Before going to the amazing Azores you must be aware that these gorgeous islands aren’t the typical Summer destination. Because they are so remote there are a few things you must take into account. Here are the things you need to know before visiting the Azores!
The weather is unstable but always impressive
The Azores are situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the warm Gulf Stream temperatures don’t go below 11°C and during the Summer the temperature rarely rises above 26°C. Even though it never gets cold, due to the location, the weather is very unpredictable and unstable. There can be a storm in the morning and perfect blue sky in the afternoon. Take this into account while packing.
I always wore a top and shorts and I took a rain jacket, something long sleeved and an umbrella with me in the car, just in case. During the evening I wore long sleeves and pants.
Shorts are better during the day, even when it rains. Legs dry faster than pants.
Another special thing; clouds seemed to be hanging closer than at home. Sometimes it looked as if I could touch the sky. When standing at the edge of a crater, you’re even above the clouds and you see them rolling inside the volcano’s crater. Very impressive sights!
Always wear hiking shoes
Always wear hiking shoes even if you think it won’t be that far. I learned the hard way by making the mistake once wearing my sandals for a short (850 meters) hike to the Poço da Alagoinha. Thinking “If it’s this short, it won’t be that hard”. I regretted not wearing my hiking shoes when it was too late to turn back. The path was steep and consisted of slippery rocks, which made it almost dangerous to do on sandals. Ever since I always wore my hiking shoes to get somewhere. Paths are slippery, rocky, moist and steep so you really need good soles and sturdy shoes.
The Azores are all about nature
The Azores are remote and it’s almost as if time stood still. People here still enjoy the simple things. They appreciate the islands and have great respect for them. So don’t go there if you’re looking for big parties every night, trendy cocktail bars and fancy dressed people. It’s not Ibiza! Here you’ll find local pubs where the locals meet up and play cards. They enjoy their drinks while having animated conversations. They don’t seem to care about the latest fashion, they care about each other. At Sao Miguel I found some great restaurants serving delicious cocktails in the harbor area. It seemed that was the “hot spot” for the younger ones.
There are no huge shopping areas or streets. Only at Sao Miguel I found a mall with a food court, a giant super market and some popular shops like Zara or Stradivarius, but don’t expect too much. Going to the Azorean Archipelago is about rest, enjoying the silence and nature, appreciating the little things of life that are so much more important (in my opinion)!
It takes guts to drive here
If you’re scared of driving through the mountains, don’t go there. There are some pretty steep roads with some serious hairpin turns! Being able to drive with a stick shift is very necessary!
Also be aware that some locals drive like crazy and they don’t respect the fact that they need to stay at their side of the road. Which can be very startling while taking a hairpin turn. The rules aren’t always clear at crossroads so it’s just the one with the biggest balls who goes first. In many cases that was me, but I think that’s probably because a) they saw I was a tourist or b) I looked like a crazy driver myself.
Another important thing to know before getting a rental car: streets are VERY narrow with VERY sharp turns. Don’t get excited when they upgrade your car. I refused the upgrade simply because I knew there was no way I would drive a huge car through the town centers of the island or on the narrow roads in the mountains. I’d probably get stuck and would never be able to find parking space.
SATA only has 4 planes to connect the 9 islands
That’s right! SATA is the only airline that provides flights to all 9 islands. The stewardess told me personally that they only have 4 aircrafts to do so. This means the following and I’m telling this by experience; if your flight gets cancelled in the morning due to stormy weather, there will be no other flight available to get you to your destination that same day, even when the weather in the afternoon is fine. SATA puts you in a hotel near the airport and hands out vouchers for food. But don’t expect the best hotel…
Which brings me to the next point and is something I hope you won’t EVER forget!
Don’t stay at Hotel Accidental in Flores! …. I mean Ocidental!
We got to stay only one night at this crappy hotel near the airport after a cancelled flight. But that surely was enough! This hotel is just miserable and I truly believe they still exist because of cancelled flights. I don’t think there’s anyone who stays there deliberately. I felt as if I was punished being stuck in hell together with all the others from the plane. Sounds familiar? It could’ve been a new series! The room was horrible with moist walls and very low beds. The bathroom smelled like sewer. The breakfast was nothing. The wifi didn’t connect for most of the time, which almost caused hysteria and pannick attacks for some people (lol). I would never dare to touch the water in their swimming pool and two German girls we met in this misery even had cockroaches in their room! Thank God for the bar near the ocean which was a great escape during the evening. Because we didn’t want to stay in the miserable room. (I wasn’t the only one thinking this hotel sucked, everyone of our plane that stayed there felt miserable in these hotel conditions)
You will fall in love
The islands are so beautiful and nothing like you’ve ever seen before. So be prepared because you will loose your heart here. I will definitely return!
These are all facts I wanted to share from my personal experiences. I loved loved loooooved the Azores. I adapted fast to the very different lifestyle and customs here. You have to be open minded. Even when the lady at the minimarket in Flores told me there was only bread of 2 days old, because the baker wasn’t able to reach town earlier. It wasn’t sure there would be bread the next day, so I bought the old bread and put it in the toaster. It tasted great! I just thought, if these people can live like this their whole lives, I sure can manage a couple of days! (we’re so spoiled getting used to the fact we can get everything we want in an instant)
If you have been to remote islands and had some “different” experiences, don’t hesitate to share your stories in the comments down below. If you want to receive updates don’t forget to like the Facebook page!