Path near the waterfalls, Fajã Grande, Flores, Azores, Portugal. Photography by Julie Dawn Fox

I’m going to have to visit Flores island in the Azores again. Partly because what I saw of it was beautiful but mostly because I didn’t see enough of it. That’s not for lack of trying, mind you. My friend and travel companion, Dori, will back me up on that. In fact, we lost count of how many failed attempts we made at seeing the famous lakes and rock formations that had been the main reason for going there.

Despite the fog that shrouded the centre of the island throughout our 3-day stay, we managed to find plenty to appreciate about one of the most isolated islands in the Azores.

Read on for things to do in Flores in the Azores, even if it’s a bit foggy.

See my accommodation selections on Flores

Hydrangeas as walls, Flores, Azores, Portugal. Photography by Julie Dawn Fox
It’s obvious why this Azorean island is called Flores, which means flowers. Even the fields are separated by walls of blue hydrangeas and the roads are lined with tropical yellow flowers.

Stroll around Fajã Grande, Flores island

We were staying on the west coast of the island, in Fajã Grande, a fajã being a section of flat arable land. Anyone who has seen the Father Ted television series will recognise the quirky characteristics of a remote village on a damp island. It took me a while to warm to the place; when we arrived, it was foggy and gloomy and the weather didn’t improve much during our time there. 

Happily, the local people seemed to be of a sunny disposition, especially in the grocery store cum café where we had breakfast each day. The decor hasn’t changed since the 1970s or 80s and it’s definitely a local place for local people yet welcoming to foreigners.

For me, the best thing about Fajã Grande is the jungly cliff face with its row of high waterfalls, including Poço do Bacalhau (see below).

Take a walk along the road beneath to appreciate them fully and meet the local cows in their patchwork of tiny stonewalled fields. Between these waterfalls and the village centre there’s a bathing area near the jetty and boat ramp and a restaurant with a swimming pool for the more timid.

On your way back through the village, look out for evidence of the community’s whaling industry carved into the volcanic stone panels decorating houses and water fountains.

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Note: The thick stone walls of traditional homes in Fajã Grande mean that wifi and phone signals only work well outside, unless there’s a router in your room. Locals gather on doorsteps and benches to either catch up on neighbourly gossip or check their emails.

If you happen to be outdoors in the evening, you’ll probably hear the hilarious Cory Shearwater birds that sound like giggly bouncy frogs. You can listen to their weirdness here.

Swim in a waterfall at Poço do Bacalhau

Dori and I got some very strange looks from other visitors to Poço do Bacalhau when they realised we’d been swimming under the waterfall instead of simply being sprayed by the frothing torrent of water that tumbles into the pool from a great height. Neither of us cared – the experience was exhilarating.

Heavy rainfall the day before had helped us imagine how this waterfall and pool may have got its name. With vast volumes of water, the cascade down the sheer cliff mutates from a straight narrow stream to a wide gushing mass that looks a bit like the slabs of salt dried cod (bacalhau) you see in markets.

The path to the base of the falls has been tastefully renovated and takes you along a stream, past a series of old stone watermills and irrigation channels.

We dumped our clothes far away from the spray of the waterfall and gingerly eased ourselves into the pool. Once in the rust-tinted water, I turned to face the mighty power of the falls. The force is so strong, it’s not possible to get under the cascade but it was one of those ‘in awe of nature’ moments. I don’t care what anyone else thought of us. It was an experience neither of us will forget in a hurry.

Tip: The rocks are quite slippy so take your time and be very careful if you decide to follow suit. Wear sandals or swimming shoes if possible.

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Walk to Fajã de Lopo Vaz

As we discovered, the weather on Flores varies dramatically for such a small landmass. Mist and rain on one side is often countered by clear skies and sunshine on the other.

Having driven through fog to get across Flores island and failed to see the central lakes, we decided to try our luck further south. At the bottom of the island, the skies were clear enough to risk a walk.

I’ve mentioned that fajãs are the flat parts that can be farmed. Getting to them is the tricky part, bearing in mind that this is a volcanic island with steep sheer cliffs. Fortunately, the trail down to the beach and abandoned fields at Fajã de Lopo Vaz is well established with steps and handrails where needed.

Tip: A walking pole is still useful for leverage; I ended up using a length of cane to keep me steady, especially when my legs started to wobble from exertion on the slog back up.

When we reached the fajã, we were surprised to find a man renovating a house on the black sand beach. His was the only inhabited property on the fajã – I can’t imagine being that isolated.

We followed the footpath past his house and between the field where abandoned huts and cottages and the ruins of a small village lie in the shadow of imposing cliffs cloaked in abundant greenery.

The path ends at another, rockier beach with waterfalls that tumble down the cliffs directly into the sea. Magnificent.

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Swim in natural pools at Santa Cruz, Flores island

Having abandoned a walk near the village of Ponta Delgada due to more fog, we drove west to the town of Santa Cruz.

This was definitely the sunny side of the island during our stay so if you’re coming to Flores for the natural swimming pools, you’d be better off basing yourself in this, the largest town on the island.

The grandest building in town is the parish church, built from black volcanic stone.

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Stay in a cute stone cottage at Aldeia Cuada

Just outside Fajã Grande, in the section where the mist clears to reveal jungly foliage and tropical flowers, there’s a small village called Aldeia Cuada. It was abandoned a long time ago and the volcanic stone cottages are gradually being restored and converted into self catering accommodation.

Although we didn’t stay there, I wish we had. Each cottage is unique and has a private garden area, although there’s a bar and shared garden behind reception which is open to visitors if you want to be more sociable.

What we missed on Flores island

The geological phenomenon of Rocha dos Bordões remains unseen, at least by Dori and I. We tried at least twice to see this unusual rock formation but the mist wasn’t having any of it. The central lakes are another mystery and I’m determined to do the PR3 walking trail around them when I return.

Rocha dos Bordões. Image courtesy of Aldeia da Cuada
Rocha dos Bordões. Image courtesy of Aldeia da Cuada

Getting around Flores

When I first started planning this trip to the Azores, I had hoped to avoid renting a car. Further research into public transport soon convinced me that a car makes much more sense, especially as there are no buses at weekends.

Tip: Don’t leave it too late to book – there are limited vehicles on each island so although it’s possible to get great deals, last minute high season prices will be steep.

See my car rental tips

Getting to Flores island

Budget airlines like EasyJet have started flying to the Azores, making these Atlantic islands more accessible and affordable than before. However, they only fly to the main island, São Miguel, so you’ll need an inter-island flight from SATA to get to Flores island itself. Note that it’s one of the furthest islands in the archipelago so flights are not especially frequent and you’ll have to plan ahead.

Where to stay in Flores, Azores

Accommodation options on Flores island are somewhat limited so it’s best to book ahead if you can.

Depending on where you base yourself, you can choose from:

Casas da Cascatas, which has a house by the base of Poço da Bacalhau

INATEL Flores, a modern hotel with a pool and ocean views in Santa Cruz

Sítio da Assumada, a wooden eco lodge near Fajã Grande

A stone cottage in the village of Aldeia Cuada that I mentioned earlier.

Azores guide books and maps

Click to order your copy from Amazon:

Top 10 Azores (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)
List Price:$14.00
Price:$11.68
You Save:$2.32
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Azores (Bradt Travel Guides)
List Price:$24.99
Price:$16.99
You Save:$8.00
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If you like lists of top 10s, this is the book for you Top 10 Azores (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide). Otherwise, try the more traditional format of Azores (Bradt Travel Guide Azores)

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Flores Azores. Things to do on Flores island
Flores Azores. Things to do on Flores island

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Booking.com, a website I have been happily using for years. If you make a booking, I may receive a small commission that goes towards the costs of running this blog. The price you pay is not affected.

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9 Comments

  1. Hello. We are travelling to Sao Miguel in July via SATA. Is there a ferry going to Flores?

    1. Author

      There is, but it would take far too long. SATA do inter-island flights and I would definitely recommend this. Having said that, you’ve only got a few days, as I recall, so I would avoid trying to squeeze in any more islands. We spent 4 nights on São Miguel and could easily have stayed another 4 or more.

  2. Congratulations for your informative report and pictures. Please allow me just to add some more insider tips to your description.

    When you come back you will want to spare more than 3 days to get to know the island. Less time is not only risky due to the unreliable weather (probably a lesson already learned by now), but the island has enough natural attractions to keep you busy for longer than that, especially if you want to go beyond the “Been There, Seen That, Done That“ and walk the long and short trails, get to know the wonderful coast of the island by boat, try one the best canyoning experiences one can have, and so on. Not to mention the best way to get an insight of the island by taking the time to talk and get involved with locals.

    In the grocery store cum café that you mention in Fajã Grande, locals reserve the bread in the previous day, to avoid food waste. But obviously this is not meant to exclude tourists; anyone can do the same, including tourists (and many actually do it. Just ask!). Furthermore, in the summer, they order much more bread than the one that is reserved in advance exactly to extend the offer to foreigners not aware of the ‘system’. Papo-seco (not “papa-seco”) is the less considered type of bread among locals, that’s probably why they tried to offer a better one for breakfast, but if you do not like it, just let them know, the couple there is extremely nice and helpful and I’m sure they would be glad to have your feedback.

    There’s nothing strange about swimming under the waterfall “Poço do Bacalhau” (not “Bacalhãu”), both locals and tourists do it and it’s one of their favorite activities. If you get strange looks is probably because either the weather is not very welcoming or you have some very conservative companion. Regarding the name of the waterfall, the ‘cod’ name has no relation with your explanation (even if it’s nice, one can of course make use of imagination). Its origin is not really known even if there’s a peculiar story that some locals know but not all will dare to tell you about it.

    As for Ponta Delgada (not “Ponte Delgada”; ponte means bridge in Portuguese), one of the mini-markets and the well-known restaurant “O Pescador” are right in the centre of the village, therefore extremely easy to find.

    Fajãs cannot really be defined as “the flat parts that can be farmed”. They are flat surfaces created from collapsing cliffs or lava flows. But the island used to be cultivated also in much higher altitudes, even in steep slopes and in small islets. Still today you find cattle in different altitudes and (strangely to tourists) steep cliffs.

    And finally, the house that was being restored in Fajã Lopo Vaz (ready by now) is primarily aimed at tourists that want to experience being in such a magic and isolated place but have no tent and sleeping bags as many others use. If you try to talk to locals they will be more than happy to giving you the full story and that’s the best way to get to know the details (and even some sectrets) of the island.

    Happy travelling!
    Luisa Madruga

    1. Author

      Hi Luisa,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to clarify and expand on some of the points I mentioned. I’ve corrected the spelling mistakes you mentioned and some others I was horrified to spot!

      I knew there had to be somewhere to buy food in Ponta Delgada – we somehow managed to miss these, despite walking around. As you say, we could have asked but weren’t in desperate need at the time.

      Looking forward to returning so that I can get to know the island, and its people, better.

  3. We’ve flown with SATA a couple of times to and from North America and they use Flores as a maintenance stop but all we’ve seen so far is the airport lounge. However, looking at your photos I’m convinced that next time we get there we need to do a stopover of a few days to explore this island – maybe in the spring so our chances of fog are less. Anita

  4. Definitely on my hot list, Julie, but I do have concerns for the weather if I go in Winter. I’ll probably only manage once so I’d prefer a little sunshine. 🙂

    1. Author

      Last January was apparently like a summer month but I’m told that May and October are good times to visit. December and January are typically the worst for weather, despite anomalies.

  5. I enjoyed seeing photos of your visit to Flores. My husband was born in the Azores and has family there. We mainly visit the main island of Sao Miguel, but we’ve visited a few others but not Flores.
    I find the islands get a lot of fog mostly during Autumn/Winter, but they are all beautiful and unspoilt.

    1. Author

      Glad you liked it Sami. I can’t aait to go back – so much greenery and scenery 🙂

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