The volcanic landscape of the Azores archipelago is a nature lover's paradise. Begin on São Miguel, which is a hot spot of geothermal activity. Dip in thermal springs, kayak across a lagoon, and eat stew cooked from the heat of rocks before flying to the smaller but equally lush island of Terceira nearby. Marvel at Terceira's brightly colored buildings, relax on its epic lava formations and get lost in the fog of its ancient laurel forest.

Highlights

  • Take a whale-watching tour in São Miguel
  • Kayak across the volcanic lake of Sete Cidades 
  • Relax in the hot springs of the Furnas Valley
  • Go canyoning on the island of Terceira

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in São Miguel & Explore Ponta Delgada São Miguel Island
Day 2 Visit the Lagoons of Western São Miguel São Miguel Island
Day 3 Whale Watching & Drive to Furnas via Central São Miguel Furnas
Day 4 Experience the Volcanic Activity of the Furnas Valley Furnas
Day 5 Exploring Eastern São Miguel's Pristine Landscape Furnas
Day 6 Fly to Terceira & Enjoy Angra do Heroísmo Angra do Heroísmo
Day 7 Self-Guided Tour of Terceira Angra do Heroísmo
Day 8 Drive to Lajes Airport & Depart Terceira  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in São Miguel & Explore Ponta Delgada

The Manueline gate of São Sebastião Church
The Manueline gate of São Sebastião Church

Welcome to the Azores, known for their diverse ecosystems, lush nature, and epic geological formations. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands sits 870 miles (1,400 km) west of Lisbon and was colonized by Portugal in the 15th century. Upon landing at the airport in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel, pick up your rental car and head to your accommodations.

Ponta Delgada is the largest city and capital of the Azores, and today is all yours to explore on your own. Cultural highlights include the São Sebastião Church, which has a Manueline (Portuguese late Gothic) portal, the 16th-century Nossa Senhora da Esperança Convent, and the fascinating Carlos Machado Museum. Visit the famous Azorean pineapple plantations outside the city center, or discover the Gruta do Carvão Cave, an ancient lava tube that's 5,413 feet (1,650 m) in length.

Day 2: Visit the Lagoons of Western São Miguel

Flowers bloom over the Sede Cidades
Flowers blooming over the Sede Cidades
Take the day to explore the western side of São Miguel. Drive the coastal route, which includes access to São Miguel's region of lagoons. Among the highlights of this area, you'll find Sete Cidades, a lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. Sete Cidades is a favorite place for hikers, which can also be explored with a kayak or canoe. Another must-see sight is the Ponta da Ferraria, a warm pool in the middle of volcanic rocks formed from a mix of hot springs and seawater.

Day 3: Whale Watching & Drive to Furnas via Central São Miguel

Whale-Watching in the Azores
A whale swimming in the Azores

Begin the day with a spectacular whale-watching tour. Spot one (or more) of the 20 different species of whales in the Azores and keep an eye out for schools of dolphins swimming nearby. After this tour, drive east to Furnas to spend a few days on a different part of the island. Stop at some fascinating places along the way, like the hot springs and refreshing waterfalls of the Caldeira Velha. Don't miss the incredible view over the Lagoa do Fogo.

For lagoon lovers, another option is the Lagoa do Congro. This beautiful, hidden, and underrated spot has some of the best views around. Caloura is a small bay surrounded by high cliffs if you're looking for a great place to swim. Near Caloura, you can get on a dinghy to visit Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo, an islet off the southern coast of São Miguel. This is a perfect place to snorkel and see some of the Azores' fantastic sea creatures.

Day 4: Experience the Volcanic Activity of the Furnas Valley

Self-Guided Tour of Furnas (With Roadbook)
Natural thermal springs in Furnas
Plan your trip to the Azores
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Today is about discovering the Furnas Valley, the center of São Miguel's volcanic activity and home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Azores. Highlights include the village of Furnas, which is famous for its hot springs and fumaroles (volcanic vents), as well as the Terra Nostra Garden, where you can go for a plunge into its natural hot waters. Those looking for more thermal pool options can also check out the Poça da Dona Beija.

Don't miss the Furnas Lagoon, where you can try a cozido das Furnas. This special stew is made by placing a pan in a hole in the ground, which gets cooked by geothermal heat. The Lagoa do Congro is also a stunning and isolated lagoon surrounded by lush vegetation. After spending the day exploring the Furnas Valley, return to the village of Furnas to spend the night.

Day 5: Exploring Eastern São Miguel's Pristine Landscape

Eastern São Miguel Guided Tour
A view of eastern São Miguel

Head to the eastern side of São Miguel today to explore some of its most pristine areas. This side of São Miguel produces some of the island's famed agricultural products, but among the orange groves and wheat fields are hidden treasures. Start at the picturesque waterfalls of Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park. If you're a thrill-seeker or just want to have a different kind of experience in the Azores, you can go canyoning in this protected park.

Afterward, travel along the eastern coast, stopping at stunning viewpoints like Ponta da Madrugada and Ponta do Sossego. If you feel like going deeper into nature, you can visit the Pico da Vara in the center of Laurissilva. This rare variety of subtropical forest is only found in a few archipelagos in the northern Atlantic.

Day 6: Fly to Terceira & Enjoy Angra do Heroísmo

Terceira's verdant coastline

Drive to the Ponta Delgada airport to drop off your car and fly to the island of Terceira, which is just a short flight away. Once you land at Lajes Airport, pick up your rental car, and head to your accommodations in Angra do Heroísmo (or Angra for short). This UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded in the late 15th century. During its storied past, it was the seat of the Bishop of the Azores and became the capital of Portugal during the civil war of 1828-1834.

Angra stands out thanks to its mix of unspoiled nature and fascinating history. This is seen in its colonial-style buildings, picturesque streets, and Monte Brasil hill, which overlooks the city. Angra also has some excellent swimming places nearby, where you can take a dip in crystal clear waters.

Day 7: Self-Guided Tour of Terceira

The volcanic formation of Biscoitos
The volcanic formation of Biscoitos

Today is all yours to explore the island of Terceira. Consider starting with the impressive volcanic chimney/chamber of Algar do Carvão or the Serra do Cume viewpoint, which offers panoramic views over the island. Pack your swimsuit if you want to take a dip in the natural pools of Biscoitos. Meaning "cookies" in Portuguese, these remarkable rock formations were formed by ancient volcanic basalt that cooled to create swimming holes and ridges along the coast.

Keep an eye out for Terceira's various impérios. These small, colorful temples and shrines devoted to the Holy Spirit are scattered around the island. While primarily used around Easter time, they're a feast for the eyes at any time of year, thanks to their impressive structures and vibrant colors, which stand out against Terceira's landscape.

Day 8: Drive to Lajes Airport & Depart Terceira

A sunny view of Angra do Heroísmo
Enjoy your last day in the Azores and be sure to get in any last sights, tastes, or swims before heading to the airport. Drive to Lajes Airport to return your rental car and catch the flight to your next destination. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Self-Drive Azores Adventure: São Miguel & Terceira - 8 Days
Map of Self-Drive Azores Adventure: São Miguel & Terceira - 8 Days