Have you ever been to someplace so special that you want to scream to world how amazing it is? And then you realize that you don’t want to share in case all the tourists start to flock there in droves and ruin its natural beauty and rich culture. Yeah, that’s how I feel about the Azores. I recently gave a travel talk at my language school, The Language Exchange, and I said on numerous occasions that everyone should go to the Azores at least once in their lives because it is such a beautiful and unique region. As people were leaving and thanking me for the budget travel tips, many commented that they plan to head to the Azores soon!
I loved writing about my travels on Sao Miguel in November so it is only fitting that I finish my series with the 10 reasons why you should travel to the Azores now.
The 10 Reasons Why You Need to Travel to the Azores Now
10. It’s a short flight from the United States and mainland Europe
SATA runs daily direct flights straight out of Boston Logan (BOS) and Toronto Pearson (YYZ) to Ponta Delgada. Flights from Boston are only 4 hours! You can be in Europe in the same time that it would take you to get to California. Flights coming back are slightly longer due to the flight pattern, but it’s still a very manageable flight.
9. SATA often runs fare sales in the low season (November through March)
I flew roundtrip via SATA in late November (American Thanksgiving holiday) out of Boston for a total of $330. How often can you fly to Europe for that price? I had never heard of SATA (or the Azores) prior to booking my cheap ticket. I was pleasantly surprised how awesome SATA is for a budget-friendly airline. Our flight was delayed 3 hours due to mechanical issues and SATA gave us a $25 meal voucher to tide over our time in the airport waiting to board. The seats are nice and roomy, the food was decent for airplane food, and the flight attendants were super friendly (not to mention very attractive).
8. Most locals speak English too
Portuguese is a weird language. I could understand some signs with my Spanish background, but speaking it is a whole other ball game. The portuguese language sounds like a mix of French, German, and Spanish all thrown into one. Thankfully almost all the locals speak at least basic English so communicating is easy.
7. You can visit the only tea plantation in Europe
Did you know that the only tea plantation in Europe is located on Sao Miguel? You would think with all the tea that the British drink there would be more tea plantations on the continent. Gorreana Tea has been family owned and operated since 1883. The plantation is open daily for visitors to come inside and enjoy a cup of unique tea. The factory offers free samples and there is a hiking trail through the tea fields.
6. You can relax in natural hot springs around the island after a long day of hiking or sightseeing
The Azores were formed by volcanoes centuries ago and their remnants can still be seen today in the form of geysers and hot springs. While you don’t want to swim or even touch the geysers (hello melting flesh!), you can definitely spend a few hours relaxing in the hot springs. The parish of Furnas is home to several hot springs facilities that start about 3 Euros per soak. Caldeira Velha is a national park located between Lagoa do Fogo and Ribeira Grande that has hot bathing pools too.
5. The hiking is amazing
Unfortunately while I was on Sao Miguel I wasn’t able to do any hiking. A couple of my friends did and said the trails and the views were beautiful despite the foggy and rainy weather. During the summer months the Azores are a hotspot for hikers. I have a coworker heading there in August and I am super jealous! Hiking trails for the various islands can be found on the Visit Azores tourism website. The small island of Pico is home to a volcano that is a popular hiking route. I will definitely be back sometime to hike it!
4. You need to try the traditional Cozido das Furnas
Cozido das Furnas is a traditional Azorean dish cooked by the geysers of Furnas. Local restaurants bring the pot of food to the geysers early in the morning and the pot cooks for over 6 hours by the heat of the geysers. The Cozido is very good and I recommend trying it at least once while you’re there. Don’t forget to wash it down with a pint of the local beer.
3. The Azores are budget friendly
Okay, so Portugal as a whole is a cheap destination compared to the rest of the western Europe. My trip to the Azores was my first time visiting Portugal and I was told by another fellow traveler that it was slightly more expensive compared to mainland Portugal. I would have never guessed because I thought a 2 Euro sandwich and 2.50 Euro large beer was cheap! If you want to experience a little bit of Europe on a budget then I recommend a trip to the Azores. Prices are a little bit more expensive during the summer seasons, but from the information I gathered, it wasn’t too bad of a hike in price.
2. You can do just about any ocean-related outdoor activity in the Azores
The Azores are the perfect vacation spot for anyone who loves the outdoors, especially water-related spots. During the summer months you can spend countless hours kayaking, sailing, deep-sea fishing or whale watching. The Azores are one of the best places to spot whales and dolphins as the migrant route passes through the islands. Dolphins can be seen throughout the year with the most seen during the warmer months. Sperm whales, sei whales, and bearded whales are commonly spotted throughout the summer months. There are numerous whale watching companies throughout the islands with reasonable prices.
1. The Azores are one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see
Sao Miguel is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have seen. Despite the slightly rainy, foggy, and windy weather throughout our visit, the “green island” never once hid her beauty from us. From the volcanic crater of Sete Cidades to the highest lake in the Azores, Lagao do Fogo, to the sulfur-rich Frunas, Sao Miguel is diverse and stunning. Each bend in the road will result in a jaw-dropping view from the black sand beaches to the lush green pastures spotted with black-and-white cows to the small seaside towns with white-washed buildings and cobblestone streets. You just can’t get any better!