Azores or Algarve - which Portuguese city should you visit in 2024?

Reema Bharti

Reema Bharti

· 11 min read

Visit Azores for the dramatic landscapes, lush greenery, and whale watching, and visit Algarve for the golden beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and a sun-soaked climate.

Having been fortunate enough to explore both Azores and Algarve, let me break it down for you!

Algarve & Azores are both beautiful destinations to visit.

Which place offers a better ease of travel - Azores or Algarve?

Algarve offers a better ease of travel than Azores.

The Algarve is on the southern coast of Portugal. It's a well-known tourist spot and the set up for visitors like you is good. Roads are smooth, and public transport is pretty reliable.

On the other hand, where are the Azores? Before that, you must know what exactly constitutes the Azore Islands? The Azores are a group of 9 islands of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Traveling between those islands can take time. You might need to take flights or ferries.

So, for sheer ease of travel, the Algarve wins.

What is the best way to reach Azores?

The best way to reach Azores is by air. There are two main airports - Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island and Lajes on Terceira. Though travel to the Azores by boat is uncommon, it's possible. Sometimes, cruise ships stop by for a day. Flying is the easiest way to get to the Azores.

What is the best way to reach Algarve?

The best way to reach Algarve by air.

You can also travel by road or rail depending upon your starting point and other travel considerations.

  1. By air: There is no Algarve Airport. You must arrive at Faro Airport & drive to Algarve from there. I took a direct flight from mainland Europe. It was just about 3 hours.

  2. By road: If you're already in Portugal, driving to the Algarve is a good option. The roads are in great shape. For instance, from Lisbon, it's about a 2.5-hour drive.

  3. By train: Trains are a relaxing way to travel. From Lisbon, there's a direct train to Faro. It takes roughly 3 hours.

How's the vibe at Azores vis-à-vis Algarve?

The vibe at Azores is calm, serene, and nature-focused whereas the sunny Algarve has vibrant and action-packed vibe.

The vibe of Azores

The vibe of Azores is calm, serene, and nature-focused.

When we talk about the Azores, we are talking about nine volcanic islands floating in the middle of the Atlantic. Here you'll find quaint villages surrounded by waterfalls crater lakes and lush forests offering endless greenery and the vast ocean.

It’s a place where you truly disconnect and immerse yourself in nature. The Azores are a dream destination!

The vibe of Algarve

The vibe of Algarve is lively, sunny, and dynamic.

You can feel the energetic buzz. Towns like Albufeira and Lagos are lively, offering a mix of traditional architecture and buzzing nightlife. There are beach bars, surfing schools, and bustling markets. Algarve feels like a constant celebration of life under the sun.

What's the weather like at each of the cities?

How is the weather in Azores?

The weather in Azores is volatile. One minute, it's sunny; the next, it's raining! You could experience all four seasons in a day. It's a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so the weather is pretty mild year-round. The temperatures in July range from about 17 to 25 degrees Celsius.

How is the weather in Algarave?

Weather in Algarve is sunny. Algarve is known for having some of the sunniest days in Portugal. In August, temperatures were around 30 degrees Celsius, sometimes even more. Nights were cooler, perfect for a stroll along the beach.

Winter in the Algarve is way different than in the Azores. It's mild, with temperatures usually around 16 to 19 degrees Celsius. And it doesn't rain much.

What's the best time to visit Azores and Algarve?

What's the best time to Visit Azores?

The best time to visit the Azores is between June and September.

The Azores have a mild climate year-round. But the best time to visit is between June and September. During these months, the weather is perfect, between 70°F (21°C) and 80°F (27°C). Perfect for all those outdoor activities, like hiking up to Mount Pico or swimming at Ponta da Ferraria's natural pools. Plus, fewer rain showers.

But hey, if you wish to attend the festival 'Semana do Mar in Faial, you'd need to go in July.

Also read: Best time to visit Azores

What's the best time to visit Algarve?

The best time to visit Algarve is between May and September. The temperatures hover around 75°F (24°C) to 85°F (29°C). If you're not a big fan of crowds, consider May or September. The weather's still warm, but there are fewer tourists.

Also see: Best Time to Visit Algarve

What are the top things to do in Azores vs. Algarve?

The top things to do in Azores involve visiting Sete Cidades Lakes, a whale watching tour, exploring the Lava Tubes etc., whereas the top things to do in Algarve revolve around the sea caves, or surfing and strolling around Faro's old town.

The top things to do in both cities revolve around outdoor activities.

What are the top things to do in Azores?

The top things to do in Azores have been listed below.

  1. Visit the Sete Cidades Lakes: Two lakes – one green and one blue – side by side. Take a leisurely walk around, soaking in the breathtaking views.

  2. Go Whale Watching: The Azores is one of the world's best spots for whale watching. It is surreal.

  3. Explore the Lava Tubes: The Gruta do Carvão in Sao Miguel Island blew my mind. Walking inside these ancient volcanic tunnels was like being on another planet.

  4. Taste the Local Cuisine: Dishes like 'Cozido das Furnas' are cooked using natural volcanic heat.

  5. Hike up Mount Pico: It's the highest point in Portugal. The climb is tough, but the view from the top is worth every step.

What are the top things to do in Algarve?

The top things to do in Algarve have been listed below.

  1. Hit the Beach: There are so many choices, but Praia da Marinha was my favorite. Golden sands, turquoise waters, and stunning cliffs!

  2. Visit the Sea Caves: I took a boat tour to Benagil Cave. The sunlight streaming in from the hole at the top, reflecting on the water below, was magical.

  3. Stroll Around Faro's Old Town: Cobbled streets, charming buildings, and cozy cafes. I spent hours just wandering around, soaking in the history.

  4. Indulge in Seafood: Fresh fish, prawns, and clams. Dining by the seaside, with a plate of seafood and a glass of wine, was a highlight.

What are some of the authentic experiences you MUST TRY at each of the cities?

Some of the authentic experiences that you MUST TRY at Azores are its natural hot springs and Azorean tea, whereas in Algarve you must try their famous grottos and live fado music.

Authentic Experiences You MUST TRY in Azores

The authentic experiences that you MUST TRY in Azores are listed below.

  1. Natural Hot Springs: In Furnas, I dipped into geothermal pools. They're warm because of the volcanic activity below! It's like nature's own hot tub.

  2. Azorean Tea: I learned that Europe's only tea plantations are in the Azores. I visited Gorreana Tea Factory, tasted some fresh green and black teas, and trust me, it’s a treat.

  3. Island Hopping: With nine islands, each offering different landscapes, hopping between them is a must. Pico has its mountain, Flores its waterfalls, and Corvo its tiny village vibe.

Authentic Experiences You MUST TRY in Algarve

Now, the Algarve, the green island with its sunny shores and vibrant towns, has its own set of must-dos.

  1. Explore the Grottos: I joined a boat tour to explore the famous caves and grottos. The Benagil Sea Cave was especially mind-blowing with its natural dome.

  2. Live Fado Music: One evening, I wandered into a small bar in Faro and was introduced to Fado – Portugal’s soulful traditional music. It was moving and deeply emotional.

What are the outdoor adventures offered at each of the cities?

What are the outdoor adventures in Azores?

The outdoor Adventures in Azores are listed below.

  1. Hiking Trails: There are great hiking trails around Sete Cidades Lakes and in Flores with waterfalls, and Terceira with dense forests.

  2. Volcano Adventures: I climbed Mount Pico, the highest peak in Portugal.

  3. Scuba Diving: The underwater volcanic landscapes in Azores are out of this world. See Algarve snorkelling

What are the outdoor adventures in Algarve?

The outdoor Adventures in Algarve are listed below.

  1. Cliff Jumping: One of the most daring sports, this isn't for the faint-hearted. Take a leap off the cliffs in Lagos.

  2. Mountain Biking: The Monchique mountains offer rugged trails, while the coastal paths give epic ocean views.

Which one has better beaches -Azores or Algarve?

Algarve has better beaches than Azores. While Azores offers natural beaches, Algarve has those iconic, sun-soaked, sandy beaches that are picture perfect.

The beaches are an integral part of Azorean and Algarve's culture.

What are the best beaches in the Azores?

The best beaches in Azores are listed below.

  1. Praia de Santa Barbara on São Miguel Island: The black sand and the volcanic soil were unique, and the waves were perfect for surfing.

  2. Praia Formosa on Santa Maria: It is a stunning beach with golden sands.

  3. Praia da Vitória on Terceira: Another beautiful beach that isn't too crowded. It's like having your own private slice of paradise.

What are the best beaches in Algarve?

The best beaches in Algarve are listed below.

  1. Praia da Marinha: Praia da has stunning cliffs and clear waters, giving it the title 'most beautiful beach in the world'.

  2. Praia da Dona Ana: Praia da Dona Ana is famed for its beautiful rock formations and golden sands. One of the most pristine beaches.

  3. Praia do Camilo: Praia do Camilo is a small, secluded beach reached by a wooden staircase, known for its sheltered cove and tranquil swimming conditions.

Where can you find the best street food? Azores or Algarve?

Street food in Azores

The best street food in Azores are listed below.

  1. Bifanas: This is a must-try! It's a spicy pork sandwich. The meat is marinated in yummy spices and served in a soft roll.

  2. Chicharros Fritos: These are small fried fish. Think of them like fishy french fries. They're crispy on the outside and super tasty inside. Perfect with a squeeze of lemon.

  3. Pineapple Cakes: The Azores are known for their pineapples. You must try these small pineapple-flavored cakes.

  4. Cheese: São Jorge island is famous for its cheese. I found stalls selling cheese slices served with local bread. Simple, but oh-so-good.

Street food in Algarve

The best street food in Algarve are listed below.

  1. Sardinhas Assadas: Grilled sardines are everywhere! Freshly caught and grilled right in front of you. With a bit of salt and olive oil, they're perfect.

  2. Piri-Piri Chicken: This spicy grilled chicken is a local favorite. I had mine with a side of salad and fries. The spicy kick was just right!

  3. Pastéis de Nata: Okay, these aren't exclusive to Algarve, but I found some lovely stalls selling these creamy custard tarts. Sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, it's like a bite of heaven.

Azores or Algarve, which city has a better nightlife?

Azores has a more relaxed, intimate nightlife, while Algarve's nightlife is all about pulsating energy and dancing till dawn.

What are the best nightlife events in the Azores?

The nightlife events in Azores are listed below.

  1. Bars with views: Most of the bars, especially in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, offer amazing views.

  2. Local festivals: There's a high chance you might stumble upon local festivals, especially in the summer months. These events have music, dance, and lots of fun.

  3. Wine tasting: The Azores has some unique wines, like the ones from Pico Island. A delightful experience for the taste buds!

  4. Cozy pubs: I found a few cozy pubs where locals gather to chat, listen to music, and enjoy a drink. It's relaxed, chill, and super friendly.

What are the best nightlife events in the Algarve?

The nightlife events in Algarve are listed below.

  1. Beach clubs: I danced the night away at beach clubs in places like Vilamoura and Albufeira.

  2. Bars & pubs: There are tons of them. Some have live music, others have DJs.

  3. Cultural nights: In towns like Faro and Tavira, I enjoyed nights with a more cultural touch. Fado performances, traditional dances, and such.

Check out: Nightlife in Algarve

Which city is safer for travelers? Azores or Algarve?

Both the Azores and the Algarve are safe for travelers, but they offer different experiences. The Azores feels more untouched and serene, while the Algarve, being a popular tourist destination, requires the usual travel caution.

Safety in the Azores

Azores is one of the safest places I've been to. The reasons are listed below.

  1. Low Crime Rates: Walking around, even at night, I felt completely at ease.

  2. Friendly Locals: The people here are incredibly warm and helpful. Whenever I looked lost or needed directions, there was always someone willing to help.

  3. Natural Hazards: Now, while crime isn't a big concern, the Azores does have occasional natural challenges, like strong winds and rains.

Safety in the Algarve

The Algarve region, with its bustling towns and touristy vibe, requires the usual travel caution.

  1. Tourist Areas: Places like Lagos, Faro, and Albufeira are popular with tourists. With crowds come the usual issues: I was warned about pickpockets, especially in crowded areas and markets.

  2. Well-lit Streets: One thing I appreciated was the well-lit streets in the main towns. It made evening walks feel safe and enjoyable.

  3. Helpful Police: The Algarve has a good police presence. They were visible, especially in the main tourist spots, ensuring everyone's safety.

What's the transportation scene like, in each of the cities?

Transportation in the Azores

Transportation in Azores comprises of cars, buses, ferries and flights.

  1. Car Rentals: The roads are in good condition and the scenery is breathtaking. Driving caution must be exercised since there are mainly two-lane roads winding through the landscape.

  2. Public Buses: They're available but don't run as frequently as in big cities.

  3. Ferries: Since there are nine islands in the Azores, ferries are essential if you want to hop between them.

  4. Flights: For longer distances between islands, there are flights.

Transportation in the Algarve

Transportation in the Algarve is like any big city.

  1. Trains: Trains connect most major towns, like Faro, Lagos, and Tavira. The rides offer some beautiful views of the coastline.

  2. Buses: Buses run more frequently here than in the Azores. They're affordable and connect even the smaller towns.

  3. Car Rentals: If you want freedom, rent a car. I did, and it let me explore hidden beaches and quaint villages. The roads are wider and well-maintained.

  4. Taxis and Ridesharing: In busy towns like Albufeira, taxis are everywhere. I even used a ride-sharing app a few times, and it worked just fine.

Which one is cheaper to live - Azores or Algarve?

Azores is slightly cheaper than Algarve, especially in terms of rentals.

Cost of Living in the Azores

I was pleasantly surprised by was the cost of living. It felt relatively moderate.

  1. Housing: Renting a place, like a small apartment in the city center, would set me back around 500 to 700 euros a month. Of course, this price went down if I moved a bit away from the main areas.

  2. Food: Local markets became my favorite spots. Fresh fish, fruits, and veggies, they had it all. I'd spend around 50 euros a week on groceries. And oh, those local cafes! A coffee cost just about 1-2 euros.

  3. Transportation: Moving around was affordable. Gas prices were a bit high, but public transport, like buses, were easy on the pocket.

Cost of Living in the Algarve

Algarve was a bit costlier than Azores.

  1. Housing: Places in popular towns like Faro or Albufeira were pricier. An apartment in the center would cost upwards of 800 euros. But, in less touristy areas, rents were quite similar to the Azores.

  2. Food: The Algarve had a wide range of restaurants. Dining out cost me around 10-15 euros for a meal. Markets were well-priced, with my weekly grocery bill being around 60 euros.

  3. Transportation: Buses and trains were reasonable. Car rentals and taxis felt a tad more expensive than in the Azores.

What are some of the best hotels in both the cities?

Best hotels in the Azores

The best hotels in Azores are listed below.

  1. White Exclusive Suites & Villas: Located in São Miguel, this is the place to be if you love ocean views and waking up to the sound of waves. The suites felt so cozy and intimate.

  2. Terra Nostra Garden Hotel: Nestled in Furnas Valley, this hotel boasts thermal pools. I enjoyed a good soak surrounded by beautiful gardens.

  3. Azor Hotel: Modern and chic. The rooftop pool and views of the marina in Ponta Delgada were the highlights.

Best hotels in the Algarve

The best hotels in Algarve are listed below.

  1. Pine Cliffs Resort: This place is the epitome of luxury. Located in Albufeira, the resort has lush gardens, golf courses, and yep, a stunning cliff-top setting.

  2. Conrad Algarve: Set in Quinta do Lago, this hotel screams elegance. I was super impressed by the modern design and the massive spa.

  3. Belmar Spa & Beach Resort: Close to Lagos, this resort offers both hotel rooms and apartments. I loved the sea views and the spa treatments.

What are certain common things offered by both Azores and Algarve?

Both the cities offer amazing things to do

Certain common things offered by both Azores and Algarve are listed below.

  1. Glorious Beaches: Both places flaunt some of the most captivating beaches I've ever seen. Golden sands, turquoise waters, and dramatic cliffs - they have it all!

  2. Delicious Seafood: I can't even count how many times I've relished fresh seafood in both these regions. Think grilled sardines in the Algarve or octopus stew in the Azores.

  3. Warm-hearted Locals: The people in both places are pure gems. Always smiling, always ready to help. It's like they have this innate kindness. In both the Azores and the Algarve, I've had locals give me tips, tell me stories, and sometimes even invite me for a homemade meal!

  4. Rich Culture and Traditions: Festivals, music, dances – both regions keep their traditions alive. I remember attending Fado performances in the Algarve and the lively Santo Cristo Festas in the Azores.

  5. Breathtaking Nature: Hikes, nature trails, and breathtaking viewpoints are in plenty. Whether it’s the volcanic landscapes of the Azores or the rugged cliffs of the Algarve, nature lovers are in for a thrill.

So which place should you visit - Azores or Algarve?

Well, frankly the answer depends on what kind of person you are.

You must visit Azores if…

  1. You’re a Nature Junkie: The Azores is nature’s playground. Think about walking through lush green landscapes, visiting lakes like the twin beauties of Lagoa das Sete Cidades, and marvelling at volcanic craters. If nature gets your heart racing, the Azores won't disappoint.

  2. You Love Adventure: Have you tried diving with dolphins or snorkeling in crystal clear waters? The Azores offers these and more. Oh, and don’t forget the geothermal pools, like the ones at Furnas. It's a warm dip in nature’s jacuzzi!

  3. You Adore Seclusion: Unlike some crowded tourist spots, the Azores has pockets of serene spots. Perfect if you, like me, sometimes just need some quiet ‘me’ time.

  4. You’re a Foodie: Fresh seafood, cheeses, and wines. Must try dishes like ‘alcatra’ – a slow-cooked meaty delight.

You must visit Algarve if you…

  1. Beaches are Your Thing: The Algarve boasts of sun-soaked beaches with golden sands.

  2. You're a Golf Enthusiast: Trust me, golfing with a view of the sea is something else. The Algarve is peppered with top-notch golf courses.

  3. You Appreciate History: From ancient castles like the Silves Castle to historic towns like Lagos, Algarve is a peek into Portugal's past.

  4. You Love Water Sports: Surfing, jet-skiing, paddleboarding – name it, Algarve has it. I had some of my best surfing lessons here!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What's the main appeal of the Azores?

    The Azores offers stunning volcanic landscapes, unique wildlife, and a serene, untouched environment perfect for nature enthusiasts.

  2. Is Algarve good for beach lovers?

    Absolutely! Algarve boasts golden sandy beaches, pristine waters, and scenic coastal cliffs ideal for sunbathing and water activities.

  3. Which destination is better for a quieter vacation?

    The Azores, being an isolated archipelago, provides a tranquil and less touristy escape compared to the bustling Algarve.

  4. How's the nightlife in the two places?

    Algarve is known for its vibrant nightlife and festivals, while the Azores has a calmer evening vibe focusing on local traditions.

  5. Which one offers more historical attractions?

    Algarve, with its ancient towns like Lagos and Faro, boasts a rich history evident in its castles, cathedrals, and old streets.

  6. Can I spot whales in either of these destinations?

    The Azores is your go-to for whale watching, offering one of the world's best spots to see these magnificent creatures in the Atlantic.

  7. Is Algarve more commercialized than the Azores?

    Yes, Algarve, being a popular tourist hotspot, is more commercialized with a plethora of resorts, restaurants, and attractions compared to the relatively untouched Azores.

Reema Bharti

Reema Bharti

I am a globe-trotter with a passion for exploration. From the sun-kissed coasts of Portugal to the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland, my travels are as diverse as they are inspiring. My journeys through Spain, Finland, Austria, and Germany have fueled my soul and shaped my writing.