Azores named as the best destination for 2016 by Dutch magazine “Traveler” National Geographic.
Azores named as the best destination for 2016 by Dutch magazine “Traveler” National Geographic.
For traveling to the Azores, the most common way is by air transport. The connections are made through the following airports: João Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada (island São Miguel), Santa Maria Aiport, Lajes Airport (Terceira island), Ilha do Pico Airport, and Horta Airport (island of Faial).
The link between the Azores and mainland Portugal is guaranteed by daily flights through Lisbon and Oporto. There are regular flights that link the Azores to the Autonomous Region of Madeira, the United States of America, Canada, England and Germany. The regional air carrier flies daily between all the islands of the archipelago. For their excellent geographic position, the Azorean ports are a frequent stop for yachts and cruise ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Being part of the Portuguese territory, foreign visitors must carry a passport, and in some cases a visa, when arriving at the Azores. Visiting European Union citizens need only to present national identity card.
In countries where Portugal is not officially represented, the interested parties should direct to the Portuguese authorities for requesting a visa. The borders and customs services control the entry and exit of people and goods.
For driving cars, motorcycles and other vehicles, except for bicycles, foreign citizens should carry international licenses or a driving license of their country of origin. The port captaincies control the entry and exit of ships.
Portuguese is the language spoken, although each island has its unique accent. Azoreans have an easy grasp of the English and French languages.
In the Summer time, we suggest light and fresh clothing. In the Spring and Autumn, we advise clothes proper for cooler and more humid days. In the Winter, the temperatures are not too cold, but rain is frequent and therefore we advise wearing raincoats.
The monetary unit in use is the EURO (€). There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and of 1 and 2 euros, and bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 euros. You may exchange money at banking institutions, which are open from 8:30h to 15h, except on weekends and holidays. You may also use the automated teller machines, or credit cards, where they are accepted.
All the islands of the Azores are connected by flights operated by the regional air carrier. The connection by sea between all islands is assured, from the months of May to October, by the seafaring enterprise Atlanticoline. The islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge are linked daily.
In all the islands, the tourist has at his disposal a service of public transport buses, that connects almost all the localities of each island in an economic and comfortable manner. Beyond buses, there are also taxis and rent-a-car services.
There are many holidays celebrated in the Azores. Some are national holidays and some are regional and more connected to the Azorean culture. The following days are holidays that take place on fixed dates: 1st of January (New Year); 25th April (Freedom’s Day); 1st May (Labour Day); 10th of June (Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities); 15th of August (Day of Nossa Senhora da Assunção); 1st of November (All Saint’s Day); 8th of December (Immaculate Conception Day); 25th of December (Christmas Day).
Easter is a holiday in Portugal and in the Azores. However its dates are not fixed and vary every year. This has to do with the lunisolar calendar. As of 2022 Easter will be celebrated on the 15th and 17th of April, as Easter Friday and Easter Day respectively.
Autonomy Day is a holiday exclusive to the Azores. It takes place on Espírito Santo Monday, which is the biggest festivity of the Azorean people. As such, this was named a holiday by the Azorean parliament in 1980 because of its importance to the identity and culture of the islands. Its dates vary from year to year, as Espírito Santo Monday takes place on the first Monday after Pentecost, which also changes dates every year.
The Day of Christ’s Body is also a holiday that changes dates, because it is linked to Easter and Pentecost. It takes place 60 days after Easter and is always celebrated on a Thursday.
Carnaval is celebrated in all 9 islands, although most of them take place on different dates.
Lastly, every municipality in the Azores has a holiday to itself. These holidays can be on fixed dates or varying ones depending on which municipality they take place in.
Commerce is open from 9:30h to 12:30h and from 14:00h to 18:30h. Closes at 13:00h on Saturdays. On the weekends, shopping centers, supermarkets and some convenience stores are open. Restaurants are usually open for lunch from 12h to 15h, and for dinner from 18h to 22h. Schedules vary from island to island. Some shops do not close for lunch
The Azores offer several ways of spending your time, always with the most entertainment. Along the coast there are several beaches and natural pools. You may visit several parks and gardens, where you can find interesting botanical species. In some places you may try horse riding, hiking trails or biking, which are great ways of connecting with nature.
Travel agencies organize several circuits and guided tours, allowing the tourist to know, in general, the main points of interest.
Various enterprises can provide unforgettable moments in sailing yachts, boat rides, fishing, diving, canyoning, among many other activities that you may pursue in the Azores. The several bars, night clubs, pubs and cinemas are a great way of occupying your evening leisure hours.
You may practice numerous sports. São Miguel and Terceira offer excellent golf courses. Tennis and paddle tennis are sports that you will also want to try. The sea provides conditions for sailing, surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, whale watching and other nautical activities that will fill your time in the best way.
The abundance of various species of fish, in the sea of the Azores, allows you to fish at high sea or from the rocks, species such as merlin, anchovy, parrotfish and white seabream. In the creeks and lagoons, you may fish trout, carp and pyke. You may also give a try to hunting rabbit, quail, partridge and pigeon. For hunting and fresh water fishing, the necessary permits can be obtained from the forest services.
The Azorean people is festive by nature. The Festas do Divino Espírito Santo, the municipal holidays, the feasts honoring the patron saints of each locality, the summer festivals and the popular gatherings happen normally between May and October. The Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, in the island of São Miguel, the rope bullfighting, the Carnival dances and the Sanjoaninas, in Terceira island, the Maré de Agosto Festival, the Maia Folk Festival and the Santa Maria Blues, in the island of Santa Maria, the Carnival of Graciosa island, the Semana Cultural das Velas, in the island of São Jorge, the Semana dos Baleeiros, the Cais the Agosto and the Festas da Madalena, in the island of Pico, the Semana do Mar, in the island of Faial, the Festa do Emigrante, in the island of Flores, and the Festival dos Moinhos, in the island of Corvo, are some of the main festivities.
In the main convents of the Azores, there are museums that, together with the forts and statues, mark some milestones of the Azorean history. The museums, cultural and ethnographic houses allow the visitor’s identification with Azorean culture, habits and traditions. The churches and hermitages of several localities exhibit many items of great patrimonial value. Due to the isolation of the islands, the Azorean people have developed handicraft techniques in scrimshaw, fish scales, wood, clay, basalt, corn leaf or fig pith carving.
The gastronomy of the Azores is very diverse. While the foods of the different islands have something in common, they have unique particularities. Regarding meat, try the delicious Regional Steak, the Alcatra, the sausages and greaves. If you prefer fish and seafood, enjoy our tuna, limpets with Afonso sauce and the famous fish stews.
Those with a sweet tooth will want to try the bolos levedos, the queijada da Vila Franca do Campo, the queijada da Graciosa, the “cavacas”, and the “Orelha” biscuits of Santa Maria. To go with your food, we have the good wines of Pico. We have also the several spirits of the region. Characteristic local fruits include the pineapple of São Miguel, the cantaloupe and the passionfruit.
The tourist will find several hotels to choose from. When checking in, you should receive a filled card, with the hotel’s name, your name, room number, number of people, check-in and check-out dates, and daily price. The check-out ends, normally, at 12:00h of the defined day. In the hotel rooms, there is a chart where you may check the prices, and respective taxes, of the services (the prices in the chart may be altered for lodging of children under 8 years old or extra beds). The high season starts on May 1st, ending on September 30th, while the low season runs between November and March, and the mid season encompasses April and October (not every hotel follow the same criteria).
All the lodging units should have a complaints book. You may also file your complaints at the Direção Regional de Turismo or in the tourism services of each island.
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1408 km from Lisbon and 3910 km from New York, lay the nine volcanic islands of the archipelago of the Azores, named at the time of discovery after the local birds of prey initially thought to be goshawks, but were actually kites. The islands are divided in 3 groups: Eastern (São Miguel and Santa Maria), Central (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial), and Western (Flores and Corvo). Together, the islands cover an area of 2325 km² and inhabited by 246 102 people (as of a 2011 census).
São Miguel is the largest island of the archipelago, while Corvo is the smallest. The mountain of Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point of the archipelago and of Portugal. The tempered maritime climate is smooth due to the influence of the Golf stream, and it is due to this climate that the Azores offer the beautiful green landscapes, characteristic of its islands. The air temperature does not oscillate much, maintaining a mean value of 23 °C (73 °F) in the Summer, and of 13 °C (55 ° F) in the Winter, with one of the warmest Winters in Europe. The water temperature varies between 24 °C (75 °F) and 17 °C (24 °F).
The Azores, historically, enter the map of Europe at the time of the Portuguese discoveries, led by Infante D. Henrique. The first discoverers of the archipelago are thought to be Diogo de Silves, in 1427, or Gonçalo Velho Cabral, in 1431. It is certain that the settlement of the archipelago started between 1431 and 1432, with the first shipment of animals, followed by the first settlers in 1439.
The settlement spread across the several island groups through the centuries: Eastern and Central groups in the 15th century, Western group in the 16th century. Initial settlers included people from the north and the south of Portugal, Jews, Moors, Flemish, English and French. The Azores played a vital role in the conquest and defense of Portuguese forts in North Africa, serving as stopover for ships coming from India and also as support for the expeditions that explored the Americas. The Azores were also important for the defense of the Kingdom during the Spanish dominion between 1580 and 1640.
During the two World Wars, the archipelago provided essential support to its allies, through its ports and airports, and were an important support center for communications. After the national revolution of April 25th, 1974, the Azores were granted the Autonomous Region status, with its own government and legislative assembly.
The Azores have at your disposal a lot to offer. Of volcanic origin, each island presents its volcanic identity through the fossils in Santa Maria, the lagoons in São Miguel, the caves in Terceira, the cones in Graciosa, the fajãs in São Jorge, the mountain of Pico, the Capelinhos volcano in Faial, the waterfalls in Flores and the Caldeirão in Corvo. The whole archipelago presents several sightseeing spots, from where you can observe the coast and its bays, the dashing views of unforgettable landscapes, lagoons, volcanic calderas, fumaroles, hot springs and great waterfalls that impress anyone. The fertility of the soil and the humid climate allow for an abundant flora to thrive, with a great diversity of flowers, from which the hortensia stands out. The sea of the Azores is rich in fish species, great for sport fishing. It is also possible to watch dolphins, sperm whales, whales and other cetaceans that will amaze you. The islands are home to several World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, and Natural Reserves that have been preserved, with its natural landscapes, flora and fauna kept intact.