Portugal continues to top our travel lists. Whether it’s the boutique hotels in Lisbon, the quaint streets of Porto, or the golden cliffs of its southern beaches, this small country snuggled up to Spain seems to have it all. And that includes islands! Along with the island of Madeira, Portugal also raises its flag in the Azores, a cluster of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. If you’ve never heard of this little archipelago, you’re not the only one. It’s a relatively new destination for U.S. travelers. But after several visits, we honestly can’t understand what’s taken us all so long to get there— there are so many reasons to visit the Azores!

Looking to head to Portugal? Tack on some time (or make a stopover) to visit this idyllic little paradise. Read more for the inside scoop on our top 7 reasons to visit the Azores this year. Keep in mind that while there are eight other islands you can visit on your Azorean journey, we’re focusing primarily on the largest, São Miguel.

Direct Flights from the USA

plane flying to Azores islands

You may think a place so remote (about 900 miles west of Lisbon) requires a stopover in Portugal. But think again! Easy access is definitely one of the top reasons to visit the Azores. SATA Azores Airlines, TAP Portugal, and United (and a few other United partner airlines) all offer direct flights to the Azores via New York and Boston all year round. Flights will get you right into the capital in Ponta Delgada, which is a great starting point to get your bearings.

The direct flight advantage from these major cities means you’re one or two flights will get you straight to paradise. And once you’re there, you’re even closer to mainland Europe.

Unremarkable Natural Beauty

the natural landscape is the prime reason to visit the azores

The natural beauty of the area is by far definitely the biggest draw. The Azores are often referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe,” due to the volcanic terrain and the lush land. In São Miguel, for example, it’s as though every square inch is teeming with life! Moss and ferns burst from the earth, radiant green grass blankets every hill, and trees like redwoods and eucalyptus create dark, cooling forests. The monstrous pastel hydrangeas, which have become rather emblematic, line the highways like a painting. Volcanic craters have evolved into turquoise lakes with picturesque viewpoints, and there are beaches all over the islands, from black rocks to snowy white sand. It’s truly remarkable.

Fantastic Hiking

volcanic lake hiking trails are a great reason to visit the Azores

All this spectacular landscape means there’s also a whole of great hiking trails in the Azores. Whether you’re looking for a coastal hike with ocean views, a deep forest excursion, or a rainforest-like trek to an epic waterfall, there is something for everyone and everybody.

Tourism-Ready in All the Right Ways

Despite its remote location, rural setting, and being a relatively new European tourist destination, São Miguel in particular is very equipped to handle tourism of all kinds. The well-paved roads, for example, are easy to navigate with great signage and indicators for all the best lookout points. The towns and sights are well-connected, so you’re rarely doing any off-roading or driving down precarious dirt roads.

hotel WHITE pool in Sao Miguel Azores

In addition, the Azores offers superb hospitality. Not only are people incredibly kind wherever you go, but the service in both restaurants and hotels is excellent. The WHITE Azores boutique hotel is a prime example: The service is absolutely phenomenal, the property (which includes stunning suites and villas, and a pristine infinity pool) is true island elegance, and the food is exceptional. In other words, the islands have all the comforts and facilities to welcome travelers, while still maintaining that authentic and serene atmosphere you look for in a remote island.

Moderate Weather

tea fields Azores islands

It’s true that a tropical island in the middle of the ocean experiences quite a bit of rainfall and cloudy moments. But what’s great about the Azores is that even though the rain and clouds may come, they pass quickly. And the misty drizzle can even be a magical part of a hike or stroll, illuminating the vegetation around you. Temperatures are also very moderate: winter temperatures stay between 53ºF and 64ºF, and summers range from 63ºF to 79ºF. You’ll never experience freezing or scorching temperatures. Yes, you’ll need to bring a rain jacket just in case, but our team recently had five full days of perfect sunshine on our early June trip.

Excellent Food and Drink

Portugal’s island food scene does not disappoint. Seafood abounds with heaping bowls of fish stew, freshly grilled cod, and these funny little local bivalves (“lapas”) bathed in garlic and the famous Azorean butter. The islands are known for the large population of cows, which means tons of this delicious butter and fresh cheese abound. There’s also a famous bread called “bolo lêvedo” (similar to an English muffin but better), which is especially popular in the town of Furnas. The Azores also grow their own special variety of pineapple!

Azorean pineapple

In terms of drink, the Azores is home to the only tea farms in Europe. Not only can you tour the two factories on São Miguel (and grab free tea), you can also hike through the tea leaf fields. Additionally, the Azores also has great local wines which have a unique volcanic terroir you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other parts of Portugal, or even Europe. And if you’re looking for a great cocktail, head to the Gin Library, which houses Europe’s largest selection of gins (over 1,000). You can grab a G&T or experience their top-notch gin masterclass.

To really get the full Azorean culinary experience, Hungry Whales offers fantastic food tours in Ponta Delgada. You’ll visit tons of unique and local food spots, learn all the ins and outs of the Azorean culinary culture, and leave impressively full!

Perfect for the Whole Family

family at sunset

São Miguel is the perfect place for a family vacation— if you have kiddos, this is one of the best reasons to visit the Azores. There are hikes for all ages, tons of outdoor space and parks for kids to run around, activities like kayaking, and oceanside (and ocean-fed) pools where the waves are calm and whole family can spend the day relaxing and playing together. It’s an incredibly safe island and also a calm environment.

Ready to add the Azores to your Portugal trip? Send us a quick message and we’ll offer you even more unique insight on this spectacular island destination.