Visiting the Azores in 2019 was one of the most memorable experiences of my limited worldly traveling. One of the critical things to consider while traveling is where you’ll stay and how much you’ll have to pay.
These two things are essential when you are traveling on a limited budget. They usually take up the majority of your expenses once you’ve arrived at your destination. With CoVID-19, lodging has become more scrutinized, and dining is generally taken out or eaten outdoors. However, I will be talking about my pre-pandemic experience, and I’m hopeful it will apply to future trips!
Like many young adults, I wanted budget lodging for my Azores trip and some privacy as I travel with my camera equipment. I always heard about youth hostels and had stayed in one in Vancouver back in January 2019. However, I wanted to spend some time in a more residential and local town, so I landed in Achada, Azores. Achada and the other cities on the north side of the island of Sao Miguel are small, narrow streets, filled with local Azoreans. It makes a fantastic experience if you want to get to know what it’s like for the people who live here. Also, Airbnbs on the north side of Sao Miguel are cheaper than many other options on the island. It’s the perfect way to experience Azorean architecture and living with entire houses available from as low as $40 per night
Living like the locals in Achada
The Airbnb that I stayed in no longer seems to be listed; however, this house is similar. Our place was colorful, but it was well worth the view from my bedroom’s balcony. If you decide to stay in the Azores’ more residential areas, your host may only speak Portuguese, which I knew none of before my trip. The language barrier made communicating a little tricky when our host walked us through the house. I used the Google Translate app to do the conversational translation. It was a bit shaky but worked well enough to get me information on the stove, wifi, and where to put the key for check out.
Achada became somewhat of a home base for my time in Sao Miguel. Waking up in Achada was amazing; chickens and cows in the morning, the sun shining through into the bedroom. You could see the Atlantic Ocean from my window, and at night you could even hear the waves against the bluffs. I don’t know if it was the Azorean summer, but it wasn’t loud outside other than neighborhood kids running around. The narrow streets lined with houses were intimidating during my first few days driving the already small rental car. It felt almost like a game of Operation, just squeezing through without touching any parked vehicles on the streets’ side. Achada didn’t have a restaurant to eat at; it had a few small markets which were handy for quick snacks during the trip. I’ll touch more on eating in the local spots in this post 🙂
Staying in a Hostel on Terceira Island
Later during this trip, I stayed one night on Terceira Island in Angra do Heroismo at the Purple Island Hostel (cost was $33/night). This was an awesome steal for my goal of budget lodging in the Azores. Angra do Heroismo (at least the area I was in) is nothing like Achada. Angra is like Ponta Delgada, a larger city located on the coast, filled with people and attractions. Unfortunately, I was only there for about 18 hours, and 7 of those included sleeping. We stayed in a private room at the Purple Island, giving me the security I wanted for my equipment. The other benefit of the room we had was a window that opened to the roof. The sound coming through the window alerted us to one of the local festivals of Saint John.
Festivals in Terceira
The Azores are famously enshrined in religion and are known for their various festivals celebrated at small churches and cathedrals all over their islands. In mid-summer, on Terceira, festivals of Saint John occur, and we happen to be staying four doors down from one in Angra. The Império do Divino Espírito Santo Dos Inocentes Da Guarita was celebrating that evening. At the festival, there was live music, religious traditions (that I couldn’t find a translation for), food, dancing, and €1 Super Bock, basically the national Portuguese beer. This lucky coincidence made for a delightful stay in Angra do Heroismo. Some other highlights were the Igreja da Misericórdia and Jardim Duque da Terceira. The Jardim is a beautiful botanical garden and located in the historic center of Angra. It is definitely worth the visit if you are in the city.
The Port in Horta
The final place I stayed during this trip was on Faial Island in the port city, Horta. Horta is famous for being the stop for sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and with that, it hosts a large port of sailboats. The docks have squares painted by those who have made the journey across the Atlantic. In Horta’s most famous restaurant, Peter’s Cafe, sailors hang flags from their respective yacht clubs all over the walls and ceiling. Horta is also the nearest city to Pico Island, which is only about 5 miles over the water, and gave some fantastic views.
The Airbnb we stayed in Horta was about two blocks from the ferry (which we used to go to Pico). I stayed in a private room with a shared kitchen and bathroom, and a bit more pricy (cost was $39/night at the time for the room) than Achada, but it was not unreasonable. This was the most I spent on lodging while in the Azores.
What was nice about staying in Horta was how incredible that everything was within walking distance. Peter’s Cafe, the ferry, the sailboat docks, and for a nice bout of exercise, you can walk over to Porto Pim and the top of the volcanic cone Monte da Guia. At the top, there is a beautiful view of Horta; turn around, and you will see the Atlantic and Pico. Somedays, I heard, you can even see dolphins playing in the water. It’s about a 2 hour round trip walk from the Horta ferry terminal, but well worth the views.
Hopefully, this gives some perspective on options for lodging in the Azores on a budget. For my needs, not only was money a factor, I was looking for the security of private places as well. Even though there were hostels for cheaper than the average $35 per night that I spent, it was mostly shared rooms. The Azores was one of Europe’s most affordable places that I think you can travel to. Not only was lodging affordable, dining out was more than reasonable. Imagine a buffet (I realize in CoVID-19 this is hard to imagine) of all you can eat fresh, locally caught and grown food for only €8 or about $9.50. And the second added benefit was the food was delicious. Check out this post where I dive all into what and where I ate during the trip!
Best and DFTBA, Alex~