Hiking in the Azores: 5 Epic Hikes in an Island Paradise

By Jan Bakker

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Hiking in the Azores: 5 Epic Hikes in an Island Paradise
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What is the most remote location in Europe you can think of for a hiking trip? The Azores is probably not the first place that pops up in your mind. This stunning archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is located somewhere half-way between the European and American continents. The dramatic coastlines and imposing volcanoes fringed with forests and agricultural fields scream to be explored. Who’s up for hiking in the Azores?

The Azores are a collection of 9 volcanic islands. Each island thanks its existence to volcanic activity. The big variety in landscapes and the dense network of trails making this off the beaten track destination a true hiker’s playground. Another great thing is the weather. You can go hiking in the Azores year-round due to its sub-tropical climate. In this blogpost we share our 5 favorite hikes in the Azores and how to tackle them.

What and Where Are the Azores?

The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago, located 1400 kilometers from the European continent, making it the most remote group of islands in Europe. It has 9 different islands in all shapes and sizes. Corvo and Flores are in the extreme northwest and are technically part of the American continent. The Central Group islands are Faial, Pico, Terceira, São Jorge and Graciosa. In the east you’ve got the Azores’ principal island São Miguel and the small island of Santa Maria. The largest city is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. With 68,000 inhabitants this makes up 25% of the total population in the Azores.

Each island has its own characteristics, but what they do have in common is that they’re all volcanic. The Azores lie right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Although the majority is under water, it is considered the longest mountain range in the world. How lucky we are that we can hike the very tops of them in the Azores! Life on the islands is pretty laid back. The lifestyle and food are influenced by its Atlantic isolation, which is reflected in the fantastic seafood and the tropical fruits you can relish across the islands. What better way to enjoy true local food after a strenuous hike?

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What Is Hiking in the Azores Like?

The Azores have a little bit of everything when it comes to hiking. Obviously there are lots of volcanoes to climb, from blown out calderas to steep cone-shaped volcanoes of which Pico (2,351 m) is the tallest of them all. The periferie of these volcanoes are just as interesting. Most islands have amazing coastal walks with dramatic cliffs and black sand beaches. Add in the distinct Azorean culture, food and hospitality and you’ve got yourself an incredibly diverse hiking destination that can cater to almost anyone.

What Is Hiking in the Azores Like?

When Is The Best Time to Go Hiking in the Azores?

The Azores are a year-round hiking destination, as it has a sub-tropical climate. Despite the fact that the islands are in relatively close proximity to one another, each of them have their own micro-climate. The driest island is Santa Maria in the southeast, with less than 750mm of precipitation a year, whereas Flores in the northwest receives more than double the amount of rainfall. The best months to visit the Azores are May to September when it’s dry and temperatures are nice and balmy. The wettest period is the winter, and in this period it may be a little harder to find places to stay. All in all, the Azores are still under the radar of mass tourism, and even in summer it doesn’t get really crowded like Camino de Santiago and the Alps.

Join us on our shelter to shelter trek around the island of Santa Maria

Our 5 Favorite Hikes in the Azores

From easy strolls along the impressive island coastlines to a multi-day hike while circumnavigating an island, in the Azores there's a hike for everybody. Below we will share our absolute favorite top 5 hikes across the Azores.

Hike The Laurel Forests of Pico da Varda

  • Island: São Miguel
  • Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
  • Vertical gain: 653 m (2,140 feet)
  • Difficulty: medium / hard

The route officially starts on the northern end of the Azores’ main island São Miguel, near the village of Algarvia. If you want to avoid walking on a road we recommend starting at the boundary of the nature reserve at an altitude of 450 meters. From here you can do the circular trail which is roughly 12 kilometers. The way-marked route (PRC7 SMI) takes you to the highest mountain on the island, Pico da Varda. The trail winds its way up through the native laurisilva forest to the peak at 1,103 meters, where you have epic 360 degrees views of the island. From the summit, descend a couple of kilometers via the western ridge before you head north back to where you came from.

Hike The Laurel Forests of Pico da Varda

Climb Portugal’s Highest Mountain, Mount Pico Island: Pico

  • Island: Ilha do Pico
  • Distance: 7.5 km (4.6 miles)
  • Vertical gain: 1090 m (3,576 feet)
  • Difficulty: hard

The climb up the highest mountain in the Azores (and in Portugal for that matter) might be the hardest day hike in the archipelago. The imposing stratovolcano towers high above the Atlantic Ocean, reaching an altitude of 2,351 meters.

The way-marked summit route starts at Casa da Montanha at 1,200 meters, where you register. The mountain has a limited number of people who can ascend per day and you need to get a permit at the Casa to do it. It’s up to you whether you do it guided or not. If you don’t, you’ll be given a GPS tracker so you can be located in case you get lost. There are good arguments to be accompanied by a guide. Apart from obtaining your permit in advance, route-finding on the mountain and keeping you safe, they can tell you compelling tales about Mount Pico and the island.

The climb to the summit crater is steep, with loose rocks and the occasional scramble. It’ll take about four hours to reach the crater rim. Inside the crater is a mini-cone that forms the actual summit of Pico. It requires a UK grade 1 scramble to get to the highest point. Regardless whether you go all the way or not, you’ll get a great sense of achievement and the views (weather permitting) are otherworldly.

Climb Portugal’s Highest Mountain, Mount Pico Island: Pico

Walk to the Edge of Europe on the Faial Coast to Coast Trail

  • Island: Faial
  • Distance: 37 km (23 miles)
  • Vertical gain: 1,930 m (6,332 feet)
  • Difficulty: hard

The island Faial is the most western bit of land on the European continent as it sits right on the Trans-Atlantic fault line, dividing the European and American tectonic plates. Faial has an end-of-the-world feel and what better way to experience this than to hike the island coast to coast. You may be able to hike the 37 km route in one very long day, though most people take two days to complete the trail.

Starting from the east at Ribeirinha, you head west and start the gradual climb up the slopes of Caldeira Volcano. It has a punchy final climb to the crater rim to reach 1000 meters above sea level. It’s an incredible sight, peering into the massive crater (it has a diameter of 2 kilometers!). From here, you traverse the rim of Caldeira and drop down through the green, lush forest on the western side. As you approach the western tip of the island, the landscape changes dramatically as you enter the volcanic desert headland of the Capelinhos Volcano. This is literally the edge of Europe.

Walk to the Edge of Europe on the Faial Coast to Coast Trail

Hike to the Roof of Corvo on the Cara do Índio Trail

  • Island: Corvo
  • Distance: 10 km (6.2 miles)
  • Vertical gain: 700 m (2,296 feet)
  • Difficulty: medium

The tiny island of Corvo is the Azores’ furthest outpost and it is quite a journey to get here. Those hiking enthusiasts who do make it here will not be disappointed. There are two designated hiking trails that can be combined to make an excellent day out. We chose the Cara do Índio Trail as the best way to explore this island. Typically this trail would start on the highest point, but we at Bookatrekking.com would rather do this hike the other way round. Why? Because the best part is on that highest point, the crater rim of the volcano Caldeirão.

From the southern tip of the island you climb through agricultural fields and some interesting geological formations to the top of Corvo. If your legs still have some juice, you can dip into the caldera and add a circular walk around the stunning crater lake.

Hike to the Roof of Corvo on the Cara do Índio Trail

Our Top Choice: Trek From Hut to Hut on the Grande Rota de Santa Maria

  • Island: Santa Maria
  • Distance: 78 km (48.5 miles)
  • Vertical gain: 2,320 m (7,611 feet)
  • Difficulty: medium / hard

This trek is the jewel in the Azorean crown when it comes to hiking. On the Grande Rota de Santa Maria you circumnavigate the entire island in 5 days, making it the longest hiking route in the Azores. The trek is as diverse as it gets, with stunning seascapes, charming little villages and of course an ascent to the highest point of the island, Pico Alto (588 m). Perhaps the best part of the Grande Rota de Santa Maria are the shelters that are dotted around the island in strategic locations. The structures are converted barns located in spectacular spots, often with sea views. Inside the shelters it’s cozy and they can host only 6 people at the time.

Hike the Grande Rota de Santa Maria with us! See here for all the options we offer on this epic hike.

Our Top Choice: Trek From Hut to Hut on the Grande Rota de Santa Maria

Packing List for the Portugal

No matter where you go hiking or for how long, bringing the right equipment is of utmost importance. For your hike, the first thing you need is a good backpack. The size of it will depend on the number of days you will be trekking, the season and the clothes you take with you. If you have luggage transport, the comfort level of your daypack is most important. We have compiled a packing list with a few essential items of clothing you should bring and some extras you might find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

How Much Does Hiking in the Azores Cost?

It’s easy and relatively cheap to fly to some of the islands in the Azores. For a place this remote it’s surprisingly affordable to spend your walking holiday in. The islands are small and you’re never far from a trailhead. However, taxi rates are a little expensive but if you have time you could use public transport which is obviously much cheaper. A local draught beer in the Azores costs 3 Euro and you can have a meal for around 15 Euro. And a trip at Bookatrekking.com? For less than 390 Euro per person, you can already be on the trail with a comprehensive offer from Bookatrekking.com.

Find all our offers for the Azores here!

Safety tips for the Portugal

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Portugal is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Portugal. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Portugal and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Portugal.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where can I book my walking holiday in Portugal?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book many treks in Portugal. We take care of all the details for you, give you personal trekking advice and give you the best service possible. Find all our offers for Portugal here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of Trekking Experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is a walking holiday in Portugal not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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