Enchanting black sand beaches. Misty mountain trails. Steaming hot springs in lush, tropical forests. Azores solo travel is nothing short of an epic adventure!
I just finished my second visit to this stunning Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 miles off the mainland. On my first visit, I was so excited to get off the beaten track that I kind of rushed into things. Sao Miguel was a hidden gem I was thrilled to add to my last-minute Portugal solo travel itinerary.
Filled with epic backpacking, camping, hiking, and even a few lakes nestled inside volcanic craters, the Azores Islands are heaven for adventurous solo females. However, between the unpredictable weather and the island-to-island ferry schedules, this epic location does require a bit of careful planning. Something I, unfortunately, learned the hard way!
But not to worry, I’ve outlined everything you need to know to have a stress-free trip to this Portuguese paradise. From towering mountains and cascading waterfalls to wildflower-strewn meadows and gorgeous natural pools, these nine small islands are packed with surreal natural beauty.
Let’s take a look at where to stay, what to do, and exactly how to plan the perfect solo trip to the Azores!
About The Azores Islands
The Azores Islands are known for their breathtaking landscapes, rich biodiversity, and unique volcanic features.
This archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is famous for its hot springs, geysers, and crater lakes, evidence of its volcanic origin. Solo travellers are drawn to the Azores for outdoor pursuits such as whale watching, hiking, and diving, thanks to the rich marine life and the verdant, diverse terrain.
These islands are a dream destination for adventure-seeking solo travelers who delight in exploring off-the-beaten-path locations. After exploring this beautiful slice of Portugal, I can guarantee it will satisfy any urge you have to explore beyond mainland Europe.
The Azores Islands are a great place for solo travelers looking for a safe environment where they can slow down and enjoy nature. This area has remarkably low crime rates so safety will be the farthest thing from your mind.
While it’s not exactly the best place for socializing and meeting others, staying in a hostel and signing up for tours will make things much easier. The small groups, quiet environment, and lack of nightclubs actually helped me form deeper connections with travelers I met on this trip. I’ve stayed in contact with more new friends from this location than any other in Portugal!
If you’re wondering how long to need to visit, that will depend on how much you want to see! Plan to budget 2-3 days for Sao Miguel and add on a day for any other islands you want to check out.
These are nine islands that make up the Azores:
- São Miguel Island: Known as the “Green Island,” São Miguel is the biggest island in the archipelago, famous for its stunning lakes in volcanic craters and the lively city of Ponta Delgada.
- Santa Maria Island: Santa Maria, the southernmost island, is renowned for its white sand beaches and warm, dry climate.
- Terceira Island: Notable for its historical town center in Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Terceira Island also features vibrant local traditions and colorful festivals.
- Pico Island: Named after its imposing mountain – the highest point in Portugal, Pico Island is a haven for hikers and wine lovers, with vineyards classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Faial Island: Known as the “Blue Island,” Faial is a popular yacht stopover and is famous for its charming port town, Horta, and a caldera that offers breathtaking views.
- São Jorge Island: São Jorge, the “Brown Island,” is distinguished by its elongated shape, high cliffs, and unique fajãs (flat coastal areas).
- Graciosa Island: Known as the “White Island,” Graciosa is admired for its tranquillity, thermal springs, and Furna do Enxofre, a sulfur cave located inside a volcano.
- Flores Island: Named after its abundant wildflowers, the “Yellow Island” of Flores is recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve for its exceptional natural beauty.
- Corvo Island: The smallest island of the Azores, Corvo is known for its close-knit community, stunning landscapes, and a massive caldera that houses a small village.
Azores Solo Travel Tips
The Azores Islands are definitely a place you want to prepare for since it can be difficult to navigate and the weather is on the unpredictable side. Here’s what you need to know before your solo trip to Azores:
- Get up early: The weather on the Azores Islands can be unpredictable, with mornings being the best time for outdoor activities. It can get foggy and misty as the day goes on.
- Rent a car or book tours: You’ll need to rent a car for transportation due to the lack of Uber/ride-sharing services and unreliable bus routes. If you’d rather not drive, there are plenty of tour that will take you around the larger islands like Sao Miguel.
- Learn a little Portuguese: Portuguese is the official language spoken in the Azores, though many people do speak English; locals appreciate attempts to speak Portuguese.
- Direct flights are limited: Airlines from the US only fly directly into two cities in the Azores so plan accordingly. Delta Airlines has a flight out of New York in the summer, and you can fly Azores Airlines from Boston year-round.
- Nature > Beaches: Don’t get me wrong, Azores beaches are still wonderful, but like Madeira solo travel, this isn’t a spot to go to sip pina coladas in the sunshine. The main draw here is nature and hiking.
- The Azores Islands are affordable: Prices for meals and accommodation are relatively low compared to other European destinations.
- Don’t expect much nightlife: The nightlife in the Azores isn’t overly lively, but there are still plenty of activities such as exploring hot springs or dining near Ponta Delgada marina.
- Plan your hikes carefully: Not all Azores hiking trails form a complete loop. Solo hikers should be especially aware of the one-way trails before embarking on an outdoor adventure!
WHEN TO VISIT TO PORTUGAL
Looking for the best time to visit Portugal? It all depends on what you want to do! The annual guide will help you figure out the ideal time to check out Madeira’s Santana houses, the stunning Porto viewpoints, or find out: Is Aveiro worth visiting?
Best Places to Stay in Azores
The best place for solo travellers to stay in the Azores is the island of São Miguel. It’s the largest and most populous island and offers a stunning spectrum of scenic beauty, ranging from pristine lakes to volcanic craters. You’ll find the majority of hotels, hostels and guest houses on this island, all at a reasonable price.
Here are the top places to stay on Sao Miguel:
As the capital and largest city of the Azores, Ponta Delgada is a great choice for visitors. It offers a wealth of accommodations, dining, and shopping options, along with fascinating historical sites such as the Fort of São Brás and the Carlos Machado Museum. Its vibrant nightlife and cultural happenings also provide an exciting contrast to the island’s natural beauty.
Known for its thermal springs and stunning landscapes, Furnas is a paradise for nature lovers. You can relax in the thermal pools, hike around the Furnas Lake, or explore the beautiful Terra Nostra Park. Plus, the town’s unique culinary tradition of cooking Cozido das Furnas (a meat and vegetable stew) in the geothermal ground is a must-try.
FURNAS TOUR: Experience the best Furnas has to offer with this nighttime tour where you’ll get to relax in therapeutic hot springs and try the most unique Azorean delicacy!
This northern town stands out for its beautiful beaches, baroque architecture, and thriving arts scene. It’s an ideal spot for surfers, with some of the island’s best surf breaks. The town’s charming streets filled with artisan shops and cafes, along with its nearby natural wonders like the Caldeira Velha hot springs and the Salto do Cabrito waterfall, make it a compelling place to stay.
When to Plan Solo Travel in Azores
Portugal’s Azores Islands are home to an ever-changing climate that adds an element of excitement to your trip. You can enjoy sunny beaches in the morning before spending your afternoon in a misty mountain surrounded by fog.
For the best chance of clear, sunny skies and minimal rainfall, plan your visit between June and September. Even though the high-season months bring in more tourists and slightly higher prices, but are typically far less crowded than other European summer destinations. Plus, some ferry service between the islands only runs during peak season.
But don’t worry, it won’t be too crowded! The Azores are still Europe’s best-kept secret… for now, at least!
As for the temperatures, expect a pleasant lingering in the 60s across the islands, with slightly cooler winter months in the 50s and a delightful rise to a balmy 70 to 80°F during the summer.
For up-to-the-minute updates on the Azorean weather and visibility, you can rely on a network of webcams scattered across the islands.
PS: Keep the Azores Islands in mind for your next winter getaway! Soaking in the thermal hotsprings is one of the best things to do in Portugal in December, January and February!
Things to Do on a Solo Trip to Azores
From its dramatic volcanic landscapes to bustling marine life, the Azores offers tons of exciting activities for a fun-filled Azores solo travel adventure!
Here are the best things to do alone on the Azores Islands:
Thermal Baths & Hot Springs
The Azores are home to a ton of relaxing thermal baths and hot springs thanks to the islands’ unique geothermal activity. From mineral-rich waters to the seaside hot springs, here are the places you can’t miss when traveling solo to Azores:
- Poça da Dona Beija: One of the top thermal baths, Poça da Dona Beija is located in Furnas. Fed by naturally heated geothermal springs, these outdoor pools are enveloped by lush greenery and renowned for their therapeutic properties.
- Terra Nostra Park: A natural oasis best known for its unique orange pool resulting from its high levels of iron, this was my favorite place to soak. Just be careful which bathing suit you wear since the water can stain!
- Ponta da Ferraria’s Natural Hot Springs: By far one of my favorite places on Sao Miguel, this volcanic hot spring rests within a stunning ocean lagoon. You can soak in thermal waters surrounded by dramatic basalt cliffs and the sparkling azure sea.
- Caldeira Velha: This natural monument offers ultimate relaxation with warm, iron-rich waters nestled amidst lush ferns and towering trees.
The best way to experience the raw beauty of the Azores is by exploring the myriad of hiking trails that crisscross these volcanic islands. From coastal paths to mountainous terrains, each trail offers an intimate encounter with the unique geology and vibrant ecosystems of this Atlantic archipelago. Remember that there are a few one-way trails on the islands, so plan your hike carefully.
- Mount Pico: Challenge yourself with a hike to the peak of Portugal’s highest mountain on Pico Island.
- Miradouro da Boca do Inferno: For the perfect view of Lagoa das Sete Cidades, hike to this epic viewpoint.
- Capelinhos Volcano: Situated on Faial Island, learn about the region’s volcanic history, including an eruption in 1957 that lasted for over a year!
Nature, Lakes & Unique Terrain
From its lush green pastures to blue lagoon lakes, discover the rare geological formations that make the Azores a nature lover’s dream.
- Lagoa das Sete Cidades: This stunning twin lake located inside a crater on Sao Miguel Island is one of the top Azores attractions and my personal favorite place to visit. Divided by a bridge, one side is blue and the other is green!
- Furnas Lake: Lagoa das Furnas on Sao Miguel sits within a natural volcano crater and was a cool place to ride a bike for a few hours, gliding past boiling water, sweltering steam, and spouting mud.
- Visit a Pineapple Plantation: On São Miguel Island, learn about the unique process of growing pineapples in greenhouses.
- Fajãs of São Jorge: On São Jorge Island, visit the fajãs (flat, coastal lands), each with its unique microclimate and ecosystem.
- Monte Brasil Nature Reserve: Located on Terceira Island, take a hike and enjoy panoramic views of Angra do Heroísmo.
- Bird Watching: The Azores, especially Corvo Island, is home to a variety of rare bird species, making it a bird watcher’s paradise.
- António Borges Garden: Situated in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, this 19th-century garden features a unique combination of native and exotic plants.
- Lava Tubes: Located on Pico Island, tour Gruta das Torres, one of the longest lava tube systems in the world.
Beaches & Marinas
In the Azores, the beaches are known as barcas. Formed by volcanic activity, these beaches don’t have the type of golden sand you’re probably used to. During the summer lounge on velvety black volcanic rock or venture to some of the island’s unique natural pools.
- Praia de Santa Barbara: Known for its world-class waves, this is one of the best beaches for surfing in Portugal.
- Praia dos Mosteiros: This stunning black sand beach was the coolest place to enjoy natural pools and gaze at the rocky, volcanic formations off the coastline. I had no idea how obsessed I’d become with black sand beaches after visiting this unique spot!
- Islet of Vila Franca do Campo: Just off the coast of São Miguel Island, this beautiful islet formed from an old underwater volcano provides a perfect spot for swimming and snorkeling.
- São Roque Lighthouse: Admire the panoramic view of Pico and São Jorge islands from this vantage point on São Jorge Island.
- Horta Marina: Visit the famous marina on Island of Faial, known as a meeting spot for international sailors.
- Piscinas Natural: Head to the southern coast of São Jorge island to swim in natural pools created by volcanic activity, border by a towering cliff on one side and the ocean on the other.
BEACHES IN PORTUGAL
If golden sand beaches are what you’re really after, don’t lose hope. Solo travel in Portugal is filled with gorgeous coastal villages. If Lisbon solo travel is part of your plans, there are plenty of spots just outside the city. While surfing is one of the best things to do in Ericeira on an easy day trip, each nearby Cascais beach is impeccably maintained and perfect for sunbathing.
For a truly epic experience, Algarve solo travel to Faro, Lagos, or Albufeira is just what the thing! With nearly 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s easy to see why the Algarve coast is filled with tons of the best beach towns in Portugal.
Museums & Historical Sites
Learn about the islands’ storied past while solo traveling Azores, from its volcanic origins to maritime heritage at these interesting museums and historical sites.
- Stroll Through Angra do Heroísmo: This UNESCO World Heritage city is located on Terceira Island where you can explore uniquely well-preserved Renaissance buildings and fortifications.
- Museu Carlos Machado: Located in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, learn about Azorean culture and history in this comprehensive museum.
- Museum of Santa Maria: Located on Santa Maria Island, learn about the local history and culture in this detailed museum.
Prepare to experience the exciting combination of raw natural beauty, unique wildlife, and vibrant culture that characterizes this extraordinary archipelago on any of these extraordinary tours.
- Scuba Diving: One of the best diving sites in the world is a two‑hour boat ride off of Pico Island. Submerged at approximately 2,500 meters lies the Princess Alice Bank, surrounded by colorful fish, sea turtles and rays. Book now!
- Whale Watching Tour: The Azores, particularly São Miguel Island, is one of the world’s prime locations for whale and dolphin watching with over 20 different species of whales and dolphins. Book now!
MORE UNDERWATER ADVENTURES
If aquatic adventures and marine life are your thing, a trip to Southern California is a must! Snorkeling in Laguna Beach will give you a chance to experience epic sea life in some of the cleanest waters imaginable. Plus, dolphin and whale watching tours are easily one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach. You’re guaranteed to see plenty of incredible marine life on your visit.
If California’s a bit too far, not to worry. It’s easy to combine Portugal and Spain solo travel. With plenty of its own islands, the snorkeling in Spain is best in class.
Food & Wine
From volcanic ovens to unique vineyards, foodies and wine lovers won’t want to miss these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!
- Volcano-Cooked Dinner: One can’t-miss activity in the Azores is trying Cozido das Furnas, a traditional Portuguese stew cooked by the steam from volcanic hot springs in Furnas.
- Pico Vineyards: The Azores islands have a long history of producing unique wine from vines are grown on volcanic rocks. Arinto, Verdelho, and Terrantez do Pico grapes are used to make white wines, while Merlot, Syrah and hybrids are used for red wines.
- Gorreana Tea Plantation: Visit the oldest Tea Factory in Europe which started producing tea in 1883 and still uses traditional methods, tools, and techniques to produce its signature black tea.
Interested in Portuguese wine? We may have just become best friends! Portugal has a long history of winemaking and plenty of delicious juice to try! I highly recommend a visit to any of the best wineries in Portugal for lots of learning and even more sipping.
The Douro Valley wineries, in particular, are nestled into the hills of what might be the most beautiful wine country in the world! This is where you can try Portugal’s renowned green wine, vinho verde. A trip to the charming Porto wineries is also a must. There’s nothing like enjoying a glass of the popular fortified wine, port, while you watch boats glide across the Douro River.
It’s easy to visit both of these locations together. Get started planning with my guide to Porto solo travel.
What to Eat in The Azores
The Azores is full of incredible food. Here, the volcanic soil nurtures unique flavors and the Atlantic Ocean offers fresh seafood. Check out the best traditional dishes to try on an Azores solo travel adventure:
Lapas: Lapas, or limpets, are an Azorean delicacy, especially on the island of Terceira. These mollusks are retrieved from the volcanic rock along the coastline and served raw or grilled. Grilled lapas, called lapas grelhadas in Portuguese, are usually served in a sauce of butter, garlic, and a drizzle of lemon.
São Jorge Cheese: Known for its firm texture and spicy, full-bodied flavor, this semi-hard, yellow cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk aged for three to seven months. The semi-hard, yellow cheese draws its unique taste from the rich, volcanic soils of the island where the cattle graze. It pairs well with bread and wine!
Bolo Lêvedo: Bolo Lêvedo is a sweet, round bread that comes from the town of Furnas, where it’s made using thermal steam from the local hot springs. Often enjoyed at breakfast, the recipe for this fluffy, pancake-like bread dates back to the 19th century. The longer I stayed in the Azores, the more attached I grew to bolo levedo. I’m dying to figure out where to get some in the US!
Alcatra: Alcatra is a traditional Azorean dish originating from Terceira. It’s a rich pot roast-style meal, typically made from beef. The meat is slow-cooked in a clay pot along with ingredients like onions, garlic, bay leaves, and local wine, resulting in a tender, succulent dish that melts in your mouth.
Queijadas da Vila: Last but not least, Queijadas da Vila are a delightful treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. These small, sweet cheese tarts hail from Vila Franca Do Campo, São Miguel, and have been part of Azorean culinary tradition since the early 16th century. The tarts are made with simple ingredients: sugar, milk, eggs, and a touch of cinnamon.
How to Get around the Azores
Navigating through the Azores’ captivating landscapes provides an experience like no other. Most people will tell you that you can’t get around without a car, but I had no problem exploring the islands without one. Granted, I kept things simple and went on tours or took taxis around Sao Miguel every day, but everything was super affordable and it actually made it easier to meet people.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you get around:
- Car: Driving is the most flexible way to explore the Azores. Car rental services are available on all islands, with a range of options to suit different budgets. Remember, roads can be winding and occasionally steep.
- Taxi: Taxis are readily available in the towns and can be a reasonable option for short trips. You can also pre-book transport and half-day options.
- Tours: Guided tours offer a hassle-free way to experience the Azores. Tours often include transportation, meals, and a guide with extensive knowledge of the islands’ geography and history.
- Public Transport: The bus network operates across the islands and can be a cost-effective way to travel, though services may be intermittent in rural areas.
- Walking and Cycling: Given the islands’ beautiful landscapes, walking or biking can be a rewarding way to experience the Azores, particularly for shorter distances.
- Ferries and Flights: For island hopping, you can use the local airline or ferry services, both of which provide regular connections between islands.
Getting from island to island: If you plan on island-hopping by ferry, make sure you research routes and book tickets in advance. Certain routes are only available during peak seasons.
Where to Go After The Azores
Looking to combine your solo trip to Azores with a few more destinations? Good thinking. Funny enough, you’re actually just as close to Morocco as you are to Portugal! If you’ve ever dreamt of solo travel to Morocco, now’s your chance. You can see a lot with a 2 day itinerary for Marrakech.
If security’s on your mind, let’s talk about the safest cities in Europe for solo female travelers. For a worry-free experience with world-class art museums and incredible tapas, Madrid solo travel belongs at the top of your list. Solo travel Seville is also just as safe with tons of gorgeous Spanish palaces and Moorish architecture.
No matter where you go next, you’re sure to bring along incredible memories from your time in the Azores. Bon voyage!
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