The Best Places To Live In The Azores: Explorer’s Guide

The Azores cluster of paradisiacal islands boast an unparalleled blend of tranquility, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Discover the best places to live!

Imagine waking up to the sound of the ocean, the scent of fresh pine, and the sight of misty mountains on an island paradise.

Welcome, to the Azores, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean that promises serenity, beauty, and a high quality of life.

A not to scale map of the Azores islands
The Azores Islands; this map is not to scale.

These islands, bathed in the golden glow of the sun, the blue splash of the sea, and the green hug of nature, offer a unique setting for anyone in search of a fresh start.

Our guide is specially curated for expatriates who are contemplating an enchanting new chapter in their lives in the Azores. 

This isn’t just about choosing a place to live; it’s about choosing a lifestyle. It’s about deciding where you’ll sip your morning coffee while gazing out at the ocean, where you’ll discover the perfect place to call home.

Allow us to be your compass, navigating you through the islands, guiding you to the best places to live, and revealing the hidden gems of the Azores.

In this guide, we will venture into the distinct features, amenities, and lifestyle that each location offers.

Prepare to be enthralled as we unveil the following: 

  • Each enchanting isle that forms the splendid archipelago of the Azores
  • The tranquil charm of Ponta Delgada
  • The coastal beauty of Angra do Heroísmo
  • The rustic allure of Horta
  • The mountainous backdrop of Santa Cruz das Flores
  • The thermal springs of Furnas
  • The vineyards of Pico Island
  • Plus, some hidden gems that are simply begging for your discovery

Each destination in the Azores is a canvas painted with vibrant hues of culture, nature, and life. 

Embrace the journey, and let the Azores charm you into calling it home.

São Miguel: the largest and most diverse Island

There are some very good reasons to consider the island of São Miguel as your perfect Azores retreat. 

As the largest and most populous island in the Azores, São Miguel presents an intriguing blend of urban life and rural charm within its rolling landscapes.

A rugged coast of the Sao Miguel Island in the Azores - red-roofed houses along the beach
São Miguel

This island, often known as the “Green Island” due to its lush vegetation, is a picturesque tableau of volcanic craters, azure lagoons, and fertile pastures.

The capital city, Ponta Delgada, which we discuss in more detail, takes pride in its architectural history, bursting with character from cobblestone streets to charming white-washed houses. 

It is a cosmopolitan city offering a wide range of amenities such as shopping centers, museums, restaurants, and lively nightlife. 

“São Miguel is a paradise for nature lovers, with its numerous hiking trails, hot springs, and breathtaking viewpoints. If you crave a life where you can balance urban conveniences with natural beauty, this may be the perfect place for you.”

This island also boasts an abundance of healthy produce, thanks to its volcanic soil. 

From the world-class Azorean pineapple to the delicious local cheeses and wines, the fresh, locally-sourced food will surely delight any gastronome. 

Key highlights 

  • Outdoor activities: São Miguel is famous for its whale and dolphin watching tours, as well as surfing and hiking. The island is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Geothermal pools: A must-visit is the island’s geothermal pools, particularly those in Furnas, where you can bathe in naturally warm water surrounded by lush vegetation.
  • Festivals: The island is rich in culture and traditions, with numerous festivals celebrated throughout the year, including the Holy Ghost festival and the Carnival.

Although São Miguel does not shy away from its modernity, it still manages to hold on to its traditional roots, as seen in its passionate culture and historical architecture.

The island is also dotted with quaint villages where time seems to have stood still. 

 Here is a quick comparison of some key facts about São Miguel: 

Key FactsDetails
PopulationApproximately 140,000
Main CityPonta Delgada
Area744.7 square kilometers
LanguagePortuguese (English widely spoken)
ClimateMild, with temperatures averaging 17°C (63°F)

From its green landscapes to its busy city life, São Miguel promises a unique and fulfilling lifestyle for any potential expat.

In fact, the island’s irresistible charm and vitality may be the reason for you to call it home.

Ponta Delgada: the Capital City of the Azores

Azores Island: São Miguel 

Let us begin our journey with a dive into the heart of the Azores – Ponta Delgada.

Known as the capital city of the Azores, this captivating seaside town with a population of approximately 68,000 people is brimming with a unique blend of cosmopolitan flair and old-world charm.

A beautiful historical building in Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada

From the moment you set foot in Ponta Delgada, you are greeted with the sight of pastel-colored buildings beautifully adorned with intricate Azorean mosaics.

These architectural masterpieces, coupled with the inviting cobblestone streets, form the perfect backdrop for an idyllic lifestyle on this captivating island. 

Indeed, the city’s close relationship with the sea is evident in its day-to-day life.

Fishing boats bob peacefully in the harbor, providing a constant source of fresh seafood for the city’s numerous restaurants, while the bustling marina is a hub for yachting and water sports. 

Key highlights of Ponta Delgada 

  • Historic city center: The city’s historic center is replete with grand churches, charming plazas, and winding streets that transport you back in time.
  • Portas da Cidade: This iconic city gate, adorned with white-washed arches and crowned with a bell tower, is a symbol of the city’s history and heritage.
  • Local cuisine: Savor the gastronomic delights of the Azores at the city’s top-notch restaurants, offering fresh seafood and local Azorean delicacies.
  • Nature’s best: The city’s surroundings offer stunning natural attractions, including the Sete Cidades Lagoons, famed for their breathtaking beauty.

Living in Ponta Delgada offers a perfect balance between city living and a laid-back island lifestyle, making it an idyllic choice for expats. 

Furnas: the paradise for nature lovers and hot springs seekers

Azores Island: São Miguel 

As you embark on your journey to discover the hidden gems of the Azores, there is one place of extraordinary charm that you must not miss—Furnas.

Volcanic hotsprings Of The Lake Furnas. Sao Miguel, Azores.
Hot spring pools of Furnas Valley in São Miguel.

Snuggled in a lush valley on the island of São Miguel, shadowed by volcanic peaks, and surrounded by azure lakes, Furnas is a captivating tapestry of natural wonders, invigorating hot springs, and enchanting culture. 

Imagine mornings greeted by the melodious carols of exotic birds accompanied by the gentle rustling of emerald leaves. In Furnas, this is your daily symphony—an orchestra of nature’s finest creations.

The lush landscapes paint a picturesque backdrop that never fails to mesmerize. 

Embedded in this green paradise are thermal springs, God’s own jacuzzi, doused generously with minerals and heated in the depths of the Earth.

These natural hot tubs invite you to plunge into their warm embrace, decompress, and watch your stresses dissolve in their mineral-rich waters. 

However, Furnas is not just about the allure of nature; it’s also a culinary paradise.

The local cuisine is a smorgasbord of delectable dishes that are cooked underground in Furnas’ volcanic soil.

Cozido das Furnas, a traditional stew, is one such exceptional delicacy you should definitely treat your taste buds to. 

Key highlights of Furnas 

  • Parque Terra Nostra: This is a must-visit for anyone with an appreciation for nature. The park is a riot of colors, with a diverse collection of flora from around the world.
  • Lagoa das Furnas: This tranquil lake presents an idyllic spot for picnics, with the lush green hills providing the perfect backdrop for memorable photographs.
  • Hot springs: There are several hot springs dotted throughout Furnas, with Poca da Dona Beija and Caldeira Velha being among the most popular.

Still wondering whether Furnas is the right place for you?

Well, consider this—Furnas offers a unique combination of unspoiled natural beauty, relaxing thermal baths, and mouthwatering cuisine.

What more could one ask for in a place to call home? 

Ribeira Grande: the historical coastal town

Azores Island: São Miguel 

Stepping into Ribeira Grande is akin to journeying back in time; the old-world charm of the town, coupled with its rich cultural heritage, instantly captivates the heart.

A town square in Ribeira Grande, Azores
Ribeira Grande

Nestled on the rugged northern coast of São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores, Ribeira Grande is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. 

The town’s name, which translates to ‘Large River,’ draws from the river that winds its way through the heart of the settlement, adding an extra layer of charm to the scenic landscape.

With its historical significance, stunning natural beauty, and welcoming communities, Ribeira Grande presents an idyllic choice for expats searching for a peaceful yet vibrant place to call home. 

The historical riches 

Founded in the 16th century, Ribeira Grande’s history is written on its cobblestone streets and traditional Azorean architecture.

The town boasts numerous well-preserved manor houses, churches, convents, and bridges that stand as silent testaments to its rich past.

A wander down the streets of Ribeira Grande is a delightful excursion into Azorean history.

The natural beauty

Ribeira Grande’s natural allure is simply breathtaking; from the rugged coastal vistas to the green landscapes that surround the town, nature’s palette is rich and varied here.

The town’s geographical location provides it with a unique microclimate that nurtures an array of flora and fauna, making it a haven for nature lovers. 

Top sights:

  • Caldeira Velha: This natural monument, complete with hot springs and tropical foliage, offers a tranquil retreat into nature’s lap.
  • Santa Bárbara Beach: Known for its magnificent waves, this picturesque beach is a paradise for surfing enthusiasts.

The community 

The community in Ribeira Grande is warm and welcoming and exudes genuine Portuguese hospitality.

The town hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, offering a glimpse into local traditions and customs.

The passion for local produce is evident in the town’s gastronomy, with an array of delicious local dishes available in the many dining locations. 

Key facts about Ribeira Grande: 

PopulationApproximately 32,000
LanguagePortuguese (English widely spoken)
Average temperatures16°C (winter) to 25°C (summer)
HousingA mix of traditional and modern homes

Living in Ribeira Grande offers the perfect combination of a peaceful coastal lifestyle with the convenience of modern amenities.

Sete Cidades: the twin lakes and the stunning views

Azores Island: São Miguel 

Emerging like a mirage amidst the verdant landscapes of the Azores, the ethereal beauty of Sete Cidades will undoubtedly capture your heart.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades "Lagoon of the Seven Cities") - a beautiful twin lake situated in the crater of a dormant volcano in the Azores.
Lagoa das Sete Cidades (“Lagoon of the Seven Cities”) – a beautiful twin lake situated in the crater of a dormant volcano in the Azores.

Sete Cidades is famed for its awe-inspiring twin-lake view, which paints an unforgettable tableau of contrasting azure and emerald waters.

The Lagoa das Sete Cidades is a natural, dual-colored lagoon nestled within a dormant volcanic crater, offering a spectacle that is truly a feast for the eyes. 

“The views from the surrounding viewpoints, such as the Vista do Rei, are simply breathtaking and provide stunning panoramas that will make you feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the world.”

Yet, it’s not just the natural splendor that makes Sete Cidades an ideal place to live.

The community here is warm and welcoming. With a population of fewer than 800 residents, you can enjoy the tranquility of a small-town life intertwined with the rich heritage of the Azorean people. 

Highlights of Sete Cidades

  • Local cuisine: Savour authentic Azorean cuisine with local specialties like the ‘Cozido das Caldeiras’, a unique stew cooked with volcanic steam.
  • Festivities: Experience the spirited cultural festivities, such as the Holy Spirit Feast, imbuing the town with an energetic atmosphere.
  • Outdoor adventures: For the active and adventurous, Sete Cidades offers an array of outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, and biking around the green trails and the peaceful lakes.

Living in Sete Cidades provides a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and a tight-knit community. 

Terceira: the island of festivals and UNESCO World Heritage sites

Enveloped in the mid-Atlantic’s magical embrace, you’ll find Terceira, one of the captivating islands of the Azores.

Often referred to as the ‘Island of Festivals’, Terceira, with a population of approximately 54,000 residents, is a cultural hub brimming with rich traditions, ancient heritage, and a deep-rooted sense of community that is sure to enthrall you. 

Green farm fields on the island of Terceira in the Azores

As soon as you set foot on Terceira, your senses will be greeted with the sweet scent of its lush, green pastures; the sonorous melody of the island’s native bird species; and an unparalleled view of the azure ocean, stretching as far as the eyes can see. 

‘The entire island is a feast for the eyes; from the colourful marinas of Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória, to the lunar-like landscapes of Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal.’

You’ll be delighted to know Terceira is also home to Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Steeped in history and architectural splendor, Angra’s old-world charm and picturesque cityscape make it an ideal spot for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. 

Terceira highlights

  • Angra do Heroísmo: Famed for its historic city center, fortified walls, and mesmerizing harbor views, Angra is a testament to the island’s rich past.
  • Praia da Vitória: With its stunning beachfront, lively marina, and vibrant cultural scene, Praia da Vitória is a charming blend of nature and city life.
  • Gruta do Natal: Experience a unique underground journey through the island’s volcanic history at Gruta do Natal, a fascinating lava tunnel.
  • Algar do Carvão: Marvel at the unique geological formations inside this extinct volcano. Algar do Carvão is a spectacle not to be missed.

The island’s warm, friendly locals, lovingly referred to as Terceirenses, are known for their passionate celebration of local festivals. 

The Sanjoaninas Festivals, in particular, is a spectacle to behold with its colorful parades, traditional Azorean bullfights, and joyous music echoing around the island. 

‘Living in Terceira is not just about living on an island; it’s about becoming a part of a community that cherishes its culture and traditions.’

But let’s not forget the practical aspects of living in Terceira. The island boasts a robust infrastructure with great educational institutions, modern healthcare facilities, and a public transport system. 

Angra do Heroismo: the architectural gem of the Azores

Azores Island: Terceira 

Angra do Heroismo – an architectural marvel nestled in the heart of the Azores.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a haven of elegance, steeped in rich history and culture.

A pretty coastal town in the Azores hugging a natural bay
Angra do Heroismo and Mount Brazil on Terceira Island

Its buildings, a kaleidoscope of Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerist architectural styles, tell a compelling narrative of the island’s evolution through the centuries. 

But there’s more to Angra do Heroismo than just its architectural allure. It offers a unique lifestyle that combines the tranquility of island life with the comfort and amenities of modern living. 

From the grandeur of its historic monuments to the serenity of its botanical gardens, Angra do Heroismo is a place where the past and present coalesce in an enchanting symphony. 

The lifestyle in Angra do Heroismo 

The lifestyle in Angra do Heroismo is one of relaxed sophistication.

Imagine starting your day with a leisurely stroll along the seaside promenade, followed by a coffee at one of the charming local cafés.

Afternoons can be spent exploring the town’s many museums and art galleries, and evenings can often be filled with local festivals and cultural events. 

Angra do Heroismo must do’s

  • Enjoy the tranquility of the Duke of Terceira Garden, a lush oasis in the city’s heart.
  • Take part in traditional festivities like the Sanjoaninas, a vibrant celebration held every June.
  • Savor the delectable local cuisine, rich in seafood and spices.

The key features of Angra do Heroismo 

The unique features of Angra do Heroismo make it a compelling choice for anyone considering a new home in the Azores. 

Architectural HeritageAn eclectic mix of architectural styles reflects the city’s rich history.
Historic MonumentsImpressive structures such as the Angra Cathedral and the Fortress of São João Baptista.
Local CuisineA gourmet experience to satisfy the most discerning palates, with fresh seafood and local produce.
Outdoor ActivitiesOpportunities for hiking, boating, and exploring the island’s natural beauty.

It’s clear that Angra do Heroismo offers so much more than a picturesque setting; it promises an enriching lifestyle filled with culture, history, and a myriad of experiences waiting to be discovered.

Praia da Vitória: the beach destination of the island

Azores Island: Terceira 

Nestled on the island of Terceira in the Azores, Praia da Vitória is a hidden gem that offers an unparalleled living experience.

This picturesque beach town is home to a vivacious local community and boasts a year-round mild climate, making it an extremely desirable place to call home. 

Traditional blue and white  church with a red roof and two pretty bell-towers in Praia da Vitoria, the Azores
Praia da Vitória

Among its many charms, one cannot overlook the town’s captivating seafront.

The expansive sandy beach, termed as the ‘Victory Beach,’ is a beautiful sight to behold. The azure water against the backdrop of clear skies creates a mesmerizing panorama that is nothing short of a visual delight. 

“Praia da Vitória: Where the sun, sea, and sand converge to create a living dream.”

Key features of Praia da Vitória 

  • A rich history: The town’s historical significance is tangible. The locals proudly celebrate their heritage through various festivals, keeping the town’s rich history alive.
  • Vivacious community: Praia da Vitória is known for its warm and welcoming community. The locals are friendly and always ready to lend a helping hand, making it easy for expatriates to integrate into the community.
  • Vibrant culture: The town is a cultural hotbed, hosting several annual festivals that reflect the unique Azorean culture.
  • Outdoor activities: For those with an adventurous spirit, Praia da Vitória offers plenty of recreational activities, including windsurfing, sailing, and hiking.
  • Thriving economy: The town’s economy is robust, with a healthy mix of tourism, agriculture, and fishing contributing to its wealth.

Given these noteworthy features, it is no surprise that Praia da Vitória is seen as a potential haven for expats.

Faial: the sailing and whale-watching island

Renowned for its magnetic draw to sailors and marine life enthusiasts, Faial is indeed a gem tucked away in the heart of the Azores.

The island’s mesmerizing mix of natural beauty and cultural richness makes it a coveted choice for expats seeking a balanced life speckled with adventure, tranquility, and an enduring sense of community. 

Morro do Castelo Branco, a scenic old rock overlooking the sea on the Faial Island
Morro do Castelo Branco, a scenic old rock overlooking the sea on Faial Island

Faial, also known as the ‘Blue Island,’ is renowned for its unique landscapes fashioned by volcanic activities. The shimmering blue of the hydrangeas that blanket the island in summer, coupled with the cerulean hues of the surrounding sea, lends it its charming moniker. 

Among its many notable features, the following are particularly alluring to expats: 

  1. Horta: The island’s capital, Horta, is a bustling hub of activity, with its world-famous marina drawing sailors from across the globe. The town, with its cobbled streets, delightful cafes, and captivating harbor views, exudes an irresistible charm that both soothes and enlivens the spirit.
  2. Caldeira: Faial’s nature reserve, Caldeira, offers spectacular hiking trails that wind through lush vegetation and lead to breathtaking panoramic views. The Caldeira, or volcanic crater, at the heart of the reserve is a sight to behold, demonstrating the awe-inspiring power of nature.
  3. Capelinhos: The Capelinhos Volcano, a testament to the island’s volcanic heritage, is another must-see. Its surreal, moon-like landscape, resulting from the last eruption in 1957-58, provides a stark contrast to the otherwise verdant scenery.

Life in Faial is an invitation to embrace the outdoors, whether you’re drawn to the thrill of sailing, the joy of hiking, or the peaceful pastime of bird-watching.

Add to this the island’s year-round mild climate, and you have an unparalleled setting for an active, fulfilling lifestyle. 

Faial Key Facts
Population: Approx. 15,000
Size: 173 sq km
Climate: Mild, with temperatures ranging from 14°C in winter to 24°C in summer
Primary Language: Portuguese

Horta: the colorful seaside town

Azores Island: Faial 

Perched on the edge of the island of Faial and gazing across the Atlantic lies the enthralling town of Horta, a veritable gem of the Azores archipelago.

A pretty city of Horta on the coast of Faial Island - green fields, traditional red roofs and the sea in the background

This picturesque seaside town, with its pastel-colored houses and bustling marina, offers an alluring combination of nautical charm and cultural richness that is sure to captivate your attention and warm your heart. 

The heart of Horta is its vibrant marina. It’s not just a harbor for boats but a canvas for seafarers worldwide.

It’s a longstanding tradition for those who dock here to leave their mark in the form of a mural on the marina’s walls, an activity that adds to the kaleidoscope of colors and stories that grace the docks. 

As you wander through the streets of Horta, you’ll be enveloped by the scent of salt air mingled with the sweet fragrance of hydrangeas; the national flower of the Azores that blooms in abundance here.

But there’s more to Horta than meets the eye. A place rich in history, culture, and scientific significance, this seaside town is home to various unique attractions. 

  • The Peter’s Café Sport: Known as the sailor’s bar, Peter’s Café Sport has been a meeting place for sailors and locals alike since 1918. With its walls adorned with flags and pennants from different seafaring nations, it’s a hub of maritime history and a must-visit spot in Horta.
  • The Scrimshaw Museum: Situated above Peter’s Café Sport, The Scrimshaw Museum houses an impressive collection of scrimshaw art – intricate carvings on whale teeth and bones, a testament to the Azores’ whaling history.
  • Caldeira: A bit outside Horta, Caldeira is an ancient volcanic crater now covered in green lushness—the perfect place for hiking and picnicking, with breathtaking views of the island.

Alongside these attractions, Horta serves as a gateway to other parts of the Azores, with regular ferry connections to nearby islands such as Pico and São Jorge. 

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just in search of a peaceful and friendly place to call home, Horta presents a compelling case for itself.

It’s a place where the rhythm of life is soothing, the vistas are breathtaking, and the sense of community is heartwarming. 

Pico: the island of the majestic mountain

Have you ever imagined a place where towering mountains meet the azure sea, where the air carries the intoxicating fragrance of vineyards, and where you can explore the mysteries of the subterranean world?

Island Pico with Volcano Mount Pico, Azores - view from Faial
Pico Island and Volcano Mount Pico

Pico, the second-largest island in the Azores archipelago, often referred to as the “Black Island” owing to its volcanic origins, is imagination come to life. 

At the heart of Pico lies the monumental Mount Pico, proudly standing as Portugal’s highest peak at 2,351 meters.

This majestic mountain, accompanied by the island’s lush landscapes, not only makes for a picturesque view but also offers many outdoor activities. 

  1. Hiking and mountain climbing: Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice, the range of clearly marked hiking trails and guided climbing tours ensures everyone can enjoy Pico’s natural beauty to the fullest.
  2. Whale and dolphin watching: Pico’s shores are blessed with an abundance of marine life. Taking a boat tour gives you a chance to spot several species of whales and dolphins frolicking in their natural habitat.
  3. Wine tasting: With its unique volcanic soils, Pico’s vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, produce distinct wines. A visit to any of the local wineries for a tasting session is an absolute must.

But the island’s allure doesn’t stop here. Pico’s charm extends well beneath the earth’s surface. 

“Pico is home to over 200 lava tube caves, including Gruta das Torres, the largest lava tube in Portugal. Exploring these caves can prove to be an adventure of a lifetime.”

Pico offers a laid-back lifestyle, with amiable locals who gladly share tales of their island’s lore.

The island’s small towns, like Madalena, São Roque, and Lajes, are filled with traditional Azorean houses, local artisan shops, and quaint cafés. 

MadalenaWith its vibrant dining scene and close proximity to vineyards, Madalena serves as a perfect base for food and wine enthusiasts.
São RoqueKnown for its swimming spots and fishing industry, São Roque offers a coastal charm that’s hard to resist.
LajesAs the historic whale-hunting town, Lajes is a must-visit for those interested in the island’s whaling past and maritime history.

Madalena: the vineyard and wine spot of the Azores

Azores Island: Pico 

Madalena, a jewel of the Azores, is renowned for its fecund vineyards that produce some of the most celebrated wines in Portugal.

The entire town is a testament to the harmony between nature and human endeavor, an example of how a community can thrive while preserving its natural habitat. 

The vineyards are an extraordinary sight, painstakingly grown in tiny plots protected by volcanic rock walls.

Vineyards inside lava walls at Criacao Velha. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pico, Azores
Vineyards inside lava walls at Criacao Velha. A UNESCO World Heritage Site on Pico

These walls not only protect the vines from wind and sea spray, but they also trap heat, creating a unique microclimate that contributes to the distinct flavor of the wines. 

  • The Verdelho wine:  a white wine known for its acidity and tropical fruit flavors, and is a must-try for any wine connoisseur.
  • The Terras de Lava wine:  a red wine rich with the taste of ripe berries and a hint of spice, it’s a testament to the volcanic soil in which the grapes are grown.

But there’s more to Madalena than vineyards and wine. The town is a gateway to some of the Azores’ most breathtaking natural attractions. 

  1. Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain, offers challenging hikes and an unparalleled view from the top.
  2. The Pico Island Natural Pools are a set of natural volcanic pools where you can take a refreshing dip while enjoying the surrounding landscape.

Madalena’s tight-knit community and relaxed pace of life make it an ideal location for expats wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

São Jorge: the island of cheese and fajãs

São Jorge, known as the ‘Island of Cheese and Fajãs,’ is indeed a haven of delights waiting to be explored and embraced by those seeking a tranquil yet satisfying life. 

Sao Jorge - a green and lush island in the Azores covered with moody clouds
São Jorge

With a bold green landscape punctuated by towering cliffs and the azure of the Atlantic, São Jorge’s beauty is beyond compare. 

São Jorge highlights

  • Fajãs: These are small plains created by collapsing cliffs or lava flows. They are unique to the Azores, with São Jorge boasting the highest number of Fajãs. These areas are dotted with quaint homes, small-scale agricultural projects, and even exotic fruits like coffee and dragon fruit.
  • Walking trails: The island has many walking trails that offer a great way to explore its natural beauty. From the challenging Pico da Esperança to the soothing Fajã de Santo Cristo, the trails offer something for everyone.

The island’s deep-rooted tradition of cheese-making is another aspect that adds to its charm. São Jorge cheese is highly revered, not just in the Azores but throughout Portugal and beyond.

The island has several cheese factories that offer tours and tastings, allowing you to witness first-hand the age-old cheese-making process and indulge in the creamy goodness of the end product. 

“The São Jorge cheese is a must-try. It’s rich, creamy, slightly tangy, and perfectly salty. Pair it with a local wine, and it’s a match made in heaven.”

When it comes to accommodation, São Jorge offers a range of options to suit different tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a modern apartment with all the comforts of a traditional house offering a taste of local life, you’ll find it here. 

The people of São Jorge are known for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. Settling here, you’ll find yourself immersed in a community that welcomes newcomers with open arms, making you feel at home in no time.

Velas: the peaceful village with the best sunset views

Azores Island: São Jorge 

While São Jorge Island itself is an epitome of the flourishing ruggedness synonymous with the Azores, Velas stands as a beacon of tranquillity amidst the wild Atlantic beauty.

A pretty coastal village of Velas in the Azores on a sunny day
Velas Village

As the island’s de facto capital, this quaint village, with its narrow cobblestone streets and traditional Azorean houses, presents an idyllic setting for expats seeking a peaceful retreat. 

One cannot talk about Velas without mentioning its stunning sunset views. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky is painted with hues of orange, pink, and purple, creating a breathtaking spectacle that embodies the village’s serene charm.

Living in Velas is not only about enjoying the stunning natural landscapes; it’s equally about immersing yourself in the rich traditions that form the backbone of this charming village. Here are some of the highlights that make Velas an ideal place to live: 

  • Historical sites: From the 17th-century Church of São Jorge to the Velas Marina, the village is home to many historical sites that bear witness to its rich cultural heritage.
  • Natural wonders: Velas offers unrivaled access to some of the Azores’ most spectacular natural wonders, including the Fajãs, unique coastal plains formed by volcanic activity, and the Morro Grande, a rugged cliff offering panoramic views of the village.
  • Culinary delights: The Azorean cuisine is a culinary delight that should not be missed, and Velas, with its array of charming eateries serving local fare, offers an authentic taste of the Azores.
  • Community life: Despite its small size, Velas has a tight-knit community that warmly welcomes newcomers. Whether it’s the annual Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo or weekly farmers’ markets, there’s always something happening in Velas.

If you’re seeking a life of simplicity, surrounded by stunning natural beauty and a warm, welcoming community, then Velas is undoubtedly one of the best places to live in the Azores.

Flores: the island of waterfalls and lagoons

Imagine waking to the gentle gurgle of waterfalls, the sweet murmuring of a pristine lagoon, and the pure, intoxicating scent of wildflowers.

Poco Da Ribeira Do Ferreiro Waterfalls On Flores Island in the Azores
Poco Da Ribeira Do Ferreiro Waterfalls On Flores Island in the Azores

Welcome to Flores, a paradise nestled in the heart of the Azores. 

There’s something undeniably magical about Flores; it’s a veritable pantheon of natural wonders, brimming with flora and fauna in harmony rarely seen elsewhere.

From its cascading waterfalls to the crystalline lagoons, the island is a spectacle to behold. 

Known as the “Island of Waterfalls and Lagoons,” Flores offers a unique blend of tranquility and adventure that appeals to both the contemplative and the intrepid.

There are a few significant reasons that make Flores a top choice for expats: 

  1. Breathtaking beauty: The island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, affirming its outstanding natural splendor. From the mystic blue of the lagoons to the verdant green of the hills, every view is a treat to the eyes.
  2. Adventure opportunities: Whether you’re an avid hiker, diver, or bird watcher, Flores offers a plethora of activities. You can explore the trails that crisscross the island, plunge into the depths of the Atlantic, or watch a variety of bird species in their natural habitat.
  3. Rich culture: Flores boasts a unique blend of Portuguese culture with a distinct Azorean flavor. From the traditional festivals to the unique cuisine, the local culture is both vibrant and inviting.

When it comes to accommodation, Flores offers a variety of options to suit different budgets and needs. From traditional stone houses nestled in quaint villages to modern apartments in the city, there’s something for everyone here. 

Always remember, life in Flores is not just about living; it’s about thriving amidst nature’s bounty and basking in the warm glow of a rich, welcoming culture. Your Azorean dream awaits! 

Santa Cruz das Flores: the Capital City of the westernmost island

Azores Island: Flores 

Welcome to Santa Cruz das Flores, the capital city of Flores Island in the Azores archipelago. 

Living in Santa Cruz das Flores is like being on a never-ending vacation. It offers a slow, relaxed pace of life, away from the hustle and bustle of cities. 

The town is well-equipped with all the necessary amenities, such as health centers, schools, supermarkets, and restaurants, ensuring a comfortable lifestyle for its residents.

Here are some of the key features that make Santa Cruz das Flores an ideal place to live: 

  • Awe-inspiring natural landscapes: The town is surrounded by majestic hills, serene lakes, and cascading waterfalls. The iconic crater lakes, such as Lagoa Comprida and Lagoa Funda, are worth visiting for their breathtaking beauty.
  • Rich biodiversity: The Biosphere Reserve, recognized by UNESCO, is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
  • Historical heritage: The town’s history can be traced back to the 16th century. The old town area, with its array of historical buildings and monuments, is a testament to its rich past.
  • Warm and friendly community: The locals are known for their hospitality and friendliness, adding to the charm of the town.

In conclusion, Santa Cruz das Flores offers an idyllic setting for expats seeking a harmonious blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and a close-knit community.

Corvo: the smallest island with the biggest heart

As the smallest island in the Azores archipelago, Corvo, with a population of merely 400 inhabitants, has been able to retain its old-world charm and simplicity. 

The volcanic crater (Caldeirao) with a beautiful lake on the top of Corvo island. Azores islands, Portugal
The volcanic crater (Caldeirão) with a beautiful lake on Corvo Island

One of the most defining features of Corvo is its richly diverse, untouched nature. Let’s dive a little deeper into the key facts that make Corvo an enticing choice: 

  • Geographical wonders: Corvo is home to the Caldeirão, an impressive crater with small lakes, lush vegetation, and unique bird species; a haven for nature lovers.
  • World Heritage Site: Owing to its outstanding natural beauty, Corvo, along with the rest of the Azores, was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2009.
  • Village life: Corvo’s only village, Vila do Corvo, offers a leisurely pace of life, with charming houses, friendly locals, and a palpable sense of community.

Even though Corvo is the smallest Azorean island, it has a commendable infrastructure for its size.

Basic amenities such as a health center, schools, and shops are available. The island also boasts a small airport which connects it with the other islands. 

Where is the best healthcare in the Azores?

Each of the nine islands has at least one public health center. The archipelago, on the whole, has three hospitals: Faial, Terceira, and São Miguel.

São Miguel serves half the population and offers comprehensive and diverse care, while Terceira houses the newest and most modern hospital.

São Miguel is where residents of all the islands go for more complex procedures. So if you have complex health needs, this is the right island for you.

As an expat, you need to get health insurance in Portugal. To understand how Portugal’s healthcare and health insurance work and what options you have, read our Living in Portugal guide.

Many expats opt for international health insurance, which can be quite expensive. To ensure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

In conclusion

The Azores are a cluster of paradisiacal islands boasting an unparalleled blend of tranquility, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes.

The islands offer various living options, each unique in its essence, yet all equally captivating. 

The islands of São Miguel, Terceira, and Faial stand out as the top choices for expatriates. With their thriving expat communities, modern amenities, and a wide array of recreational activities, these islands offer a quality of life that is truly extraordinary. 

However, the final selection should align with your personal preferences and lifestyle needs.

Whether you are inclined towards a more urban life or a rural dwelling, the Azores cater to all tastes and preferences. 

Finally, living in the Azores is not just about choosing a location; it involves embracing a certain way of life – a life that celebrates simplicity, harmony with nature, and a strong sense of community.

It’s an experience that is bound to enrich your life in countless ways. 

So, take your time, conduct thorough research, and let your heart guide you to your ideal home in the Azores.

Other popular destinations in Portugal to consider:

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