All Things Azores – ABC’s of Getting Around Azores
Whether you’re looking to hide away in a dormant volcano for the rest of your life or just an escape from your orange faced president, the Azores islands may just be your answer. To be honest, I had never heard of Azores before I booked a ticket here, it was merely a convenient layover on a cheap ticket I found to Porto. This volcanic archipelago is situated 1,500km from the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic ocean and if you’re currency is the Euro then you’ll find it very, very convenient to vacation here. Being a frugal language geek I’ve noted some useful things that should help you in getting around Azores.
I stayed on the island of São Miguel, so though most of the information is general towards all of the islands, I’ll be specifically talking about the island of São Miguel.
Being a Portuguese island, you will hear an incomprehensible stream of Sh’s and Zh’s as soon as the stewardesses open their mouths. I started learning Portuguese when I booked my ticket some three weeks back and though I can make some sense of the European Portuguese news and podcasts I’ve been listening to, they speak with a tricky accent here that I have yet to make sense of. Fear not! Assuming you speak English (and not only read it), you will get by fine. Most natives are well enough versed in English. Just don’t try speaking Spanish to them, this is not a Spanish colony…
An interesting note about the Portuguese language is that the s at the end of the word seems to always make a sh sound so even when you’re getting recommendations to place like Furnas they pronounce it like foor-nosh. Additionally the x‘s usually also make a sh sound like in peixe (fish), pronounced pay-shay and the ç letter always produces a slippery s sound like in the English word sow. European Portuguese is tricky and if you’re interested in learning more you should take a look at this site.
Actually Getting Around Azores
If you’re taking off work to visit here then the most convenient method of getting around azores is by renting a car. The island of São Miguel is roughly 65km (40 miles) long and it’s mountainous. In Ponta Delgada all through the town or in the tourist center you can find adverts for car rentals anywhere between 25-45 euros a day. Taxi’s are not worth it for getting around place to place as you will end up spending much much more.
For several euros there are buses that will take you to other cities and villages around the island but not everywhere like the geysers or lakes. Also the buses don’t go between each of the cities and they are pretty scarce in the middle of the day making getting around Azores tricky at times. Here are the São Miguel routes for getting around Azores.
Another option for getting around Azores is to rent a bike for 15-25 euros a days.
Lastly if you’re roughing it like me then you can always walk and hitchhike. There’s plenty of tourists renting cars here and I’ve had good luck getting around Azores by hitchhiking, as long as I was on a road that had a shoulder where cars could stop without blocking traffic. Azores is notorious for it’s narrow streets. As you can tell from this picture, there’s often very little room for a hitchhiker, an oncoming car and a car to stop to pick you up. With that being said, stick to the highway if you’re getting around Azores via hitchhike.
Lastly, if you’re flying here then you’ll most likely spend the night in Ponta Delgada, the largest city on the island. By largest city I mean a 30 minute walk across the length of it. I do not recommend spending more than an entire day here as there are not enough museums and activities to keep you busy for anything longer though there is a cave you can visit!
The weather here is unpredictable. Google may tell you that it will rain every day and though that may be true other parts of the island may still be sunny. There’s a joke here that you get three seasons in a single day. When planning getting around Azores, there’s a site Spot Azores which has webcams across different parts of islands so you can see where it’s least cloudy. They also have an app but I found it unusable due to ads popping up after every second click.
The Azores islands lie at the conjunction of three tectonic plates and with that said it’s had a tumultuous history of earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and famines. Here on São Miguel there are several natural geysers just like Iceland. Most of the geysers are located inland and for several euros you can enter the parks and relax in the naturally muddy springs.
The two I came across were located in Parque Terra Nostra and Caldeira Velha. The Portuguese word for geyser is caldeira so aim for those. There’s also a geyser off the western coast of the island located at Ponta da Ferraria which exits into the ocean.
I highly recommend Parque Terra Nostra for it’s botanical garden which is included in the entry.
Being the cheap ass I am, I avoided restaurants. Instead I opted in for discovering their specialty foods in the markets. In the supermarkets here you’ll find much cheap seafood, wines and cheeses and tiny fruits!
There’s an excellent cheese shop in Ponta Delgada called O Príncipe dos Queijos (The Prince of Cheeses) where they give free cheese samples and they sell another well-known Portuguese bread cake called Bolo (pronounced boo-loo) that I’ve seen sold as just bread or mixed with nuts or even cinnamon with pork crackling.
I discovered a fruit sold here called Nesperra. It has the sourness of unripened apple and the texture of a strawberry. Delicious!
Additionally you’ll see small apples that look like asian pears, but they taste just like normal apples and you’ll find tiny pears and pineapples. A quick google search away and you can plan a visit to one of several pineapple plantations on the island. Fun fact, pineapples here aren’t dirt cheap either because it takes up to 2 years for a pineapple to mature.
Lastly just like in Colombia they have Cherimoya although here it’s called Anona.
European Grown Tea
I bet you didn’t know that the only tea plantations in all of Europe are on this island. On the North side of the island lie Chá Gorreana, the largest remaining tea plantation where you can walk through and in their factory shop you can help yourself to cups of complimentary black and green tea.
There’s much more to this island than I had the chance (or the wallet) to experience like tasting the ground cooked foods in Furnas where they literally dig a hole in the ground heated by geothermal activity and cook it like so though if you have the means to try more artisanal activities than I recommend this article. If you have the chance to visit the other islands, do so! The ferries to them don’t start until May so plan accordingly, otherwise I hope this is helpful for getting around Azores!