Need to know before visiting the Azores

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!

Sete Cidades Sao Miguel 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!

Faja Grande Flores Azores

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.

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes Sao Miguel Azores

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)!

Pico Faial Azores

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.



Salto do Cabrito Sao Miguel Azores

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!

Salto do prego Sao Miguel Azores

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)

Lagoa das Furnas Sao Miguel Azores

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!




 

 

23 thoughts on “Need to know before visiting the Azores

  • September 29, 2015 at 1:06 AM
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    Definitely had a negative tone that was off putting. Warning may be a little harsh…… This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I think people who know and visit the azores understand they are going to a European Island and not Miami Beach.

    Thanks for the information on that hotel.

    Katie @ Katie Wanders

    • September 29, 2015 at 8:15 AM
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      Warning was meant to be funny 🙂

      • May 3, 2017 at 2:06 PM
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        Your warning was fine. Never mind the pissers.

  • September 29, 2015 at 2:57 AM
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    Hello, I’m azorean, from Terceira island. Yes most of your info is correct but there is some information that is wrong, SATA has 6 planes connecting the 9 islands and not 4, they have 4 dash q400 and 2 dash q200, I know it’s not a big difference but it’s important to know. I hate SATA too…
    As for the narrow roads with sharp turns, well, it depends on the islands you’re going. All the islands are different. If you go to Terceira, the roads are not so narrow and don’t have that much sharp turns. From your video, I presume that you did not came to Terceira.
    Terceira in some ways is a bit different from the other islands, not better and not worse, just different. We surelly have our natural beauties too, but Terceira is more about history, heritage and culture. We have a World Heritage city (Angra do Heroísmo) and a unique culture that we proudly share with everyone who visits us. I’m shure that everyone that visits Terceira and has a taste of our culture doesn’t leave dissapointed. I suggest you check out Terceira island next time.
    Regards

    • September 29, 2015 at 8:14 AM
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      Thanks for the info! Next time I’m planning to visit more islands.
      As I already wrote: I wasn’t disappointed! I loooved the Azores. Just shared my experiences :-).
      If you follow the blog you know I went to Sao Miguel, Flores & Faial. Flores was my favorite!

    • October 9, 2015 at 10:08 PM
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      I do agree with Paulo.
      I m from S.Miguel and I m a tour guide and yes I can confirm that with dont have better or worst Islands they are on their own way different from each other and beautiful. Every Island is have their on unique Beauty.
      Anyway Thank you for your love and respect with the Islands 🙂

  • September 29, 2015 at 7:56 AM
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    Thanks for the good and useful advices. Me and my wife are going to visit the Azores island in april 2016. She has a dream to swim with wild dolphins.
    And I want to see her fulfilling her dream meanwhile I enjoy the nature 🙂

  • September 29, 2015 at 11:25 AM
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    We visited the Azores for our honeymoon in 2014. Stayed on Pico Island (7 nights) & Sao Miguel (1 night) and visited Faial. Went whale watching every day and saw 11 different species of whales and dolphins as well as sharks, turtles and manta rays. Incredible views of Pico mountain from the plane.

    Pico island was stunning, such a beautiful, peaceful place. The people are lovely and welcoming. We were the only Brits in our group and it was great to meet so many people from around the world. The view from our hotel overlooked the sea and Pico mountain.

    We visited Faial for the day and loved the colourful murals at the harbour.

    It’s impossible to fully describe the Azores to those who have not been.

    Go and enjoy!

  • September 29, 2015 at 2:57 PM
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    What a fantastic post and gorgeous photos! Flores is my favorite place on Earth. I hesitate to recommend it for the same reasons. There is endless beauty with all those waterfalls and flowers, but life there is rustic and simple. The people there are not trying to take advantage of tourists by selling souvenirs and guided tours. They’re herding cows, carrying on with life the same way they and their ancestors have for hundreds of years. There is no fine dining, no fancy hotel with a spa, no shopping. It’s unspoiled in all the best ways! But many people want more luxury in a vacation. This is such a unique experience, especially compared to such commercialized islands in the Caribbean or Hawaii. Sometimes I want to keep it a secret so it stays that way.

    • September 29, 2015 at 6:02 PM
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      You are so right! I hope they will stay this way forever!

  • September 29, 2015 at 6:44 PM
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    My dear Joelle,
    I read your comments “accidently” about the warnings to visit Azores.
    I was pleased to know that you enjoy it and your excitement especially with Flores Island.
    I live in Flores with my wife and my two kids since two years ago and for professional reasons. I am with you, Flores is also my favourite in terms of beauty and the way how we can feel the nature.
    But living here is very different, that´s why I think you were a little bit unfair with the comments about the hotel Ocidental. Remind that I’m nothing to do about this hotel or another one, or even any tourism issue in this Island. As you said, to visit Azores you have to be open minded and I can assure you have to be more than that to live here.
    Particularly talking about your unhappiness with hotel Ocidental.
    1- The cancelled flight let your moral down just for start. (due the position of the landing strip and the predominant winds the rate of cancellations is about 30% (60% in winter)). you were lucky for not be cancelled during more days and have a seat in the next flight.
    2- Unfortunately it seems that the summer this year is gone in the final of August and the visitors decreased. So, the hotels had to decrease also with the expenses, cutting in personal, energy and other resources. Due your cancelled flight the hotel was not expecting and was not prepared to receive you and they give what was possible to give at that time. For instance, the hotel das Flores, considered the best hotel here is closed 3 a 4 months in the winter. The local economy is very fragile and depends a lot on the summer season. it´s not possible offer good quality and full attendance all the year. Another example, here if you want dinner in a restaurant you have to call one day earlier to reserve to be sure that you will be served, not with afraid about great affluence but for the owners prepare your dinner. Otherwise you run the risk of not eat that night.
    3- You know how the replenishment works? You have a ship for two and two weeks with goods, food including the fresh ones, parts, tools, furniture… everything that is needed as the island only produce milk, meat and fish. If you want to buy some vegetables you have to go to the supermarket in the 3 days after the ship arrives otherwise you will only eat frozen food. Eggs, potatoes, onions, yogurts, butter… is very common run out before the ship coming.
    If this is difficult to manage in our home imagine in a restaurant or in a hotel.
    4- There are lots of things to do in Flores in terms of receiving visitors its true, but the conjecture and the reality of this island will not smooth this task. There are younger people that is trying to better the services to offer at visitors because the future of this island depends on that. The better announcements is the feedback of the visitors but there are other issues that have to be known to understand some things. Maybe the visitors have also to open the mind of this people. Talking about this native people is another issue.
    Thanks again for your comments, as the Flores, and Azores, are not my home but I share with you the feelings about this region. Sorry my English.
    Thanks

    • September 29, 2015 at 7:20 PM
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      Hi Joao!

      Thanks for your comment!
      I loved the fact that life was so different! And I truly respect it (as you can read in the “bread” part.)
      But The Hotel Ocidental wasn’t good. Everyone who stayed there was very disappointed and thought it was disgusting. It was dirty and the bathroom really smelled. I never go to fancy expensive luxury hotels. I’m fine with a bed and my own bathroom. But it needs to be clean. The rooms at Hotel Ocidental weren’t clean at all. And they smelled really bad. The 2 German girls who had cockroaches in their room wouldn’t have cockroaches if the room were clean.
      We stayed at Sitio da Assumada. A small residence with about 6 bungalows and this place was great! I would definitely recommend it to everyone! And the owner was very nice as well!
      I also ate very well at Flores! Just not at Hotel Ocidental 🙂

      • April 21, 2017 at 2:47 PM
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        Is there a different link for more specifics of your Azores trip? I would love to follow. We plan on going and I would love to get the most out of it as we’ll only have about 4 days.

    • September 30, 2015 at 1:06 PM
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      the hotel sucks is true x)
      im from pico by the way

  • September 29, 2015 at 6:51 PM
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    I forgot to tell you that I spend a really good afternoons in that swimming pool during the summer :).

  • September 29, 2015 at 9:51 PM
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    That’s ok Joelle, I was not criticizing your post, my intention was to complete your post with some more info about the azores and to give people the notion that the azores are very diverse and not only about nature, you find a bit of everything here. Each island is a different experience although the green is common, I think that’s what makes azores special and unique. And yes, like any other place, the azores also have negative things, It’s normal. Hope you have a better experience next time. Cheers

  • September 29, 2015 at 11:43 PM
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    Hey folks, I was born on the island of Santa Maria which is often overlooked. They have a VERY modern airport. The people are fantastic and the island is beyond beautiful! The food is great too!!!

  • September 30, 2015 at 5:14 AM
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    Joao, I appreciate your comments regarding replenishment of food and goods on the island. An understanding of this is important to have a pleasant stay. We had some lovely meals using what we could find at the local market in Faja Grande. Not always many vegetables, but the local wine and cheese made up for it. O’Pescador in Ponta Delgada, Flores has outstanding seafood. The most delicious limpets I’ve ever had. I’ve got pictures of those, and some of our meals, in this flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHskeyGGps

  • October 9, 2015 at 1:35 PM
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    Hi,
    I’m sorry you had bad experience at the Hotel.
    You should really visit Ilha Terceira, it’s probably the most different compare to the others!
    (Warning it’s a strong word in my opinion)
    But..thanks for coming and sharing your visit to the Azores!
    If you ever come back to Portugal (Porto or Terceira) send me an e-mail and I would be happy to tour you out!

    Cheers.

  • October 24, 2016 at 10:04 PM
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    Olá! Isto eu sou I am João Carvalho from Ilha do Pico (island Pico Açores grupo Central) and my gradfather say that when Cristóvão Colombo return from Americas they bring a lot of gold maybe several tonnes and they left it at ilha do Pico some where dig under ground now a very old house before the house is build or some old water tank that is now a house and there was Pico volcano eruption in 1718 and this gold my granfather says this gold is become covered light layer with lava somewhere and he thinks it is happen some where Bandeiras or Santa Luzia do Pico place where oldest house build pehaps in ~1750. He always look for this gold, but he say this need big and expensive equipment. My granfather look he is serious very much. Do you think can I find it with equipment?

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