33 Best Sights in The Azores, Portugal

Algar do Carvão

Fodor's choice
Climb deep inside an extinct volcano at this 1,804-foot volcanic cave located toward the middle of Terceira. You’ll be guided 148 feet down a set of stairs to the floor of the cavern before descending another 115 feet to a crystal clear lake fed by rainwater (which completely disappears during dry summers). Though the stairs are on the steep side, they have handrails and are not challenging to descend or ascend—just be sure to dress warmly, as the cave becomes colder and wetter the farther down you go. Along the way you’ll see unique stalactites and stalagmites. Opening times vary depending on the season, but are generally limited to a few hours in the afternoons, so check before you go.

Azores Wine Company

Fodor's choice

Pico’s wine-growing landscape can be challenging, with its volcanic soil and proximity to the sea, but a new generation of winemakers is recovering neglected vineyards and putting Pico wine back on the map. The young Azores Wine Company was founded in 2014 with the goal of making minimal-intervention wines using traditional Azorean grapes, particularly the white varieties Terrantez do Pico, Arinto dos Açores, and Verdelho. Besides single varietal wines, they also produce white, red, and rosé blends. Visitors can stop by to hear their story and taste their wines, as well as to buy bottles to take home. There are also five apartments set among the volcanic rock where wine lovers can spend the night, plus a restaurant.

Caldeira

Fodor's choice
Located toward the center of the island (and therefore best accessed by car), this stunning ancient volcanic crater with a diameter of 2 km (more than 1 mile) and a depth of 1,312 feet started forming at least 400,000 years ago, with the last volcanic event taking place 1,000 years ago. There’s a scenic viewpoint to snap a few pictures, or opt for the fairly easy hike around the 7-km (4-mile) circular trail that winds around the rim’s perimeter; there are some narrow sections, so bring your hiking shoes. The perimeter walk takes two to three hours to complete and offers lovely views of the lush laurel forest and, if you’re lucky and the day is clear, to Mt. Pico in the distance.

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Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas

Fodor's choice
Along Lake Furnas you’ll see pockets of steam rising from the vents in the volcanic soil, which is used to cook the famous cozido (stew, usually made from a variety of meats). If you arrive around noon, you can see the cozido pots being lifted out of the earth after hours of cooking. At other times, the caldeiras are an atmospheric place for a short stroll on the paths constructed around the bubbling mud, or a longer but still relatively easy hike around the lake itself, which takes about 90 minutes.

Cooperativa Vitivinícola da Ilha do Pico

Fodor's choice

This cooperative was formed in 1949 by a group of local winemakers; by 1961, they had started producing wine using the traditional Verdelho, Arinto, and Terrantez grape varieties. Output remained small until the early 1990s, when the production processes were modernized and more varieties were introduced, including in 1997 the first fortified wine with a distilled spirit added (Lajido), and in 2001, the first sweet fortified wine (Angelica). Today, the cooperative is the largest wine producer in the Azores, with about 240 members growing grapes. Book well in advance or try your luck stopping by for a tour of the wine production facility.

Lajido

Fodor's choice
About a 15-minute drive east of Madalena is the postcard-perfect town of Lajido, filled with charming all-black and black-and-white volcanic houses with striking red and green doors and shutters.

Montanha do Pico

Fodor's choice

Visible from many locations around Pico—unless it’s shrouded in fog and clouds, as is often the case—and even more visible from across the water in Faial, 7,713-foot Mt. Pico is the highest mountain in Portugal. Past eruptions have occurred on its flanks rather than from the summit, the most recent back in 1720. If you want to hike up Mt. Pico, you can start at the Casa da Montanha (Mountain House) at 4,035 feet. Though it’s not a difficult climb, it can still be quite challenging as the path is steep with uneven rocks; depending on your experience level, consider hiring a guide to accompany you. Come early or book online to be guaranteed a hiking spot, as hikers are limited to 120 per day. Bring photo ID to register.

Monte Brasil

Fodor's choice

This extinct volcano on the far west side of Angra, which can be seen from all over town, is now a deer-filled nature reserve with many trails winding throughout the area. Whether you drive or walk from town, you’ll first come across the Fortaleza de São João Baptista, a late-16th-century fort that’s still in use by the Portuguese army. You can only enter the fort itself by taking a free tour, which runs nearly every hour and is led by a soldier stationed there. Farther up the mountain, the best lookouts to stop at are Pico das Cruzinhas, Pico do Zimbreiro, and Pico do Facho, the highest point on Monte Brasil. There are picnic tables where you can rest, as well as a children’s play area.

Parque Terra Nostra

Fodor's choice
These sprawling gardens date back to 1775, when Boston merchant Thomas Hickling built a summer house called Yankee Hall, planted trees brought in from North America, and constructed the thermal water pool, still a highlight of the park today. The gardens were enlarged in the mid-19th century, adding Australian King and Canary Islands palm trees and other imported species still thriving today. The garden is particularly well known for its collections of camellias, cycadales, and ferns, as well as for its thermal pool, which is an orange-brown color due to its high iron content. There are changing rooms and outdoor showers to rinse off after, but be sure to bring a towel and wear a swimsuit that you don’t mind getting stained.

Poça da Dona Beija Hot Springs

Fodor's choice
These rustic mineral hot springs surrounded by greenery make for a relaxing stop when in Furnas—though they’re extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, so it’s best to come in the morning to avoid the evening rush and to more easily snag one of the limited parking spots. There are four stone pools with water at 39ºC, some with waterfall features, and one cooler pool with 28ºC water; all are orange-colored because of the high iron content, so leave light-colored swimsuits and any jewelry back at your hotel to avoid discoloration. Towels are available for an extra fee, as are lockers, for which you’ll need to leave a deposit. You’ll definitely want to rinse off after bathing in the pools, and while cold showers are free, you’ll need to purchase a token to have a hot shower.

Ponta da Ferraria

Fodor's choice
This natural hot springs differs from the others on São Miguel because it’s actually in the ocean. Surrounded by basalt cliffs, the cold ocean water mixes with the hot thermal water to create a unique bathing experience—just keep an eye on the tides, as at high tide, the waters can feel chilly, while at low tide they can be steamy. But time it right (there’s a Ferraria Hot Springs app that can help), and you’ll never want to leave. A footpath leads down to the volcanic rock pool and from there, a ladder will take you into the thermal waters. Though it’s fairly shallow, wearing waterproof shoes is a good idea, as the rocks can be sharp and slippery underneath. There are ropes to hold on to if needed, and lifeguards on duty.

Praia de Porto Pim

Fodor's choice
Set in a sheltered bay—with very few waves, making it a great choice for families—Porto Pim Beach is a long, narrow strip of gray sand backed by Monte Queimado and next to Monte da Guia. The first settlers on Faial landed here in the 15th century. Today it’s the most popular beach on the island for swimming and sunbathing, very walkable from the center of Horta and with a number of attractions off its western end, including houses belonging to the once-prominent Dabney family that have been turned into low-key museums. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; swimming; walking.

Praia de Santa Bárbara

Fodor's choice
Stretching for about 1 km (a little over half a mile), this black-sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean is best known as a prime surfing spot—in fact, World Surf League Qualifying Series events are held here every year. You can take a surfing lesson from the school on the beach or rent a paddleboard here, or just grab a drink in the adjacent beach bar. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: surfing; walking.

Praia do Almoxarife

Fodor's choice
Perhaps the most beautiful sandy beach in the Azores, with black volcanic sand, clear water, and views out to Pico Island. Though the Atlantic water can be a bit cold, with the possibility of waves, Praia do Almoxarife makes a delightful stop for lunch at one of the beachside restaurants before or after a stroll, swim, or snorkel. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

Casa dos Vulcões

The unique volcanic landscape of the nine Azores islands is explored in this jam-packed museum. Visits are by 45-minute guided tour, which must be booked in advance. The topics covered at Casa dos Vulcões range from the broad, like how the universe was formed, to the more specific, like the geological history of tiny Pico, the youngest island in the Azores. The main reasons to visit the museum, however, are to take the journey to the center of the earth, by way of a 360-degree film, and to try the earthquake simulator, which uses VR headsets for a very realistic seismic experience.
Rua do Lajido, 9940-108, Portugal
292 644 328
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €5, including Centro de Interpretação da Paisagem da Cultural da Vinha da Ilha do Pico, Closed Sun. and Mon. Nov.–Mar.

Centro de Interpretação Ambiental da Caldeira Velha

It’s a short walk on a paved path through a subtropical forest to reach the four small pools at Caldheira Velha: three hot pools (about 36ºC), and one cooler pool (about 27ºC) adjacent to a waterfall. While more compact than the pools at Furnas, the ferns and other greenery give this place an almost prehistoric feel. The interpretation center contains informative displays on the area’s volcanic history and biodiversity in the Azores in general. Bring a towel and flip-flops; there are lockers and showers, but with cold water only.

Centro de Interpretação da Paisagem da Cultural da Vinha da Ilha do Pico

This small wine museum isn’t worth making a detour for, but if you’re already visiting the charming town of Lajido it’s well worth a short stop. You’ll find exhibits in English and Portuguese about wine production in Pico, covering topics including vineyard landscapes, the local climate, and indigenous flora and fauna. The admission price includes a glass of wine at the end, with more available for purchase. The staff offers guided tours of the nearby vineyards and lava fields.

Centro de Interpretacao do Vulcao dos Capelinhos

When the Capelinhos Volcano erupted in the 20th century, it completely changed not only the landscape of Faial, but the population as well. The undersea eruption created a lunar-like island that extended the coastal land mass, and resulted in about half of the population leaving Faial, never to return. Today you can visit the innovatively designed Volcano Museum at the site of the volcano—created underground to respect the landscape above—to get a better sense of what happened at that time, as well as to learn more about the geological history of the Azores. If time permits, start with the 10-minute film for an introductory background on volcanoes. Afterward, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse, partially buried during the eruption, for panoramic views. Once back outside, you have the option of taking the steep climb up the volcanic ridge to get an even better sense of the desolate terrain.
Farol dos Capelinhos, 9900-014, Portugal
292 200 470
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €10; €8 for exhibitions only; €4 for film only; €1 for lighthouse climb only, Closed Sun. and Mon. Nov.–Mar.

Forte de São Brás

Ponta Delgada

Used as a military support hub during World War I and II and still partly in use today by the naval forces, this 16th-century fort on the far west side of Ponta Delgada’s waterfront houses a compact yet comprehensive museum chronicling the country's military history up to colonial times. Inside the museum, you’ll find collections of weaponry, uniforms, photos, and military vehicles, along with temporary exhibits such as the role of the Azores during World War II. Finish your visit with a walk along the ramparts to see the lovely harbor views.

Gruta do Natal

This horizontal lava tube running 2,287 feet is worth a self-guided visit, as long as you wear good footwear and don’t feel claustrophobic in tight spaces. Navigating the sometimes dark, narrow, and low-clearance tube requires some ducking and squatting at times (you will be given a helmet for extra protection). Christmas Mass is held here when possible, hence the name.
Altares, 9700-169, Portugal
295 212 992
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €8; €12 with Algar do Carvão, Closed Mon., Thurs., and Sun. Oct.–Mar.

Jardim Duque da Terceira

These clearly labeled urban gardens, first created in 1882, showcase plants from around the world and make for a lovely stroll when wandering Angra’s historical city center. There are a few terraced levels to explore until you reach the highest point, where you’ll find a panoramic view of Angra. You’ll find an organic teahouse about halfway up (or down) if you need a reviving cup. There’s also a playground.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades

The breathtaking Blue and Green Lakes (Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde) of Sete Cidades are one of the most photographed sights on the island of Sāo Miguel—and for good reason. If at all possible, plan your visit for a clear day, when one lake appears to be robin’s egg blue and the other jade green. The best way to see the lakes is from one of the vantage points high above, especially Vista do Rei, which has its own parking area. The viewpoint at Boca do Inferno offers what many visitors consider an even better view, overlooking not only the lakes, but also the entire volcano-shaped landscape. You can start a hike from either viewpoint, or at Lagoa Verde itself—though keep in mind that while this hike starts off easy, it becomes more difficult as it climbs up and down through the woods.

Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo

Stop at this viewpoint at the Ponta da Espalamaca, a short drive northeast of the town of Horta, for spectacular views on a clear day not only of Horta itself but also of Monte da Guia, Praia do Almoxarife, and Mt. Pico. There’s a monument dedicated to Our Lady of Conception along with a 98-foot cross.
Variante a Estrada Regional N0 1-1a, 9900-174, Portugal
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Museu Carlos Machado

This eclectic museum’s collection is displayed in three buildings within walking distance from each other, with the largest section—the natural history collection—housed within the 16th-century Convento de Santo André, a former convent that retains much of its original charm. The natural history portion focuses on botany, geology, mineralogy, and especially zoology, with many taxidermied specimens that are both fascinating and creepy. The Santa Bárbara location houses more contemporary artworks and temporary displays, while the sacred art museum includes 17th- and 18th-century pieces from Azorean painters, a former chapel with an intricate carved-wood altar, and interesting temporary exhibits.

Museu da Horta

It’s worth a stop at this small museum within an 18th-century Jesuit college to learn more about Faial’s history, from the first Atlantic seaplane flight that stopped here in the late 19th century to historical submarine telegraph cables used to reduce the communication time between North America and Europe. There’s also an interesting collection of elaborate miniatures made out of the pith, or white kernels, from the inside of fig tree branches.

Museu de Angra do Heroísmo

In the former Convent of São Francisco, this interesting museum tells the history of Terceira and its capital city, from the first settlers to the present day. Exhibits cover military history, transportation, furnishings, and artworks, but the wonderful collection of horse-drawn carriages is a definite highlight. Much, though not quite all, of the information is in English as well as Portuguese, and there are always museum staffers available if you have questions. The original chapel contains an 18th-century organ; if you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with a free concert.

Museu do Vinho

Set inside and on the grounds of a former convent, this compact but comprehensive museum explains the history of wine on Pico, from its beginnings in the late 15th century to widespread Verdelho wine production—which lasted until the vines were hit by phylloxera in the mid-19th century—to the reintroduction of traditional grape varieties, including Verdelho, in the 1970s. In the adjoining gardens, you’ll find magnificent dragon trees—grown throughout the Azores and so named for their red-colored resin—along with examples of vineyards using Pico’s traditional “currais” method, where square-shaped areas of volcanic gravel are surrounded by low stone walls that protect them from wind while still allowing sunlight to enter. Other highlights include an interactive display on how to identify the color and aroma of wine, an area devoted to brandy making, and an old winepress. Helpful information sheets in English are available in most of the rooms.

Museu dos Baleeiros

Whaling was a major industry in Pico up until the end of the 20th century. This small museum, set inside a former whaleboat warehouse, screens a movie (available in English) explaining the history of the whaling industry on the island along with historic photos and interesting displays showing some of the tools and equipment used in whale hunting. The exhibits offer an interesting look at this important part of the Azores’ history.

Piscinas Naturais da Silveira

Just west of Angra, you’ll find not a beach per se, but rather a former fishing port transformed into a popular swimming area with a large concrete pier jutting out into the ocean. Swimmers can access the water by stairs, by diving in, or by holding a metal handrail as they walk right in. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming.

Piscinas Naturais do Varadouro

At these dramatic black basaltic natural rock pools about 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Horta, you’ll find two enclosed “pools” created from the ocean water, perfect for a dip without having to worry about waves; one pool is especially for children. It’s also possible to access the ocean directly here, though this is recommended only for strong swimmers as the waves can be substantial. There’s a concrete area around the pools suitable for lounging between swims. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming.