Explore nature’s bounty in the Azores

British Airways’ direct flights help you unlock abundant adventures and nature across the Galápagos of the Atlantic

Team Wanderlust
02 August 2023
Promoted by
British Airways

A wildly beautiful collection of nine volcanic islands wrapped by the north Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is a jewel worth cherishing. It has even become the first archipelago in the world to be classified as a sustainable destination. Now, seasonal weekly direct flights with British Airways put you right at the heart of the action in São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores.
São Miguel is a haven for intrepid explorers as well as those looking to relax in nature. This subtropical island is home to crater lakes, wild landscapes and reviving thermal pools, not to mention the architecturally rich city of Ponta Delgada. But while this island has plenty of treasures of its own, it’s just the starting point for exploring the rest of the archipelago…

São Miguel

It’s easy to see why São Miguel is known locally as the ‘Green Island’. As the largest landmass in the Azores, its volcanic landscape is draped in thick pine forests, carpets of colourful wildflowers and crater lakes carved into the base of lush hillsides. Iron-rich hot springs and natural pools revive the spirits, and the freshest of seafood is rich reward for the many adventures found here.

The lake at Sete Cidades (Azores Promotion Board)

Get outdoors

With its 759 sq km of pristine terrain, São Miguel feels like a giant adventure playground for lovers of the great outdoors. Visitors can walk green terraced hills, cycle between whitewashed villages, hike steep volcanic slopes towards mist-swathed viewpoints and descend into deep canyons. Or if you prefer water-based escapes, you can always kayak or paddleboard across silky waters between submerged grottos and warm natural pools carved into black volcanic rock. Swimmers can seek out sheltered bays, and there are plenty of waves to challenge even the most seasoned surfers.
São Miguel’s tourism industry also works to protect the flora and fauna of the island, and responsible guides run boat tours to admire the 28 species of whale and dolphin that inhabit this stretch of the Atlantic.

Furnas Cozido (Azores Promotion Board)

Walking trails weave through São Miguel’s wilds (Azores Promotion Board)

Take it slow

São Miguel boasts unrivalled opportunities to slow down, switch off, connect with nature and breathe some of the freshest air on the planet. At Furnas Valley, the volcanic landscape has created natural hot springs where visitors can enjoy reviving soaks and volcanic mud treatments. Mother Nature also turns chef here, with locals using the underground geothermal energy as a natural oven for their famous cozido stews. There is even a naturally heated waterfall that feels like the most invigorating hot shower of your life.
The island’s famous hydrangeas are at their brilliant best in June and July, and can be admired en route to impossibly scenic villages such as Mosteiros, with its ancient fishing traditions and warm-water swimming. Here you can slip into the languid pace of local life, visiting small villages where sustainably sourced local dishes, such as lapas (limpets), peixe porco (triggerfish) and fluffy, slightly sweet muffins known as bolo lêvedo, delight the palate.

Sustainable stays with British Airways Holidays

Octant Furnas (British Airways Holidays)

Octant Furnas

Make the most of the Azores’ abundant hot springs at spa hotel Octant Furnas. What’s more, sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand here, with the hotel’s own dynamic thermal pools open around the clock. The restaurant even uses ovens carved out over Furnas’ iconic hot springs to cook delicious meals from locally sourced ingredients, such as alheira sausage and yams.

Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico

Five-star luxury comes with ocean views and a fresh sea breeze at one of São Miguel’s most iconic hotels. Facing the marina in the architecturally rich city of Ponta Delgada, this is an ideal base for exploring the historic downtown on foot. The highly regarded onsite restaurant and bar also make good use of the local ingredients. As part of the Bensaude Hotels Collection, this hotel holds a Travelife Gold Certification for sustainable accommodation, too.

Pestana Bahia Praia

With an outdoor freshwater swimming pool and direct access to the warm, calm waters and soft sands of Agua d’Alto beach, Pestana Bahia Praia celebrates its connections with the sea and nature in the most languid fashion. The hotel holds Green Key certification for its sustainable tourism, and natural light floods a relaxing space where expansive green gardens boast their own photo-worthy whitewashed chapel.

Top three Azores highlights

Ponta Delgada (Azores Promotion Board/António Carvalho e Cunha)

1. Soak up Sete Cidades

Ranking among the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal’, the magnificent twin lakes at Sete Rios (one a vivid green, the other bright blue) are up there with the most naturally dramatic spots on the planet. Set inside a deep volcanic crater just outside idyllic Sete Cidades, the lakes are best admired from above and several different hikes serve up widescreen views. One of our favourites is the 2.4km out-and-back Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, a trail which culminates at the peak of a hill dramatically perched over the pair of lakes.

2. Explore Ponta Delgada

British Airways’ flights from London to São Miguel touch down in Ponta Delgada, and this walkable city merits at least a day’s exploration. Don’t miss Portas da Cidade, the arched 18th-century city gates that sit proudly on the paving stones of the main town square. The city’s town hall and bell tower are other photogenic landmarks, but there’s much fun to be had just admiring the colourful produce markets or pausing for a refreshing cuppa made with the islands’ own tea leaves.

3. Wander the Terra Nostra Gardens

Relaxing and invigorating at the same time, the Terra Nostra Gardens are a must-see in Furnas village. Here, visitors can soak in the iron-rich waters of the geothermal pool, stroll palm-lined avenues and visit thematic gardens rich in the island’s iconic hydrangeas, as well as admire the Romantic flair of a garden created in the 18th and 19th centuries as a spa and summer resort.

Extend your stay

Inter-island flights or ferry crossings, albeit more time consuming, connect São Miguel with the wider archipelago, making it easy to experience the distinct identities of each island in the Azores.

Santa Maria

Ribeira dos Maloás (Azores Promotion Board)

As the Azores’ most southerly island, Santa Maria is also the driest and warmest. Unsurprisingly, locals call it Sunshine Island and it’s somewhere you can relax on a white-sand beach or hike lush mountains such as Pico Alto, its highest point – or maybe do both. Sustainability is a part of life here, as seen in the 13 protected areas that make up Santa Maria Natural Park. It was also the first of the Azores to be discovered by Portuguese explorers, a past worth delving into at the Dalberto Pombo Environmental Centre. This is an island of slow adventures, where dramatic volcanic shapes and tumbling waterfalls at spots like Ribeira de Maloás shoulder tiny whitewashed villages and crystal-clear bays.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Visit São Lourenço Bay, where visitors can hike among protected flora and fauna before relaxing on sands flanked by rugged peaks.


The Criação Velha landscape (Azores Promotion Board)

Pico’s name translates as ‘peak’, which offers a hint as to its topography’. It’s home to Portugal’s highest mountain – a dormant 2,350m-high volcanic giant that’s also the third-largest volcano in the Atlantic and why climbers and hikers flock to Pico every year. Pico is called the ‘grey island’ due to its unearthly, volcanic landscape, which stands in stark contrast to green São Miguel and Santa Maria’s pale sands. But islanders have also grown vines among the rock, best seen at the UNESCO-listed Pico Island Vineyard.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Pico’s dry-stone vine plots, or currais, can be best admired at Lajido de Santa Luzia and Lajido da Criação Velha.


Caldeira da Graciosa (Visit Azores)

The Azores’ second-smallest island, compact Graciosa is classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Only 60 sq km, this island is easily explored in two days, but nature lovers will find it merits a longer stay. A natural reserve at the Praia islet has one of the archipelago’s most diverse colonies of seabirds, while hot springs and thermal baths offer welcome respite to hikers.
The island’s most dramatic sight is Caldeira da Graciosa. This gigantic crater is also home to Furna do Enxofre, a haunting underground lava cave covered in stalactites, whose huge volcanic dome is said to be the largest in Europe.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Watch island life unfurl in central square at Santa Cruz da Graciosa, the island’s one municipality.


The Caldeirão on Corvo (Azores Promotion Board)

Both the Azores’ smallest and most remote island, Corvo is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that wows visitors with its sprawling, grassy Caldeirão, an extinct crater with a hiking trail around its rim. Known as the ‘Crow Island’, Corvo is also a birdwatching mecca, as its unique location means many North American species like the red-eyed vireo can be spied here – the only place in Europe.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

For Corvino culture, head to Vila do Corvo, the island’s only town.


Algar do Carvão (Azores Promotion Board)

The third island in the Azores to be settled (‘terceira’ means third in Portuguese), Terceira was once a key trading outpost on the route between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Its glory days can be relived in the island’s capital, UNESCO-listed Angra do Heroísmo, where you can stroll among a handsome collection of baroque cathedrals, churches and convents.
Terceira is also a land of adventure, whether it’s heading deep into the ancient lava tube of Algar do Carvão or heading out into the Atlantic on a whale-watching tour; April-October is the best time, with species including fin, blue and humpback whales.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Spy Terceira in all its lush glory with a hike atop Monte Brasil (168m), its extinct volcano.

São Jorge

Faja Ouvidor (Turismo Açores)

Famed for its grass-hungry cows, São Jorge is one of the Azores’ most verdant islands and this greenery contrasts with its volcanic central mountain range and the fajãs (cliff-flanked plains created by lava flows and landslides) that trickle to sea.
Popular with hikers, the 40-plus fajãs here have trails leading to scenic spots like the Fajã do Ouvidor, with its cluster of natural pools, and Fajã Dos Cubres, whose coastal lagoon attracts walkers keen to admire the rich bird and marine life.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Try the tangy São Jorge cheese, which is beloved in Portugal and among foodies the world over.

Faial Island

Capelinhos Volcano (Azores Promotion Board/António Carvalho e Cunha)

Named after the abundant beech trees (faias), Faial island is better known locally for its hydrangeas, that bloom in fields and on roadsides, giving Faial the moniker ‘Blue Island’. A hiking paradise, Faial’s sprawling 173 sq km of lush scenery is lorded over by the central peak of Cabeço Gordo (1,050m), which serves up fine views of surrounding islands. Photographers often capture the dramatic beauty of nearby Caldeira Grande, a crater spanning well over a kilometre wide and plunging 400m deep. Its surrounds are protected as part of the Faial Caldera Nature Reserve, and a series of interpretation centres provide insight into the flora and fauna found here.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Faial is easily visited from nearby Pico, thanks to 30-minute ferry rides between the two islands.


Poço do Bacalhau (Visit Azores)

Connected by a 40-minute ferry from neighbouring Corvo, Flores is arguably the Azores’ prettiest island. A rich tapestry of thick rainforest, seeping waterfalls and crater lakes, Flores was the last of the Azores to be settled and still feels that way. The island’s five marked walking trails make for intimate encounters with Mother Nature’s wild handiwork.

Top British Airways Holidays tip

Enjoy a wild sunset swim in the natural pools of Fajã Grande.

Why choose British Airways?

British Airways’ direct flights to São Miguel make it easy to reach the Azores. And with British Airways Holidays, you can book your flights and hotel together. All holidays are ATOL protected and include 23kg of checked baggage allowance per person. Book now with a low deposit at ba.com/azores.

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