Looking to discover the coolest islands of Portugal? Want to visit Portuguese islands with lots of character and beauty? Then this article on the best islands in Portugal has got you covered!
Portugal, a country known for its captivating landscapes, rich heritage, and sun-kissed beaches, is a dream destination for many. However, the true magic of Portugal extends beyond its mainland, reaching out into the azure depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, scattered like hidden gems, lie Portugal’s islands – each one a unique paradise waiting to be discovered.
These breathtaking islands, ranging from the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira to the tranquil retreats off the Algarve coast, offer a diverse array of experiences. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to ride the waves, a nature enthusiast eager to explore lush forests and volcanic landscapes, or a history buff interested in uncovering centuries-old traditions, Portugal’s islands have something for everyone.
Each island in Portugal boasts its own distinct culture, unique spirit, and breathtaking scenery. Imagine lounging on pristine sandy beaches, tasting mouthwatering local dishes. Picture visiting historic landmarks or simply soaking in the stunning views – all while being surrounded by the endless expanse of the ocean. Now, that is what I call a dream vacation!
In this article, we’ll embark on a virtual journey to some of the best islands in Portugal. From the popular Sao Miguel and Madeira to the lesser-known Ilha De Armona and Flores, we’ll uncover what makes each of these islands a must-visit destination. So, pack your bags and let’s set sail to explore the allure of Portugal’s islands!
Top islands in Portugal at a glance
Here are some of the best Portuguese islands by category. For any that pique your interest, continue reading to discover why you should visit each island of Portugal!
- Madeira – for outdoor adventure
- Porto Santo Island – for beautiful beaches
- São Miguel Island – for sightseeing
- Ilha da Armona – for a hidden beach escape
- Pico – for hiking and epic volcano views
- Flores Island – for UNESCO wonders
- Ilha da Tavira – for beach vibes in the Algarve
- Terceira – for its signature green wine
- Faial Island – for its rich cultural traditions
- Berlengas Island – for its secluded beauty
- Sao Jorge – for its Azorean charm
- Graciosa – for its grace
São Miguel Island: A haven for sightseeing
Sao Miguel, the largest island in the Azores archipelago, is often the first stop for travelers. Known as the “Green Island” due to its lush, verdant landscapes, Sao Miguel is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
The island is a tapestry of breathtaking natural wonders, from its volcanic calderas and mineral hot springs to its beautiful beaches. One of the most iconic sights is the Sete Cidades Caldera, a massive volcanic crater filled with two sparkling lakes. The hiking trails surrounding this caldera are among the best in the Azores. Each offers panoramic views that will leave you in awe.
But the wonders of Sao Miguel extend beyond its land. The island is also renowned for its dolphin and whale watching tours. Imagine the thrill of spotting these majestic creatures in their natural habitat as you embark on a guided boat tour!
And after a day of exploration, what could be better than relaxing in one of the island’s many mineral hot springs? These natural spas, heated by the island’s volcanic activity, are the perfect place to unwind and soak in the beauty of your surroundings.
Whether you’re hiking through its scenic trails, lounging on its beaches, or sailing in its waters, Sao Miguel offers a wealth of experiences that make it a haven for sightseeing.
Location: Azores archipelago, North Atlantic Ocean (870 miles west of Lisbon)
Best time to visit: April to October
Madeira Island: A blend of beaches and forests
Known as the “Garden Island” and the “Pearl of the Atlantic,” Madeira is a sought-after destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, this island has been a Portuguese colony since the 15th century and has since become a favorite among travelers worldwide.
Madeira is not just about its stunning beaches; it’s also a paradise for nature lovers. The island is home to lush green forests that seem to stretch on forever, offering countless opportunities for hiking and exploration. The island’s verdant landscapes range from colorful gardens and parks to lofty mountains and nature reserves, providing a diverse array of environments to discover.
But the allure of Madeira extends beyond its natural beauty. The island is steeped in history, with landmarks dating back to the 15th century. You can visit the Levadas aqueducts, admire the wooden architecture of the Sé Cathedral in Funchal, or even taste the local Madeira wine, which has been a staple of the island’s culture for centuries.
Madeira also offers a range of activities for adventure seekers. From kayaking and golfing to horse riding and paragliding, there’s no shortage of ways to get your adrenaline pumping on this island.
Whether you’re exploring its forests, lounging on its beaches, or delving into its history, Madeira offers a unique blend of experiences that make it a must-visit island in Portugal.
Location: Madeira, Atlantic Ocean 434 miles west of Morocco
Best time to visit: Year-round
Porto Santo Island: A historic beach getaway
Located north of Madeira in the North Atlantic Ocean, Porto Santo Island is a destination that combines natural beauty with rich history. Known for its stunning beaches, this island off Portugal boasts more than four miles of pristine, sandy shoreline. This makes it a paradise for beach lovers.
The main attractions of Porto Santo are undoubtedly its beaches, but the island also offers a wealth of historical landmarks. One of the most notable is the former house of Christopher Columbus, a fascinating site that offers a glimpse into the life of the famous explorer. Other historic sites include the 16th century Paços do Concelho, a town hall and palace, and the 15th century Matriz Church.
But Porto Santo isn’t just about lounging on the beach or exploring historic sites. The island also offers a range of outdoor activities. You can hike to the highest spot on Porto Santo, a peak known as Pico da Facho. Or, you can enjoy a round of golf on one of the island’s beautiful courses.
With its beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, and outdoor activities, Porto Santo offers a diverse range of experiences that make it a fantastic beach getaway. The island’s pleasant weather makes it a great destination to visit throughout the year. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or an outdoor enthusiast, Porto Santo has something to offer you.
Location: 43 km (27 mi) north of Madeira
Best time to visit: May through July
Ilha da Armona: A secluded escape in the Algarve
Just a short ferry ride away from Portugal’s popular Algarve region lies Ilha da Armona, a tranquil island that offers a welcome escape from the bustling tourist hotspots. This car-free island feels like a world away from the mainland, making it the perfect destination for those seeking peace and relaxation.
Ilha da Armona boasts four miles of pristine, sandy beaches where you can soak up the sun, take a refreshing dip in the clear waters, or simply enjoy the stunning ocean views. The island’s untouched beauty extends to its charming cobblestone streets and traditional Moorish architecture.
Despite its tranquility, Ilha da Armona isn’t devoid of activities. You can explore the island’s natural beauty on foot, indulge in fresh seafood at a local restaurant, or watch the sunset over the ocean – a sight that’s sure to take your breath away.
One of the best things about Ilha da Armona is its off-the-beaten-track appeal. With little in the way of traditional tourist infrastructure, the island offers a unique opportunity to experience Portugal’s natural beauty in its purest form. Whether you’re a solo traveler seeking solitude or a family looking for a quiet beach getaway, Ilha da Armona is a secluded escape that’s worth exploring.
Location: The Algarve (Mediterranean side of Portugal)
Best time to visit: June to August
Pico: A hiker’s dream
Nestled in the Azores archipelago, Pico Island is a hidden gem that beckons to those with a spirit for adventure. Named after its imposing volcano, Pico is a place where nature’s grandeur takes center stage. This Portugal island offers landscapes that are as dramatic as they are beautiful.
The island’s main attraction is Pico Mountain, the highest peak in Portugal. Hiking to the summit is a popular activity, and for good reason. The trek may be challenging, but the reward is a breathtaking view of the sunset that’s worth every step. On clear days, you can even see some of the other islands in the Azores, such as Sao Jorge and Faial, from the summit.
But Pico isn’t just about its mountain. The island is also home to the largest outdoor, man-made saltwater swimming pool. It’s surprisingly deep and perfect for swimming laps. And let’s not forget the vineyards that dot the island, producing the Verdelho wine that Pico is famous for.
Despite its relatively small size, Pico Island packs a punch when it comes to natural beauty and outdoor activities. Whether you’re hiking up its mountain, swimming in its pool, or sipping its wine, Pico offers an experience that’s as unique as it is unforgettable.
Location: Azores archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean
Best time to visit: May through September
Cape Verde: A tropical paradise off Africa
Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) is a stunning archipelago that sits just off the coast of Senegal in Africa. This collection of 10 volcanic islands is a world unto itself, offering a unique blend of African and Portuguese influences.
Unlike the other islands on this list, Cape Verde is not a part of Portugal, but it is a Portuguese island. The country achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, but still maintains Portuguese as its official language.
Cape Verde is blessed with a year-round temperate climate. This makes it an ideal destination for those seeking sun, sand, and sea. The islands are home to some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see, with turquoise waters that are perfect for a variety of water sports and activities. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer riding the waves or a leisurely swimmer enjoying the warm waters, Cape Verde is a dream come true for beach lovers.
But there’s more to Cape Verde than just its beaches. The islands are also known for their vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and lively music scene. From the bustling markets of Praia to the lively beats of Funaná music, Cape Verde offers a cultural experience like no other.
Whether you’re lounging on its beaches, exploring its markets, or dancing to its music, Cape Verde offers a tropical paradise that’s worth discovering.
Location: Praia, Off the coast of Africa (600km west of Senegal)
Best time to visit: November and June
Flores Island: A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Located in the Western Azores, Flores Island, also known as the “Yellow Island,” is a destination that stands out for its natural beauty. The island’s name, which translates to “flowers,” is a nod to the abundance of colorful flora that adorns its landscapes. As such, this Portugal island offers a picturesque setting that’s a delight to explore.
Flores Island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a testament to its diverse ecosystems and commitment to conservation. The island’s landscape is a mix of high peaks and deep valleys, with an impressive column basalt formation known as the Rocha dos Bordões serving as a major landmark.
One of the island’s most captivating features is its waterfalls, including the Poco do Bacalhao Falls near Faja Grande. These cascading waters add a touch of magic to the island’s scenery, creating tranquil spots where you can unwind and connect with nature.
But it’s not just about sightseeing on Flores Island. The island also offers a range of outdoor activities, from hiking and bird watching to canyoning and diving. And after a day of adventure, relax in one of the island’s thermal baths, a perfect way to end the day.
With its stunning landscapes and wealth of activities, Flores Island offers a unique blend of relaxation and adventure. It’s truly a Portuguese island that is sure to captivate you.
Location: Azores in the North Atlantic Ocean
Best time to visit: Between April and October
Ilha Da Tavira: The perfect day trip destination
Just a few hundred meters off the southern coast of Portugal, near the charming town of Tavira, lies the idyllic Ilha da Tavira. This island is a popular day trip destination, offering a perfect blend of sun, sand, and sea.
Accessible only by boat, Ilha da Tavira is a haven for those seeking a day of relaxation and fun. The island is home to a beautiful sandy beach that stretches for miles, offering plenty of space for sunbathing, swimming, or simply enjoying the picturesque ocean views. The further along the beach you walk, the more secluded it becomes. As such, it provides a sense of tranquility that’s hard to find on the mainland.
But Ilha da Tavira isn’t just about the beach. The island also boasts tufted dunes that add to its visual appeal. There’s also a selection of bars and restaurants to enjoy a meal or a drink right on the beach. Whether you’re looking to relax under the sun, take a refreshing dip in the sea, or enjoy a beachside meal, Ilha da Tavira offers the perfect setting.
Despite its popularity, Ilha da Tavira manages to maintain a laid-back atmosphere. This makes it an ideal destination for those seeking a relaxed beach getaway. So, if you’re in the Algarve region and looking for a perfect day trip destination, Ilha da Tavira is a choice you won’t regret.
Location: The Algarve (southern coast of Portugal)
Best time to visit: Between April and June
Terceira Island: A taste of green wine
Terceira, the third largest of the Azores, is an island in Portugal that beautifully blends tradition and nature. Less developed than some of its counterparts, Terceira retains a strong connection to its agricultural roots. As such, it offers a glimpse into the island’s traditional way of life.
The city of Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit on Terceira. Here, you’ll find charming colonial architecture and a vibrant cultural scene. But the real appeal of Terceira lies in its stunning outdoor landscapes. From the sandy beaches of Praia de Vitoria to the incredible caves of Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal, the Portuguese island offers a wealth of natural attractions to explore.
One of the highlights of a visit to Terceira is to taste the local green wine, or Vinho Verde. This Portuguese specialty is a refreshing treat, especially when paired with the island’s delicious seafood. In the fishing village of São Mateus, you can indulge in the local cuisine and wash it down with a bottle of Vinho Verde for a truly authentic Terceira experience.
Whether you’re exploring its historic city, lounging on its beaches, or savoring its local wine, Terceira offers a unique taste of the Azores that’s sure to leave a lasting impression. The island’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage make it a must-visit destination in Portugal’s island list.
Location: The Azores archipelago (North Atlantic Ocean)
Best time to visit: Between April and mid-October
Faial Island: The blue island of the Azores
Desiring another famous island off of Portugal? Situated in the heart of the Azores archipelago, Faial Island, also known as the “Blue Island,” is a destination that captivates with its natural beauty and vibrant culture. The island lies in the central group of the Azores. It offers a unique blend of volcanic landscapes, charming towns, and beautiful beaches.
One of the main attractions of Faial is its volcanic craters, which serve as a testament to the island’s fiery origins. The Caldeira do Faial, nearly one mile across, is where you can truly appreciate the island’s volcanic heritage.
The town of Horta is another highlight of Faial. Here, you can indulge in authentic Portuguese cuisine, explore the local shops, or simply stroll along the marina. It’s truly an amazing place to admire the ships and the colorful murals left by sailors passing through.
Faial’s beaches are another draw, offering a place to relax and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. Whether you’re sunbathing on the sand, swimming in the clear waters, or simply enjoying the view, the beaches of Faial offer a slice of paradise in the Azores.
With its volcanic landscapes, charming town, and beautiful beaches, Faial Island offers a diverse range of experiences that make it a must-visit destination in the Azores. It’s a best island in Portugal that’s sure to leave you enchanted.
Location: The Azores archipelago (North Atlantic Ocean)
Best time to visit: Between May and September
Exploring the lesser-known islands: Berlengas, Sao Jorge, and more
While the larger islands of Portugal often steal the limelight, the country is also home to lesser-known islands that are equally enchanting. These hidden gems, each with their own unique charm, offer a quieter, more authentic experience away from the usual tourist trails.
Berlengas Island, located off the coast of Peniche in mainland Portugal, is one such destination. This small archipelago is a nature reserve known for its biodiversity and stunning natural beauty. The Fort of São João Baptista, a 17th-century fort that was built on the remains of a monastery, is a must-visit. With its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife, Berlengas is a paradise for nature lovers and those seeking tranquility.
Sao Jorge, one of the Azores Islands, is another lesser-known gem. Known for its tall cliffs and dramatic landscape, the island is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The island’s interior, once considered uninhabitable due to its rugged terrain, is now a popular spot for hiking and exploration. Sao Jorge is also a foodie’s dream, offering local cuisine like clam dishes unique to the island and a tangy, unpasteurized cheese produced with milk from the island’s grass-fed cows.
Another island worth exploring is Graciosa, also part of the Azores archipelago. Known as the “White Island,” Graciosa is characterized by its white-washed houses and vineyards. The island is home to Furna do Enxofre, a volcanic cave with a subterranean lake, which is a must-visit for any traveler.
Each of these Portugal islands offers a unique experience. Whether you’re seeking tranquility, adventure, or a taste of local culture, these hidden gems of Portugal offer something for everyone. So venture off the beaten path and discover the unique charm of Portugal’s lesser-known islands.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about pretty islands in Portugal
Looking to learn more about these beautiful Portuguese islands? Here are some popular questions and answers I get asked about all the time!
How many islands does Portugal have?
Portugal has dozens of islands throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. There are 16 volcanic islands within the two archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores. But Portugal’s island treasures don’t stop there. The country also owns the Berlengas islands off the coast of Peniche in mainland Portugal, and several islands off the Algarve coast, including the tranquil Ilha da Tavira and the car-free Ilha de Armona.
What islands off of Portugal are like Hawaii?
Often referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe,” the Azores archipelago is a stunning collection of islands that share many similarities with the Aloha State. Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal, the Azores are known for their lush landscapes, volcanic peaks, and beautiful waterfalls, much like Hawaii.
São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores, is particularly noted for its otherworldly beauty and abundance of outdoor adventures. This makes it a paradise for nature lovers. The Azores also surpass Hawaii in some ways, offering a unique blend of European charm and natural splendor that sets them apart.
So, if you’re looking for a European alternative to Hawaii, the Azores should be at the top of your list. With their breathtaking scenery and rich culture, these islands offer a tropical experience that’s truly unique.
What is the best Portugal island to visit?
Choosing the best island to visit in Portugal is like picking a favorite star in the sky – each one shines with its own unique light. However, if one were to stand out, it would be Sao Miguel, the largest island in the Azores archipelago. Known as the “Green Island,” Sao Miguel is a paradise of lush landscapes, stunning crater lakes, and charming towns.
But let’s not forget about Madeira, a subtropical haven known for its breathtaking scenery, rich wine culture, and vibrant festivals. Or Pico Island, home to Portugal’s highest peak and a UNESCO vineyard landscape. And then there’s the tranquil beauty of Flores, the exotic allure of Cape Verde, and the sandy beaches of Porto Santo.
Each island offers a unique experience, from the volcanic landscapes of the Azores to the subtropical beauty of Madeira. So, the best island to visit in Portugal? Well, that’s a journey of discovery that awaits you.
What are the islands between Portugal and USA?
Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between the United States and mainland Portugal, you’ll find the enchanting Azores archipelago. These nine major islands – São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo – are like stepping stones connecting the New World with the Old.
Each Portugal island is a world unto itself, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality. From the volcanic landscapes of Pico to the lush greenery of São Miguel, the vibrant culture of Terceira to the tranquil beauty of Flores, the Azores are a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.
So, if you’re journeying across the Atlantic, be sure to stop by these islands. They’re not just waypoints on a map, but destinations that promise unforgettable adventures. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or a foodie, the Azores have something for everyone. It’s no wonder they’re often referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe.”
What are Portugal islands called?
Portugal’s islands, scattered across the vast Atlantic Ocean, are known as the Azores and Madeira. Each of these island groups is a world unto itself, offering natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality.
The Azores, a group of nine main islands, are divided into three clusters. The Eastern group includes São Miguel and Santa Maria, along with the Formigas Islets. The Central group comprises Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial. The Western group is home to Flores and Corvo.
In addition to the Azores, Portugal also boasts the Madeira archipelago. This is a group of islands located off the coast of Africa. Madeira itself and Porto Santo are the two inhabited islands in this group, known for their stunning landscapes and rich wine culture.
Each of these islands, from the volcanic landscapes of the Azores to the subtropical beauty of Madeira, offers a unique experience that’s worth discovering. So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious explorer, Portugal’s islands are waiting to welcome you with open arms and unforgettable experiences.