If you’re tired of crowded beaches, noisy hotels, and artificial cultural experiences, then the Azores Islands are for you. For the most part, the Portuguese island chain has remained “off the map” in terms of mainstream tourist destinations. It has since become more popular, but the secluded islands allow for a quaint, culturally authentic trip.
If you want to experience an archipelago that is a true nature sanctuary with stunning landscapes and never-ending views, along with a captivating history and culture, join us on this four-island adventure!
Naturally rich in history, beauty and culture, the Azores are a hidden gem in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The Azores may be an autonomous region of Portugal, but the archipelago offers a vastly different experience to the mainland. These nine volcanic islands each have their own character, from the lush hills of São Miguel to the towering volcano and stone-walled vineyards of Pico. Hiking, cycling or traveling the quiet roads, you’ll come across waterfalls, hot springs, steaming fumaroles, lush meadows and cerulean lakes. This was also the first archipelago in the world with a certification in sustainable tourism!
Although the Azores appeared on nautical charts from the 14th century, the uninhabited volcanic archipelago was only officially discovered and settled by the Portuguese and Flemish in the 15th century. The rich volcanic soil and freely available water sources meant the settlers prospered and were soon exporting wheat and plant dyes to mainland Europe and Africa. Their livestock thrived too, and today the cows on the island of São Miguel live the life every cow dreams of. The fresh meadows, natural springs, and endless green pastures make it an ideal location to produce some of the country’s best dairies.
Cheesemaking has been a time-honored Azorean craft since the first Flemish settlers arrived on the Islands more than 500 years ago, and upon your arrival, it won’t take long to see signs of the Azores’ fondness for dairy everywhere. The number one cheese of the Azores is the famous Queijo de São Jorge. The cheese is so beloved, it has been granted the Protected Designation of Origin status.
The Azores also produces some great wines, particularly the wines of Pico Island. Pico wines are of the highest quality, and are grown in a very interesting way--in stone-walled vineyards. Most of the soil across the islands is volcanic, which combines with the climate to give Azores wine its vast range of aromas and consistencies.
It’s no surprise that the Azores are an epicurean delight for foodies. The archipelago’s many unique microclimates, abundant water supply, and the volcanic nature of the islands, make it possible to offer a large variety of delicious dishes. Based on a rich and hearty peasant-style of cooking, Azorean cuisine is so scrumptious, it will leave you asking for seconds.
The most famous dish from São Miguel Island is the beloved Portuguese stew known as Cozido. This hearty and robust stew, consisting of a hodgepodge layering of pork, beef, chicken, sausages, and vegetables, is cooked in underground holes known as fumaroles. These holes are dug in hot volcanic soil located right next to the beautiful and scenic Furnas Lake. Once the stew has been simmered and cooked to perfection by the natural heat, it is best enjoyed with some Portuguese red wine to complete the feast.
The Islands We'll be Visiting
The largest of the nine islands, São Miguel is known as the green island for its several shades of green that cover the island. Big landscapes and fields can be admired from every viewpoint, including Europe’s only tea plantation. The island is home to the regional capital, Ponta Delgada, which is known for its century-old churches, quaint cobbled streets, a long seaside promenade, and a delicious collection of local bars and restaurants. São Miguel is also known for the various lakes created by the volcanoes that once raised this island: Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo and Lagoa das Furnas, among others. Explore the geothermal wonders of the Furnas Valley, a dormant volcanic caldera where bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles and hot springs offer the chance to soak in thermal pools.
Pico is the second largest island of the Azores archipelago and is home to Pico Mountain, the highest mountain in Portugal. Pico is nicknamed the grey island because of its dramatic volcanic landscapes. Lava formations dominate the scenery, contrasting with the blue of the ocean and the white from the foam of waves. Wine production on Pico Island dates back to the 15th century and in 2004 the vineyard landscape was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pico wine is a product recognized and certified for its quality, and winemaking is a very important activity on the island and the center of life for many families. Pico is also one of the best islands in the Azores for dolphin and whale watching. Many whale and dolphin species choose the Azores as part of their migration route or even as their permanent home, including sperm and blue whales, as well as common and bottlenose dolphins.
Faial, the blue island, got its nickname from the many deep-blue hydrangeas seen all over the island. Faial is most known for the Capelinhos Volcano which erupted in 1957-58 and created a very unique moon-ish landscape. Also dominating Faial is the dormant Caldeira Volcano with its impressive crater. This crater is 400 meters deep, 2 kilometers wide and is surrounded by lush vegetation. Not to be missed is the city of Horta. Its famous marina is the preferred stop over for ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. In Horta you can explore several historical buildings telling the story of the diverse history of the city and island.
São Jorge, the brown island, reveals itself in the dramatic cliffs and dark rocks that you can see while exploring the island. São Jorge is best known for its fajãs, which are small flat lands along the coast that contrast with the island’s many steep cliffs. Apart from their unique beauty, the fajãs across the southern coast have a particular climate that allow for coffee to grow. In fact, the Azores is the only place in Europe where coffee is grown! Besides its fajãs, cheese is another icon of this island, as its particular taste is already well known worldwide. Queijo de Sao Jorge will delight those who appreciate a strong cheese taste, a flavor that is considered one of the best in the Azorean region.
We'll be spending four nights on São Miguel, the largest of the islands, and four nights on Pico. We'll also visit the smaller islands of São Jorge and Faial on day trips via ferry. You will get to know all that these beautiful islands have to offer as we have many incredible experiences on tap.
Furnas Valley – Enjoy this magical place full of geothermal activity where you will feel and experience the volcanic regions of São Miguel. We will see an interesting variety of hot springs--some are muddy, others have clear waters and others are just sulfurous steam. We will stop at the gorgeous Terra Nostra botanical park, with an exquisite collection of plants from all over the world, where we can swim in a thermal pool of iron-enriched water. At Furnas Lake, we will observe how Cozido, one of the most emblematic dishes of the Azores, is made. This is a very special meal cooked only with the steam of the Earth. We will then enjoy a Cozido lunch at a local restaurant. This is a gastronomic experience you cannot miss!
Hiking at Gorreana Tea Plantation – In operation since 1883, this is the oldest and only tea plantation in Europe. The plant, camellia sinensis, used for the green and black tea, was introduced to the island in 1750, brought by the ships returning from the East. We will walk a circular trail along the tea plantations. The trail ends at the Gorreana factory, where you can rest and enjoy a cup of tea and learn more about tea cultivation on the island and its production.
Caldeira Velha Hot Springs - Here you can enjoy a relaxing bath in the four thermal pools, each at a different temperature. The pools are not too deep so you can stand or even sit. One of the main attractions is undoubtedly the gorgeous waterfall at the end of the park which makes for great photos. We will also visit the Caldeira Velha Environmental Interpretation Center where you will learn all about the formation of São Miguel Island and the volcanic origins of the Azores.
Gruta do Carvao (Carvao Cave) – Explore the largest lava tunnel tube in São Miguel. Along the almost 2 kilometers of cavern walls, you will find stalactites, stalagmites, columns, bridges and many other volcanic structures that show how the lava moved inside.
Bicycling and Kayaking at Lagoa das Sete Cidades – Sete Cidades Lake on São Miguel island is the most well-known postcard photo of the Azores with its contrasting blue and green waters. You can choose to walk along the shore, ride a bicycle in the surrounding area, or paddle a kayak in the lake's still waters. For people who like physical activity, this is definitely the best way to enjoy the magical nature of the Azores.
Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure – The Azores is home to several species of whales and dolphins, including sperm and blue whales, as well as common and bottlenose dolphins. Before going out to sea on a boat, the marine biologists will provide you with a briefing about security and respect for the animals and their natural habitat. After that, be prepared for 3 hours of intense encounters at sea with magnificent whales or a playful school of dolphins.
Adega A Buraca Winery and Criação Velha Vineyards – We will visit a small family-owned winery where we will taste their unique wines and learn about the history, culture and winemaking process on Pico Island. We will also stop to admire the Criação Velha vineyards. Wine production on Pico dates back to the 15th century and in 2004 this vineyard landscape was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Caldeira Grande – This impressive crater is one of the main landmarks on the island of Faial. Situated in the center of the island, it is 2 kilometers wide and 400 meters deep and surrounded by lush vegetation. When the weather conditions are good, the views from the rim of the crater are spectacular!
Capelinhos Volcano and Interpretive Center – Here on the island of Faial, the landscape was completely changed by the 1957/1958 eruption with the houses and fields covered by volcanic ash which created a barren rock desert with a moon-ish volcanic landscape. After admiring this unique landscape, we will visit the Interpretive Center of the Capelinhos Volcano where we will learn about the eruption, the history of the Azorean lighthouses, and the formation of the Azores archipelago.
São Jorge Cheese Factory – Cheesemaking has been a time-honored Azorean craft since the first Flemish settlers arrived on the islands more than 500 years ago. We will make a stop to sample the number one cheese of the Azores, the famous Queijo de São Jorge. This cheese is so beloved, it has been granted the Protected Designation of Origin status.
Fajã dos Vimes – Fajãs are a flat and fertile terrain at the foot of a coast cliff. They are formed by landslides or lava flows and usually have a microclimate due to the unusual mix of mountain and ocean. Apart from their unique beauty, the fajãs across the southern coast of São Jorge island have a particular climate that allows for coffee to grow. At Fajã dos Vimes, we will take some time to admire the beautiful landscape as well as the largest coffee plantation in the Azores.
Nights 1 – 4: Vila Galé
The Vila Galé is located in the heart of the regional capital of Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island. The location can’t be beat, walking distance to just about anything you need – restaurants, bars, shops, the ocean, and the city’s most popular sights. This historic property is in a charming building with 92 cozy rooms, a high-quality restaurant dedicated to regional cuisine, a bar, outdoor pool, and a spa and wellness center with an indoor pool and a diverse range of massages and aesthetic treatments.
Nights 4 – 8: Hotel Areia Larga Bay & Spa
This is a new boutique hotel scheduled to open in December 2023 in the central city of Madelena on Pico Island. Madelena is located by the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to find excellent restaurants with typical dishes and a good place to do some shopping. The hotel has 36 rooms (half with sea view and half mountain view), an onsite restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, Turkish bath, sauna and spa.
Note: Hotel still being prepared for Dec 2023 opening. Rooms still in progress. Current photo is to give you an idea of what the rooms will look like.
Arrival at Ponta Delgada, meet with our local guide, and transfer to our hotel to drop off our luggage.
Departure from our hotel for a welcome lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, we start our walk through Ponta Delgada and its main attractions. Ponta Delgada is the largest city of the Azores and was once called the "Venice of the Atlantic.” It displays beautiful landmarks and mysterious alleys. Some of the sights we will visit on this tour are Forte de São Brás, São Francisco Square, Sena Freitas Garden, Portas das Cidade (city gates), Parish Church of São Sebastião, Church of São Pedro and the Marina of Ponta Delgada. The tour also includes a visit to the Museum.
After our tour of the city, we will head back to our hotel to relax by the pool or have a drink on the patio. Dinner at leisure at the onsite restaurant or one of the many restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. (L)
Departure from Ponta Delgada towards Caloura. We will make a brief stop at a viewpoint that offers a beautiful view of the entire region and the sea. Our tour then goes to Vila Franca do Campo, the first capital of the island. We will visit the town square and see the beautiful architecture of the city hall and the Igreja Matriz, the parish church built in the 1500s.
We will then head to Lagoa das Furnas, a magical place full of geothermal activity, where you will feel and experience the volcanic origins of the island. We will observe how Cozido, one of the most emblematic dishes of the Azores, is made. It is a mixture of regional vegetables and meats cooked with the help of volcanic activity. This is a very special meal cooked only with the steam of the Earth. We will then enjoy a Cozido lunch at a local restaurant. This is a gastronomic experience you cannot miss.
After lunch, we will be visiting the Terra Nostra botanical park, where you can swim in a natural pool of hot water. Our tour continues to visit the hot springs and the thermal water center. There you find 32 different kinds of waters, some sulfurous, others calcareous; either hot, warm or cold. The variety of hot springs is also very interesting: some are muddy, others have clear waters, others are just sulfurous steam. The last stop is at the Pico do Ferro Viewpoint, which offers you a view of the whole valley of Furnas.
Return to our hotel and dinner at leisure. (B, L)
Departure from the hotel towards Gorreana. The first stop is at the “Santa Iria” viewpoint where you can admire a beautiful view of the north coast. Further along the road, we’ll stop at a tea plantation that is unique in Europe where we will start our walking trail. This circular route along the tea plantations begins at the parking place of the Gorreana tea factory. In operation since 1883, it is the oldest and only tea plantation in Europe. The plant, camellia sinensis, used for the green and black tea, was introduced to the island in 1750, brought by the ships returning from the East. The trail ends at the factory, where you can rest and enjoy a cup of tea and learn more about tea cultivation on the island and its production. We will then stop for a picnic lunch.
After lunch the tour goes up the mountain (altitude of 900m) to admire the magnificent view of the Lagoa do Fogo, a lake on the island in which you encounter nature in its pure state. On the way through, we’ll stop at Caldeira Velha hot springs. Here you can enjoy a relaxing bath in the four thermal pools, each at a different temperature. The pools are not too deep so you can stand or even sit. The main attraction is undoubtedly the waterfall at the end of the park, which creates an amazing scenery for photos. You can also visit the Caldeira Velha Environmental Interpretation Center where you will learn all about the formation of São Miguel island and the volcanic origins of the Azores.
Return to our hotel and dinner at leisure. (B, L)
**GORREANA TRAIL INFORMATION – Category: Circular | Difficulty: Easy | Extension: 3.4km | Time average: 1 hour 30 minutes**
Departure from our hotel to visit a pineapple plantation. There, you will learn more about the cultivation process of this tropical fruit growing in a region of oceanic climate.
We will continue on to explore Gruta do Carvão, the largest lava tunnel on the Island of São Miguel. The Gruta do Carvão is classified as a Regional Natural Monument and has an extension of about 1912 meters divided into 3 sections. The Paim section, with an extension of 880.2m, is the one that we’ll be exploring.
We continue towards the western part of the island, going through the mountain road and passing by the Carvão. We’ll make a short stop to admire the view of the narrowest part of the island. This landscape was formed millions of years ago by the eruption of 290 small volcanoes. The journey goes on to the “Vista do Rei,” the famous viewpoint of the island, with a magnificent view of the Sete Cidades valley with contrasting blue and green lakes. Down to the valley, we’ll stop at a local restaurant for lunch.
After lunch we’ll have some adventures at the shores of Lagoa das Sete Cidades. You can choose to walk along the shore, ride a bicycle in the surrounding area, or paddle a kayak in the lake's still waters. For people who like physical activity, this is definitely the best way to enjoy the magical nature of the Azores. (Duration: approximately 3 hours)
Return to our hotel and dinner at leisure. (B, L)
This morning you can relax and have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.
Departure from our hotel at 11:30 am for transfer to the airport and our flight to Pico Island.
Arrival at Pico island at 2:30 pm and transfer to our hotel in Madelena.
This evening we will meet with our local guide for a short walk around the village of Madelena followed by a group dinner at a local restaurant.
Transfer from our hotel to Madalena harbor where we will take the ferry to São Jorge Island (1 hour 20 minutes). Sao Jorge is a very narrow island and one of its main features is the almost vertical coastline interrupted by small plains formed by lava flows called fajãs.
Arrival at Velas and departure towards Urzelina and Beira, to visit the Church of Santa Bárbara nas Manadas, one of the best preserved churches with the greatest cultural value in the archipelago. We will also stop at the São Jorge Cheese Factory where we will sample some of the best Portuguese cheeses made on this island. We then continue to the town of Calheta for a walk along the waterfront. Lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, we will head to the North Coast with a visit to Fajã dos Vimes and a coffee plantation. Continuation of the route, stopping at several viewpoints to see the wonderful views of the typical fajãs (Ouvidor, Cubres and Caldeira do Santo Cristo) ending at the Parque Florestal das Sete Fontes, where we will take a pleasant walk and enjoy nature. We will end the day with a walking tour of the center of Vila das Velas.
Dinner at leisure in São Jorge. Ferry boat back to Pico and transfer to the hotel. (B, L)
Departure from our hotel for a tour of Pico Island. Our first stop will be at Arcos do Cachorro to admire a unique set of volcanic rock formations. We will then continue to the village of Sao Roque for a winery tour at Adega A Buraca. Here we will learn about the history, culture and winemaking process on Pico Island and take a tour of their small museum. Afterwards, we will taste their unique wines that are also available for sale.
We will then continue along the interior road, crossing the island to the picturesque village of Lajes do Pico. It is not only the first settlement of the island but also the Azorean whaling capital. Besides wine, whaling played a big role in the history of the Azores. We will enjoy a walk through the narrow streets and a guided visit to the whaler’s museum.
After stopping for lunch at a local restaurant, we will head to Lajes do Pico harbor where we will start our whale watching adventure. The Azores is home to several species of whales. Before going out to sea on a boat, the marine biologists will provide you with a briefing about security and respect for the animals and their natural habitat. After that, be prepared for 3 hours of intense encounters at sea with magnificent whales or a playful school of dolphins.
Before returning back to our hotel, we will stop at the vineyards of Criação Velha. It is one of the most emblematic places to understand why Pico’s vineyard landscape was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Return to our hotel and dinner at leisure. (B, L)
Transfer from our hotel to Madalena harbor where we will take the ferry to Faial Island (30 minutes). Arrival in Horta where we will visit the Miradouro da Espalamaca, with a beautiful panoramic view over the city of Horta. Ascent to the impressive Caldeira Grande crater, in the central area of the island. This crater is 400 meters deep, 2 km in diameter and is surrounded by lush vegetation.
Stop for lunch at a local restaurant. Continuation to Ponta dos Capelinhos, a barren rock desert with a moon-ish volcanic landscape. Here the landscape was completely changed by the 1957/1958 eruption, with the houses and fields covered by volcanic ash. We will also visit the Interpretive Center of the Capelinhos Volcano where we will learn about the eruption, the history of the Azorean lighthouses, and the formation of the Azores archipelago.
Return to the city of Horta for a brief panoramic visit. The tour ends with a tasting of the famous gin and tonic at Peter Café Sport, a café bar that gained notable worldwide recognition due to yachting. Transfer to Horta pier where we will take the ferry back to Pico island.
Tonight we’ll gather for a farewell dinner together and we’ll toast to friendships and memories made in the Azores. (B, L, D)
Breakfast at our hotel and transfer to the airport for our departure home. (B)
Itinerary as described with all entrance fees and costs for all activities
8 breakfasts at hotels
6 lunches at local restaurants with wine
1 picnic lunch
2 dinners at local restaurants with wine
8 nights accommodations (4 star hotels)
Private ground transportation for the group
Inter-island flight to Pico Island
Ferry rides between islands
Local guides accompanying the group
Tips/gratuities for local guides and drivers
Any meals or beverages not listed in Inclusions
Trip Price - $2,432 (double occupancy)
Trip Booking Deadline: December 11, 2023
Single Room Supplement: $650 (This is to have your own room without sharing/having a roommate, not for upgraded rooms.)
Deposit: $730 (30% of trip price) due at booking
Final Balance Due - March 1, 2024
Estimated Airfare: $1,250 - Price varies depending on your departure airport, flight quality, etc.
Cancellation policy: Only 100% refundable only within two weeks of paying your deposit.
While a 33% deposit is due at booking, the balance can be paid over time up until the booking deadline using our self-service payment feature. You can make payments of any size at anytime by logging into your account on the Gen X Travel Club website. This is a great way to finance/budget for the cost of a trip; instead of paying a larger single lump sum payment for the balance, you can make small monthly payments over time.
Useful information to know for our Azores trip...
The Azores have a maritime subtropical climate across all islands and the Atlantic Ocean makes the temperatures mild throughout the year. The average high in June is 70°F and the average low is 60°F. While we are going during the dry season, the weather is very unpredictable year-round. It can be bright and sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy and back to sunny again -- all in the same day! It will be important to carry a rain jacket and small umbrella in your day pack as brief showers can pop up unexpectedly. This is what makes the islands so lush and green!
Basic words to know that you’ll use regularly:
Olá - Hello
Adeus - Goodbye
Sim - Yes
Não - No
Por Favor - Please
De nada - You're welcome
Obrigado (male) - Thank You
Obrigada (female) - Thank You
Bom dia - Good morning
Boa tarde - Good afternoon
Boa noite - Good night
The itinerary official starts on Sunday, June 16, so you'll need to depart the U.S. on Saturday, June 15 for an overnight flight that arrives in the morning.
You can opt to come in a day earlier if you'd like to get some additional rest and get a bit used to the time difference (The Azores are 5 hours ahead of Washington DC - EST).
For travelers in the Washington DC / Baltimore MD area, below is the suggested flight on TAP Portugal (estimated cost $1,133 - $1,368).
NOTE: We will be arriving on Sao Miguel (PDL) and departing from Pico (PIX) so you will need to book a multi-city trip.
DEPART Saturday, June 15 (arrival on Sunday, June 16)
5:35pm - 9:40am from IAD to PDL connect thru Lisbon
Flights: TP0232 / TP1861
RETURN Monday, June 24
10:25am - 8:35pm from PIX to IAD connect thru Lisbon
Flights: TP6464 / TP0233