Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Maryam Siddiqui
Have you ever thought about living in a place full of nature, tradition, and privacy? Welcome to the Azores archipelago! Didn’t think living in the Azores would be an alternative to Portugal’s other famous regions?
You’re not alone; many people haven’t discovered the beauty that lies in the Azores Islands. That’s perfect for you!
The islands of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean are breathtakingly bucolic. In recent years, the Azores islands are welcoming more foreign residents, but there’s still space for plenty more. What is it that attracts them to live on the best islands in Europe? Keep reading to find out.
What is living in the Azores like?
Until you can visit it yourself, we’ll try to give you a virtual experience that’s as close as possible.
Imagine waking up to the sound of leaves rustling and waves crashing softly. You look outside your window and see black sand beaches and vineyards on slopes at a faint distance.
What would you like to do after work today? Go on some whale-watching, dive in the beautiful water, or hike up the stunning landscape? It’s completely up to you.
Living in the Azores, you can expect a relaxed lifestyle and natural beauty surrounding you. They are magical islands indeed, and living here may change your life.
It really is an experience of a lifetime to move abroad to Portugal, especially if you don’t speak the local language or don’t have any friends yet. However, you won’t feel alone because the Azores are known for being welcoming and indescribably pleasant.
Most expats living in the Azores choose the island of São Miguel or the island Terceira, but Santa Maria island is also often remembered. In total, there are 9 islands in the archipelago, as you can explore in the map below:
Who lives in the Azores?
Despite its many islands, the Azores are not inhabited by many people. According to data from Pordata, 236,440 people live on the islands. Of these, it’s estimated that around 1.7% were foreign nationals with a residence permit.
Despite the low percentage of foreign population, the local inhabitants of the Azores are used to receiving people from all over the world.
Especially in recent years, when Portugal started to be in the biggest tourist headlines, the Azores have experienced new investments and unprecedented development.
According to the Association of Immigrants in the Azores, most expatriates in the Azorean islands are Brazilian, German, Chinese, American, Spanish, British, Cape Verdean, Italian, French and Canadian.
Why are expats moving to the Azores?
Like all of Portugal, the Azores offer its inhabitants an excellent quality of life at lower costs than other European regions. But there’s a lot more that the Azores offers besides an affordable living cost.
The weather is pleasant most of the year, and the islands are extremely safe. Because they’re islands, you’ll be more isolated from the fast-paced, modern world that European capitals are used to, but for good reason.
You’ll finally be giving yourself a chance to live a life of peace amidst nature, with Portuguese and Azorean culture and cuisine.
Another interesting point is that, throughout the 20th century, many Azoreans emigrated to the United States and Canada. Now, many descendants of these emigrants want to return to the land of their grandparents, parents, or where they grew up.
What are the best islands to live in the Azores?
The Azores archipelago is made up of 9 islands, each with its own unique traditions and natural beauty. Locals even say that the accent changes from one island to the next.
Most expats choose to live in São Miguel, Terceira, and the Santa Maria islands. As much as we’d like to pick a favorite, it’s impossible to say which is the best island! It wouldn’t be fair to the Azores.
Keep reading the article to look at pictures of the islands and witness the beauty for yourself. You wouldn’t believe how priceless it is to live in the Azores!
That being said, it’s up to you to decide for yourself which island is right for you.
Here’s a list of the 9 islands, in order of the number of inhabitants:
Are you interested in knowing more about each of these islands? Let’s get right into it!
São Miguel Island
The island of São Miguel is the largest and most important of the entire Azores archipelago. This is where the capital of the region, the city of Ponta Delgada, is located, with the main services in the area, such as hospitals, an international airport, shopping malls, and hotels.
São Miguel island is large and still has several peculiar regions and traditions. Tourism, agriculture, and fishing are the main industries of the island’s economy.
As it has the most complete infrastructure in the archipelago, the island of São Miguel is expats’ first option when considering living in the Azores. Although you have all the necessary services to live well in São Miguel, life on the island is very calm.
|Details about São Miguel Island||Data|
|Resident population||133,295 inhabitants|
|Percentage of foreign population||1.3%|
|Average earnings of employees||€971.16 per month|
One of the visitors’ favorite islands in the Azores, Terceira island is without a doubt one of the most beautiful locations in Portugal. Terceira is the second most inhabited island in the Azores and one of the archipelago’s cultural centers.
Living on Terceira Island, you’ll probably be around the island’s capital, the city of Angra do Heroismo. It’s the second most important city for the local economy, but it’s also the first city built in the Azores and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Besides raising livestock, Terceira has an international airport and an American Air Force Base, contributing greatly to the local economy.
|Details about Terceira Island||Data|
|Resident population||53,244 inhabitants|
|Percentage of foreign population||1.1%|
|Average earnings of employees||€1,053.10 per month|
Known for being the nautical sports island, Faial is one of the most important islands in the Azores. It’s one of the central islands and has the highest concentration of expats in the archipelago. The island’s economy revolves around fishing, livestock, and tourism.
The Faial island is also where the last large volcanic eruption in the Azores occurred, from 1957 to 1958. The volcanic island is located on top of the tectonic divide between the European and North American Plates. However, since then, no further worrisome volcanic activity has been recorded.
Its biggest city is called Horta, a historical and cultural hub in the Azores, with amazing seascapes and landscapes. Faial is a short ferry ride to the island of Pico, just 30 minutes, where you have a privileged view of the famous mountain.
|Details about Faial Island||Data|
|Resident population||14,334 inhabitants|
|Percentage of foreign population||4.7%|
|Average earnings of employees||€1,125.80 per month|
The Azores’ second-biggest island, Pico, is also one of the most visited by tourists. It’s home to Portugal’s highest mountain, the volcano of Ponta do Pico, and is known for its black volcanic soils.
The island’s main urban centers are Madalena, São Roque do Pico, and Lajes do Pico, all located by the sea. Living here, you can expect to be surrounded by natural settings, especially because of the large areas of intact forests.
Despite its large size, Pico island is also quite economically dependent on its neighboring island, Faial. Most locals work in the fishing industry and dairy farms, but the island has also seen an increase in tourism lately, which may change Pico’s economy in the future.
|Details about Pico Island||Data|
|Resident population||13,883 inhabitants|
|Percentage of foreign population||3.9%|
|Average earnings of employees||€944.43 per month|
Santa Maria Island
The island of Santa Maria is also a common choice for expats living in the Azores, just after São Miguel and Terceira.
Curiously, Santa Maria is one of the smallest islands of the archipelago but one of the most charming. It’s known here as the Sun Island because it has the best weather in all the Azores.
In addition, the island of Santa Maria is one of the few in the Azores with white sand beaches. A more typically beautiful setting and prone to great summer vacations.
There may not be as much urbanization on Santa Maria Island as on São Miguel Island, but if you’re looking for peace, quiet, and nature, you’ll be okay.
|Details about Santa Maria Island||Data|
|Resident population||5,408 inhabitants|
|Percentage of foreign population||2.5%|
|Average earnings of employees||€1,492.50 per month|
What is the cost of living in the Azores Islands?
The cost of living in the Azores, like the entire cost of living in Portugal, is lower than in most European countries. According to spending statistics on the Numbeo website, a person could live in the capital, Ponta Delgada, for only around €700 a month.
Home rentals on the islands are cheaper than in mainland Portugal and can increase during summer in more touristy areas. To get an in-depth breakdown of expenses, we have a separate article on the Cost Of Living In The Azores Islands.
It’s possible to find one-bedroom apartments for rent for €380 monthly in Ponta Delgada. Much less than the Lisbon average, €680 for a 50 m² apartment, according to Idealista.
In fact, Ponta Delgada is one of the best and cheapest cities to live in Portugal with a good quality of life.
How much does it cost to buy a house in the Azores?
The price of properties in the Azores varies greatly depending on the island, location, conditions, and typology. In the entire archipelago, in July 2022, the average price per square meter was €1,277.
Check the table below to know the different prices for buying a house on the Azores islands:
|Island in the Azores||The average value of the sale of urban properties||The average value of the sale of rustic lands|
The table contains data provided by Pordata (as of July 2022).
Buying a house in Portugal can be an excellent investment! According to the real estate website Idealista, from 2021 to 2022, the Portuguese real estate market appreciated by 7.1%.
Since 2022, Portugal’s famous Golden Visa program promises to favor less inhabited regions, such as the Azores. The forecast is, therefore, that properties throughout the Azores archipelago will tend to appreciate in value due to the increase in demand for foreign investment.
Business savvy investors are making smart decisions to earn profitable gains through the Azores Islands.
- Learn more about the subject in our Complete Guide To Portugal Golden Visa.
How are the public and private healthcare in the Azores?
As in the whole of Portugal, healthcare in the Azores generally meets European quality. The main hospitals in the archipelago are located on the islands of São Miguel, Terceira, and Faial, but there are public and private health services on all islands.
Here, you usually pay for consultations and health services at the time of the appointment, so it’s good to have your health insurance up to date in case of any emergency. You can read more information on the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) website.
How is the labor market in the Azores?
The main economic activities in the Azores are linked to fishing and livestock production. You’d also be surprised to know that tourism, commerce, and catering have grown significantly in recent years on all islands.
Working in the Azores, you’ll have some tax benefits – residents of the islands pay less tax than the mainland. However, like all of Portugal, it will not have very high salaries or many diversified work opportunities.
Expats who are digital nomads, and have the privilege of being able to work from anywhere in the world, will love the Azores.
- What does an average Portuguese earn? Read our article on Salaries in Portugal and discover estimates for different professions.
What can you do for leisure in the Azores?
From hiking trips, whale watching, and geothermal tourism, the Azores manages to give you an excellent impression. And, as is usual in Portugal, dozens of delicious traditional dishes.
Get to know some of the best things to do for fun while traveling or living in the Azores:
- Visit the Sete Cidades lagoon and the Fogo lagoon on São Miguel Island;
- Go to Furnas and eat the traditional dishes cooked with volcanic activity;
- Relax at the hot springs of Dona Beija;
- Go on a tour to Vila Franca do Campo islet;
- Join a whale and dolphin watching tour;
- Try scuba diving with professional instructors;
- Bring your hiking shoes and explore the island’s best trails.
If you’re thinking about spending your next vacation in the Azores, you might want to visit the Visit Azores official website. We’re warning you – You’ll love the Azores!
What’s the weather like in the Azores?
The Azores are known for good weather and a lot of rain throughout the year. Although there are no extremes in temperature, the Azorean islands have a mild oceanic climate.
See more details about the weather in Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, in the table below:
|Maximum Temperature||16.1 ºC|
|Minimum Temperature||13.6 ºC|
|Average Rainfall||86 mm|
The table data was taken from the Climate Data website.
Remember that each island has its own characteristics, so climate and weather also vary greatly. Make sure you research the weather on each island in advance.
Safety on the Azores Island
Out of all the things that could happen to you on the Azores, hate crimes aren’t one of them. Expats in the Azores live in utmost peace and relaxation. Rest assured, you’ll be safe even if you’re a digital nomad living alone.
In case you didn’t know, Portugal is ranked as the fourth-safest country by the Global Peace Index 2021. That’s one reason the islands have become a hotspot for expat retirees. Who’d want to worry about street crimes instead of sipping on some delicious vinho? Not us!
While it’s true that the Azores are safe and secure, we recommend staying vigilant of your surroundings no matter which country you’re in. At the very least, petty crimes like pickpocketing are unfortunately common in tourist regions.
Are the Azores better than Madeira?
The Azores aren’t the only group of islands in Portugal. A few nautical miles away is the Madeira archipelago, also rich in natural beauty.
But make no mistake, although the Azores and Madeira have many qualities in common, they’re not the same thing. In fact, Azoreans and Madeirans don’t like to be confused with each other.
Living in Madeira is very similar to living in the Azores; you experience natural beauty all around with a very limited number of people.
One distinctive thing about the Azores is that it’s more isolated and has much more greenery and cooler temperatures. Madeira, on the other hand, has slightly more attractions, with warmer temperatures and comfortable amenities.
Depending on what you’re looking for, they’re both excellent options!
- Is it better than living in the Azores Islands? There’s only one way to find out. Read our article Living In Madeira: All Expats Need To Know About Life On The Island to learn more about the other Portuguese archipelago.
Pros and cons of living in the Azores
Let’s be honest; not everything is perfect. But again, we don’t think it needs to be; that’s what makes life worth living!
Take a look at some common pros and cons that people living in the Azores agree to:
- Nature & greenery
- Exclusivity & seclusion
- Mild climate
- Extremely relaxed lifestyle
- Away from the hustle and bustle
- Limited healthcare
- One hour behind mainland Portugal
- The weather might be a little unpredictable
Is it worth living in the Azores?
Living in the Azores pleases a lot of people. There’s natural beauty on all sides, typical Portuguese tranquility, and a lot of security and civility. If you like the lifestyle in the Azores, and of course you do, it’s worth living here.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more busy days, with many social events and work opportunities, you might be happier in another Portuguese city. Living in Lisbon or living in Porto are great options for those who prefer the big city and cultural activities to the countryside and outdoor activities.
How can I choose my ideal island to live in the Azores?
The best way to find out which Azorean island is best for you is to visit each of them yourself. Of course, you can hear other expats’ experiences, but at the end of the day, your opinion is the one that really counts when choosing where you will live.
Go on a scouting trip, take at least a month to travel in the Azores, and see how you would fit in those realities. Talk to the locals, be independent, and experience the real Azores firsthand.
Then, ask yourself: Can I see myself living there?
If the answer is yes, the next step is to start planning your relocation to Portugal.
Are you ready to move to the Azores?
If you’ve already made the final decision and want to spend your life living in the Azores, know that you’ll be very welcome. The world-famous Portuguese receptivity seems to be amplified in the islands.
Many foreigners are moving here to enjoy a peaceful lifestyle. If you want to get in touch with expats living in Portugal, join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. It’s a community of over 7,000 individuals waiting to help you out.
Whenever you’re ready to get professional help for your Portuguese visa application, our team at Viv Europe will be waiting to assist you. Let’s turn your dream into a reality!