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Azores

The archipelago of the Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal. This group of islands of the Atlantic Ocean is an ultra peripheral area of the European Union.

Latest census data reports just over a quarter of a million residents live on these islands but with a diaspora of more than two million living overseas, primarily in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and mainland Europe. In the Channel Islands they have for long formed a substantial minority so that public phoneboxes feature dialling instructions in the Azores dialect.

Regions

The Azores consist primarily of 9 main islands:

  • Corvo
  • Faial
  • Flores
  • Graciosa
  • Pico
  • São Jorge (Azores)
  • São Miguel, with the main airport (Ponta Delgada Airport IATA: PDL)
  • Santa Maria
  • Terceira

Understand

These nine volcanic islands are situated in the northern Atlantic, about 1,500 km (950 mi) from the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula and about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) from North America. Seismic activity, though rare, still occurs on occasion.

History

While ancient and medieval legends tell about Atlantic islands which could have been the Azores, the first known inhabitants were Portuguese, who settled in the 15th century. The Azores became an important waypoint during the Age of Discovery.

Climate

The archipelago is spread out in the area between 37° N and the parallels of latitude that pass through the Lisbon area (38° 43' / 38° 55' N), giving it generally a tepid, oceanic, subtropical climate, with mild annual oscillations. Daily maximum temperatures usually range between 15°C (59°F) and 25°C (77°F). The average annual rainfall increases from east to west, and it ranges from 700 to 1600 annual millimetres on average, reaching 6300 millimetres on Mount Pico, the highest Portuguese mountain at 2351 metres. The Azores high, an area of high atmospheric pressure, is named after the islands.

You should be warned, if what you are searching is a beach holiday with plenty of sun, the Azores are not right for you. However, if going to the beach is just one of the activities you will do, it should be just perfect. Climate in the Azores can vary during the day from bright sunny, to rainy and back to sunny.

Talk

The official language in Azores is Portuguese. On most of the nine islands, the variety of Portuguese spoken is very similar to standard European Portuguese. The primary exception is the local "Micaelense" dialect spoken by many of the inhabitants of the largest island, São Miguel, very unlike the Portuguese spoken in the mainland. Even people from mainland Portugal and the other Azorean islands find it difficult to understand "Micaelense". Otherwise, most people involved with tourism speak at least enough English to communicate with English-speaking tourists.

Get in

The Azores are part of Portugal and thereby the Schengen Area.

By plane

The main entry point is Ponta Delgada Airport (IATA: PDL)—also called João Paulo II Airport—on the island of São Miguel. There is unlimited free Wi-Fi throughout the terminal areas.

Major carriers serving Ponta Delgada Airport include:

  • Azores Express (US tel: 800-762-9995, Portugal: +351 296 209 748) connects New England with the Azores, mainly on the Boston-Funchal route. The carrier is part of the SATA Group, which connects the Azores with mainland Europe.
  • SATA Azores is both an airline and a tour operator locally based on the Azores. It connects the Azores with major European hubs like London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris; Gran Canaria, and several other European destinations.
  • TAP Portugal's flag carrier, also has direct flights from Lisbon to the islands of Funchal, Terceira, Fayal and Pico. The airlines also flies between Porto and Terceira islands.
  • Air Berlin offers flights from Germany (mainly Düsseldorf and Nuremberg).
  • Easyjet connects Lisbon to the most populous island of São Miguel three times a week for €50 and up.
  • Ryanair

By boat

Several cruise lines make Ponta Delgada a waypoint when journeying across the Atlantic. Some cruise ships spend a day at the port, often as they reposition themselves between cruising Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

The marina at Ponta Delgada also welcomes many yachts and private boats from around the world that make São Miguel a port of call along their trans-Atlantic travels.

Get around

By plane

São Miguel is the main hub, but you can fly direct to Terceira, Pico, and Faial from Lisbon.

If you have limited time in São Miguel and want to visit the other islands, do not take the ferry as it takes too long. Travel by plane instead.

By boat

Ferries between the islands are available, and particularly useful in the central group (Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, and Fayal).

The Azores is a great place for boating island to island and even town to town. Almost every town is on the shore and most have ports.

One of the best known sailing ports in the world is Horta, on Faial Island. There is a large and fully equipped marina that has catered for many famous boats and regattas. The marina is ideally placed in downtown Horta.

Other islands have marinas, like Terceira and São Miguel. Even when a marina is not present many of the larger villages have a harbour suitable for mooring a yacht.

Small motor yacht may be chartered to get from island to island, particularly in the summertime on Terceira island.

By car

In each island, it's best to rent a car. These being volcanic islands, in many places the terrain is steep and rugged. The roads wind around very steep hillsides.

By bus

On most islands there are bus services, crossing the main villages. On the smaller islands, however, the buses may have only a few runs per day or none at all on certain days (Sundays, holidays).

By taxi

Taxis are centrally regulated throughout the islands so visitors pay the same rate as locals. In São Miguel (2015), it costs about 10€ between the two ends of Ponta Delgada; out of town trips are 20-30€ or 40-50€ to the farthest parts of the island.

By bicycle

Cycling around the islands is possible if you are in great shape, and don't mind a lot of hill climbing.

See

See the Regions section above for points of interest in each island.

Itineraries

São Miguel and other islands

  1. Start in São Miguel Island
  2. From Ponta Delgada (in São Miguel), fly to Faial. Do a whale watching tour.
  3. Take the boat to Pico Island. Do a whale watching tour. Climb Pico mountain if you are in good shape.
  4. Take the channel boat to São Jorge Island. Fly to Terceira Island.

Do

Many activities and sights are accessible only through private tour companies. Half-day and all-day tours start at 50-60€ and can cost upward of 100€. The tours are generally very high quality and worth it.

You can hike on every island but it's best in Flores, Sao Jorge and Sao Miguel.

  • Whale and dolphin watching. Every town with a marina offers whale watching. They take you out on small boats and often get you within ten yards of the whale. Futurismo is a recommended provider for whale watching tours.
  • Off-road mountain bike circuits
  • Moto 4 Rides
  • Bird Watching
  • Donkey Rides
  • Fishing
  • Sport Fishing
  • Ferry
  • Yachting
  • Rental Bike, riding bike is a great way to get to know the islands.
  • Guided Tours
  • Volcano Climbing at Pico island
  • Hiking

Buy

Money

The euro (€) is the currency of the Azores.

Shopping

Handcraft from all the islands is very good.

The Azores is the only place in Europe that produces tea.

Eat

There is a "meat and potatoes" mentality when it comes to the cuisine and vegetables can sometimes be hard to come by.

Fresh fish and local grass-fed beef are very good. One of the main dishes is Bife à Regional, a steak with a delicious local sauce.

Sao Jorge island is famous for its cheese and must be tried. Fresh pineapple from Sao Miguel island is unbelievably good.

Drink

Sagres and Super Bock are the best Portuguese beers you can find on the island. Especial is the local beer and it is very good.

You can also ask for local sodas "Kima" and "Laranjada".

Sleep

Stay safe

There is very little crime in the Azores. What little crime exists is mostly drug related. There are no reports of crimes against tourists.

Go next

Flights within other islands, plus Madeira/Funchal (FNC), Lisbon/Lisboa (LIS), Porto/Oporto (OPO).

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Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

The crime rate is low in the Azores and petty crime such as theft and pickpocketing is uncommon.

In some areas, streets may be poorly lit and deserted at night. Be vigilant and avoid walking alone after dark.

Beaches and water activities

While beaches are generally considered safe, do not leave your personal belongings unattended.

During the summer months, deaths by drowning have occurred on beaches and in swimming pools. Take warning flags on beaches seriously. The Maritime Police have the authority to fine bathers who disobey the lifeguard’s warning flags. Don’t swim at beaches that link to/from rivers, as the water currents can be very strong. Don’t dive into unknown water as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death.

In the fall and winter months, be cautious when walking along beaches close to the water’s edge as waves can be very unpredictable in size and come onto shore further than expected with strong undertows. Do not visit beaches or coastal areas during periods of severe weather warnings.  Exercise caution and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Look out for signs warning of cliff erosion. Falling rocks are a hazard and the authorities can fine those who ignore warning signs.

In marine areas, coral, jellyfish and other ocean life found along reefs can poison, sting, or cause infection if touched or stepped on. Ask local authorities about the presence of such species and whether they are dangerous.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Western Europe, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Canada and Portugal are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Portugal to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Portuguese authorities.

Driving laws

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Climate

Severe windstorms occasionally occur. Severe rainstorms occur and can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in damage to infrastructure, and hampering the provision of essential services. For up-to-date information on the situation, visit the Portuguese Civil Protection Agency website.