The furthest outpost of western Europe, the Azores are a remote volcanic archipelago, uninhabited until discovered by Portuguese explorers. The islands maintain a rugged, untouched air that draws you in. The islands are characterised by their dramatic mountains and calderas, colourful lakes and hedgerows of blue hydrangea blossoms.
The Azores is made up of nine islands, each with their own unique characteristics. Sao Miguel is the largest island, renowned for its twin crater lakes, waterfalls, hot springs and its chic capital, Ponte Delgada. Faial, known as the ‘blue island’, is one of the best places to visit for whale-watching. Terceira combines a pastoral landscape of rolling hills and fields demarcated by stone walls with volcanic mountains, and is home to the Azores’ oldest city.
Popular Ports in Azores
Ponta Delgada is based in the west side of Sao Miguel, and is a great base for exploring the island, but this lively, picturesque town is worth spending time in, too. You’ll be charmed by its distinctive architecture of whitewashed buildings and streets lined with black basalt.
Ponta Delgada is far from monochrome, however. There are splashes of colour everywhere, including in the city’s three botanic gardens. Jardim António Borges showcases a profusion of exotic flowers and ancient trees, and there are also mysterious grottos hidden among the foliage.
There are lots of quirky cafés and hip restaurants to found among the historic buildings and museums. Ponta Delgada is a great place to try Azorean cuisine, too. Tuck into grilled limpets served with garlic-infused sauce, followed by fragrant green-tea pudding.
Horta is a picturesque maritime town located on the island of Faial. It has a lively historic district of cobbled streets lined with pastel-coloured houses, and lots of traditional restaurants and cafés. The marina has been painted with the boat names and hand-prints of the sailors who have disembarked here.
Visit Peter’s Café Sport, which has gained worldwide fame as a haunt of yachtsmen and sailors for the past century. Upstairs you’ll find the quirky Scrimshaw Museum that houses a series of whale-bone artefacts that have been engraved and drawn upon. It’s a fascinating insight into Horta’s whaling past.
Praia da Vitoria
Praia da Vitoria is your gateway to exploring the island of Terceira. It has a pretty old town of black-and-white cobbled streets lined with colourful shopfronts, and a modern seafront promenade.
The town is surrounded by undulating green hills, and extending down the coast from the marina is a picturesque black-sand beach – it’s one of the most popular in the Azores. Praia da Vitoria is also located a short drive away from the Azores’ oldest city, Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What are the best cruise ships for an Azores cruise?
If you want your Azores cruise to be fun-filled, luxurious, and affordable, these two cruise liners come highly recommended.
The stunning Marella Explorer definitely knows how to impress, with spacious cabins and state-of-the-art amenities. You’ll love unwinding at the spa, where there are 11 lounge areas, including one dedicated to couple’s treatments. Another popular area is the Veranda, an adults-only sun deck with cocoon chairs and Balinese day beds.
There are lots of kid-friendly activities, too, including sports tournaments, art activities and early-evening shows. The Marella Explorer has a wide array of wining and dining options, boasting 10 bars and 10 restaurants serving cuisine from around the world.
Marella Discovery 2
Enjoy the adventure of a lifetime on the Marella Discovery 2, the largest and newest ship in the Marella fleet. There’s never a dull moment on board, whether you’re tackling the climbing wall or doing puzzles to break out of the escape room. Children will be kept entertained by the dedicated kid’s club, or at the teens hangout area.
This leaves you free to relax with a cocktail at Bar Eleven, or pamper yourself in the spa. The whole family will be impressed with the food on offer, be it the international buffet spread at Islands, or the succulent steaks at Surf & Turf Steakhouse.
Shore Excursion Ideas
Furnas and ‘Cozido das Caldeiras’
On this highly-recommended Sao Miguel shore excursion, you’ll get your lunch cooked in a volcano! Beforehand, however, you’ll take in some of the island’s highlights, including the beautiful baroque town of Ribeira Grande, and Caldeiras, a volcanic landscape of steaming fumaroles and thermal springs. You’ll stop for lunch at Furnas Lake; a traditional cozido caldeira stew made with sausages and vegetables cooked inside the boiling volcanic ground.
A tour of Sao Miguel’s west side
Explore some of the scenic highlights of this edenic island – it’s picture-perfect villages, crater lakes and dramatic coastline. Begin with a photo stop at the Vista do Rei and Santiago viewpoints, which offer breathtaking panoramas, encompassing the island’s two sapphire- and emerald-tinted crater lakes. You’ll stop to look around Sete Cidades, an unspoilt village near the lakes. The tour ends with a trip to an exotic pineapple plantation.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
The Azores is renowned for being a great place for whale-watching, Faial in particular. You’ll start your adventure at Horta’s old whaling station before heading out across the Atlantic. Sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins populate the waters around the islands, but the Azores is also on the migration routes of humpback whales, blue whales and orcas. Keep a keen lookout for dark fins slicing through the water!