The 13 Best Islands in Portugal to Visit: From Madeira to Corvo

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From the stunning Madeira to the picturesque Corvo, Portugal offers a range of breathtaking islands for every traveler. Whether you are seeking a relaxing beach getaway or an adventurous exploration, these islands have it all. In this article, I will guide you through the beauty and charm of the most beautiful 13 islands in Portugal, providing you with insights to make the most of your visit. 

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When you visit the islands of Portugal, you can expect breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. The archipelagos, such as the Azores and Madeira, offer stunning volcanic formations, lush greenery, and crystal-clear waters for you to explore and enjoy. Additionally, you will have the chance to immerse in the rich Portuguese heritage, with traditional cuisine, music, and warm hospitality awaiting you at every turn.

And now join me as we embark on a journey to explore the best islands that Portugal has to offer!

1) Madeira

Madeira is one of the most captivating islands in Portugal, offering a myriad of breathtaking landscapes and unique cultural experiences. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the Canary Islands, Madeira is renowned for its natural beauty, lush greenery, and pleasant climate. The island is characterized by its rugged coastline, towering cliffs, and picturesque valleys, making it a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

One of the highlights of visiting Madeira is exploring its stunning landscapes. From the dramatic peaks of Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo to the enchanting Laurissilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the island is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Hiking trails crisscross the island, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding mountains.Madeira Stands as One of Portugal’s Most Enchanting Islands, Boasting a Wealth of Stunning Landscapes

In addition to its natural beauty, Madeira also boasts a rich cultural heritage. The capital city, Funchal, is a vibrant and charming destination with its colorful buildings, cobbled streets, and historic landmarks. Visitors can explore the city’s fascinating museums, such as the Madeira Story Centre and the CR7 Museum, dedicated to the famous Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

No trip to Madeira is complete without indulging in the island’s culinary delights. The local cuisine is a fusion of Portuguese, African, and Mediterranean influences, creating a unique gastronomic experience. From fresh seafood dishes to traditional Madeiran specialties like espetada and bolo do caco, the island offers a feast for the senses.

2) São Miguel Island

São Miguel Island, also known as the “Green Island,” is a must-visit destination when exploring Portugal. Located in the Azores archipelago, this island offers a breathtaking landscape that will leave you speechless.

One of the highlights of São Miguel Island is its stunning natural beauty. From lush forests to volcanic craters, this island has it all. One of the must-see attractions is Sete Cidades, a twin lake formed within a volcanic crater. The contrasting colors of the lakes, one blue and the other green create a mesmerizing sight that is truly unique.São Miguel Island, Often Referred to as the “Green Island,” Is an Essential Destination When Exploring Portugal

For nature enthusiasts, São Miguel Island offers an abundance of outdoor activities. Hiking trails wind through the island, allowing you to explore its diverse flora and fauna. The Furnas Valley is a popular spot for nature lovers, with its hot springs and geysers. You can even enjoy a relaxing soak in one of the natural thermal pools.

In addition to its natural wonders, São Miguel Island also boasts charming towns and villages. The capital, Ponta Delgada, is a vibrant city with a rich history and beautiful architecture. Don’t miss the chance to stroll along the cobblestone streets and visit the local markets, where you can sample delicious regional delicacies.



3) Porto Santo

Located in the Madeira Archipelago, off the northwest coast of Africa, Porto Santo offers a unique and unforgettable experience if you are seeking a peaceful getaway with pristine golden beaches and crystal-clear waters.

The main attraction of Porto Santo is its stunning 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) stretch of sandy beach, which is considered one of the best in Europe. The beach’s soft golden sand and calm waters make it the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying water sports. You can also explore the island’s rugged coastline, with its cliffs, caves, and natural pools, providing ample opportunities for adventure and exploration.Famous for Its Unspoiled Golden Beaches and Clear Waters, Porto Santo Is One of the Most Captivating Islands in Portugal

Aside from its natural beauty, Porto Santo also boasts a rich history and culture. The island is home to several historical sites, including the Christopher Columbus House Museum, which commemorates the explorer’s time on the island. Here you can learn about Columbus’ connection to Porto Santo and explore the museum’s exhibits, which showcase artifacts and information about his life and voyages.

For nature enthusiasts, Porto Santo offers a variety of outdoor activities. Hiking trails crisscross the island, leading visitors through its diverse landscapes, including rolling hills, verdant valleys, and rugged mountains. The Pico do Facho viewpoint offers panoramic views of the island, where you can marvel at its beauty and take in the breathtaking scenery.

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4) Pico Island

Pico Island, located in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, is undeniably one of the most captivating destinations in Portugal. With its stunning landscapes and unique attractions, it has become a must-visit for travelers seeking a genuine and memorable experience.

The island’s centerpiece is Mount Pico, the highest peak in Portugal, reaching an impressive 2,351 meters above sea level. This imposing mountain offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding islands and the vast Atlantic Ocean. If you are an adventurous soul you can embark on a challenging hike to the summit, rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and awe-inspiring vistas.Pico Island, Situated Within the Portuguese Archipelago of the Azores, Unquestionably Ranks Among the Most Captivating Destinations in Portugal

Apart from its natural wonders, Pico Island is renowned for its vineyards, which produce some of the finest wines in the region. The unique volcanic soil and microclimate create the perfect conditions for grape cultivation, resulting in rich and flavorful wines. Explore the vineyards, taste the local wines, and learn about the traditional winemaking techniques passed down through generations.

For those interested in marine life, Pico Island is an ideal spot for whale and dolphin watching. Its strategic location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean attracts a wide variety of cetacean species, including sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins. Guided boat tours provide a chance to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and learn about their behaviors from knowledgeable guides.

5) Berlenga Island

Occasionally overlooked by travelers, but still worth exploring, Berlenga Island is a hidden gem off the coast of Portugal. Situated about 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of the city of Peniche, this small island is part of the Berlengas archipelago and is a protected nature reserve. With its rugged coastline, crystal-clear waters, and abundance of wildlife, Berlenga Island offers a unique and unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

The island’s main attraction is the Fort of São João Baptista, a 17th-century fortress that sits atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This impressive structure, built to defend the coast against pirates and invaders, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can explore the fort’s maze-like corridors, climb to the top of its tower for panoramic views, and learn about its fascinating history.While Occasionally Overlooked by Travelers, Berlenga Island Is a Hidden Gem off the Coast of Portugal That Is Truly Worth Exploring

In addition to the fort, Berlenga Island offers opportunities for hiking, snorkeling, and birdwatching. The island is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare plant species and nesting seabirds such as seagulls and cormorants. Snorkelers and divers can explore the underwater caves and grottoes that surround the island, discovering a vibrant marine ecosystem teeming with colorful fish and other sea creatures.

To reach Berlenga Island, you can take a boat from Peniche, which operates during the summer months. The boat trip itself is an adventure, with stunning views of the rugged cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before you. Once on the island, you can spend the day exploring its natural wonders, or even opt to stay overnight at the island’s only accommodation, the Fort of São João Baptista, which offers basic but comfortable rooms and breathtaking views.



6) Culatra Island

Culatra Island, located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park in the Algarve region, is a true gem that holds its own among the other stunning islands in Portugal. Known for its pristine beaches, picturesque landscapes, and unique charm, Culatra Island offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

One of the main attractions of Culatra Island is its breathtaking natural beauty. The island boasts long stretches of golden sand beaches that are lapped by crystal-clear turquoise waters. These beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying various water sports activities. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse flora and fauna found on the island, including a variety of bird species that make Culatra Island their home.Culatra Island in the Ria Formosa Natural Park Stands Proudly Among the Other Breathtaking Islands in Portugal

In addition to its natural beauty, Culatra Island also offers a range of attractions to enjoy. One such attraction is the picturesque village of Culatra, which is inhabited by a small community of fishermen and locals. Strolling through the narrow streets of the village, you can admire the traditional whitewashed houses and immerse yourself in the laid-back island lifestyle.

Another must-see attraction on Culatra Island is the Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria, a historic lighthouse that stands proudly on the eastern tip of the island. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse and be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and the shimmering Atlantic Ocean.

7) Santa Maria

One of the lesser-known islands in Portugal, yet still worth a visit, is Santa Maria. Located in the Azores archipelago, Santa Maria is known for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. This small island has a population of around 5,500 people and covers an area of just 97 square kilometers (37 square miles).

Santa Maria is often referred to as the “Sun Island” due to its warm and sunny climate. With its golden sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, it is a paradise for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts. The island offers a variety of activities such as snorkeling, diving, and sailing, allowing visitors to explore its underwater world and admire the diverse marine life.Santa Maria Is Often Affectionately Known as the “Sun Island” Thanks to Its Consistently Warm and Sunny Climate

If you are a nature enthusiast you will be delighted by the natural beauty of Santa Maria. The island is home to several protected areas, including the Pico Alto Forest Reserve, where you can hike through lush forests, explore volcanic landscapes, and enjoy breathtaking views from the island’s highest peak.

Santa Maria also has a rich historical and cultural heritage. The island was the first to be discovered by Portuguese navigators in the 15th century and played an important role in the Age of Discovery. The town of Vila do Porto, the capital of the island is a charming place with colorful houses, narrow streets, and a beautiful main square. You can explore historical sites such as the Nossa Senhora da Assunção Church and the São Brás Fort, which offer insights into the island’s past.

8) Terceira

Terceira is the third-largest island in the Azores archipelago, boasting a diverse range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Located in the central group of islands, Terceira offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, historical sites, and vibrant culture.

If you love nature you will be captivated by the island’s stunning landscapes, including lush green fields, volcanic craters, and dramatic cliffs. The Monte Brasil Natural Park, a dormant volcano, is a must-visit spot offering breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding ocean. Hiking trails crisscross the island, allowing you to explore its diverse flora and fauna.Terceira, the Third-Largest Island in the Azores Archipelago, Offers a Diverse Range of Attractions and Activities for Visitors to Enjoy

If you are a history buff you will appreciate Terceira’s rich heritage, evident in its charming towns and well-preserved architecture. Angra do Heroísmo, the island’s capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its historic center. The city’s cobbled streets are lined with colorful buildings, elegant churches, and picturesque squares. The impressive São Sebastião and São Francisco churches are must-see landmarks that showcase the island’s colonial past.

Terceira is also known for its lively festivals, such as the Sanjoaninas, a week-long celebration in honor of São João, the island’s patron saint. During this time, the streets come alive with parades, traditional music, and dance performances. The bullfighting tradition, unique to the Azores, adds to the island’s vibrant culture.



9) São Jorge

São Jorge is an enchanting island located in the Azores archipelago, known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique cultural heritage. This picturesque island is situated between the islands of Pico and Terceira and is named after the legendary dragon-slaying saint, Saint George. São Jorge is characterized by its dramatic cliffs, deep valleys, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the island’s most notable natural attractions is Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, a secluded coastal area that is home to a natural lagoon and a small fishing community. This untouched paradise offers you a chance to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. The island is also known for its volcanic landscape, with several volcanic cones and craters dotting the island’s interior.São Jorge, Nestled in the Azores Archipelago, Is a Truly Enchanting Island Renowned for Its Breathtaking Landscapes and Unique Cultural Heritage

In addition to its natural beauty, São Jorge is also rich in cultural heritage. The island is famous for its traditional cheese production, particularly the São Jorge cheese, which has a distinct flavor and is highly praised by cheese connoisseurs worldwide. You can explore the cheese factories, learn about the cheese-making process, and even sample some of the delicious varieties.

The island is also home to several charming villages that showcase the traditional way of life in the Azores. Velas, the main town of São Jorge, is a charming coastal town with colorful houses and a picturesque harbor. Other notable villages include Topo, known for its lighthouse and natural pools, and Calheta, famous for its black sand beach.

10) Graciosa

Graciosa, a small island located in the Azores archipelago, offers you a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural charm. With its gentle landscapes, picturesque villages, and rich history, Graciosa is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

One of the island’s most striking features is its volcanic landscape. Explore the Furna do Enxofre, a volcanic cave that was formed by the eruption of the Água de Pau volcano. Inside the cave, a lake of sulfur water creates an otherworldly atmosphere, while stalactites and stalagmites add to the mystical ambiance.Graciosa, a Petite Island Nestled Within the Azores Archipelago, Invites Visitors to Experience a Delightful Blend of Natural Beauty and Cultural Charm

Graciosa is also known for its vineyards, which produce the famous Verdelho wine. If you love wine you can visit the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in tastings. The island’s fertile soil and favorable climate make it the perfect place for grape cultivation.

The charming village of Santa Cruz da Graciosa is also worth a visit. Its whitewashed houses, narrow streets, and colorful gardens create a postcard-worthy scene. The village is also home to the impressive Church of Santa Cruz, a 16th-century architectural masterpiece.

11) Flores

Flores, the westernmost island in the Azores archipelago, offers a breathtaking natural beauty and a unique island experience. Known as the “Island of Flowers,” Flores lives up to its name with its stunning landscapes and vibrant flora. This remote island is a paradise for nature lovers, boasting waterfalls, lakes, and lush green hills that stretch as far as the eye can see.

One of the highlights of Flores is its impressive network of walking trails. These trails allow you to explore the island’s diverse landscapes, from towering cliffs to peaceful valleys. The most famous trail is the Rota da Fajã Grande, which takes hikers along the rugged coastline, past cascading waterfalls, and through picturesque villages. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.Flores, Often Referred to as the “Island of Flowers,” Truly Lives up to Its Name With Its Stunning Landscapes and Vibrant Flora

Flores is also home to several natural wonders, such as the Lagoa das Sete Cidades. This twin lake, nestled in a volcanic crater, is a sight to behold. The contrasting colors of the lakes, one blue and the other green create a mesmerizing spectacle. Another must-visit spot is the Rocha dos Bordões, a formation of vertical basalt columns that resemble organ pipes. This geological marvel is a testament to the island’s volcanic origins.

In addition to its natural beauty, Flores is dotted with charming villages that offer a glimpse into the island’s rich history and culture. Santa Cruz das Flores, the island’s main town, is a picturesque settlement with colorful houses and a quaint harbor. Here, you can sample traditional Azorean cuisine, visit historic churches, and immerse yourself in the laid-back island lifestyle.



12) Tavira Island

Located off the coast of the Algarve region in Portugal, Tavira Island offers a tranquil escape from the bustling mainland. With its untouched natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere, Tavira Island is a haven for those seeking relaxation and tranquility.

The main attraction of Tavira Island is its stunning beaches. Stretching for miles, these golden sandy shores are perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The warm climate of the region ensures that you can enjoy the beaches all year round.Tavira Island Is Known for Its Immaculate Beaches and Crystal-Clear Waters, Making It a Sought-After Destination for Sunseekers and Beach Enthusiasts

In addition to its beautiful beaches, Tavira Island is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The island is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected area known for its rich biodiversity. Here you can explore the park’s walking trails and observe a variety of bird species, including flamingos and herons. The park is also a haven for marine life, making it a popular spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

To reach Tavira Island, you can take a short ferry ride from the mainland town of Tavira. The island is uninhabited, but there are facilities such as restaurants and beach bars available. For those looking to escape the crowds, there are also secluded spots where one can enjoy the peacefulness of the island.

13) Corvo Island

Corvo, the smallest island in the Azores archipelago, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this picturesque island offers a unique and untouched natural beauty that will captivate any visitor.

Despite its small size, Corvo boasts an impressive landscape. The island is dominated by a massive volcanic crater, known as Caldeirão, which is surrounded by lush green hills and cliffs that plunge into the turquoise waters below. The crater itself is a sight to behold, with its rugged terrain and a small lake at its center, adding to the island’s charm.Corvo Is Characterized by a Colossal Volcanic Crater, Known as Caldeirão, Enveloped by Lush Green Hills and Cliffs

One of the main attractions on Corvo is the charming village of Vila do Corvo. This small settlement exudes a sense of tranquility and simplicity, with its white-washed houses and narrow cobblestone streets. Explore the village at their leisure, take in the local architecture, and experience the warm hospitality of the residents.

Nature lovers will be in their element on Corvo. The island is a haven for birdwatchers, with its cliffs and coastline providing nesting sites for a variety of seabirds, including the endangered Monteiro’s storm petrel. Hiking enthusiasts can also enjoy the island’s numerous trails, which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding ocean and the opportunity to spot unique flora and fauna.

For those seeking a unique cultural experience, Corvo hosts an annual festival called “Festa do Espírito Santo.” This religious celebration showcases the island’s traditions and heritage, with colorful processions, traditional music, and the distribution of “sopas do Espírito Santo,” a typical dish of the Azores.

Conclusion

Portugal offers a diverse range of stunning islands to explore. From the picturesque landscapes of Madeira and the enchanting Azores to the tranquil beauty of Porto Santo and Berlenga Island, there is something for everyone.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a chance to immerse yourself in nature, these 13 islands provide an unforgettable experience. With their unique charm and natural wonders, Portugal’s islands are truly a must-visit destination for any traveler!

In case you are already planning your trip to Portugal or any of these islands (or any other city or country), please make sure to book your hotelflightrental car, and other travel essentials with Giving Getaway. Every completed booking earns Giving Getaway a commission, 50% of which will be used to organize charity events like the 2021 Christmas gift drive for kids and teenagers in a children’s home in Montenegro.

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