Updated: September 13, 2023
Perched in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores is a contrast of deep blues and vibrant greens. With rolling hills, pristine lakes, and jaw-dropping views from the many miradouros (viewpoints) scattered across the islands, these islands are a place of beauty. Real estate in the Azores is relatively underdeveloped compared to some other locations in Portugal. Yet its natural beauty, coupled with an increasing number of luxury amenities, makes it a very desirable location for investors. Expect the property market to heat up here in the coming years.
For everything you need to know about buying in Portugal, you can consult our article, Portugal Real Estate: Everything You Should Know Before You Buy.
Azores Real Estate: The Wonder of the Azores
The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands, each with its own unique landscapes and with a total area of 2,346 km². São Miguel island is the largest and most populated, where about 56 percent of the population lives. Here, the capital, Ponta Delgada, is the most populated and you find more properties here. This is where the majority of the luxury real estate on the islands can be found.
Although farming and fishing are the main industries within the islands, given the richness of agricultural land and the history of fishing, tourism, and property investment have become increasingly important to the economy.
A place of natural wonder, the quietness of the Azores speaks volumes, and the islands have not been overrun with mass tourism. This is managed impeccably and retains, at its heart, a love of local produce, natural activities, and undiscovered landscapes.
Take the natural hot thermal waters of the geysers, go for long walks across the hills, or settle down with a warm coffee from a viewpoint to soak in the wonders before you. Time seems to stand still on the islands. This is a good thing, as you are sure to come across grazing cattle blocking the road at some point, something that you will need to exercise your patience for. Beautiful sunsets signal another day passing and with sublime sea views across the island (when the unpredictable island weather is not playing games), you are constantly close to the bountiful beauty of nature.
Why invest in real estate in the Azores?
Once very much off the investor’s radar, real estate in the Azores is now making its way onto the investor’s map. Indeed, the luxury market has taken off in recent years. Most of this is centered on the island of São Miguel in the capital of Ponta Delgada. The city center of Ponta Delgada has fine dining, luxury hotels, and waterfront properties with staggering views of the Atlantic Ocean- indeed, this could be an excellent location to invest in.
Changes to the Golden Visa came into force on 1 January 2022, signaling that investors will no longer be able to invest in non-interior areas, such as Lisbon, Porto, and many parts of the Algarve. This will increase investor interest in the islands as both Madeira and the Azores will remain eligible for the scheme as they are deemed interior areas. More information on interior areas can be found in our article: Invest in Portugal Low Density Areas | An Oasis of Calm.
Note: The Golden Visa real estate pathway is coming to an end soon. If you are interested in applying for this investment route of the program, we recommend you begin your application now. For more information, consult our article: Portugal Is Ending Its Golden Visa Program.
Additionally, the Azores are a very safe location with a low crime rate. This adds to the attractiveness of the islands as an investment hub.
Azores Real Estate Market
A significant advantage of properties on the Azores is that they remain relatively cheap compared to continental Portugal and the autonomous island of Madeira, and even more so when contrasted with their European neighbors.
As with any property, prices will vary depending on the type of property, the size, its location, whether it has a waterfront view, and additional facilities, such as a private pool, security, or a gym. However, a quick scan of the property market price here will no doubt be attractive to incoming buyers.
In the Azores, prices will also be dependent on where you are buying. The islands and parishes will each have their own price range – for example, Ponta Delgada, as the capital, will have higher prices due to increased demand, as is Lajes, a beautiful, historic town on Pico Island.
Islands and parishes that are less populated will have a cheaper price tag. Take Corvo Island as an example. As the smallest islands – both geographically and population-wise (just 465 inhabitants) – properties here are very affordable. However, buyers here may feel relatively isolated, and the luxury perks present in Ponta Delgada and other more populous areas will be lacking. An indication of the prices for villas on the different islands can be seen below.
Azores Real Estate: An Overview of the Market
The Azores can be divided into three groups of islands. In the east, you have São Miguel and Santa Maria; in the center, you’ll find Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial; and in the west, Corvo and Flores. Cultures, cuisines, and traditions are very different on each island. However, the islands as a whole all retain a quaint and unspoiled ambiance. If you are looking for property for sale in Azores, here is a brief overview of each.
The Eastern Islands: São Miguel and Santa Maria
The island of São Miguel is the most developed, with the capital, Ponta Delgada, the most populous city on the archipelago. If you are looking for luxury properties, here is a good place to start your search. Ponta Delgada, the capital, is where you will find fine dining and five-star hotels. This is also where you will find an active nightlife scene. Ponta Delgada lies between the mountains and the sea. In the city, the buildings, streets, and sidewalks are built with volcanic rocks – leading to an element of rustic elegance in the city. As mentioned, you will also find more properties here than on the other islands.
The island of Santa Maria close by has inviting beaches of white sand, vineyards covering the slopes, and an amphitheater that resembles a giant staircase. The long beach at Praia Formosa is a particular gem. And if you’re looking for Azores waterfront property for sale in Portugal, you can find many options on the eastern islands.
The Azores real estate for rent market is as diverse as real estate for sale. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Ponta Delgada will set you back €750 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you €1,033 per month. If you buy outside the city center, prices will fall considerably. Plus, as Ponta Delgada is the capital, prices in other cities will also be lower.
The Central Islands: Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial
Terceira island is an attractive option if you are looking for a luxury villa. With beautiful sea views of the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps a private pool, and your very own quiet area in the depths of nature, you will be able to find homes to unwind and relax. Terceira is the second-largest island in the peninsula and could prove to be the most perfect secluded spot. Most tourists tend to fill their days on São Miguel island, so Terceira could be a quieter option without the steadily increasing tourist flow.
Graciosa translates as “graceful” or “enchanting” in Portuguese, and with only 4,780 inhabitants, it is one of the quietest islands. The long, slender island of São Jorge has a slightly different cuisine. Here, the focus is on the abundant use of spices brought to the island during the Age of Exploration. Local delicacies include fish, pork, and clam dishes.
And then you have Pico Island, which is home to the highest mountain in Portugal. The wine scene here is incredible, and the rugged island has its own unique ambiance. Only 300,000 years old, Pico island is practically a youngster when compared to the other islands – which are millions of years old. This island is also where Lajes do Pico is located. This municipality is where you will find the historic town of Lajes, a very beautiful place to visit. Pico is also the most expensive place to buy property in the Azores.
Faial Island is also an option for the more adventurous. As with the other islands in the center of the archipelago (with the exception of Terceira), Faial is also remote. However, the beauty of Faial comes in the form of the flowers that grow there. Here, you have beautiful hydrangeas blooming in the summer months.
The Western Islands: Corvo and Flores
Corvo is the smallest island, and where you will find a very small population. Here prices are very cheap. It is unique in terms of its ecology, with many protected areas and bird species on the island. The island of Flores has a slightly bigger population size yet is also relatively undiscovered in terms of real estate, with unique bird species. If you are looking for luxury real estate in the Azores, then the central or eastern islands are probably more likely to cater to your needs.
In the western islands of the Azores, you will be able to find some lovely options when it comes to Azores real estate for sale. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by both the enchanting beauty that surrounds you, and the affordably of property here.
The Azores are a wonder of the natural world, a relatively unspoiled picture of a life that has not been overwhelmed with modern life. This may sound ideal, but what are the practical implications of living in these islands of paradise? Here, we provide you with some practical information on living in the Azores.
Expats in the Azores
There are many expats living in the Azores, which can be a welcoming sight. Many expats moving to the Azores create a new business – often related to tourism – and most are successful. As there are many activities to do outside, it should not be too difficult to get to know new people. For example, golf, watersports, and hiking are each popular activities here – and a great way to stay healthy. There is also a great diving scene in the Azores, and the islands prove a great location to view whales and dolphins from the coast.
Expats looking to retire to the lush green Azores will be happy to know that it is a very desirable location. With fewer weather extremes and tax benefits (such as the very attractive NHR scheme), you will not just be pleased by the peace and quiet of the islands.
Costs of living in the Azores
The Azores are very affordable, and you should be able to live comfortably on a small budget. However, those looking to live the luxury life – with fine dining, five-star hotels, and luxury resorts – can expect to pay higher prices.
Note that imported products can be a little more expensive as the Azores are a remote island. The islands, in general, are very affordable. The quality of the local produce is also outstanding.
Healthcare in the Azores
The National Health Service (SNS) in Portugal is very good, and there are also many private options available. However, if you are located on one of the smaller islands, services can be lacking.
Non-EU citizens who are looking to retire in Portugal should have private health insurance, at least until they secure their residence permit. Healthcare under the National Health System is free for children under 18 and persons over 65 years old. Others will simply need to pay a small fee to see the doctor. If you need to have more specialist procedures, such as X-rays, you will need to pay a little more.
Lifestyle and culture
The primary attractions of the Azores are their stunning views and their tranquility. However, each island has its own customs and traditions. You can expect to find welcoming locals and a range of festivals – such as the Festa das Vindimas (Wine Harvest festival) or the Festival da Maré de Agosto (August seafood festival).
The luxury market has also rapidly expanded in recent years, alongside the rise in tourism. There are now several fine dining options, particularly in Ponta Delgada. Here, you have five-star hotels and beautiful modern villas with simply stunning views.
Because of the fewer extremes in weather, compared to continental Portugal, for the active types, the island is a paradise. There is hiking, biking, plus a wide range of watersport and diving activities where you can get your nature fix.
The islands have a very relaxed way of life – so make sure you adjust to this slower pace of life. With fresh seafood, tea and pineapple plantations, and local queijo (cheese) – try the cheese from São Miguel island, and you will not be disappointed – the Azores boasts impressive and varied produce. The focus on incredible cheeses should come as no surprise to those who have visited the islands. You will not have to look far to see cattle grazing on the vibrant green grass – perhaps one of the most fitting images for the islands.
Transport in the Azores
With many frequent flights from Europe and the USA, flying is the best way to get to the islands. There are three main airports on the islands that fly internationally. However, each island has its own airport that offers internal flights between the islands.
It takes about five hours to fly from the UK to the Azores, about six hours from the USA, and two and a half hours from mainland Portugal.
The airports that provide international flights are:
- João Paulo II Airport, located on São Miguel;
- Horta Airport, located in Faial, and
- Lages, located on Terceira
When you are in the Azores, it is probably best to get around by car. Alongside this, public transport is not one of the strong points of the islands. All islands except Covo have bus and taxi transportation. However, if you want to get around quickly on your own schedule, we recommend renting a car.
To get from island to island, there is a ferry network alongside domestic flights. Be aware that the ferries have to operate in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As such, currents and waves can sometimes rock the boat a little.
Goldcrest: How We Can Help You
Goldcrest is a buyer’s agent that is based in Lisbon. We provide expert, impartial advice on real estate investments and how to buy property in Portugal. From scouting out the perfect property through to property acquisition, we have you covered throughout the process.
If you are looking to purchase property in Portugal, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our team of skilled experts is available to solve all your real estate doubts, helping you with the property search and offering insightful expertise and strategic advice.
Why choose Goldcrest?
- Local knowledge: With offices located across Portugal, our presence nationwide allows us to assist you personally across the country.
- Independent service: As an independent buying agent, we do not represent any development or project. Our service is entirely tailored toward each individual client, providing you with everything you need to secure the perfect property at the best possible price. As an impartial advisor on the market, we work solely on behalf of our client and provide a service tailored to your needs and requirements.
- Streamlined process: Our real estate agents speak English and Portuguese, and our service is completely focused on providing you with a hassle-free buying experience, saving you time.
- Experienced team: Our expert real estate team has a vast local knowledge of the Portuguese property market. We have cutting-edge technology and metasearch tools at your disposal to provide full market coverage, ensuring the best investment choices and negotiated prices.
- Network of partners: Lawyers, property management services, builders, architects, designers, and landscape gardeners, again saving you time and hassle by providing you with trusted experts in their field of work.
- Member of the AIPP (Association of International Property Professionals), delivering company best practices and upholding professional values.
Frequently Asked Questions about Real Estate in the Azores
Where is the best place to buy luxury Azores real estate?
The capital, Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island, has the most developed luxury real estate market and is a good starting point to find properties for sale in Azores.
Is Azores real estate a good investment?
The Azores is a very safe investment opportunity – with increased demand, cheap properties, and changes to the Golden Visa scheme creating increased investment interest in the islands. You will find numerous properties for sale in Azores, often at very reasonable prices.
Are the Azores islands a good place to retire?
Yes, the Azores are a good place to retire – with beautiful scenery, the attractive NHR scheme, and plenty of outdoor activities, such as golfing.
Ensure that you are close to healthcare facilities; however, as on the smaller islands, this can be lacking.
Is the Azores a good place to live?
The Azores provides an excellent quality of life and is very affordable when compared with other parts of Europe. However, the Azores have a lot more to offer than just a low cost of living. The climate is nice the majority of the year, and the islands are very safe, with low crime rates. If you are a nature lover looking for a relaxed pace of life, the Azores could be the ultimate destination to secure your dream home.
You will find numerous properties for sale in Azores at affordable prices, particularly when compared to house prices in America.
Is there an expat community in the Azores?
The Azores are home to a significant number of Americans. Due to the American airfield there, the majority live in Terceira (Lajes Field), also there are US nationals in Pico and Sao Miguel.
Can foreigners buy property in Azores?
Yes, foreigners will face no restrictions when it comes to buying property in the Azores. They will, however, need to secure Portuguese residency should they wish to live in the country.
The process for purchasing a home in the Azores is the same as it is across Portugal, so there are no legal barriers that prevent foreigners from purchasing a home in the Azores. Whether you are looking to buy in the capital, Ponta Delgada, or on one of the more remote islands, you will face no restrictions on buying property.
Which is prettiest island in Azores?
Nicknamed the “Hawaii of Europe,” São Miguel is a stunning island and also the biggest. Terceira, Pico, and Faial Island are also attractive options to secure your dream home. Each of the Azores islands is breathtaking in its own unique way, from the more populous islands in the east to the less inhabited, more remote islands of the west. More properties can be found in São Miguel, which has the largest expat community and the capital, Ponta Delgada.