Portugal, famed for the charm and beauty of it’s historic cities of Porto and Lisbon, is also a dream destination for sailors and one of our top picks for sailing holidays in 2017. Diverse coastal landscapes and excellent wind conditions make boat holidays in Portugal an ideal place for those looking for a more adventurous break. Read on to learn more about sailing holidays in the Azores, one of our favourite spring and summer destinations for sailors.
Sailing holidays in the Azores
There are two main sailing regions in Portugal: The Algarve Coast and the Azores. Each offer breathtaking landscapes and exciting conditions for sailing. For more experienced sailors, we recommend sailing holidays in the Azores, Portugal’s intriguing island chain that is distinguished by it’s dramatic volcanic landscapes and lush green hills.
The Portuguese offshore territories are found in the mid-Atlantic more than 1,300 km west of the European continent.From continental Europe, it takes between two and four hours to arrive by plane (depending on your starting point). Their remote location make the Azores a rather off the beaten path destination. Due to this fact, the islands are rich in flora and fauna and maintain their pristine, unspoilt and nearly otherworldy appearance.
The Azores consist of 9 larger islands and numerous smaller islands and islets. A large part of the archipelago is of volcanic origin and has rich natural landscapes thanks to the oceanic subtropical climate. The nine larger islands are divided into three groups: Grupo Ocidental (Corvo and Flores), Grupo Central (Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira) and Grupo Oriental (Santa Maria, Formigas and São Miguel).
Sailing in the Azores: Here’s what you need to know
The Azores are a cruising paradise for experienced sailors owning a Coastal Skipper Certificate. If you don’t have a license, you can sill enjoy island hopping in Azores with a skipper (which you can book with Zizoo) who will guide you swiftly through the many islets and islands that make up the archipelago.
When sailing in the Azores you have various options for routes depending on how long you want to be “on the road” or so to speak. If planning to sail around the central island group, you have the advantage that the islands are within relatively close distance to eachother. However, if sailing in this region, you should pay close attention to shallow water, the tide and tidal currents to avoid any potential problems. When island hopping in the Azores, it should also be noted that you must clear in and out of all ports and islands.
Learn more about clearing into ports with ease.
While it is possible to sail in the Azores in the winter (temperatures average about 13oC in the winter season), the best time for sailing is late April through October. During spring and summer, the conditions are more calm and clear from fog. Water temperatures of the Atlantic during this period are ideal, ranging between 18oC and 24oC. It is advised to always check the weather forecast before setting off as the weather in the Azores can change quite quickly.
The most popular base for sailing holidays in the Azores is Horta. Plan your trip to the Azores with our itinerary for island hopping in the Azores on a yacht charter from Horta.
Itinerary for sailing holidays in the Azores: Starting in Horta
The port city of Horta is located on the island of Faial and is known worldwide as the meeting place for the Atlantic crosses. Here you’ll find flags hoisted from all over the globe in the marina. You’ll also find that the marina serves as an open air art gallery. Tradition has it that sailors stopping in the marina paint a picture on the walls. Countless crews have already immortalized themselves here. We’re not really sure how the tradition started, nevertheless, whether or not the sailors hope that the pictures will grant them safe passage and good weather on their continued journey or just want to leave a little souvenir, it has made the marina in Horta a gem on its on right.
After a stroll in the marina, you can stop at the legendary Peter Café Sport, a famous meeting spot for sailors visiting the island. If you charter a yacht in Horta, a visit to the bar is an absolute must. For those who prefer to relax on the beach before sailing, head to Praia do Almoxarife near Horta. From there you have a wonderful view of the volcano Pico on the neighboring island of the same name. If you would like to take a small excursion, we recommend a visit the crater Caldeira.
Another popular starting point for sailing in the Azores is Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel.
From Horta, you can sail along the south-west coast of Faial and admire the huge volcanic rock walls at Capelinhos, which are even more impressive from your yacht. Alternatively, you can go north-east to the island of São Jorge, where you can stay in the Marina of Velas.
The neighboring island of Pico is worth a visit not only because of the impressive volcano, but also for the ethereal green coastal landscapes with old fishing villages that contribute to the unique charm of this island. In Lajes do Pico, you can stop in the village marina and visit the vineyards of the island which were also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next, Terceira and Graciosa (the White Island) are waiting for you on the next lags of your sailing holiday in the Azores. During your stay in Terceira, you can visit Angra’s historical buildings which showcase the island’s long history as a place of important transatlantic trade. From Terceira, make your way to Graciosa, the northernmost island in the central island group. Declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Graciosa is home to many natural wonders including the Caldera, an astonishing elliptical depression in the volcanic landscape.
From Graciosa, it’s time to sail back to your yacht charter in Horta. Along the way, you may be able to see dolphins or whales, which are commonly found around the island chain. Back in Horta, you can partake in several different sports including cycling, diving, kayaking and surfing. After checking out of your yacht charter, spend the evening relaxing with a glass of fine wine from the island.
For more information about sailing in Portugal, visit our guide. If you want to charter a yacht in the Azores, you can simply send us a request or contact us. We will find the right boat for your next holiday.