Interesting factsLearn interesting facts about the Azores Archipelago
The archipelago has nearly 700 kilometers of coastline, but all the sandy beaches together make up only a few kilometers. In addition, the size of the sandy beaches varies from year to year: in the spring, the sea flushes lots of sand to the shore, in others less. The winter storms make the sand disappear again. If one reads about a sandy beach, this does not mean that there really is one to visit.
Bathing enthusiasts, who prefer sandy beaches, most likely will get their money’s worth on the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria. On all other islands, rocky beaches, pebble coves and natural swimming pools dominate. At most you will find small sandy coves. Beaches may also be found on the beautiful city beach of Horta (Faial Island) and Praia da Vitória (Terceira Island). Most bathing areas are cleansed in June. In the spring the waters are cooler and debris may accumulate affecting your bathing pleasure. During the summer lifeguards are positioned on most of the beaches. Nevertheless, bathing is not always completely safe and caution is needed because of strong surf on all coastal sections. You should only bathe in calm waters or in protected natural swimming pools. Snorkeling equipment is worthwhile. Bathing shoes are recommended for swimming in the natural pools, they protect against sharp stones and sea urchins.
By the way, many of the Azorean beaches are awarded the Blue Flag, an environmental seal of quality that rates environmental education, environmental management, quality of service and water quality standards (www.blueflag.org).
Nude and topless is officially banned. If you want to venture out, you should visit one of the many secluded beaches or coastal areas.
Currently we can only provide German-speaking literature about the Azores, more languages to follow.
There are only a few German-language books on the Azores, with the exception of guidebooks and illustrated books.
Regarding fiction with Azores reference we are aware of the following books:
Christiane Schnurbein: The forgotten Miss. German educators in the Azores. Report contemporary witnesses. SKG publishing house: Zusmarshausen 2003. At a time when Prussian virtues such as efficiency, diligence and punctuality represented a branded article for the "better" society abroad, German pedagogy became an export hit. German "Miss" taught children in the host country and taught in addition to the subject matter also German culture and the way of life. On the basis of personally conducted interviews and documentations, the author unfolds a vivid picture of this time (1880 - 1980). Personal experiences and conversations with students and offspring of the "Miss" bring to life a sophisticated social class, which already at that time possessed a cosmopolitan way of life and still lives in this spirit.
Ralph Roger Glöckler: Volcanic journey - an Azores saga. 2nd Edition. Ivory Publisher: Berlin 2016
In 1957, a submarine eruption shook the Azores island of Faial. As a consequence, a volcano builds up off the coast and its ash fountains cover the island like a carpet, life changes dramatically there. The author roamed Faial lava fields and found traces of new life in them. He spoke with the elders who never left the island and still recall well; He has followed in the footsteps of the emigrants to the USA and has linked the natural with the historical.
Ben Faridi: The silence of the family. October Publisher: Münster 2009. A detective novel about the first crime in the history of Corvo. More will not be revealed! Be sure to read if you plan a visit to that island. The delicious recipes invite you to try it out.
Elisabeth von Goessel: Azores high with sea depths. MCT-Verlag: Frankfurt a.M. 2011 Behind the postcard idyll of the Azores island Faial and Pico are hidden secrets from the past time of the seaplanes and the German-Atlantic telegraph company. The 35-year-old marine biologist Carlotta Brunotte from Berlin comes in an intelligently staged cat and mouse game not only the previously hidden second life of her grandfather on the track, but gets into the middle of a scandal nature conservation of whales and dolphins. A novel written with a criminal character within the tension between tourism and environmental protection.
If you know of any other books or should discover some along the way, we would be most appreciative if you pass on the information to us!
In addition, all of the islands have small foldable maps, which are available on-site at most tourist information centers (i.e. airports, ferry ports, offices in local centers). They are free of charge and provide a good overview of each island. It is highly recommended to request at the respective tourist information center.
The Azorean weather follows its own rules (see climate and travel times). Therefore both rain and sun protection is highly advisable, no matter what season you travel in. For hiking enthusiasts, ankle-high hiking boots are recommended and if necessary, also hiking poles. A fleece jacket for cooler days is helpful. You can’t go wrong with light clothing, but at least for the evening hours, you should also bring warmer clothing (such as jeans and a sweatshirt). Headgear is recommended for both cold weather and sun protection.
If you travel in the summer months, you should bring a bathing suit. Also snorkeling equipment is worthwhile and many tourists take their water shoes due to the rocky terrain. Since the seabed is also predominantly rocky near the shore, you can see many fish after just a few meters.
The people of the Azores have remained true to their traditions and traditional customs to date. During festivals the entire village, sometimes even the entire island participate. It is common for friends, acquaintances and relatives from abroad to join in. The Azoreans take every opportunity to celebrate. Traditional and religious festivals are held throughout the year, passed down from generation to generation. Each village has its own patron saint, his or her name day is always a local holiday - which is of course celebrated solemnly.
Particularly well known and celebrated on all islands are the Holy Spirit Festivals, Espirito Santo. In almost every village there are small chapels of the Holy Spirit, often adorned with a dove or crown on the pediment. They form the center of the Espirito Santo celebrations. In earlier times these feasts culminated in Pentecost, but are now celebrated through spring and summer. Many relatives from overseas come for vacation and participate as a yearly ritual. These festivals originated in the 10th or 11th century. Isabella of Aragon introduced the festivities on the Portuguese mainland and the Franciscan Order brought them to the Azores. Originally, the main focus was on feeding the poor and the sick, as well as the custom of putting a crown on a peasant’s head for a whole day. Nowadays, the organizers who take care of the physical well-being of the entire village, are symbolically crowned as emperors. They are handed and presented with the insignia of the Holy Spirit, the crown and scepter on a silver platter. The tradition of these festivals have been preserved and unchanged until today.
Equally popular are the Touradas à Corda. The typical bullfight of the Azores takes place between May and October, mainly on the island of Terceira.
Generally there are many festivals on all islands during the spring and summer months. The streets are adorned with flowers and colorfully decorated. Parades, processions and music make part of these traditions and are accompanied by sporting events, especially sailing regattas. The Azoreans like to celebrate until all hours of the night.
Old customs are also reflected in traditional crafts. Each island has developed its own forms: Typical for the island of Faial is Scrimshaw, the art of painting or designing on whale teeth and bone. Also miniature works of art from the marrow of the fig tree are produced. In São Jorge handcrafted rugs, blankets and bedspreads are the island's trademark. Just like 100 years ago, the ladies sit there at their hand-operated looms and create commissioned work.
The Azorean cuisine is easy to overview, providing simple and rich dishes. Fish and meat dishes are balanced on the menus. Fish lovers get their money's worth and the dishes are often excellently prepared. Meat dishes are usually good, but not necessarily cooked creatively. In simpler restaurants, where the locals go daily, the choice of dishes and the preparation is usually manageable. There are now, on all islands, upscale and gourmet restaurants that prepare meat, fish and seafood dishes of high quality.
National dish, as in continental Portugal, is the Bacalhau, a salted and sun-dried cod. In continental Portugal there are about 300 different types of preparation and has been part of the standard range of every fish counter.
The so-called Cataplana, a tightly closed copper pan, is a traditional way to prepare most seafood. It is a stew, which usually contains fish with potatoes and all types of vegetables. Just as traditional, the Alcatra is mostly cooked in the Central Group of islands. Usually consisting of bacon and beef pickled and braised in white wine prepared in a clay bowl for hours in the oven.
Squid and Octopus are also found on many menus. There are three varieties: Polvo (the largest representative, an eight-legged octopus with large suckers), Lulas (squid, white hooded body, grilled or roasted) and Choc (sepia, slightly greasier meat).
Seafood is economical compared to prices in other European countries. Another delicacy is lapas, often eaten as an appetizer: translated correctly, it is a "common limpet", but it is a clam with orange flesh.
Morçela (blood sausage), Linguiça (smoked meat sausage) and Inhame (yams) should be tasted at least once during your stay as they are staples of the Azoreans.
Beer is very popular in the Azores. On the main island of São Miguel you get regional home-brewed beer, on the other islands (unfortunately) only the imports from the Portuguese mainland. Wine is also a high priority. On many islands it is privately manufactured, on Pico it is industrially processed and exported. In ancient times, wine of Pico has made it to the tsarist houses of Russia, today it’s exported to continental Portugal and abroad.
Tap water in the Azores is not licensed drinking water, so it’s advisable to use mineral water for drinking.
Accommodations are available in a wide variety of price and entitlement categories. The offer is versatile, but varies enormously from island to island. In general, accommodations can be classified as follows:
- Typical bed and breakfast
- Stylish country house pensions / Quintas
- "Classic" 3-4 star hotels
- Modern 5-star hotels on the island of São Miguel
- Stylish and charming boutique hotels
- Apartments / holiday apartments and holiday homes
Most hotels are located in the main islands, a few on beaches. The most beautiful accommodations for many travelers are in country houses / Quintas, Adegas or old mansions, mostly rural and located in the countryside. Tourism with rural charm, called Turismo Rural, plays an important role in the Azores and is very worthy of support because the income benefits private families. It is also the most authentic form of an Azores vacation bringing you close to nature.
Most accommodations are open year-round, with some guest houses and smaller family establishments closing in the winter months. The islands of São Miguel, Terceira, Faial and Pico offer a wider choice for every taste and budget. On the less developed islands, the choices are less. Due to a lack of competition, some of the prices are overcharged, mainly during the peak season of July and August.
On the islands there are modern hotels, pensions, historic mansions, country estates and traditional cottages. These are called Adegas, weekend cottages which are available in large numbers on the island of Pico. Former country residences and farmhouses have been converted or expanded in recent years as apartments and homes. Some of these have several bedrooms and can accommodate up to 6 people. Regarding the equipment, everything is available from holiday homes of simple standards to comfortably furnished apartments and homes.
In general, you should plan an Azores vacation, especially for the summer months, early (best September-November the year before). The most popular accommodations, which often have only a few rooms, are quickly booked and sold out!
The Azores are migrant islands, as dreamed of. Fantastic views, unknown sites, a well as signposted road networks. They are a paradise for hikers and there is no better way to discover these magnificent islands. The hiking trails often lead through untouched landscapes and nature, past lakes, and sometimes abandoned villages meeting only a few people along the way. The paths criss-cross the islands, they vary in duration and difficulty. However, you should bring some stamina due to many hikes are associated with climbs. But the hidden beauties make a difficult climb worthwhile.
The Azorean Regional Government, in collaboration with the Tourist Board, has scouted, repaired and signposted trails on all nine islands. Leaflets with directions, altitude information, topographical maps, photos and information on duration, length and difficulty are available in the tourist information centers. All classified hiking trails can also be found on the well-designed Portuguese and English website www.trails-azores.com, with directions for printing and GPS data to download.
Along the rugged coastline of the islands there are tunnels and caves. An enormous biodiversity lives in the waters around the Azores. Subterranean rock formations team up with the marine wildlife. These beauties can only be discovered diving. On some of the islands there are diving centers where dives can be booked, equipment rented and sometimes courses can be taken. The months May to October are the best diving times in the Azores, the water temperature varies between 17 ° C and 24 ° C. Numerous sea creatures and fascinating underwater landscapes await you. Further out in the sea are dive sites such as the Princess Alice Banks (outside of Faial) and the Formigas (outside of Santa Maria). Both are famous for their particularly rich underwater world, but are only suitable for experienced divers.
Whale watching and swimming with dolphins
It’s one of the most impressive experiences of an Azores vacation, to see a sea giant rising next to you. Twenty-four species of whales have so far been spotted in the waters around the archipelago, and it is believed that there are others. The Gulf Stream provides enough food and the waters are deep. Reason enough that the mammals lead a contented and full life here, or at least pause, while passing through. The main center for the observation of the animals is the island of Pico, which is considered one of the best areas for whale watching worldwide. There are officially approved companies that comply with the prescribed code of conduct. But also on São Miguel and Faial comparable companies can be found. The excursions are usually half-day trips. Before going to sea, a detailed theoretical introduction with information about the whale species takes place. The probability of seeing whales is very high, because experienced whale watchers sit ashore in the whale watching booths, while watching the sea with good binoculars to direct the boats. In ancient times, when whaling was an important industry in the Azores, they observed from these booths ...
The number of dolphins that are part of the whale family is numerous. You can almost be sure to meet these playful mammals by chance on a whale watching tour. The bottlenose dolphins are locked up and trained in aquariums and zoos worldwide. How much nicer is the experience of being able to observe them in the wild. Pico also offers snorkeling with dolphins. On these excursions, the experienced skippers are looking for suitable dolphin schools. With proper instruction and equipment you can snorkel with dolphins in the open waters. Most are friendly, although sometimes shy. They have never intentionally injured a swimmer or diver.
Other activities also include golfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and canyoning
Transportation between the islands
It is very difficult to visit all nine islands in a single Azores holiday. As hard as it is, you have to decide which islands to choose from. It is highly recommended to visit more than one island.
All islands, even Corvo, have an airport. Azorean airline SATA turboprops connect the islands with each other. The SATA Air Pass offers particularly low prices, but can only be purchased in conjunction with an international ticket. Normal tariffs make it possible to budget for the visit of different islands. The tickets can be booked on the SATA website (www.sata.pt/en).
Booking in advance is highly recommended during the peak holiday season of July and August. Otherwise, you can also spontaneously buy a ticket in the local SATA offices, usually in all major towns and in airports. There is daily air traffic between the larger islands. However, it should be noted in the travel planning that smaller islands are not served daily. But this also varies depending on the travel season. The free baggage allowance on intra-Azorean flights is 23 kilograms per person for checked baggage.
Within the central group, daily passenger ferries operate between the islands of Pico, São Jorge and Faial with a manageable travel time. The ferries are preferred in terms of price as well as the experience value. Every now and then dolphins can be seen as well as whales, if you are lucky. Tickets can be purchased via their website www.atlanticoline.pt as well as in the ticket offices at the ferry ports. Ferry tickets between these islands do not need to be pre-booked. Smaller ferries operate between Flores and Corvo, ideal for a day trip to the Azores’ smallest island. At your accommodations in Flores assistance is available with the booking, since there are no official timetables.
Large car ferries operate between all islands during June to middle of September. However, they usually only set their route once a week, the crossing takes many hours and the timetable is not necessarily reliable. Moreover, this rarely matches the wishes of an Azores vacationer. If you have a lot of time, these ferries are also an alternative to airplanes (www.atlanticoline.pt).
We are happy to help you find the best ways to get from point A to point B.
Transportation on the islands
Even though the most beautiful spots of untouched nature can often only be reached on foot, motorized transportation is essential. On all islands, except Corvo, there are regular buses. But only on the island of São Miguel and Terceira buses run regularly and throughout the day. On the other islands, they are mostly geared to the needs of the population (school children, locals) than to those of tourists. Almost all bus routes lead along the coast, passing most villages. The uninhabited interior of the island can hardly be reached by bus. Bus tickets are fairly cheap, they are available directly from the driver. Timetables are available in the tourist information centers.
With a rental car you can discover the islands with comfort and individually. It’s essential if you stay in a country-style accommodation in the countryside. Car rentals are available on all islands except Corvo. The conditions of the roads are fairly good. It makes sense to book a car in advance, so it is ready when you arrive at airports or ports. However, one has to be prepared for the fact that prices are higher than in Central Europe.
Another alternative to rental cars are taxis. First, the drivers are well-versed on their islands. Second, there are hardly any circular walks in the Azores. With a taxi, you can easily be brought to the starting point and picked up at various destinations. Taxi stands can be found in almost all larger towns as well as be contacted by phone. The respective accommodations are happy to help. Especially for longer distances, it makes sense to request the price list.
There is not much in travel choices, if you are heading to the Azores. For example Ryanair flies direct from London to São Miguel, SATA and Azores Airline fly direct from Porto and Lisbon to various islands. It is also possible to go with the Portuguese airline TAP from Lisbon to São Miguel.
Experience shows that flight options and plans change every year. The prices are on a normal level, but one must not orient themselves to the intra-European offers of low-cost airlines. In the peak season of July and August, international flights are often booked well in advance, and prices are higher than in other months.
Stopover in Lisbon:
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is worth a visit! Distinguish your arrival and/or departure to the Azores, travel stress-free and treat yourself to a stopover in the beautiful and historic city. Of course you can also book accommodations in Lisbon via vista verde azores.
[As of: 2018]
It’s rarely hot or cold in the Azores. In the summer, however, the temperatures are felt by high humidity and in the winter by strong winds. The Azores weather follows its own rules. It can completely change within a few hours, as well as be very different on a single island (north and south). The weather is extremely changeable. Rain, fog, wind and sun can come together in only one day. When thick clouds hang in the sky in the morning, the sun can be back in the afternoon. Eternal sunshine will be sought in vain. The climate in the humid subtropical marine region often gets in the way of the sun.
Also known are the infamous Azores high pressure conditions, formed in the subtropics. Unfortunately, the resulting good weather is not felt in the Azores. It ensures the weather in Central Europe to be pleasant and dry. It is only called the Azores high pressure conditions because there is no other reference point. The high pressure is caused by the circulation of warm air rising at the equator, flowing north and sinking down in the Azores. The Icelandic low is its opponent, if this penetrates too far to the south the Azores often deviate in the form of a wedge to Central Europe.
The best travel season is in the summer. It is never unbearably hot. From May to the end of October is preferred and in July and August is considered the peak season.
Statistics have shown that the rainy season varies month to month, usually in the winter months. But even in winter it is rarely cold. Most of the accommodations are open all year round, and hiking in lower locations is feasible. If you are looking for peace and relaxation, you will find paradise in the winter months in the Azores. Only whale watching is not possible under normal circumstances. Due to the tendency of strong winds and higher waves, the excursion providers are closed and the boats are stowed away. Exceptions to blue whale watching are possible during the winter months.
The water temperature depends on the Gulf Stream, it varies between about 15 ° C in winter and 22 ° C in August. You can still swim until the end of October when the water slowly becomes unpleasantly cool.
Healthcare in the Azores is good. Pharmacies can be found in almost all major towns, there are also doctors on all islands. There are major hospitals in the islands of São Miguel, Terceira and Faial. All the other islands have so-called health care centers (centro saúde).
Special vaccinations are not required. A foreign health insurance is not mandatory for European citizens, since the Azores are part of the European Union. But this is best clarified with your health care provider.