When people ask me for suggestions of activities on the islands that go beyond gazing at cows, whale watching, or doing some sort of physical activity, I don’t think they’re prepared to hear me say there are dozens of Azores festivals and cultural events throughout the year.
You will notice the summer months (June to August) are the busiest with a higher number of events and festivals, pretty much in tune with what happens in the rest of the country. From a logistical point of view, organizing festivals in the Azores in the winter or the spring is a challenge, to say the least. Besides, summer is the time of year when the islands have more visitors, especially Azorean migrants and their families that come to their homeland every year from the USA and Canada.
As always, if I’m missing an event or a festival email me or let me know in the comments. The same goes for any event that has been canceled or put on hold. I’ll do my best to keep this post updated as frequently as possible.
35 Azores Festivals and Cultural Events to Add to Your Calendar
- Montanha Pico Festival (Pico)
- Carnaval (All Islands)
- TREMOR (São Miguel)
- Espírito Santo (All Islands)
- Santo Cristo dos Milagres (São Miguel)
- Azores Fringe Festival (All Islands)
- Sanjoaninas (Terceira)
- São João da Vila (São Miguel)
- Cavalhadas de São Pedro (São Miguel)
- Semana Cultural das Velas (São Jorge)
- Festival de Julho (São Jorge)
- Festa do Emigrante (Flores)
- Walk & Talk (São Miguel)
- Festas da Madalena (Pico)
- Festa do Chicharro (São Miguel)
- Festas do Nordeste (São Miguel)
- Festival Caldo do Peixe (São Miguel)
- Caloura Blues (São Miguel)
- Angra World Sound Fest (Terceira)
- Santa Maria Blues (Santa Maria)
- Festival Maia Folk (Santa Maria)
- Cais de Agosto (Pico)
- Cais das Poças (Flores)
- Festas da Praia da Vitória (Terceira)
- Semana dos Baleeiros (Pico)
- Semana do Mar (Faial)
- Maré de Agosto (Santa Maria)
- Festival das Marés (São Miguel)
- Festival Ilha Branca (Graciosa)
- Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres (Corvo)
- Monte Verde Fest (São Miguel)
- Folk Azores (Terceira)
- Cordas World Music Festival (Pico)
- AngraJazz (Terceira)
- AnimaPIX (Pico)
Montanha Pico Festival (Pico)
On the mountain island of Pico, it would be inevitable to have a festival dedicated to the highest peak of Portugal. Everything in this artistic festival revolves around the mountain, how people connect with it, and what kind of art comes from that connection. But Montanha Pico Festival is also about the environment and our responsibility in protecting it. As tourism grows in the Azores, and elsewhere in the world, it’s important to start paying attention to the signs of stress in nature.
Next dates: January 2020 edition dates to be announced on 11 December 2019
Carnaval (All Islands)
Every island in the Azores celebrates Carnaval and each one of them has its own traditions. Celebrations start four weeks before Fat Tuesday, which means Azoreans have little down time after Christmas and New Year’s. However, if I had to highlight one island that goes all out with Carnaval, that has to be Terceira.
Next dates: 25 February 2020
TREMOR (São Miguel)
São Miguel was already popular for its signature landscapes, its renowned tea plantation, and the religious festivity that attracts hundreds of people to the biggest island in the Azores every year. But TREMOR came to shake things up a little. Literally because tremor in Portuguese means earthquake. Music and other forms of art take over the island in unexpected stages on and for the island.
Next dates: April 2020 edition dates to be announced
Espírito Santo (All Islands)
There are a lot of religious events and festivities in the Azores. I think I’ve mentioned this a few times on the blog already, but the Azoreans’ connection to god and religion is more of a survival technique than devotion. The Espírito Santo (Holy Ghost) festivities happen every year on all the islands, seven weeks after easter. More than a religious act, these celebrations are about community. They’re also about diversity considering each island has their own way of celebrating and even within the island you’ll find slight nuances.
Next dates: Pentecost is on 31 May 2020. The festivities begin a few weeks before this date.
Santo Cristo dos Milagres (São Miguel)
After Espírito Santo, this is probably the largest religious festivity in the Azores and it attracts thousands of people from other islands and abroad every year. Even if you’re not a religious person, there is a lot to observe at Santo Cristo dos Milagres from a cultural stand point. It starts with the statue itself, which depicts Christ as a dark hair and dark skinned man as opposed to the blond and blue eyed images that are more common.
Fun fact: as a high school student, I lived in the residence run by nuns in the convent adjacent to the church where the statue is kept all year long. For those nuns, these festivities are the highlight of their year (or at least it used to be back in the mid-1990s). It’s also a tremendous stressful time for them and there is more protocol behind the event than most people probably know of.
Next dates: to be announced (May 2020)
Azores Fringe Festival (All Islands)
The Azores Fringe Festival has been running nonstop since 2013, bringing art to the islands and taking the art of the islands to the rest of the world. The Fringe movement started in Edinburgh in 1947 and has since then grown to include close to 300 festivals all over the world, including this one that has events on all nine islands. I’ve attended three editions, so far, on two islands (Pico and Flores) and they’re all properly documented here.
Next dates: to be announced (June 2020)
June 24th is St. John’s Day, a national holiday in many places in Portugal. If São João in Porto is the most famous celebration of this day in the mainland, Sanjoaninas in Terceira is the most famous in the Azores islands. Every year there’s a new theme, usually rooted in the island’s history and local culture. The festivities usually start a few days before the 24th and continue a few days after.
Next dates: to be announced (June 2020)
São João da Vila (São Miguel)
Continuing on the topic of St. John’s, one of the so-called santos populares (popular saints or saints of the people), Vila Franca do Campo on São Miguel island also celebrates their holiday on June 24th. And of course that also means a couple of weeks of celebration, music, and lots of food at the event they call São João da Vila.
Next dates: to be announced (June 2020)
Cavalhadas de São Pedro (São Miguel)
June is the month of the popular saints. St. Anthony on the 13th, St. John on the 24th, and finally St. Peter on the 29th. Most of these festivities in Portugal are not very different from other midsummer celebrations in other European countries. In Ribeira Grande, the other city in São Miguel, the St. Peter celebrations are done a bit differently. The highlight of the Cavalhadas de São Pedro is the horse parade, a tradition that goes back to the 16th century and that mixes religious and pagan rituals.
Next dates: to be announced (June 2020)
Semana Cultural das Velas (São Jorge)
Semana Cultural das Velas has been kicking off the summer festival season on the Triangle Islands (Faial, Pico, and São Jorge) for more than 30 years. It’s a typical summer festivity in the beginning of July with music for all tastes and ages, local food, and sports events. The most iconic event of the festival is the regatta between Horta in Faial and the town of Velas in São Jorge that’s been happening since 1996.
Next dates: 4-7 July 2019
Festival de Julho (São Jorge)
Also on São Jorge island, Festival de Julho happens in July in the other county on the island, Calheta. Dates of the event vary between mid-July and the end of the month, so keep that in mind before booking a trip to São Jorge if you’re planning to attend the festival.
Next dates: 12-14 July 2019
Festa do Emigrante (Flores)
The wave of emigration from the Azores to the United States and Canada is a big part of the islands’ history, more than it is, I believe, of the rest of the country. It almost feels like the Azoreans are always leaving the islands and returning to them, only to leave again. Festa do Emigrante in Flores pays tribute to the Azorean diaspora, at a time when many emigrants return home for their summer vacation. The fact that it happens at the westernmost county of Europe, where the old continent ends, makes this festival even more symbolic.
Next dates: 19-22 July 2019
Walk & Talk (São Miguel)
Walk & Talk was the first independent arts festival in the Azores with the goal to connect art to the local community. Since the first edition in 2011, it has established itself as one of the reference cultural events in the Azores, with different events taking place in the islands of São Miguel and Terceira.
Next dates: 5-20 July 2019
Festas da Madalena (Pico)
This festivity in Pico is both the celebrations in honor of the patron saint Maria Madalena and the town’s main festival. Not only are Festas da Madalena one of the top summer festivals in the Azores, but they’re also one of the most environment-friendly. Some of the environmentally conscious measures include promoting the sale of e-tickets over the paper ones and reusable cups.
Next dates: 17-22 July 2019
Festa do Chicharro (São Miguel)
Although this festival in the town of Ribeira Quente in São Miguel is named after a fish (chicharro means mackerel), it’s now as much about the music as it is about the star dish. Yes, Festa do Chicharro means you’ll find mackerel cooked in a dozen different ways, but you’ll have other local cuisine dishes to try too.
Next dates: 4-7 July 2019
Festas do Nordeste (São Miguel)
As it’s common in other towns in the Azores in the summer, Festas do Nordeste is a public festival mainly sponsored by the local City Council with food and music concerts. 18th of July is Nordeste’s holiday, so the festival starts a few days before.
Next dates: 11-18 July 2019
Festival Caldo do Peixe (São Miguel)
Loosely translated, caldo de peixe means fish soup. So, yes, Festival Caldo do Peixe was created in honor of the dish. But more importantly than that, it happens in Rabo de Peixe, a fishing village in São Miguel that often makes the news because of the locals’ extreme poverty. It’s a food festival (the only one on this list actually) with some music thrown in for good measure.
Next dates: 19-20 July 2019
Caloura Blues (São Miguel)
When it comes to Azores festivals, Caloura Blues going on its second edition (2019) is one of the babies. I don’t know if blues is a music genre that suits the Azores but maybe it is. And if you needed a reason to visit the south of São Miguel beyond sightseeing, this is it.
Next dates: 26-27 July 2019
Angra World Sound Fest (Terceira)
And speaking of events in the Azores still in their first years, Angra World Sound Fest is on its third edition in 2019. Terceira not only adds one more regular event to their summer calendar, but it also breaks the cycle of typical events in this time of year that are more generic. Besides, the Azoreans are usually fond of world music.
Next dates: 6 July 2019
Santa Maria Blues (Santa Maria)
When it comes to music festivals, Santa Maria has a long tradition of organizing festivals that are a bit out of the ordinary for Azores’ standards. Betting on one specific genre or style could mean unsuccessful results but that’s not what’s been happening on this eastern island and Santa Maria Blues on its 16th edition in 2019 is just one of three very good examples.
Next dates: 18-20 July 2019
Festival Maia Folk
The Festival Maia Folk taps into an ancient tradition of working men and women who entertained themselves at night with song and dancing after a long day working in the vineyards in Santa Maria Island. The festival’s concerts primarily focus on folk music, although the lineup sometimes includes other genres to please younger generations.
Next dates: 12-13 July 2019
Cais de Agosto (Pico)
São Roque in Pico is the capital of rural tourism and I had the pleasure of knowing why when I visited the island for the first time in 2017. This town is also the home of one of the oldest summer festivals in the Azores, Cais de Agosto.
Next dates: 24-28 July 2019
Cais das Poças (Flores)
On the other county of Flores Island, Santa Cruz, Cais das Poças has become one of the top summer events on the island. Before that, Santa Cruz pretty much celebrated St. John’s on the 24th June and that was it. If you’ve spent a summer on Flores before, you’ll know how unreliable the weather is in June and not the best of times for a summer event.
Next dates: 1-4 August 2019
Festas da Praia da Vitória (Terceira)
Festas da Praia, as it’s known locally, celebrate the city’s history through music, food, and other local cultural events. Some of the events are paid, which is not a very common approach in such festivals on the islands. I do, however, agree it’s a more sustainable way to keep the festival going.
Next dates: 2-11 August 2019
Semana dos Baleeiros (Pico)
Of all nine islands, Pico was probably the one with the most whalers so it’s only natural that it celebrates them (baleeiros in Portuguese). Whale hunting was as strong here as now is whale watching. Of all the events taking place during Semana dos Baleeiros, the whaling boats’ regatta is the top one.
Next dates: 19-25 August 2019
Semana do Mar (Faial)
Also known as the blue island, Faial has a deeper connection with the ocean than the other islands as its marina is worldwide famous among sailors. As a veteran festival over 40 years old, Semana do Mar is the top event on the island and one of the most popular sea-related events in the country.
Next dates: 2-11 August 2019
Maré de Agosto (Santa Maria)
Not knowing that it would become one of the oldest and most important music festivals in the Azores, a group of artists decided to get together in Santa Maria in 1984. Realizing the potential of the event, at a time when putting remote places on the map wasn’t as simple as using an Instagram hashtag, the cultural association was officially founded in 1987. Since then, Maré de Agosto has been one of the most relevant festivals in the world and to many the very first music festival in the Azores.
Next dates: 22-24 August 2019
Festival das Marés (São Miguel)
To not be confused with the previous festival, the only similarity between them is the name. Festival das Marés is one of the recent festivals on São Miguel island promoting local and national musicians of different genres. It’s mostly food and fun and commercial music.
Next dates: 29-31 August 2019
Festival Ilha Branca (Graciosa)
Organizing a festival in a small island is no piece of cake, and I don’t mean just logistically although that’s part of the challenge. A smaller island like Graciosa means you also have a smaller audience and you count on people from neighboring islands to increase the numbers. Next time someone tells you there’s not much to do in Graciosa, tell them to take a look at Festival Ilha Branca.
Next dates: 9-11 August 2019
Festival dos Moinhos (Corvo)
In August, it’s said that Corvo island doubles its population on account of Festival dos Moinhos and it’s not a myth. But if you think it’s too crowded, don’t worry because it’s not that kind of event. Truth be told that if even people from the neighboring island of Flores couldn’t travel that day, the corvinos would still go ahead and party. The event is all about music, food, and community life, but it’s also about the religious festivities of Nossa Senhora dos Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles) on August 15.
Next dates: 14-17 August 2019
Monte Verde Festival (São Miguel)
Monte Verde Festival is one more music festival happening on São Miguel island, in the city of Ribeira Grande. It has the vibe and colors of a summer/beach festival, and that’s it in a nutshell. The lineup includes a broad mix of national and international artists.
Next dates: 8-10 August 2019
Folk Azores (Terceira)
Considering the long traditional of folklore dancing and music in the archipelago, an Azores festival entirely dedicated to the genre is not a surprise. In fact, Folk Azores dates back to a time when there weren’t that many cultural events in the Azores. From a traditional culture point of view it’s an interesting event, especially because it brings dancers and musicians from other countries to showcase their traditions. Before the internet, this was a revolutionary festival to broaden horizons.
Next dates: 12-19 August 2019
Cordas World Music Festival (Pico)
Cordas World Music Festival is an event entirely dedicated to string instruments that happens in Pico Island. The singularity of Azores’s string instruments, especially the typical guitar viola da terra, was one of the reasons MiratecArts started this festival in 2016. Since then, it’s won several international awards.
Next dates: 11-15 September 2019
After the summer, Azores festivals might be rarer but they do exist. Which, I may add, usually surprises people who’d like to visit the Azores outside the high season. Despite the specific genre
Next dates: 3-5 October 2019
Before December 2016, the Azores festivals list ended in early October with maybe the occasional local religious event here and there. But then came AnimaPIX, Pico Island’s animated film festival. What started as an event at a local school for kids, soon became one of the top events on the island.
Next dates: 11-15 December 2019