Moon Azores


By Carrie-Marie Bratley

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Experience the breathtaking and unspoiled islands that await just a short hop from mainland Portugal with Moon Azores. Inside you'll find:
  • Strategic, flexible itineraries for exploring individual islands or combining them into a longer trip, with coverage of Porto and Lisbon
  • The top outdoor adventures: Cave-dive into the depths of an extinct volcano, soak in a steaming hot spring, and catch some sun on Santa Maria's golden sand beaches. Dive or snorkel in crystalline waters filled with shipwrecks, submerged volcanoes, seamounts, and colorful marine life. Spot dolphins, humpback whales, and more on an island cruise and go bird-watching on a lush São Jorge fajã. Hike to stunning viewpoints above Sete Cidades Lake or summit the epic, snow-capped Mount Pico
  • Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Wander past cobbled squares and whitewashed buildings to marvel at the striking Old Gates of Ponta Delgada. Stroll through sprawling gardens of exotic plant and secret grottoes in Terra Nostra Park or sip authentic Gorreana tea at Europe's only tea plantation. People watch over a cup of Azorean coffee in the UNESCO historical center of Angra do Heroísmo or admire the famous mariner murals in Horta Marina. Savor fresh seafood and local charcuterie in a seaside village, browse traditional cheeses at a morning market, and sample basalt wines on Pico
  • Expert advice from long-time Portugal resident Carrie-Marie Bratley
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on landscape, history, and cultural customs of the islands
  • Helpful resources on COVID-19 and traveling to the Azores
  • Handy tools such as visa information, a Portuguese phrasebook, and tips for LGBTQ+ travelers, seniors, families, and more
With Moon's practical tips and local know-how, you can experience the best of the Azores.
Heading to the mainland? Check out Moon Portugal.


Congro Lake path

Capelinhos Volcano

DISCOVER the Azores


Planning Your Trip




The Best of the Azores



The Azores Triangle



Porto Pim Beach.

There’s something quite thrilling about going to a destination relatively few people have heard of, like being part of an intrepid club or exploring uncharted territory. The Azores, European but isolated in the middle of the Atlantic, have been known to explorers since at least the 15th century but are a relatively recent discovery to tourists.

Landing on a small island in the middle of a vast ocean is sobering; the remoteness doesn’t quite hit home until you look around and see endless sea from all sides. The heady fragrance of moist, fertile earth, sea salt, and hot basalt rock perfectly enhances the exoticness of the Azores, with their luxuriant, pristine landscapes, staggering volcanic features, and four-seasons-in-one-day weather. On this archipelago of nine islands—some of which have more cows than people—you can soak in steaming hot spring water even if it’s rainy, and cool off in craggy tidal pools when it’s hot. If you’re a surfer, diver, or snorkeler, the Azorean coasts are a paradise, with good surfing conditions year-round and some of the most breathtaking dives in Europe. If water sports aren’t your thing, just enjoying the view is exhilarating. Trek through jungle-like forests, rolling green massifs, and lava plains, and enjoy a slow and simple pace of life among friendly and welcoming people.

Caldeira Velha thermal pool

Ajuda Hill

Topo Lighthouse

The influence of Portugal is evident throughout the islands, in genteel, colonial cities like Ponta Delgada on São Miguel and Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira, and in the food, which often riffs on mainland classics like bacalhau and hearty stews. But floating more than 1,500 kilometers (1,000 mi) from the nearest landmass means everything has a twist. In Azorean cuisine, the surprise is the ingredients: fresh cheese, unique volcanic wines, pineapples, and even island-grown tea and coffee. In the culture, there’s the influence of sailors and whalers who have frequented these Atlantic outposts, visible in famous port cities like Horta on Faial and in relics of the whaling industry like vigia watchtowers, now used to spot cetaceans for visitors enjoying some of the best whale-watching on the planet.

It’s not hard to romanticize the Azores; they’re remote little islands of tranquility, belied by their huge character and overwhelmingly beautiful scenery. But it’s even harder to not want to go back once you been.

the landscape of São Jorge

Furnas Lake church.

Terra Nostra Park


1 Soaking in a hot spring in Furnas on São Miguel, where geothermal activity is part of daily life, from public taps to cooking.

2 Experiencing São Miguel island’s famous Sete Cidades Lake from every angle, climbing to gorgeous viewpoints and kayaking on the calm, greenish water.

3 Sampling the best Azorean products, from cheese made from the islands’ “happy cows,” to tea, coffee, wine, and even pineapples.

4 Lingering in the picture-perfect historic center of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira, the oldest town in the Azores and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5 Exploring some of the more than 70 fajãs on São Jorge: These unique, lush geological formations left over from lava flows are one-stop destinations for hikes, surfing, and stunning views.

6 Summiting Mount Pico: This dormant volcano, the highest point in Portugal, towers over its eponymous island and calls to hikers around the world.

7 Sunning on Santa Maria’s beaches, famed for their soft golden sand.

8 Taking in the salty, gritty atmosphere of the Horta Marina, checking out murals left by passing mariners and having a drink at the famous sailors’ bar Peter Café Sport.

9 Getting a sense of the Azores’ isolation in the blue vastness of the Atlantic from one of the islands’ best viewpoints.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

The Azores might be part of Portugal, but the archipelago is sharply different from the mainland. Lush, verdant gems with pristine landscapes and nature-infused activities, each of the Azores’ nine islands boasts its own distinct character and appeal.

The Eastern Group

The archipelago’s biggest island, São Miguel is the main gateway and best introductory point to the Azores. A fantastic all-around vacation destination, it is the one to visit if you only have time to explore one island. So verdant it’s nicknamed the Green Island, São Miguel is blessed with awe-inspiring scenery including the famous Sete Cidades Lake, fantastic hikes, and ideal conditions for whale-watching. Its steaming hot springs, great places to take a dip or even have a meal cooked by geothermal heat, are unique among the islands. (The only other visitable hot springs in the Azores are the Termas do Carapacho on the island of Graciosa.) The vibrant little city of Ponta Delgada, the archipelago’s economic capital, hosts a healthy nightlife scene.

Sete Cidades Lake


If you want to spend a day or two sunning on the beach, head to São Miguel’s closest neighbor, Santa Maria, a first-class—if somewhat offbeat and rustic—beach resort. Warmer and drier than the other islands, it’s not called the Sunshine Island for nothing. The island is famed for its fine blond sands, a rarity in the volcanic archipelago where most of the beaches are black and rocky, which means it has some of the best swimming conditions in the archipelago. Its sheltered shores and bays are also excellent places for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The Central Group

Architectural heritage, ancient winemaking techniques, and cavernous underground lava tubes await visitors to Terceira island. It’s dubbed the Lilac Island for the purple hydrangeas that cover almost every surface in the spring. Despite being the archipelago’s second-biggest island in terms of inhabitants, it’s notably less touristy than São Miguel. It’s home to the archipelago’s oldest city, charming Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the island’s unique architecture extends beyond the bounds of the city in the more than 70 tiny Divino Espírito Santo chapels scattered around the island.


Graceful Graciosa is an undiscovered gem. The archipelago’s second-smallest island lacks the dramatic peaks and volcanic cragginess of its peers, offering visitors a softer, undulating landscape that is easy on the eye and on the legs. It’s called the White Island for the unique white volcanic rocks, known as trachytes, that make up its terrain. Steeped in tradition, Graciosa’s most eye-popping attraction is its gargantuan Caldera; hike its 4-kilometer (2-mi) circumference for excellent views of the coast to one side and the massive crater below on the other.


If São Jorge had to be summed up in one word, that word just might be cheese. São Jorge will delight foodies, as it produces one of the Azores’ most famous dairy products, São Jorge cheese, as well as other unique food products including the time-honored Santa Catarina tinned tuna, and locally grown coffee and clams. São Jorge is known as the Brown Island because of the fertile, flat plateaus that jut off its coast on all sides, called fajãs. These remnants of cooled lava flows create unique hamlets and scenic bathing spots as well as great conditions for surfing.


If you enjoy wines and bucket-list hikes, then make Pico, called the Gray Island because of all its exposed volcanic rocks, your destination. Some of the Azores’ most famous wines come from Pico, whose landscape, webbed with basalt-rock-built vine pens called currais, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pico is also home the eponymous Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain and one of Europe’s most epic hikes, and it’s also one of the Azores’ best islands for whale-watching.


Fair Faial is pretty as a picture, nicknamed the Blue Island for its characteristic blue hydrangeas. A key port of call for transatlantic sailors, it is a vibrant, characterful island home to legendary mid-Atlantic hangouts in its picturesque main town of Horta, with its colorful marina. These serve as the doorway to staggering sights like the almost lunar Capelo Volcanic Complex and its huge Capelinhos Volcano, and unique bathing opportunities including lava-black beaches and gorgeous tidal pools.

The Western Group

Moody, magnetic, and miniscule, Flores and Corvo make up the Azores’ western group of islands. Flores, the Pink Island, is so named for its abundant rosy-hued flora; it’s an island of waterfalls and magical scenery. Nearby Corvo is the Azores’ tiniest, most authentic, and untouched island, called the Black Island for its dark volcanic soil. It’s generally visited as a day trip from Flores: Hike the 6 kilometers (4 mi) up to Corvo’s gigantic Caldeirão Caldera on the island’s only paved road, then head back to town for a snack before getting back on the ferry.

Mainland Portugal

You can get to the Azores from mainland Portugal either via Lisbon or Porto, two cities that offer very different experiences.


Lisbon provides travelers with a genteel introduction to a modern Portugal. The city retains its original character and portrays a true picture of the country’s soul and history: Traditional buildings sit alongside chic international fashion boutiques, contemporary museums complement ancient castles and convents, and riverside cable cars give the famous historic trams a run for their money. Busy and bustling, the traffic and throngs of tourists in Lisbon leave no room for doubt that it is indeed a thriving and popular capital city.

From Lisbon Airport, it’s possible to fly direct to São Miguel, Terceira, Pico, or Faial.


Loud and without airs and graces, salt-of-the-earth Porto makes no apologies for its lack of polish. For many, this unpretentious authenticity is where the city’s charm lies. Visiting industrious Porto is an immersive experience that stimulates all of the senses. Its gastronomy—think port wine and decadent francesinha sandwiches—is bold and rich, and the cityscape is haphazard and colorful. Porto’s unique attractions, from its bustling historic waterfront to its Belle Époque train station, tell fascinating stories. And its people are among the friendliest in the country.

From Porto Airport it’s possible to fly direct to São Miguel and Terceira.

When to Go

The best time to visit the Azores really depends on the purpose of your visit. Those interested in outdoor activities will probably get the most from the drier, warmer summer months (May-Sept.), while those who want to enjoy the hot springs and culture could visit at any time. That’s not to say that you can’t also enjoy the outdoors in winter; temperatures vary by only 10 degrees Celsius or so throughout the year. However, the weather is so changeable that you could have a fine morning and a wet afternoon—or vice versa—in any season.

Tourism-wise, the archipelago follows the same pattern as the mainland, with low season being roughly November-February and high season July-August, when hotel prices and car rentals are most expensive and attractions and beaches busiest.


Spring is a wonderful time to visit the Azores. The flowers are starting to bloom and the weather is starting to warm up, but hotel and rental vehicle prices will still be cheaper than in the summer season. Though temperatures are pleasant in the Azores year-round, spring is the perfect time for hiking, as the region has yet to feel the force of summer’s heat. During spring, temperatures hover between 17-20°C (63-68°F) degrees Celsius. Showers can occur at any time and with little warning, but spring rainfall tends to be short-lived. Whale-watching can also be enjoyed pretty much all year round, but April-September are the best months, with April-May widely regarded as the peak. Spring is also when the archipelago stages its time-honored Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost festivities, an authentic slice of Azorean culture, which take place on all islands between Easter and Pentecost Sunday.


May-September are the best months to visit the Azores for those who like their weather sunny and warm to enjoy the volcanic tidal pools and beaches. The weather out in the Atlantic archipelago is unpredictable at best, so showers can occur at any given time, but generally, summer is warmest and driest, with July being the driest month and August the hottest, when thermometers can climb to 25°C (77°F) or higher. The lovely beaches of Santa Maria are the sunniest of the islands. June on the westernmost islands—Flores and Corvo—is also misty month, when thick fog tends to enshroud the island and can affect travel.

Summer is also when the islands’ trademark hydrangeas are in full bloom, especially on Terceira (the Lilac Island) and Faial (the Blue Island). It is also when accommodation prices go up, particularly in peak tourist season, July and August.


In October, the Azores start to gradually cool and become rainier, with average temperatures around 20°C (68°F), although some days can be quite a bit warmer, and hotel prices start to drop. This is also when the islands are most prone to the changeable weather. That said, fall is lovely in the Azores; the foliage starts to change color, the weather is still pleasant and warm, albeit wetter than summer, and the islands are quiet, with fewer crowds.


Winter (November-February/March) sees the coldest and wettest weather of the year, and thermometers waver around 17°C (63°F), which can be less than ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities. However, the Azores’ thermal natural attractions are very enjoyable to visit during the winter months. Just make sure you pack accordingly, with layers of warm clothes. It’s also wise to remember that stormy weather can affect interisland travel, making flight and ferry departures less reliable.

Know Before You Go
Getting There

With the exception of a few transatlantic and southern European cruises that might include stops at the archipelago, the only way to get to the Azores is by plane, but never before have so many airlines and flights served the archipelago. There are direct domestic flights from Lisbon and Porto, and direct flights from many other cities in Europe, as well as a few in the United States and Canada.

Of potential interest to international travelers, the Azores’ main airline SATA Azores Airlines (tel. 707 227 282; offers a stopover program, whereby international travelers flying to mainland Portugal (Lisbon, Porto) or to the island of Madeira can include a stop in the Azores (the islands of Terceira or São Miguel) of a few hours up to seven days, at no extra cost to the direct flight price. Go to for more information.


From mainland Portugal, the Azores is a short and cheap flight, usually around 2 hours 30 minutes. Round-trip flights between the mainland, namely Lisbon and Porto, and the Azores can be found for less than €100 most of the year. It’s possible to fly to São Miguel, Terceira, Pico, and Faial directly from mainland Portugal; the other islands will require a connecting interisland flight or ferry.


Chartered seasonal flights from the United Kingdom and other European countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain are also available. These flights are generally short (around 4 hours), and fairly cheap (€100-200 round-trip), mostly to São Miguel, though flights to Terceira can be found as well.


SATA Azores Airlines


On Sale
Dec 15, 2020
Page Count
400 pages
Moon Travel

Carrie-Marie Bratley

About the Author

Carrie-Marie Bratley moved to sunny Portugal from not-so-sunny South Yorkshire as a child, and credits Portugal's incredible weather, beaches, food, and drink for keeping her moored there. She has worked as a journalist and writer since 2004, and is a newscaster for an Algarve radio station, interpreting, researching and reporting on affairs in Portugal. 

Carrie-Marie has traveled Portugal and its islands extensively (her absolute favorite place in Portugal is the heavenly island of São Miguel in the Azores), and has expanded her travels to South Africa, the Caribbean, Morocco, and of course, the UK, which she visits frequently to fill up on the traditional British delicacy of fish and chips. She loves photography, local festivals, and an early night with a good book. Carrie-Marie is the author of Moon Lisbon & Beyond, Moon Azores, and Moon Portugal.

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