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Explore the Azores

Azores – Family holiday guide

First colonised by Portuguese in the 15th century, the nine islands are still one of the country’s regions and often described as; to Portugal what the Canaries are to Spain. But, unlike their Spanish counterparts, the Azores were the archipelago less travelled by UK visitors until recently. Now with direct flights from the UK to São Miguel and tales of spectacular holidays drifting home, the secret’s not such a secret any more.


Why go on holiday in the Azores

  • Direct flights

    Direct UK flights to the Azores from April to September take just over four hours.

  • Warm weather and low rainfall

    Temperatures in July and August between 25 and 30˚ with low rainfall and 10 hours of sunshine a day.

  • Geographical highlights

    The lush, volcanic archipelago’s home to Portugal’s highest mountain, 2351m tall Mount Pico, and the dramatic São Jorge fissured sea cliffs.

  • Accessible

    The country’s international airport, major marina and three of its six cities are all on the main island of São Miguel.

  • Whale and dolphin watching

    One of the North Atlantic’s best locations for whale watching in spring and dolphin spotting all year round.

  • Ferry services

    Regular ferry services connect all the Azores’s islands during summer along with direct inter-island flights from São Miguel.

  • UNESCO World Heritage sites

    The Azores has two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the landscape and vineyards of Pico; the historic centre of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira.



Where to go and stay in the Azores

São Miguel

São Miguel might be the largest and most developed of the Azores’ islands but it still has a thrilling sense of uncharted territory that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in Europe now. There’s no mistaking the Portuguese influence in the lovely capital, Punto Delgada. It’s in everything from the easy charm of the people to the graceful, historic architecture, mosaic cobbled streets, colourful festivals and passion for good food, music and wine. But step away from the city and São Miguel quickly becomes more Hawaii than Portugal: dramatic, volcanic, dazzlingly green, flower strewn and breathtakingly beautiful.

  • Stay in and around Punto Delgada for four and five star family hotels. The city’s on the sunny south coast and a perfect base for day-trips – it takes less than one hour and 30 minutes to drive right across São Miguel from east to west.
  • São Miguel’s known for black, volcanic beaches and the biggest and safest for swimming are found on the south coast round Punto Delgada.
  • The twin crater lakes of Sete Cidades viewed from Mirador do Rei are one of the Azores’ most spectacular sights.
  • Don’t miss: the hot springs at Furnas; Terra Nostra Estate; water sports on Pópulo Beach; thermal pool swimming at Ponta da Ferraria; Caldeira Velha waterfall; hiking Pico da Vara.
  • São Miguel has one of Europe’s only two tea plantations, at Gorreana on the north coast of the island.

Terceira

Terceira is the Azores’ second largest island and four hours by ferry west of São Miguel. The main city, Angra do Heroismo, dates back to the 16th century and its Renaissance centre’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Visit for: rock pool swimming at Biscoitos; Algar do Carvão 90m deep volcanic chimney; Angra do Heroismo; hiking in Serra de Santa Barbara.
  • Several daily direct flights from São Miguel to Terceira take 40 minutes.

Faial

The Azores are one of the world’s leading whale watching destinations and the island of Faial is renowned for spring sightings of migrating blue, sperm and humpback whales.

  • Visit for: whale watching tours; Fabrica de Baleia Porto Pim whaling museum; Monte de Guia; the seaside city of Horta.

Pico

Home to the largest peak in Portugal, mighty Montanha do Pico, this dramatic little island is also where to find the Caminhos de Santa Luzia World Heritage vineyards and 5km long Gruta das Torres – the longest lava tube in the world.

  • Climbing breaks on Pico are a thrilling adventure with older kids and teenagers. Several operators in São Miguel offer guide tours, including transport to and from the island.

Santa Maria

Known as ‘Mother Island’, Santa Maria is the oldest in the Azores and famous for the archipelago’s best beaches like blue flag Praia Formosa and São Lourenco Bay.


What do and see with kids in the Azores

  • Whale Watching

    As one of the world’s leading whale reserves, the Azores is outstanding for sightings during spring and many recommended companies offer a variety of experiences including multi-island cruises and scientific whale watching. Futurismo Azores Adventures

  • Guided Day Walks

    São Miguel’s a small island with an incredibly rich and diverse geography, guided day walks are one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to explore everywhere from Pico da Vara to otherworldly Sete Cidades. Geo Fun Guided Walks

  • Coasteering, São Miguel

    Coasteering’s exhilarating anywhere with a coast, but the rugged and dramatic volcanic water’s edge round São Miguel takes the thrill to an entirely different level. Coasteering

  • Mountain Bike Day Tours

    Ideal for inexperienced riders, mountain bike day tours on São Miguel concentrate on seeing the island’s hidden secrets rather than defeating technical challenges. If kids are up for more demanding days out, guided freeride and downhill tours are available. Bike Safari

  • Horse Riding Tours

    The Azores is well known for Lusitano and Cruzado horses, combine these beautifully well-behaved animals with São Miguel’s lovely summer weather and stunning scenery and riding here is unforgettable, even for complete novices. Quinta da Terca

  • Porto Formoso Tea Factory

    Gorreana is one of only two tea plantations in Europe, this is a surprisingly interesting little museum and a tour of the plantation itself is good fun – even for kids. Porto Formoso

  • Terra Nostra Park

    With more than 2000 trees and an immense thermal swimming pool this former 18th century estate is one of the loveliest parks in the Azores. Terra Nostra Park

  • Sete Cidades Natural Park

    The astonishing twin crater lakes at Sete Cidades are immersed in local myth and legend, start at the excellent visitor centre and learn about the geology, fables and facts surrounding this incredible natural phenomena. Sete Cidades

  • Swimming with Dolphins

    When kids swim with dolphins in the Azores there are no pools involved – unless you count the dolphin’s own ‘pool’ the North Atlantic. Picos de Aventura



Educational value for kids

  • If you venture out swimming with dolphins off the coast of São Miguel, kids will be interested to know that there are on-land spotters pointing boats to porpoise-rich waters.
  • The whaling industry was alive in the Azores until the late 20th century, the whaling museum on Faial is one of the archipelago’s best insights into this dark trade.
  • Kids can learn to kayak or canoe at Furnas, one of São Miguel’s most exciting volcanic sites.
  • Try cozido at least once in the Azores: a traditional stew, slow-cooked for seven hours a metre deep in the geothermal soil round Furnas.
  • Go bird watching in the Lagoa de Fogo nature reserve, even if ornithology isn’t a huge passion the Azores have recorded several sightings of birds previously thought to be extinct, including rare Scop Owls – their call sounds like electronic beeping.
  • Visit Castle of Saint Blaise in Ponta Delgado, built in the 17th century to protect São Miguel from pirates it’s packed with fascinating swashbuckling tales and eccentric artefacts.
  • São Miguel has dozens of Interpretation Centres designed to explain everything from local pineapple growing to astronomy – some are simple exhibitions others are much more elaborate museums.

 

Getting about with kids in the Azores

São Miguel’s the archipelago’s larges island and it can be crossed from end to end in under two hours, so getting about in the Azores without a hired car is easy. Most experiences, tours and activities include transport. Inter-island flights operate year round and there are several ferry services during summer. Taxis are inexpensive and Ponta Delgado’s very walkable, close to main beaches and has a good bus services for longer distances.