Portugal’s enchanting islands are one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Read on to discover where you should go island hopping in Portugal.
Hey, adventure seekers!
I recently had the chance to discover Portugal’s islands, and let me tell you, they’re Europe’s best-kept secret. From Madeira’s magical views to the Azores’ volcanic landscapes and thermal baths, every moment was a discovery. So, grab a cup of something cozy, get comfortable, and I’ll share the whole story. Who knows, it might just spark your next travel adventure.
Days 1 to 2: Madeira
Our adventure kicked off in Madeira, an island that is like a slice of heaven—except it’s real, and you can visit it.
Day 1 in Madeira
On our first day, we went on a whale-watching tour in Funchal and, wow, what a treat! If you’re heading to Madeira, this is a total must-do! The best time for whale watching is between April and October, but dolphins can be seen year-round.
After our morning with the whales, we headed up on a cable car ride from the heart of Funchal to Monte Palace. It’s not every day you get to float above a city, catching glimpses of rooftops and ocean blues. Naturally, there wasn’t Wi-Fi up there, but I had my downloadable Portugal eSIM from aloSIM to provide steady data for checking maps and seeing what was open.
We visited the museum, which houses one of Portugal’s most important tile collections (from palaces, churches, chapels, and private houses throughout the former Portuguese empire). The palace gardens were also wonderful—a delightful place to wander around at any time of year.
That evening, we had dinner at Restaurante do Forte. Their smoked salmon carpaccio, crispy octopus, and pistachio soufflé were all to die for. Imagine the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted paired with a view that’s just as good.
Day 2 in Madeira
The next day, we hopped on a wine tour that had us swirling, sniffing, and sipping some of the finest Madeira wines. It turns out wine tasting could be my new favorite hobby! Seriously though, if you’re into wine, or even if you’re not, this is something you should try.
Days 3 to 4: The Azores
On day 3, we jetted off to São Miguel in the Azores. We found a direct flight from Madeira (FNC) to Ponta Delgada (PDL) in São Miguel with Azores Airlines. Honestly, getting a Portugal eSIM for the trip was a game-changer! We relied on it for navigation, quick translations, bookings, and more.
We landed in Ponta Delgada in the afternoon. After settling into our cozy Airbnb, we ate dinner at A Tasca. Their seafood dishes are nothing short of heavenly. They had menus in English and German, which was a nice touch. Normally, I’d use my eSIM data to whip out Google Lens to translate a local-language menu, but there was no need this time.
Our Second Day in the Azores
The next day, we explored the surroundings of the Sete Cidades Volcano on a side-by-side buggy tour from Ponta Delgada. We were lucky to have clear skies that day, with amazing views, and our tour guide was great! We went through cozy little towns, past rolling farms, up around the volcano, and stopped by the ocean. It was a cocktail of thrills and stunning sights—an experience I’d shout from the rooftops to recommend!
Our next escapade was a scenic drive to Furnas, a town bubbling with charm (and geothermal activity). The drive from Ponta Delgada takes about 40 minutes. In Furnas, we visited Terra Nostra Park—a botanical garden that looks like Mother Nature’s personal project, and boy, does she have a green thumb.
Lunch was at Restaurante Terra Nostra, and folks, I had the best cozido EVER (a local stew dish cooked in the Caldeira heat). The staff was friendly, we got an appetizer on the house, and the food was top-notch. Plus, the in-house sommelier recommended an incredible Pico wine.
We finished the day with a soak in the thermal baths, surrounded by volcanic soil. It was a spa experience that no fancy resort could match. It was the cherry on top and the perfect finale of our epic island-hopping adventure.
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Final Thoughts and Tips About Island Hopping in Portugal
Four days of island hopping from Madeira to the Azores, and it feels like we’ve lived a lifetime of moments. If you want to make the most of this adventure, here are some tips:
Get an eSIM: we used a Portugal eSIM, an absolute lifesaver! We used it to make reservations, buy tickets, stay in touch with family, book flights, and check in online while on the go without worrying about finding a Wi-Fi spot. Use code WANDERWITHWONDER at aloSIM to save on your first purchase.
Pack layers: The climates of Madeira and the Azores can be quite different. While Madeira has a relatively stable, warm climate, the Azores can be more unpredictable, with chances of rain even in summer. So, packing layers and waterproof gear was a must.
Bring comfortable footwear: You’ll be doing a lot of walking, whether strolling through Funchal’s cobbled streets or hiking the levadas (irrigation channels that double as walking paths).
Rent a car: To fully explore the island, consider renting a car. It allows you to visit less accessible areas that public transport doesn’t reach.
So, to all you wanderlust souls out there, pack your bags and set sail for Portugal’s islands. And who knows? Maybe we’ll cross paths out there. This trip was just the opener for me—there’s no way it’ll be my last Madeira and Azores getaway. Happy travels!
We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite places to explore when you visit Portugal.
Island Hopping in Portugal