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 and Portugal Golden Visa changes makes it a very desirable location for investors. Expect the property market to heat up here in the coming years.
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 56% of the population lives. Here, the capital, Ponta Delgada, is the most populated. 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. The island has 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 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.
The changes to the Golden Visa that will unfold on 1 January 2022 – full details of which can be found here – signal that investors will no longer be able to invest in high-density areas on continental Portugal, such as Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. This will increase investor interest in the islands as both Madeira and the Azores will remain eligible for the scheme.
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.
Real estate in the Azores – prices
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 on 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 islands
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.
The eastern islands – São Miguel and Santa Maria
The island of São Miguel is the most developed. 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.
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.
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 depth 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 focusis on the abundant use of spices, brought to the island during the Age of Exploration. Local delicacies induce fish, pork, and clams 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.
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.
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 that 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 on 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.