Lisbon is frequently named as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, but the Portuguese Azores islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, may be the best summer destination. Home to Mount Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, stunning coastline and lake-filled caldera like Sete Cidades, there’s plenty to keep even the most ambitious traveller busy. Here’s our guide for a trip to the Azores.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Go whale watching
One of the most unforgettable experiences for the whole family includes sailing through the Atlantic in search of these majestic marine mammals. Most of the islands have guided tours available, but São Miguel may be the easiest – it’s the largest of the nine islands – with companies in Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca do Campo. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, too.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Order a meal cooked in volcanic soil
In São Miguel’s village of Furnas, locals take slow cooking to a whole new level. Pots of cozido (meat-and-vegetable stew) are lowered into the volcanic ground, where they cook all day. Many local restaurants, such as Caldeiras e Vulcões, take orders in advance – it’s recommended to call the day before – so don’t wait for dinnertime to place an order.
Swim in geothermal pools
Before eating the cozido in Furnas, head to Terra Nostra Park or Poça da Dona Beija and soak in the hot geothermal pools. These two spots are just a couple of the many hot springs on the islands, which promote health benefits including improved circulation, reduced stress and healing skin conditions. The only caution is against wearing light colours in the geothermal pool at Terra Nostra, as the naturally yellow-brown water can discolour bathing suits.
Hike Mount Pico
Pico, the second-largest island, is home to Portugal’s highest mountain. Trekking to an altitude of 2,351 metres (7,713 feet) isn’t one for novice hikers, especially as most of the terrain is rocky – but the views at the top of Mount Pico are spectacular if you’re up to the challenge. It’s definitely an activity to plan in advance.
Eating seafood is a must in the Azores. Many restaurants source ingredients straight from the ocean and ordering lapas (limpet clams) is particularly special. A Tasca is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the area to try the delicacy. Caught off the rocks, they can be eaten raw or grilled – the latter (lapas grelhadas) are served with butter, garlic and a drizzle of lemon. Found all over the Azores, lapas are among the most popular oceanic treats, and the largest lapas can be found on the westernmost islands of Flores and Corvo.
Relax on a horse-drawn carriage ride
The pretty towns and villages in the Azores will make you feel like you’ve travelled back through time, so embrace that feeling and explore a city by carriage. Many of the most popular locations, such as Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira and Ponta Delgada in São Miguel, offer these experiences, which can be booked on the day.
Attend a festival
From religious to musical and even maritime themes, the warmest months are when the islands come alive with festivals, with each island having its own event calendar. Festa do Divino Espirito Santo (the Holy Ghost Festival), is the most popular festa, celebrating the third person of the Godhead – a day where somebody is named empress or emperor for a day.
Try stand-up paddleboarding
For a full-body workout and a chance to spend time on the water, book a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) excursion. The lakes provide calm yet spectacular environments to try this – and organised trips on the ocean are available as well. You can rent a board and kayaks at Garoupa Canoe Tours.
Visit the beaches
In a destination like the Azores, finding a local beach to spend a day in the waves or on the sand isn’t difficult. A few great beaches include Praia Grande near Ponta Delgada, Praia Formosa in Santa Maria, and Ribeira Quente in São Miguel. Thinking of going for a swim? Water temperatures reach highs of 23C (73F) in summer, but drop down to 17C (62F) in winter.
Visit Sete Cidades
Head west in São Miguel for one of the most dramatic and famous views in the Azores: the crater and lakes at Sete Cidades. This is another top location for hikers and the stunning scenery is perfect for photographers. Book a guided tour for advice on where to begin or how best to explore the area.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.