Remember learning about plate tectonics in middle school and being absolutely bored out of your mind? Well, some of the best things to do in the Azores will totally make all of that time so worth it!
See, the Azores is located above an active triple junction between three of the world’s largest tectonic plates, which in turn has created some of the most rugged, beautiful landscapes in this region of the Atlantic.
The Azores, made up of 9 little islands, is an outdoor lover’s haven, as it has some of the most breathtaking naturally formed nature in the entire world. Added bonus- not many people are familiar with the Azores, and as such nature here tends to be unspoiled from mass-tourism.
The Azores is a world of volcanoes, natural springs, underwater mountains, caves and grottos, the bluest lakes you’ll ever see, green pastures and forests.
There’s so much to see and do here, such as dolphin and whale watching, scuba diving, surfing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, you could spend forever in these gorgeous pristine islands. Here are the 15 best things to do in the Azores, Portugal.
1.) Furnas Lake
Located on São Miguel Island, visit Furnas Lake, one of the three major lakes of the island. It’s very unique with volcanic activity on the northwest shore, which makes the lake warm.
You might even get to see local chefs uses the water to make a traditional stew. It’s actually pretty neat, so try really hard not to miss it.
They get water from the steaming craters and mix it in special pots. Then, they bury the pots in the ground to let the stew cook.
You can literally see steam coming out of the ground from these pots. With raised boardwalks all around, you’ll get a good view of the pools and small craters belching steam.
2.) Angra do Heroísmo
Spend some time at the quaint Angra do Heroísmo, a charming city with architecture mostly from the 1700s. Here you can walk the mosaic pavements, see the cathedral, go to the museum, and visit the local shops.
3.) Algar do Carvão
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go into an ancient cave formed from lava?
Descending 100 metres into a magma chamber of an actual extinct volcano is quite a surreal experience and one of the best things to do in the Azores.
Because the volcano acts as a sort of protection, moss and ferns have grown all the walls, adding to the majestic beauty. To top it all off, there is a huge lake with clear waters at the bottom.
4.) Mount Pico
Hiking the highest point in all of Portugal on Mount Pico is the best things to do in the Azores for adventure seekers. At 2,351 metres (a mile and a half high!), the mountain is often encumbered by clouds, adding to its impressiveness.
Though climbing the highest point in all of Portugal might sound difficult, it’s not that bad at all. Proudly reach the top and take in the views.
5.) Museu Carlos Machado
For some rainy day fun, or if you’re a history buffs, spend some time at Museu Carlos Machado, set in a convent dedicated to St.Andrew.
Learn about some of the history of the Azores as you look at exhibits of natural history with collections including taxidermy (whales, dolphins, sharks, and various birds and land animals), zoology, mineralogy, and geology.
There are also collections of sacred art, regional ethnography, painting, tile art, sculpture, gold and silver work, and old toys.
6.) Monte Brasil
Be in awe as you walk the trail of the remains of a volcano jutting out from the blue ocean, encountering local animals and incredible views along the way.
There are paved trails and rocky trails from Angra do Heroísmo to choose from to fit your level of experience. At the end of the hike sits a giant cross memorial overlooking the island.
7.) Marina da Horta
Go sailing at Marina da Horta, the Azores’ main recreational harbour located on Faial Island.
Yachtists from all over the world come here to set sail and participate in the same tradition of leaving a painting of the captain on the dock walls to ensure a safe return back to port.
8.) Lagoa Comprida and Lagoa das Sete Cidades
Trekking to see the twin lakes with its turquoise waters, side by side, separated by vast green vegetation and a volcanic crater is something so remarkable, words can’t do it justice.
Because of successive volcanic activity over the last 38,000 years, the landscape that has formed is beyond stunning and one of the best things to do in the Azores.
9.) Try your hands at kayaking
Whether you choose a lake or the open sea, kayak around the beautiful waters the Azores have to offer.
Traverse the lakes that filled the volcanic calderas or row around the small islets and explore the caves, making it one of the best things to do in the Azores.
When the Capelinhos volcano erupted, it completely changed Faial Island with its destruction. Witness where there is now land was once ocean and roofs submerged in a desert of black volcanic ash.
There is also a ruined lighthouse still standing strong.
11.) Lagoa do Fogo
Venture to São Miguel Island for another incredible crater lake that is one of the largest bodies of water in the Azores.
Thanks to the natural reserve, you can enjoy the unspoiled surroundings of the lake with flora growing on rugged slopes of the volcano rim. Some days the lake is shrouded in mist, giving it an eerily beautiful touch.
12.) Go paragliding
Get your adrenaline pumping as you take in the most breathtaking views when you paraglide over the Sete Cidades on São Miguel Island, deemed one of the most beautiful sites to fly over Europe.
13.) Poça da Dona Beija
Treat yourself to a natural spa day by soaking at the hot spring complex of Poça da Dona Beija, surrounded by tropical vegetation.
Bathing in the pools fed from a 40-degree celsius hot spring cave is one of the lavish and best things to do in the Azores.
14.) Whale Watching
Home to one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries, spot whales and dolphins in the waters of the Azores. Seeing such beautiful creatures freely in the wild as they are meant to be is truly an amazing experience.
15.) Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
Earn bragging rights amongst your friends after you swim in the crystal blue waters of the crater of a volcano.
Using the boat service from the pier at Vila Franca do Campo, head to the islet and splash around in the lagoon that’s fed from the ocean and you’re surrounded by rich vegetation of the partially submerged cone and think about how awesome these islands really are.