How to nail wild camping in the Azores [local insights]
Nothing beats some local insights when it comes down to fishing, opening a lemon-stand and wild camping. Planning a holiday to the Azores? You are reading the right post for your travel preparation -if camping is your thing. So get yourself ready for your next destination. Even if you don’t have gear…
Why would you want to camp in the Azores?
Hands-down, there is no place like the Azores and this is why it attracts people from all over the globe. Imagine, receding on a volcano, in the middle of the blue Atlantic, where the landscape is evergreen and the temperature always comfortable. It is still very quiet and spacious out here and you can escape the ‘crowd’ when you go your own way.
At the moment tourism on the Azores is dominated by only a few high-end hotels, a hand full of guest houses and lots of AirBnb’s. Great if you want to hang with pensionado’s, rent the house of someone’s aunt or live the village life. But if you really want to touch the beauty of this archipelago, you want to sleep under the stars. Right?
Is wild camping legal in Portugal?
Let’s start with a small disclaimer. It is safe to state that wild camping is not legal in Portugal. So if the authorities see you putting up your tent or parking your camper van in a random spot, you will get send away and it might lead to fine up to € 200,-. This is the official statement -and until where I will take my responsibility 😉
The unofficial statement and my personal experience is that there are some ways to deal creatively with this situation.
How to find a free camping spot in the Azores?
If budget is your main motivation to go wild camping, the Azores are your Walhalla. All the islands I have visited so far (São Miguel, Pico, Terceira and Flores) have public camping spots. They are located in the most fantastic locations. And they are free. Plus you have a BBQ setup and something like a toilet. Whoohoow! And strangely enough, you will hardly find a soul out there.
You can find them, among the paid camping parks, on the website of Visit Azores. The offices of the local tourism board are a great resource to point these out for you as well.
Here I want to make a special shout out to the free campsite in São Roque on Pico Island. Hidden in a beautiful forest location and next to the ocean you find a small camp with decent facilities and yes, it’s free. Thank you, local government and EU support funds. I have spend a great time there, sure you will too.
Wild camping allowed in Terceira
Lucky bunny if you visit Terceira. You can find 3 spots where wild camping is allowed. Okay, it is not whoopy wild, but the best place to sleep on this island is definitely for free. We call it The Balcony.
Imagine a safe space, a terrace, 50 odd meters above the sea, with a wide angle view over the ocean, where the sun goes down right in front of your sun burnt nose. Gather some wood from the shrubs below, create a fire circle and romance is On. Other people call this place Miradouro de Raminho. It is located in the north west of the island.
Great detail, the surrounding area -Floresta de Serreta, contains an overgrown agricultural society. When you explore the magical forest along the cliff you find a never ending pattern of stone walls draped over the hilly forest floor. Make sure to explore this echo of the past.
Other public places to camp legally for free are Salgueiros and São Bras. These are also BBQ hangouts with a small playground and simple toilet facilities. If this is too well behaved for you, you have to put on your adventure hat and go wild.
Can you make a tent camp in nature?
Listen kids: It is not legal to just setup a camp with your tent anywhere in nature.
However: my experience with the local authorities on the Azores is that the are very agreeable, understanding and not out and about to throw some fines in any situation they can.
Also, in the summer season there are many local activities. The daily task of guarding bullfights and other town- and Christian celebrations take most of their time on the job. You will not find some Deputy Dewy roaming through the forest in order to catch an innocent nature admirer. Just as long as you don’t do anything stupid, of course.
For starters, you have to make sure that you a not in a nature reserve or a breading area. My opinion is that when you keep your place clean and tidy and leave it the way you found it, you should be fine. There are general wild camping ethics, as you know.
One of these includes that you only use already dead wood for your stove. You can make a responsible cooking fire or use a stove in the Azores (careful here, again this is only my personal opinion). The humidity is high and there is rainfall throughout the year. Also, since you are on a volcanic rock, there are plenty of stones to find to make a safe pit.
Are you not comfortable with the risk of getting caught? There is a plan B.
Find a field and make friends with local farmers
Fiend a field to camp. Some people prefer to pitch their tent in one of the million green carpets of Terceira. I guess more than 30% of the landscape consists of farm fields and my advice is to venture through the landscape. If you take the great red gravel roads you really get off the main track. We sleeps your tent tonight?
Some fields have bulls and some farmers have guns. So this is a good time to use that well-developed soft skills and brush off your Portuguese vocabulary. A bit of local slang opens many doors and you will find that the people of Terceira are curious and willing to help.
A small words of advice here. Some folks might not understand you and are shy to speak English. Changes are they have never been asked to host hobby hobo like yourself. This may result in a grumpy face. Don’t get put off by that. Give your smile and take your time. You will sleep so much more comfortable when you know that you have sorted everything out with your new born host.
Need some help?
I can imagine you are stoked to explore The Azores’ nature and want to pitch your tent anywhere in Terceira. We are happy to help you with this, since our reason of existence is promote, stimulate and facilitate camping in the Azores.
We can provide you with the right gear to go free camping. You receive a complete party pack with tent, sleeping stuff and cooking gear to kick-start your adventure. All you have to do is take that low cost flight -hand luggage only and you are set. Her you can read more about our camping gear.
Are you the yes-i-love-camping-but-I-like-it-a-bit-more-convenient-kinda-person? We feel you. For all those who want to sleep outdoors without going through any burden, we have pitched 3 romantic and comfortable tents in our orchard. Beds already made. Check out our eco-camping and pick your spot.
In any case, we love to hear from you.