jorge - Azores Travel

Sao Jorge is peaceful and unique experiences, close to Pico

A short ferry ride from Pico is the island of Sao Jorge. Unlike Faial, Pico and Sao Miguel, the elongated and hilly island does not have a ring road, so be prepared to do some back and forth.

Fortunately, driving up and down the same roads won't be boring, as you then have plenty of time to take in the beauty of Sao Jorge - and maybe stop at one of the island's cheese makers.

Because the delicacy here on the island is cheese. With its many green meadows, Sao Jorge has the perfect conditions for cheese production. Also, since there are more cows than people on the island, be prepared that you may get caught in cattle-created queues in traffic at least once a day.

In addition to the cheese, you will also find another very special specialty on the south-eastern tip of the island: Europe's only coffee plantation! They only produce a few hundred kilos of coffee per year, and none of it is exported - it is truly a unique and rare pleasure you get in your coffee cup.

Now we are at pleasure; if you visit the Azores and Sao Jorge between May and September, you can enjoy the beautiful sight of sparkling blue hydrangea flowers along the winding roads and on the lush green hills, with Atlantichavet in the background. It is truly a sight for gods.

Sao Jorge is also very much worth visiting outside the hydrangea season. You can go hiking to the remote 'fajãs', which are small villages dramatically located along the coast just below the 400 meter vertical cliffs. Many of them cannot be reached by car, but only on foot or by ATV.

Otherwise, you can take a refreshing dip in the crystal blue water in nature's own swimming pools. For the more adventurous are canyoning also an obvious activity if you want to experience the wild, wet nature in the more deserted parts of the island.

With so much on the menu, a day trip with e.g Country Tours a good way to get started.

Then you can see the main sights and hidden highlights of Sao Jorge and also learn about life on the island from someone who knows it inside out.

  • Sao Miguel
  • Sao Miguel – Furna - Azores - Atlantic Islandshavet
  • Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel: Ponta Delgada & Wild Adventures

Despite the fact that the island is home to only 150.000 inhabitants, Sao Miguel, and its capital Ponta Delgada, feels like a vibrant metropolitan oasis compared to the smaller islands.

There is plenty to experience on the main island of the Azores, and if you are only on the islands for a short holiday, you can easily keep yourself busy if you just visit Sao Miguel.

As there is plenty to do, it is obvious to start your visit with a day trip so that you get an overview of what the island has to offer. OnTravel Azores offers a range of exciting tours that take you to emerald green volcanic lakes, bubbling hot springs and peaceful villages.

If you are a daredevil, we can recommend going on a nerve-wracking canyoning trip with you Fun Activities - then you are guaranteed to get the adrenaline level up, so you can feel it. Here you go down along a river by rappel and jump into natural 'pools' from up to 9 meters high - all the while enjoying the fantastic nature far away from everyone else.

If your muscles are sore the next day, head to the natural hot springs and let the hot water relax your body. Please note that it may be necessary to book a ticket for a specific time in advance.

At Sao Miguel, culinary explorers have the opportunity to visit Europe's only tea plantation and both learn about the process of tea production and, of course, taste the final result. You can take a walk between the endless rows of bushes with tea leaves that hope to end up as a nice cup of green or black tea.

You can also make your way past one of the island's pineapple plantations and taste a sweet and less acidic version of the delicious tropical fruit.

Sao Miguel is also the place to try Furnas. It is a stew that is traditionally made underground. A mixture of vegetables and meat is placed in a large pot, which is then hoisted into a hole in the ground, where the heat from the volcanic activity slowly cooks the dish to perfection.

If you want even more island hopping, Terceira is close to Sao Jorge and is also worth a visit.

The Azores are made for active holidays: whale safaris and hiking

If a holiday for you is just lying on the beach and not using more energy than absolutely necessary, it may well be that the Azores are not exactly the destination you should bet on. Not because of the climate of the Azores, but because many of the islands are geologically not very old and therefore have not had time to develop beaches.

If, on the other hand, you are the more active type who loves activities such as hiking, surfing, diving and kayaking, you will love the Azores.

You can of course also settle for eating your way through the Azores in Atlanterhavet, and enjoy the beautiful flowers and wild landscapes. And – not least – go on a whale safari!

On a whale safari in the Azores, you can experience over 20 types of dolphins and whales in their prime. The beautiful giants pass by the Azores on their migration around the Atlantichavet, and here is everything from blue whales to fin whales. Look for the signs with whalewatching when you're there - you won't regret it.

Good trip to Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge and Sao Miguel i Portugal.

Good trip to the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantichavet.

  • Hot spring in Furnas - Sao Miguel -Pico
  • Pico - Atlantichavet
  • Sao Miguel - Pico

You must visit these 5 islands in the Azores

  • Faial
  • Pico
  • Sao jorge
  • Sao Miguel
  • Terceira (Azores)

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About the author

Laura Graf

Laura is from the German city of Nuremberg and educated in communication and business studies at RUC. Her joy of traveling began as a child in the family's camper van when the trip went around Europe. She later moved to Australia for her internship and lived in Sydney for a year. She then moved to Switzerland, but in 2015 chose to settle in Copenhagen.
Laura's best travel destinations are Jordan, New Zealand and Grenada, but she hopes to one day have the opportunity to experience Bhutan.

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