Tourism Sector

Tourism Sector Growth

The liberalization of the airspace over the islands of São Miguel and Terceira occurred in March 2015. In that year, the number of passengers arriving at Azores airports increased by 21.2%, compared to 2014.

      • In 2016, the number of passengers arriving continued to increase by 19.9%, totalizing 1,319,489 individuals.
      • 1,563,155 Passagengers arrived in 2017, more 18.47% than the previous year.


In the first 6 months of 2017, more 19.1% passengers arrived in comparison to the homologous period of 2016.

The numbers of guests and overnight stays are also increasing at:

Tourism Enterprise Units

      • 2015 Guests: 428,000 (+23.9%)
      • 2015 Overnight stays: 1,274,200 (+19.8%)
      • 2016 Guests: 509,000 (+18.9%)
      • 2016 Overnight stays: 1,543,600 (+21.1%)
      • 2017 Guests: 594,300 (+16.8%) 
      • 2017 Overnight stays: 1,787,500 (+15.8%)

Local Housing

      • 2015 Guests: 39,847 (+113.86%)
      • 2015 Overnight stays: 162,445 (+132.94%)
      • 2016 Guests: 74,126 (+86.03%)
      • 2016 Overnight stays: 306,050 (+88.40%)
      • 2017 Guests: 120,345 (+62.35%) 
      • 2017 Overnight stays: 451,070 (+47.38%)

 Rural Tourism

      • 2015 Guests: 11,693 (+19.61%)
      • 2015 Overnight stays:46,790 (+17.63%)
      • 2016 Guests: 13,289 (+13.65%)
      • 2016 Overnight stays: 51,361 (+9.77%)
      • 2017 Guests: 14,989 (+12.79%) 
      • 2017 Overnight stays: 53,734 (+4.62%)

Flight Hours. From Azores to:


Time Zone

Minus 1 hour from Mainland Portugal and the United Kingdom, plus 4 hours from the East coast of the United States and plus 3 hours from the East coast of Brazil.

Awards and Distinctions

  • According to a recent article from Bloomberg, Azores has surpassed Iceland as the new adventurous destination. In the article Bloomberg describes the archipelago as “a quiet realm of quaint Iberian charm and dazzling vine-draped greens carved out by a dramatic history of volcanic events”.
  • Lonely Planet also highlighted Azores as the 3rd best offbeat region to discover in 2017. The islands were selected for their natural charms such as volcanoes, thermal baths and cliffs.
  • National Geographic Traveler selected the Azores as the "most beautiful destination in the world" for holidays or business trips in 2016.
  • The Guardian elected the Azores as “one of the 40 places to visit during the year 2015“.
  • The Green Destinations classified the Azores as "the most sustainable tourist destination in Europe" in 2014, landing on the Global Top 100 Sustainable Destinations list.
  • The Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC) nominated the Azores as "the  first Platinum Quality Coast Destination in the World" in 2014.
  • Forbes magazine classified the Azores as “One of the most remarkable tourism destinations in the world”.
  • BBC Travel reported Pico Island as “One of the 5 best secret islands in the world”.
  • The World Travel Guide classified Furnas as “One of the 5 most attractive volcanic zones in the world”.
  • BootsnALL classified the walking route through the Criação Velha vineyards, in Pico Island, as “One of the worlds 8 unique footpaths”.
  • Lonely Planet, the world largest travel guides editor, ranked the archipelago of the Azores on the 23rd place in the list of the top 30 tourism destinations to visit in 2017.
  • The OECD - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has published a report on October, 2014 concluding that in environmental terms, particularly on CO2 emissions, the Azores are, among its members, one of the regions with better air quality.
  • In 1983 UNESCO recognized the city of Angra do Heroísmo, located on Terceira Island, a World Heritage Site. In 2004, the same status was granted to the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture.
  • The islands of Corvo (2007), Flores  (2007) , Graciosa (2009) and the “Fajãs” of São Jorge Island (2016) are part of the UNESCO World Network Biosphere Reserves.

According to the President of the New 7 Wonders of Portugal, “The Azores are islands of idyllic beauty, with natural wonders that take your breath away”, which is why they were chosen as hosts of the official declaration. Of the 21 wonders that entered the final phase of the contest, five are in the Azores:

  • Lake Sete Cidades (São Miguel);
  • The Volcanic Landscape of the Pico Island;
  • Algar do Carvão (Terceira);
  • Furna do Enxofre (Graciosa);
  • Lake Fogo (São Miguel).

 The Volcanic Landscape of the Pico Island and the Lake Sete Cidades were the winners in the Region, with more than 650.000 votes.

Main International Events

  • ERC Azores Airlines Rallye: One of the best and most emblematic events in the European Rally Championship.
  • WQS Azores Islands Pro: One of the 9 events on this professional surf world circuit with Prime points.
  • International Regattas:International Paragliding Festival: 150 professionals of various nationalities.International Paragliding Festival: 150 professionals of various nationalities.International Paragliding Festival: 150 professionals of various nationalities.
    • Les Sables/Horta/Les Sables;
    • The Hortensias Route - (Etel [Brittainy]/Horta/Concarneau);
    • AZAB - (Falmouth/Azores/Falmouth);
    • ARC Europe - (Caribbean/Florida/Azores/Lagos).
  • International Paragliding Festival: 150 professionals of various nationalities.
  • Red Bull Clif Diving: annual world tour of ornamental cliff jumps.

Cruise Ships and Recreational Boats

In 2016, more than 99,600 passengers came to the Azores due to 76 cruise-ship stopovers, many of them in more than one island. The number of passengers increased by 18.2% compared to 2014.

In 2017, the number of cruise-ship stopovers increased to 86 and the number of passengers surpassed 109,300, meaning growth rates of 10% and 13% respectively, when compared to 2016.

About 4,050 recreational boating vessels, corresponding to approximately 16,660 crew members, passed through the Azores marinas and harbors during 2016.

Angra Marina


Golfdigest USA 2014 ranked the Furnas Golf Course as “the second best golf course in Portugal”. The Azores have recognized potential in this sector, still largely untapped.

The Azores currently have three golf courses located in São Miguel and Terceira, complemented by quality tourism services.


Health & Wellness

The Azores offer huge potential in the areas of health and wellness tourism, particularly as regards the promotion, prevention and maintenance of health, as well as rest and leisure.

Investments in these areas could include:

  • Specialist clinics
  • Spas
  • Hot-spring resorts

Hospital do Divino Espírito Santo de Ponta Delgada EPE is Quality accredited by Caspe Healthcare Knowlegde System (CHKS).

Hospital de Santo Espírito de Angra do Heroísmo is undergoing accreditation by Joint Commission International (JCI).

Hot Springs

Taking advantage of these environmental resources, involves:

  • Exploiting the characteristics of the waters for thermal use;
  • Remodeling existing facilities and building new ones as well as hotel units of excellence;
  • Implementing services that complement the thermal offer.

Thermal intervention project goals include the spas located on the Islands of São Miguel (Ferraria, Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande and Furnas), Graciosa (Carapacho) and Faial (Varadouro).

hot spring

Caving (Speleology)

The Azores offer a huge range of speleological resources due to their volcanic nature.

There around 250 known natural caves, extending to dozens of kilometres of underground paths.


The Regional Government of the Azores has created a Network of Classified Footpaths, “Pathways of the Azores”.

The paths link almost every corner of the nine islands and pass through zones of exceptional natural beauty.

Pico mountain

Bird Watching

Given the location of the archipelago, rare migratory species are a common sight.

Countless international specialist websites promote the Azores as a tourist destination of excellence for Bird Watching.

Whale Watching

In 2010, the Azores was considered by the British newspaper “The Telegraph” as one of the 10 best regions in the world for Whale Watching.

Each year about 50,000 tourists experience Whale Watching in the seas of the Azores.

Big Game Fishing

The Azores is an important Big Game Fishing reserve.

Tuna, Blue Marlin, Swordfish and Sharks are among the most common species.


In 2017, the Azores were considered the third best diving destination in the world by DIVE Magazine, the market leader in the subject.

The islands are an excellent destination for both professional or amateur diving given their excellent natural conditions, allowing the activity throughout most of the year.

Its location in the North Atlantic Ocean, in a transition area between nutrient-rich currents from the north and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, make this archipelago a true sanctuary for a large and varied number of species.

There are dozens of spots offering some of the best underwater experiences worldwide, from coastal to deep-sea diving, including wrecks, caves and seamounts.


Awards and Distinctions

 Access our Tourism sectorial presentation