The Ultimate Packing List for the Azores
A few short years ago, the Azores flew under the radar as a travel destination. The tiny archipelago in the Atlantic, about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, was something you might spot from 40,000 feet on your way to Europe. Today, the Azores enjoys primo billing—“the next Iceland," “the Atlantic’s Hawaii”—and its visitors enjoy the nine islands’ craggy shorelines, hot springs, and volcanic hiking trails. Merely comparing the Azores to better-known destinations is a disservice, as each Azorean island offers something unique: vineyards lined by ancient basalt walls, Europe’s only tea and coffee plantations (there's a popular pineapple plantation, too), and quite possibly the most stunning display of wild hydrangeas anywhere in the world. (Just. Google. It.) Given that the Azores is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the weather can be extreme and rain is always a possibility. Ahead, everything you need to bring with you on your Azorean adventure, and nothing extra. Because you’ll definitely want to leave room for bringing back a bottle of Azorean wine (or three).
Your suitcase packing checklist
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THE PERFECT LUGGAGE
If you’re going to the Azores for a weekend, pick a lightweight bag that’s easy to handle, like the North Face Base Camp duffel bag. At 50 liters, it has enough space to pack all the essentials, and its water-resistant material means it can stand up to those out-of-the-blue Azorean showers. If you’re getting away for a week, choose the Eagle Creek rolling duffel, a carry or pull option that can handle rougher terrain like cobblestones or gravel. Prefer more traditional luggage? Away’s The Medium bag features a strong polycarbonate shell and a water-resistant laundry bag where you can store all your post-hike/bike/swim gear.
THE THREE PAIRS OF SHOES YOU’LL NEED FOR EXPLORING THE AZORES
A trip to the Azores wouldn’t be complete without getting out of the car and scouting out the islands’ natural wonders—lakes, hot springs, ocean overlooks, and volcanic craters. Since paths can be rocky and often slippery (those sporadic rain showers are real), you’ll want a sturdy, water-resistant trail shoe like Brooks Cascadia 14 GTX or Salomon S-Lab XA; both provide excellent traction for both wet and dry surfaces. For sightseeing in town, kick up the style a notch while still prizing comfort—it’s likely you’ll be doing a lot of walking, perhaps sampling wine at the vineyards in Pico or meandering through the windy streets of Horta. We like the Vionic Keke sneakers and Adidas Superstars for their springy footbeds but stylish look. Nights out won’t call for heels or dress shoes; women will do well with a pair of classic flats with mega cushioning, while guys should be A-OK in casual loafers.
STYLE FOR THE AZORES
Style in the Azores? Definitely think casual and practical over anything trendy. (Unless you want an Insta-ready ensemble for frolicking among the hydrangeas.) That’s not to say that locals don’t take the time to look put together, but the overall effect is more breezy and simple than straight-from-the-runway cool. If you’re doing outdoorsy stuff like biking in Santa Maria or rock climbing on São Jorge island, then workout gear is totally OK. But if the itinerary includes activities like tea tasting at Europe’s only tea plantations on São Miguel or exploring the churches and monuments in Angra do Heroísmo, consider a wardrobe change. You don’t have to bust out anything fancy, but you’ll feel more comfortable in stylish sneakers or flats paired with fitted shirts. Just whatever you do, make sure you have a light rain jacket tucked away in your purse or daypack.
Women’s Style for the Azores
Men’s Style for the Azores
FIVE FOOLPROOF OUTFITS FOR THE AZORES
1. WHAT TO WEAR TO EXPLORE PONTA DELGADA ON SAO MIGUEL
The capital of the Azores is best explored by foot. Walk from the 300-year-old Fort of São Brás and stroll down the seaside promenade of Avenida Infante Dom Henrique to people watch, admire Old World architecture, and take in some sea air. Off the promenade are the Portas da Cidade (city gates) and St. Sebastian Church, which will give you a sampling of the city’s varied styles of architecture. Slip on cool but comfortable sneakers and casual clothes; people here look put-together but the vibe is laid-back and comfort reigns.
Women’s Outfit for Ponta Delgada
Men’s Outfit for Ponta Delgada
2. WHAT TO WEAR TO THE AZORES’ NATURE PRESERVES, GARDENS, PARKS, LAKES, HOT SPRINGS, AND WATERFALLS
A volcanic past, a mild climate, and lots of rain mean that the Azores have two things in spades: water and lush greenery. Explore the verdant gardens of Parque Terra Nostra before easing into one of its mineral-rich thermal pools or hike through farmland alongside a creek before reaching the magical, mystical Salto do Prego waterfall. A bathing suit—darker hues are encouraged since the water’s minerals can discolor clothes—is a must as is quick-drying gear that won’t leave you hiking back soaked.
Women’s Nature Outfit for the Azores
Men’s Nature Outfit for the Azores
3. WHAT TO WEAR HIKING IN THE AZORES
Thanks to mild weather year round, you can explore the islands’ nearly 500 miles of walking trails—like the Insta-worthy Mata do Canário or Fajã dos Cubres—no matter when you visit. Since many of the paths can be rocky or slippery, you won’t want to attempt these walks in flimsy slides or sneakers; packing sturdy trail shoes with traction is absolutely essential. (If you can go for a pair with Gore-Tex waterproofing, even better.) And because showers are always a possibility, keep a light rain jacket on hand.
Women’s Hiking Outfit for the Azores
Men’s Hiking Outfit for the Azores
4. WHAT TO WEAR TO THE BEACH IN THE AZORES
When gearing up for Azorean beaches like Praia de Santa Barbara and Praia Formosa, remember you’ll be swimming in the North Atlantic, so the water can be a bit unruly at times. Women will likely feel more comfortable in a secure one-piece than a bikini susceptible to coming loose in the water. To get to many of the swimming and lounging hotspots, including the must-see natural thermal pools of Mosteiros and Ponta da Ferraria on Sao Miguel, it’s likely you’ll have to scramble over craggy basalt rocks, do some short trekking, and climb up and down an ocean ladder (but it’s so worth it!), so pick sandals that won’t slide off and end up between rocky crevices or in a tide pool.
Women’s Beach Outfit for the Azores
Men’s Beach Outfit for the Azores
5. WHAT TO WEAR TO DINNER IN THE AZORES
After a long day exploring the natural wonders of the islands, pull up a chair at one of the islands’ local restaurants like Rotas da Ilha Verde, Reserva Bar, and Tasquinha Vieira, fuel up on fresh-caught seafood, rich stews, and not-to-miss Azorean cheese and wine. Dinner isn’t a super-fancy affair, but it’s an opportunity to shed your flip-flops and tees for more polished items like midi skirts and fitted pants.
Women’s Dinner Outfit for the Azores
Men’s Dinner Outfit for the Azores
If you’re going to the Azores, you’re in for some of the best hiking of your life—there are breathtaking trails to towering waterfalls, around turquoise crater lakes, over rolling green hills, and along volcanic calderas. Some of the hiking trails cut right through the Azores’ rocky mountainside, leading trekkers down long dark tunnels. A headlamp in your daypack will help you navigate the pitch-black tunnels safely. Plus, it’ll come in handy if you stay at a hotel without frills like bedside lamps—with a headlamp, you’ll be able to read in bed without having to get up to switch off the overhead when you’re ready to hit the hay.—WTP Editors
THE AZORES’ WEATHER AND SEASONS
The islands of the Azores are blessed with mild weather year round. With a few small exceptions, no matter when you visit, daytime temps will be somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees. There’s more rain from October to March, and showers are possible any time of year—the Azores are in the middle of an ocean, you’ll remember—but the Atlantic breezes shoo them away quickly, so rain usually won’t crush your plans for long. The upside: since the islands are so small, it’s very possible that sunshine and clear skies are just a short drive away. Take a cue from the locals and keep a foldable rain jacket and travel umbrella on hand at all times.
Note: This data comes from our friends at Weather.com. We recommend using this together with a traditional forecast as you get closer to your departure date.
- Plan for day temps between 53 and 63
- Expect 5.2 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in January: January is one of the Azores’ coolest and wettest months, so pack gear that will keep you warm and dry, like a hooded waterproof jacket layered over a light sweater. Don’t forget a sturdy umbrella!
- Plan for day temps between 52 and 62
- Expect 4.2 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in February: The weather in February is still on the cool side and you’ll likely still encounter a shower (or two) while you’re hiking Caldeirão on Corvo island or stopping along the dozens of ocean viewpoints on Flores. You can skip heavy coats but a lightweight down jacket for the evenings would be ideal, in addition to full-length pants and layerable tops.
- Plan for day temps between 53 and 63
- Expect 3.9 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in March: March brings more of the same weather to the Azores. The temperatures are still temperate, but you’ll be able to catch a little more sunshine. Even if you’re escaping a snowy destination for spring break on São Miguel or Flores, plan to wear longer hems and a light jacket.
- Plan for day temps between 54 and 65
- Expect 2.8 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in April: The winter rains subside in April and coupled with the gentle temps during the day, you’ll want to be out walking. Pack relaxed long sleeve tees, comfortable walking shoes, and a pullover for the evenings, as the islands are still prone to chilly nights in the spring.
- Plan for day temps between 56 and 68
- Expect 2.1 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in May: The weather in May is similar to April, though with slightly warmer temperatures and less rain. You can plan on T-shirts during the day, but something with long sleeves for the evenings.
- Plan for day temps between 60 and 71
- Expect 1.5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in June: In June, you’ll want to get on or in the water. This month, the Atlantic’s waters warm up and peak whale-watching season is coming to an end. No matter how you choose to enjoy the islands, stock up on quick-drying gear and sun protection.
- Plan for day temps between 63 and 76
- Expect 1.2 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in July: It’s peak tourist season in the Azores. With the sun high in the sky during the day, don’t forget to shade yourself from the sun on hikes and boating tours. The evenings are still cool, so keep a light sweater on hand.
- Plan for day temps between 65 and 78
- Expect 1.5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in August: August temperatures are reliably warm: the sun is high and the Atlantic’s water is perfect for a dip. Skip clingy fabrics and pack cotton and linen ensembles that will allow you to sightsee comfortably.
- Plan for day temps between 64 and 77
- Expect 3.4 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in September: September may be the start of fall in some places, but in the Azores, it’s still summer; you can catch mid-70s weather and ocean waters warm enough for swimming. Pack a bathing suit for the day but also a light sweater for cooler evenings.
- Plan for day temps between 61 and 72
- Expect 4.5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in October: The thermometer still logs balmy daytime temps this month, making October a great time to tour the islands’ trails, volcanic craters, and waterfalls, but with substantially thinned out crowds. The nights are chilly, so pack stuff you can layer and cozy up in.
- Plan for day temps between 57 and 64
- Expect 5.1 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in November: In November, your packing list may be a bit unusual for the month. On the one hand, be sure to bring warm gear as the temperatures start to drop. But that doesn’t mean swimsuit season is over—especially in cooler temps, make your way to one of the islands’ hot springs and thermal pools. With tourist season at a slow down, there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself!
- Plan for day temps between 55 and 64
- Expect 5 inches of precipitation
What to Wear in the Azores in December: Winter may be here, but the air is still relatively temperate during the day. A comfy sweater and insulated rain jacket will get you through the scattered showers.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE AZORES
Which are the islands of the Azores and what are they known for?
The Azores archipelago is made up of nine islands scattered along a nearly 400-mile stretch in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. You can expect stunning sea views and delicious local food (do not miss the cheese!) nearly everywhere you go, but each island also has something unique to offer. São Miguel has breathtaking hikes and tucked-away hot springs and gardens. Check out Santa Maria for the archipelago’s only golden-sand beaches (beaches elsewhere on the archipelago are mostly black volcanic sand) and fly to Pico if you want to get a taste of Azorean wine.
What are the best things to do in the Azores for a seven-day trip?
Fly into Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores and its main hub, and rent a car; many attractions are remote and public transportation won’t get you to some of the must-see sights. Hike at Sete Cidades lake; swim in the warm hot springs of Ponta da Ferraria, Furnas, Mosteiros; and definitely sample the local seafood and cheeses in Ponta Delgada. You could honestly spend a whole week on São Miguel and not run out of things to do, but if you’re itching to see more of the archipelago, spend four to five days on São Miguel, then catch a short flight to another island.
Is the water temperature in the Azores cold? Should I bring water shoes? Can I swim year round?
Even though they’re located in the North Atlantic, the Azores have a mild water temperature of around 70 degrees in the summer and early fall, thanks to the Gulf Stream ocean current. In the winter, the ocean’s temps drop to the high 50s, so swimming may only appeal to the very warm-blooded traveler. If you don’t like stepping on rocks or volcanic sand—you won’t encounter soft beaches here, except on Santa Maria—water shoes might go on your packing list, though they’re not required nor worn by locals.
What is the best way to get to the Azores from the U.S.?
Currently, Azores Airlines has direct flights to Ponta Delgada from Boston and to Terceira from Boston and Oakland, California. Delta recently began offering non-stop, seasonal service (summer only) from John F. Kennedy airport in New York to Ponta Delgada. It’s also possible to connect through European cities like Frankfurt and Amsterdam as well mainland Portugal: a flight from Lisbon or Porto to Ponta Delgada takes about two hours.