Top 10 Things to See and Do in Azores, Portugal

<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Azores | praia56 / Pixabay</a>
<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Azores | praia56 / Pixabay</a>
Lisbon has been receiving tons of attention lately as Europe’s top vacation spot, but the Azores islands may be the best summer destination in Portugal. There is plenty to see and do (and eat) throughout the nine islands to keep the most ambitious traveler busy and beyond satisfied; here’s just a starter.

Whale watch

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 (since it is the largest of the nine islands) with companies in Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca do Campo. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, too.

Try to catch a glimpse of whales in their natural habitats. © Pixabay

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 (or meat-and-vegetable stew) are lowered into the volcanic ground, where they cook all day. Many local restaurants take orders in advance (it’s recommended to call the day before), so don’t wait for dinnertime before placing an order.

Order a meal that has been cooked in volcanic earth. © Eduardo Manchon / Wikimedia Commons

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 many hot springs on the islands, which promote health benefits from improving circulation to reducing stress and healing skin conditions. The only caution is against wearing light colors in the geothermal pool at Terra Nostra as the naturally yellow-brown water can discolour bathing suits.

Swim in the geothermal pool at Terra Nostra park. © David Stanley / Flickr

Hike Pico mountain

Pico, the second largest island, is home to Portugal’s highest mountain. Reaching an altitude of 2,351 metres (7,713 feet) isn’t a trek for novice hikers, and most of the climb is over rocky terrain, but the views at the top are spectacular. Plan in advance.

The views from the peak at Pico is beyond worth the climb. © Unukorno / Wikimedia Commons

Eat lapas

Eating seafood is a must in the Azores (many restaurants source ingredients straight from the ocean), and ordering lapas (limpet clams) is particularly special. They are caught off the rocks and can be eaten raw or grilled; the latter (called lapas grelhadas in Portuguese) is served with butter, garlic, and a drizzle of lemon. Found all over the Azores, lapas are among the most popular oceanic treats but also one of the more unique for tourists. Bonus tip: the largest lapas can be found on the westernmost islands, Flores and Corvo.

Grilled Lapas or Lapas Grelhadas © Nina Santos

Horse-drawn carriage ride

The charming towns and villages in the Azores will make visitors feel like they’ve traveled back through time, so embrace that feeling and explore a city by carriage. Many of the most popular locations, like Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira and Ponta Delgada in São Miguel, offer these experiences, which can be booked on the spot.

Enjoy a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through Ponta Delgada © Robert Cutts / Wikimedia Commons

Attend a festival

From religious to musical to even maritime-related, the warmest months are also when the islands come alive with festivals. Each island has its own event calendar, which can be found online.

Villages become more beautiful during festivals. © Pixabay

Try standup paddleboarding

For a full body workout and another way to spend time on the water, book a standup paddleboard (SUP) excursion. The lakes provide calm yet beautiful environments to try this, and organized trips on the ocean are available as well.

Try SUP or Stand Up Paddleboarding © Pixabay

Visit the different beaches

In a destination like the Azores, finding a local beach to spend a day in the waves and sun-soaking goes without saying. A few great beaches include Praia Grande near Ponta Delgada, Praia Formosa in Santa Maria, and Ribeira Quente in São Miguel.

Ribeira Quente in São Miguel offers one of the nicest beaches on the island. © Mickey Løgitmark / Wikimedia Commons

Visit Sete Cidades

Head west in São Miguel for one of the most dramatic and iconic views in the Azores: the crater and lakes at Sete Cidades. This is another top location for hikers and one that must be visited with a camera. Book a guided tour for help on where to begin or how best to explore the area.

Don't leave without seeing the blue and green lakes in Sete Cidades. © Pixabay