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The Azores – the Archipelago Experience

Azores – Europe's westernmost frontier
 
With stays on three different islands – and the option to visit a fourth – this self-guided walking holiday serves as a great introduction to the archipelago. Scenic, varied walks reveal unique volcanic landscapes, and, to complete your experience, a whale-watching trip is included.
The Azores – the Archipelago Experience. 14 nights
The Azores – the Archipelago Experience. 14 nights
 

Holiday information

 

A walking holiday in the Azores

The Azores, some 800 miles west of mainland Portugal, remain one of Europe’s most impressive and least-discovered outposts. This extraordinary archipelago has historically formed a vital link between the Old and New Worlds, with a distinctive history and culture. The fusion of vivid green landscapes and dramatic volcanic scenery lends them a unique feel, and culturally, too, the mix is fascinating – striking Baroque churches built by the pioneers, bustling ports, great religious festivals.

On this two-week holiday, you visit São Jorge, Faial, Pico and São Miguel, on all of which walking is by far the best way to discover their volcanic landscapes and lush vegetation.
After landing on the main island São Miguel, the holiday really begins when you fly north-west to the most picturesque island, São Jorge, characterised by its fajãs – fertile plains by the sea framed by steep slopes and planted with crops and fruit trees – and by the chain of mountains that runs the entire length of the island. Further west still, Faial may be one of the smallest islands, but is one of the best known because its handsome harbour, Horta, has traditionally been a port of call for ships crossing the Atlantic. Its neighbour, Pico, meanwhile, earns its name from its distinctive mountain whose summit, at 2,351 metres, is one of the highest in the Atlantic.

Finally, you return to São Miguel, the largest and most varied of the islands, where you will see pockets of ancient laurisilva (laurel forest), tropical plants, crater lakes, hot springs and mist-shrouded peaks. To fully show you the great scenic variety, we suggest walks in different corners of the island, all accessed using your included hire car.
 

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Gallery
 

Itinerary

The key to Inntravel holidays is flexibility. You can start on the day of your choice, and are free to add extra nights. Take your pick of our suggested walking routes for each island as the mood takes you.
  • The average maximum daytime temperatures and monthly rainfall relate to the nearest weather station and are intended as a guide only.

    The Azores' location in the Atlantic makes for changeable weather, characterised by wet winters and bright, temperate summers. June and July are the best months for flowers.
    Average temperatures and rainfall
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    °C 16 16 16 17 19 21 23 25 24 21 18 17
    mm 135 110 106 72 56 39 32 41 84 114 133 124
  • Arrival in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel
    Night 1: at Hotel do Cólegio (where you spend one night).
    As your first night’s accommodation is on the day of travel, Day 1 is your first day of exploration.
  • Choice of routes on São Jorge: 9km to 17km
    A one-hour internal flight takes you to São Jorge, where you stay for four nights at the Casa do António in the island's capital, Velas. While you are here we offer the following four walks, of which you will have time for three. All of them start with a taxi ride (included), and the taxi driver will collect you from your hotel at 9.30 each morning, at which point you can decide which walk to do that day (he will be happy to offer advice as to the best option as regards the weather) and arrange a time to be picked up at the end of the walk where necessary.

    Fajã dos Cubres (grade 2): 9km, 4.5hrs; ascent 160m/descent 845m
    This memorable linear walk explores the eastern side of the island. Starting high on the central ridge, it descends through a beautiful valley to reach Fajã da Caldeira do Santa Cristo – a remote coastal village accessible only on foot or by sea. This village is home to a salt-water lagoon which is the only place in the Azores where clams are found – a real local delicacy! The second half of the route then traces an undulating coastal path to reach the hamlet of Fajã dos Cubres.

    Fajã do Ouvidor (grade 2): 17km, 5.5hrs; ascent 325m/descent 1075m
    This long but enjoyable linear route follows a broad cinder track east from Pico das Caldeirinhas, passing through a fascinating landscape of volcanic cones and calderas. You have the opportunity to climb Pico da Esperança, the highest point on the island, before descending gradually through farmland. You then have a final steep descent on a cobbled path to reach the coastal village of Fajã do Ouvidor, where your efforts are rewarded with the opportunity to swim in some beautiful natural pools.

    To Velas (grade 2): 12km, 4hrs; ascent 120m/descent 875m
    Also starting from Pico das Caldeirinhas, this undemanding linear route leads west along the spine of the island, commanding excellent panoramas along both the southern and northern coasts to the other islands of the archipelago. The final section winds steeply down into Velas on a forest path, and you enjoy lovely views over the town before emerging in its centre.

    Farol dos Rosais Lighthouse (grade 1-2): 11km, 3.5hrs; ascent 220m/descent 350m
    This gentle circular walk begins in the pretty forest park of Sete Fontes on the island's north-western tip. Your path meanders through green pastures, affording views of the neighbouring island of Graciosa, to reach the ruined lighthouse of Farol dos Rosais. Return by a more southerly route, with views of Faial and Pico dominating the horizon.
    The route to Fajã dos Cubres
    Fajã dos Cubres: 9km
    Fajã do Ouvidor: 17km
    To Velas: 12km
    Farol dos Rosais Lighthouse: 11km
  • Travel to Faial
    At the end of your stay on São Jorge, you catch the ferry to Faial (ticket included), where you spend four nights at the Pousada Forte da Horta in Horta.
  • Choice of routes on Faial: 10km to 19.5km
    We provide notes for three routes:

    Ten volcanoes (grade 3): up to 19.5km, 7hrs; ascent 600m/descent 1430m
    This iconic walk reveals scenery unlike any other explored on this holiday. After taking a taxi to the starting point (40mins – pay locally), you walk halfway around the rim of the central caldera before descending on a broad cinder track to reach a levada (water channel) which you follow first through farmland, then through jungle-like woodland. The vegetation becomes increasingly sparse as you near the volcanic "badlands" formed during the eruption of 1957/58, and the excellent volcanology centre. Take time to visit before returning to Horta by taxi (pay locally).
    For a shorter day, you can join the route at a later point, but still enjoy the same dramatic finale.

    The beach of Almoxarife (grade 1-2): 10km, 3.5hrs; ascent 370m/descent 355m
    This pleasant, shorter walk starts from Horta itself and ascends into the hills on quiet country roads before following hydrangea-lined paths down to the black-sand beach of Almoxarife, where you can swim. Return by taxi (pay locally).

    Pico (grade 1-2): 13.5km, 4.5hrs
    We highly recommend taking a day trip to Pico on the regular inter-island ferry (pay locally). Pico is dominated by its conical, volcanic peak, the highest point in Portugal, and the reason the island got its name. While you are on Pico, we suggest that you visit the fascinating Gruta das Torres lava tunnel (advance booking required), then enjoy a walk through the UNESCO-protected wine region back to Madalena, the small capital where the ferry docks. In Madalena, there is a small wine museum, in a former monastic vineyard, and it is also possible to visit the local wine cooperative for a tour and tasting.
    The 'ten volcanoes' route on Faial
    10 volcanoes: up to 19.5km
    The beach of Almoxarife: 10km
    Pico: 13.5km
  • Travel to São Miguel
    You fly back to São Miguel, where you collect your hire car and drive to the north coast, to stay five nights at the Solar do Lalém, in the coastal town of Maia.

    We include a half-day whale-watching trip during your time here; for your other days, we offer a wide selection of walking options. We also provide notes for two driving tours which take in some of the island’s best sights, such as the crater lakes, bubbling springs and steaming fumaroles of the south, and the more remote far eastern end of the island.
  • 3km to 4.5km

    Around Maia: 3km, 1hr; ascent/descent 60m
    Leading from the hotel door, this short circular route is the perfect introduction to São Miguel’s scenic northern coast. Take time to explore the village and tobacco factory museum (one of the oldest on the island and well worth a visit) before joining a footpath that runs along the headland and back into Maia.

    Chá Gorreana: 3km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 170m
    A short drive from the hotel brings you to Chá Gorreana – Europe’s oldest remaining tea plantation. Wander through the neatly manicured terraces where the tea is grown, and afterwards pay a visit to the 19th-century factory to witness the Victorian machinery in action! (Driving time from hotel: 10 minutes)

    The Serra Devassa: 4.5km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 165m
    This gentle route makes an excellent extension to the Sete Cidades circuit (see Grade 2 walking routes) but is also a pleasant option in its own right. It winds across open moorland and offers great views down to the west coast, before leading you to two small crater lakes where there is the chance to swim; you can also explore a number of other smaller lakes nearby. (Driving time from hotel: 1 hour)
    Explore the tea plantation of Chá Gorreana
    Around Maia: 3km
    Chá Gorreana: 3km
    The Serra Devassa: 4.5km
  • 4km to 11.5km

    Praia do Viola: 6km, 2.5hrs; ascent 240m/descent 420m; longer option: 11.5km, 5hrs
    Starting from Maia, this route heads east along a delightful coastal path, passing a series of ruined watermills before reaching the black-sand beach of Viola. Test out the waters before retracing your steps. For a more challenging day, there is the option to continue farther along the coast.

    Fenais de Ajuda: 5.5km, 2.5hrs; ascent/descent 300m
    This short but demanding circular route begins in the neighbouring hamlet of Fenais de Ajuda. After initially following a quiet country lane, the undulating route descends to the coast to reach a lovely waterfall and pool. You return to Fenais through peaceful woodland, ascending steeply at times. (Driving time from hotel: 15 minutes)

    Furnas Lake: 9.5km, 3hrs; ascent/descent 270m
    Starting in the spa town of Furnas, this easy walk winds through open meadows and mixed woodland, passing steaming bubbling hot springs to reach a low-level crater lake. Make your way around the volcanic shores of the lake before returning to Furnas, where we recommend a visit to the beautiful botanical gardens (pay locally). (Driving time from hotel: 25 minutes)

    Sanguinho Valley: 4km, 1.5hrs; ascent/descent 250m
    One of our favourite routes, this short but adventurous ‘jungle’ walk traverses the densely forested Sanguinho Valley, crossing streams and rivers to reach a secluded waterfall. In summer, the displays of flowers are fantastic, with acacias, banksias and yellow ginger lilies lining the trail. To return to your car, head back down the valley on a different path. (Driving time from hotel: 55 minutes)

    Janela do Inferno: 7.5km, 3hrs; ascent/descent 275m
    This varied circular route explores the southern slopes of the island, passing through farmland and entering a secret valley of tunnels, aqueducts, waterways and the ominously named Janela do Inferno (‘window to hell’), a small waterfall bursting from the rockface. (Driving time from hotel: 30 minutes)
    Walk from Fenais de Ajuda to the coast
    On the circular walk in the Sanguinho Valley
    En route to Janela do Inferno
    Praia do Viola, longer option: 11.5km
    Fenais de Ajuda: 5.5km
    Furnas Lake: 9.5km
    Sanguinho Valley: 4km
    Janela do Inferno: 7.5km
  • 11 or 12km

    Fire Lake: 11km, 4.5hrs; ascent/descent 390m
    The target of this circular walk is the 'fire lake' of Fogo, so named as the 1563 eruption that formed the crater it occupies caused a bright glow visible for miles around. You approach the lake via the island’s southern slopes, walking alongside a levada and through ancient forested landscapes to reach its shores. Enjoy wonderful views of the lake’s azure-green waters, before descending to your car along the same route. (Driving time from hotel: 40 minutes)

    Sete Cidades: 12km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 440m
    Beginning at the Vista do Rei viewpoint, this unmissable circuit reveals the twin crater lakes of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, the iconic images of the Azores. As you follow a cinder track around the edge of the vast crater rim, you are treated to spectacular views across the lakes and to the sea beyond. From the ridge, descend to the village of Sete Cidades and the clear blue waters of these famous lakes. (Driving time from hotel: 1 hour)
    The 'fire lake' of Fogo
    Sete Cidades
    Fire Lake: 11km
    Sete Cidades: 12km
  • Half-day excursion included
    The Azores are set in one of the world’s most important areas for marine mammals. Your half-day excursion with Terra Azul explores the waters off the south coast in search of sperm whales, pilot whales, dolphins and turtles. We normally book this for your third day on the island so as to give you the opportunity to repeat the boat trip free of charge if no cetaceans are spotted first time around.
    Enjoy a half-day whale-watching excursion
 

Accommodation

You stay in four very different hotels on three outstanding islands.
 

Options to extend or shorten your stay

 
Prices & travel options
All prices are in £ sterling (GBP). If you'd like to see what they equate to in your currency, use the converter. For general information on pricing, see the 'your holiday price explained' page.
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  • 14 nights: 01 May 2021 - 30 September 2021 & 01 May 2022 - 30 September 2022

    Start any day (via Lisbon) | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    1 - 27 May 2021 £1745 £795
    28 May - 20 Jun 2021 £1870 £875
    21 Jun - 2 Jul 2021 £1945 £945
    3 Jul - 6 Sep 2021 £1995 £995
    7 - 16 Sep 2021 £1870 £875
    1 - 27 May 2022 £1835 £835
    28 May - 20 Jun 2022 £1945 £920
    21 Jun - 2 Jul 2022 £2045 £995
    3 Jul - 6 Sep 2022 £2095 £1045
    7 - 16 Sep 2022 £1945 £920
    3rd & 4th person discount -£235 to -£245
    Single traveller supplement £235 to £245

    Includes accommodation, meals and services integral to the holiday as described, plus walking notes and maps, but no travel from the UK, nor any connecting travel from the airport unless stated below.

    Price includes: taxi Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) airport to hotel on arrival day; taxi hotel to Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) airport & domestic flight São Miguel to São Jorge on day 1; ferry São Jorge to Faial on day 5; domestic flight Faial to São Miguel on day 9; 6 days' category C car hire (eg Ford Fiesta or similar with manual transmission) while on São Miguel

    Book your flights through us and we'll find the best route and times to suit you. Please contact us to find out more about our flight booking service. We can also book connecting travel - see below.

  • Room upgrades (£ per person per night)

    Hotel do Cólegio, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel
    Superior: 01 May - 30 Jun 2021 £5
    Superior: 01 Jul - 30 Sep 2021 £8
    Superior: 01 May - 30 Jun 2022 £6
    Superior: 01 Jul - 30 Sep 2022 £10
    Casa do António, Velas, São Jorge
    'Tower' with harbour view: 01 May - 30 Sep 2021 £7
    'Tower' with harbour view: 01 May - 30 Sep 2022 £8
    Solar do Lalém, Maia
    Suite: 01 May - 30 Sep 2021 £20
    Suite: 01 May - 30 Sep 2022 £22

    Extra nights (£ per person per night) in a double or single room

    Solar do Lalém price includes an additional day's car hire
    Pousada Forta da Horta, Horta, Faial (B&B) Double room Single room
    01 May - 10 Jul 2021 £98 £196
    11 Jul - 12 Sep 2021 £115 £230
    13 Sep - 26 Sep 2021 £90 £180
    27 Sep - 30 Sep 2021 £55 £110
    01 May - 10 Jul 2022 £105 £210
    11 Jul - 12 Sep 2022 £120 £240
    13 Sep - 26 Sep 2022 £95 £190
    27 Sep - 30 Sep 2022 £58 £116
    Solar do Lalém, Maia (B&B) Double room Single room
    01 May - 30 Jun 2021 £94 £142
    01 Jul - 30 Sep 2021 £104 £162
    01 May - 30 Jun 2022 £100 £150
    01 Jul - 30 Sep 2022 £110 £170
  • RECOMMENDED AIRPORT(S):
    São Miguel (latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time are flexible)

    Travelling from the UK

    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Lisbon. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    Outward route Airline
    Gatwick - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) Azores Airlines (SATA),  TAP Air Portugal 
    Gatwick - Ponta Delgada (via Porto) TAP Air Portugal 
    Outward route Airline
    Heathrow - Ponta Delgada British Airways 
    Heathrow - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) Azores Airlines (SATA),  TAP Air Portugal 
    Outward route Airline
    Stansted - Ponta Delgada Azores Airlines (SATA),  Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Manchester - Ponta Delgada (via Lisbon) TAP Air Portugal 
    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Lisbon. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    This list of flight options should be used as a guide only, and you should check each airline’s website for current routes, frequency and schedules. Not all flights operate daily, and may not run for the entire season. You should also heed the latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time stated in the connecting travel section, as it may not be possible to arrange connecting travel outside these times. Please do not book your flights until we have confirmed your accommodation to you. Alternatively, our expert reservations team will be happy to offer advice and to make flight bookings for you for any of the options listed above except those operated by Ryanair. We charge £35 per person for our flight booking service (£60 for India and Nepal). Your flights are then covered by our package-booking conditions, which give you greater protection in the event of delay or cancellation, as well as providing ATOL cover.

What is included
  • 14 nights
  • 6 picnics
    14 breakfasts
  • route notes and maps, plus GPS navigation
  • 6 days' category C car hire on São Miguel
  • flight São Miguel to São Jorge
    flight Faial to São Miguel
  • transfer from airport on São Miguel & São Jorge
  • ferry São Jorge to Faial
  • whale-watching excursion
 
Reviews

If you've experienced this holiday first hand, why not write a review?

We are keen for as many customers as possible to review their holiday. To make it easier to do so, we include a specific review section on our post-holiday questionnaire, and this is what we publish here, unedited. Read our full review policy >

 

FAQs

If you have any questions relating to this or any other Inntravel holiday, our friendly travel experts will be happy to help. You might also find our General FAQs section helpful.
  • If your holiday plans go awry because of Coronavirus, rest assured that we’ll do right by you. Since the start of the pandemic, our flexible booking policy and prompt issuing of refunds to customers who prefer not to defer their holiday have earned us high praise in the national press.
  • We sincerely hope that your holiday experience will be as enjoyable as it would have been before the pandemic – walking holidays are ideal in these times of social distancing, and we’re not operating holidays if the key highlights can no longer be delivered – but, naturally, there will be some changes to ensure your and other people’s safety, not least taking tests before and after your holiday for many destinations.
    Your holiday experience: what to expect >
    Safety measures being taken by hoteliers & others >
    Entry requirements for non-UK destinations & for re-entering the UK >
  • We’ll send you route notes and maps 2-3 weeks before your holiday. The route notes not only contain directions to get from hotel to hotel, but also include practical information about places of interest and eateries along each route, plus cultural information about the area. If/when you are moving between hotels, you leave your luggage in reception as you leave, and it will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation, meaning that all you need to take with you are a camera, sun cream, drinks, food and waterproofs.

    For more detailed information, see our walking holidays in Europe page.
  • Yes, prior to going on holiday you will be able to download GPX tracks so that you can follow your route on your smartphone or dedicated GPS device if you wish. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you use them – our detailed, step-by-step route notes remain the principal means of guiding you from A to B – but we provide them as a secondary means of navigation for additional reassurance when walking.
  • We can book a wide range of routes from the UK with a variety of airlines (but not, currently, with Ryanair). As well as being more convenient for you to book all elements of your holiday together, it also means that we’ll accept liability for your travel arrangements, so if things go wrong, such as the airline going bust, we’ll make suitable alternative arrangements for you. For Europe, there’s a £35 booking fee per person (£15 for children aged 2-11). For India and Nepal, the booking fee is £60 per person. More information on flights >
  • We can’t book flights that originate outside the UK, but if you wanted to book your own flights to London (or elsewhere in the UK), we can make all onward travel arrangements (including flights) from there. Alternatively, if you are booking your own flights to an airport in continental Europe that’s appropriate for your holiday, we can book onward rail travel and/or taxis. More information about how we can tailor holidays for customers outside the UK >
  • Since our holidays are self-guided, we recommend calling us for a chat about your plans before making a booking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve booked with us.
    The price panel shows the supplement for a single room and also the single traveller charge (this covers (luggage) transfers and other costs which are usually shared between two people).
  • Once you’ve decided on your exact itinerary (our travel experts will be happy to offer advice), you need to provide us with your party’s details, either by phone or via our booking form. At this point we also ask you to pay a deposit so that we can secure a room for you immediately on confirming availability with the hotel(s). If it turns out that we can’t secure the accommodation for the holiday you’ve requested, or offer an acceptable alternative, we’ll refund your deposit promptly and in full. After booking your accommodation and other key elements, we'll then book your travel (or you can do so if you’re making your own arrangements) and send you a Booking Confirmation and Invoice.

    More information about the booking process >
    Information about accommodation, general practicalities and more >
    Booking conditions >
  • Yes, it’s something we insist on, even for holidays in the UK. The vast majority of holidays go smoothly, but when things go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right. Buying a new pair of walking boots after your suitcase is stolen mightn’t seem so bad, but the bill for being airlifted down from a mountain with a broken leg or flown home while still recovering from an illness or accident can cost tens of thousands of pounds.

    You don’t have to take out our recommended travel insurance policy (if you live outside the UK you’ll definitely need to make your own arrangements, as the policy is only for UK residents), but you do need to make sure that you’re covered for medical emergencies – including falling ill with Covid-19 while on holiday – and repatriation. We also recommend that you are covered for other eventualities, such as cancellation and loss of luggage and passports.

    We'll ask you for the details of your policy (insurer, policy number and medical emergency phone number) so that we can help out if the worst happens while you are on holiday. It's up to you, though, to check that your policy covers the activities you'll be doing on holiday and that it is adequate for your own individual needs; we don't check alternative policies.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you are in possession of the correct travel documents, with the correct validity. If you’re a UK citizen, you need a full British passport to travel to Portugal, Madeira and the Azores, but not a visa. If you are a citizen of another country, you’ll need to check requirements with the national embassy or your own consulate.

    Current information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice for UK citizens can be found through the Travel Health Pro website. You must make sure you have adequate insurance cover for illness, accidents and repatriation (see the insurance question). You should also apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) if your EHIC has expired (if you have a still-valid EHIC, you can use this until it expires).
  • The official language is Portuguese. The currency is the Euro. Portuguese time is the same as GMT/UTC. It uses Daylight Saving Time, so in summer is on the same time as BST.
  • For information on the practicalities of travel now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union, visit www.gov.uk/visit-eu-switzerland-norway-iceland-liechtenstein.

    At Inntravel we work in close partnership with our hoteliers, taxi drivers and other local suppliers to provide our self-guided holidays directly to you. We are entirely confident that you will continue to receive the usual warm welcome from them, regardless of what is happening in the European political sphere.
  • The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides up-to-date, country-by-country travel advice, as well as information on security, local laws, passports and visas for UK citizens.
    If you live outside the UK, see our essential travel information page for a list of relevant websites.
  • You are the best judge of your child’s/children’s capabilities. We are happy to take bookings for families of older children/teenagers if they walk regularly, love the outdoors and are comfortable with the distances and ascent/descent involved. Please note that the bedrooms at most of the accommodation we use will normally only sleep a maximum of 3 people, and sometimes only 2.
Last fetch time is : 10/26/2021 3:08:36 AM