I'm traveling to Azores and mainland Portugal for 3 weeks this June with my wife. I'm wondering how experienced travelers would split up their time in each region.
Minimal time in the Azores, maybe three days max and sticking to one island. There's too much in Portugal for three full weeks.
Tell me some if your interests, likes, dislikes, what you would like to accomplish on this trip, etc.. The mainland Portugal is quite different then the Azores in many aspects, not better or worse, but definitely different. My preference is Azores (7 trips) for many reasons, but we visited mainland Portugal this past summer for a few weeks and loved it. Previous (3) trips to the mainland were not as extensive, but our many trips to the Azores were visiting family there on different islands and sightseeing. I can help with Sao Miguel, Santa Maria, and Terceira...also Madeira which is not the Azores...the other islands I have not visited.
I was thinking of a week in the Azores. Then 2 weeks in mainland Portugal. In the Azores we're most interested in hiking and beaches. Then in Portugal we'll follow rick Steve's 2 week itinerary. What would you do with one week in the Azores?
Back up a minute.
There's no way you can accomplish the same thing in the same time as a tour does.
They'll have buses waiting, you'll have to get to your car.
They'll drop you at the entrance to something , you'll have to park and find your way back.
They'll hustle you through something, you'll dawdle somewhere.
They'll skip something, you'll make an extra stop.
They'll have head of line privileges, you'll creep along.
The list is endless. Figure three weeks to cover what a two-week does.
Ed is absolutely correct regarding Portugal and the time frame of 2 weeks! I sent you a PM about Azores.
If I may give some personal views of the Azores for anyone else interested...
Sao Miguel is an easy way to spend 5-7 days. Santa Maria is a 15 min flight from Sao Miguel, and the island I know the most about. You could spend 2-3 days there, if you want more relaxation The most famous beach in the Azores is on Santa Maria, Praia Formosa. The second best is on Sao Miguel, Vila Franca do Campo. Most of the islands have ocean pools instead of beaches.
Terceira is a 1/2 hour flight from Sao Miguel and has lots to see and do as it is a busy island like Sao Miguel. The town of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira is gorgeous! I would give this island 3 days. The culture is everywhere..the people, animals, history! They have museums, farming is everywhere, terraced volcanic vineyards on Santa Maria, tea plantations on Sao Miguel (the only location in Europe where tea is grown), cheese production on Sao Jorge, etc..
Almost everyone speaks English and has family connections in the United States. Relax at the outdoor cafes, taste the different wines and liquors made from pineapple and passion fruit...the seafood and meats are splendid. The older buildings and churches are mostly dated from the 1500s and 1600s. Tons of outdoor water and land activities. The weather is usually nice from March through November.
Specifically Sao Miguel, my top choices are Sete Cidades, Furnas, the tea plantations near Ribeira Grande, the old windy road to the Nordeste where the Miradours (scenic lookouts and flower gardens are), the different Logoas (lakes) on the island, and Ponta Delgada itself is beautiful. The convent where the Santo Cristo statue is famous, the large marketplace, the pineapple plantation, a farm where tobacco is grown, the villages of Povoacao, Vila Franca do Campo, Rabo do Peixe and Ribeira Grande are walkable and beautiful. Plus there are numerous walking/hiking trails on Sao Miguel and all the islands as well. The internet websites have it all! Just search "Azores" The rest of the islands I have not visited.
SATA Airlines...this is the only direct non-stop option to the Azores from the United States (Boston). The flight to Sao Miguel (Ponta Delgada) is just over 4 hours from Boston...it goes by quickly as you are served dinner then watch a movie...then a quick rest and you are there.
I hope this helps anyone who either has never heard of the Azores islands or would like to visit someday. I like to think of it as paradise!