Hiking in the Azores | What You Need to Know
Ready to get those hiking shoes dirty? If you are headed to the Azores, odds are you will want to take part of some of the 80+ trails that these islands have to offer. Hiking in the Azores is one of the top things to do when visiting this beautiful group of nine islands spread across the Atlantic. So no matter which island you are headed to, you will be able to take part of some awesome hiking opportunities. This guide will go over everything you need to know to better prepare you for Azores hiking and go over some top trail options out there.
1. Hiking in the Azores
As mentioned there are 80+ official hiking trails in the Azores. When I say “official”, I mean to say those trails that the Visit Azores tourism board specifies on their website. These trails will have signage at the starting point, markers during the trail, and be maintained to a certain extent. The Visit Azores site has a list of trails by island that you can browse through and explore (take a look in the next section).
As you pick and choose hikes on the site, you can see details of that particular trail. This includes difficulty, trail length, time of hike, elevation gain/loss, Google Maps view of the trail, and some more helpful info. On these pages you will also see a link to a “Trail Leaflet”. This leaflet is an overview of the hike (similar to the landing page), that can be downloaded and printed in PDF format.
You can also download the Visit Azores mobile app which has all the trails listed out by island. Similar to the website it gives you a summary of the hike and the ability to download an offline map. Below is an example of a trail leaflet that can be downloaded on the site:
2. Azores Hikes by Island
By clicking through the islands below, you will be taken to the island’s hiking homepage, where you can take a look at the offerings. I have also listed out the number of trails on each island to give you a sense of how many options you will have to choose from.
Note: The hike up Mount Pico is not included on the website. It is most definitely a legitimate hike but is overseen by Azores Nature Parks. Take a look at the Hiking Mount Pico guide to learn more.
Sao Miguel (25 trails)
Santa Maria (6 trails)
Pico (14 trails)
Sao Jorge (8 trails)
Faial (10 trails)
Graciosa (4 trails)
Terceira (8 trails)
Flores (5 trails)
Corvo (2 trails)
Take a look at some Azores guide books to better prep you for your trip:
3. Getting to Starting Points
Since many of the hikes are not just right on the main roads, it can get a little tricky getting to the official starting point of the trails. This is where it is useful to leverage the trail leaflets mentioned above. As you will see on each leaflet, there is a GPS coordinate of the starting point. For example, the below hike of Vinhas da Criação Velha on Pico, the coordinates are:
38° 29′ 12,14″ N 28° 32′ 19,00″ W
The problem however is that if you copy and paste those coordinates into Google Maps, you may not see anything show up. If this is the case, the solution is very simple – simply replace the two commas you see with periods and that should resolve the issue:
38° 29′ 12.14″ N 28° 32′ 19.00″ W
4. One-way (Linear) Hikes
Another thing you may come across when picking and choosing trail options is that some of the hikes are one way (“linear” on the trail leaflets). One of the problems with one-way hikes is that if you drive to the starting point, you will then be stuck at the end with no car. When this is the case you should have a plan in place. There are not too many taxis in random locations on the islands. You should be sure to have a taxi number handy and let them know beforehand of your plan so they have an idea of where to pick you up.
On some hikes, like the Mata do Canario to Sete Cidades one, there is a taxi stand in the town of Sete Cidades to bring you back to the starting point. This will not always be the case however, so always be prepared when taking part of linear hikes.
5. Azores Trail Maps
You will know for certain that you have arrived at a hike’s starting point once you see the official hiking map. This map (which can also be seen on the Azores website), will give you an overview of the trail and point you in the right direction. If you do not see this Azores hiking map when starting a hike, you are not in the correct place! Be sure to follow the official marked trail, which will start at these boards.
6. Hiking Signs
Once you have started a hike, you should have no trouble making your way around the trail. There will be a few points however, where the trail splits into two, or a turn needs to be made. At these junctures you need to pay attention! There will be signage markers on the trail telling you which direction to go in. You will see a few different markers to guide you: “Right Way”, “Wrong Way”, “Turn Right”, “Turn Left”. On the trail leaflets and at the starting point, you will also see what these signs look like so you can be aware of them as you walk the trail. If you are not paying attention, it is possible that you will continue in the wrong direction when you should have really made a turn earlier on. So just be aware as you go about your hike.
7. Azores Hiking Weather
Unfortunately, the one thing that you just cannot control when visiting the Azores is its unpredictable weather. I would recommend reading the weather in the Azores guide I have up on the site that goes into more detail about weather specifics. To give a quick recap though – on any given day you may see sun, rain, fog, wind and more! Weather can be tricky and can change constantly. Just because you see sun or rain on the radar does not mean it will stay that way. The clouds have a mind of their own and are always on the move.
Due to the variation in weather, I would advise to always be prepared with layers (rain jacket / pants) as you never know when the clouds may roll in. Even when it seems all nice and sunny on one part of the island, it can turn rainy and windy on another part – as the elevation and landscape changes, so can the weather. However, by prepping beforehand and bringing the necessary clothing, you should be adequately prepared for all conditions.
When deciding when to take part of certain hikes (especially those with views), I would advise to choose a day when there is less cloud coverage and less rain probability on the forecast. Not only can the clouds bring rain but they also can fill up craters and take away any view. While it can get tricky deciding what day to do what, my advice would be to leave yourself the flexibility to move things on your itinerary around.
Tip: As you decide when to do a hike or head off to a viewpoint you can also check the helpful Azores webcams to give you a live view. But remember, just because the view might be clear or foggy when you look at the webcam, does not mean it will stay that way.
You should also think about when you want to visit the islands. During the summer season will be the best chance to have clear weather (although nothing is ever guaranteed) and once you get further away from those months, the weather tends to get worse (more rainy, windy days).
8. My Favorite Azores Trails
Now that you have a better understanding of hiking in the Azores, I wanted to list out my top three hikes that I took part of during my visit. Click on each one for a detailed guide to the hike.
1) Praia – Lagoa do Fogo (Sao Miguel)
2) Mata do Canario – Sete Cidades (Sao Miguel)
3) Serra do Topo – Caldeira do Santo Cristo – Fajã dos Cubres (Sao Jorge)
4) Bonus!: Mount Pico
Take a look at some Azores guide books to better prep you for your trip:
9. Where To Stay
Need some help to figure out where to stay in the Azores?
Since the Azores are made of of 9 different islands and I did not visit / stay at a hotel in each one, I will just give some insight on what I do know and some recommendations for accommodation.
There are two main ways to go here – either browse through Booking.com to find the best hotel that fits your budget and style or check out Airbnb which might have more options.
There are a few main towns around the island but if you are looking for the most happening spot that would be in Ponta Delgada. There are way more accommodation and restaurant options here than any other location on the island. If you want to get a little further away you can also check out the town of Furnas, which is home to several natural hot springs. Here are some hotel recommendations for each:
I cannot speak for the other islands as much since I did not go to them but Booking.com should have plenty to choose from. Usually these islands only have a few main areas to stay in and sleeping by the marina area is always a safe bet.
Hiking in the Azores will not disappoint. Trust me on that one! I hope this guide helped answer some of the questions you may have had and if you want to learn more about the Azores check out the Azores itineraries and guides I have up on the site. Feel free write in any questions or comments below. Safe travels!