The Azores Likely to be a New Madeira but Better?

The Azores Likely to be a New Madeira but Better?

Vikram Iyer
31 May 2023

While Madeira has long captivated travelers with its allure of white sandy beaches, iconic wine, and pristine environment, there's a rising star in the Atlantic — the Azores. As Madeira's counterpart, the Azores promises an even more extraordinary and eco-conscious paradise for those seeking a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Prepare to be spellbound as we unveil this wonderful archipelago's captivating beauty, sustainable charm, and untapped potential.

Why does the Azores' location — farther from Lisbon than Madeira — work to its advantage? How exactly has the Azores cracked the sustainability code when other destinations like Madeira and the Canary Islands have stayed behind?

Here is a detailed analysis of the advantages and benefits of adding the Azores to your travel and investment plans for the future.

Sustainable Development

The Azores was one of the first tourist destinations to proactively focus on sustainable development and preserving its pristine ecology and environment.

In 2019, the Azores was the first archipelago in the world to be certified as a Sustainable Tourist Destination by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) under its EarthCheck Sustainable Destination program.

In contrast, Madeira qualified for this certificate only in February 2023. And this delay in focusing on sustainability has already led to adverse developments. Studies have found that algae are replacing Madeira's previously dominant marine forests.

The Azores has gone beyond lofty rhetoric and focused on actionable steps to ensure sustainable island development. Only 5% of the islands are built-up urbanized areas, and the authorities intend to focus on avoiding excessive land development and converting natural habitats into urban centers.

Areas of focus for preservation include the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the islands, 12 caldera lakes, geothermal springs and pools, mountain ranges, reefs, and other natural heritage sites.

Even private organizations recognize the importance of preserving the islands and avoiding unsustainable development. Numerous Azorean companies have signed the Cartilha da Sustentabilidade, pledging to replace at least three practices annually with sustainable alternatives. These measures encompass utilizing renewable geothermal energy instead of fossil fuels and implementing visitor and hiker restrictions on Mount Pico of Pico Island. More than 40 private and public companies in the Azores have pledged to report all the steps they have taken to fulfill the sustainability charter initiated by the government.


Apart from protecting the environment, these measures will help the Azores maintain its status as a premium tourist destination for a long time. Furthermore, these measures make the Azores the obvious choice for ESG-oriented investment funds and businesses where sustainability is a key performance metric.

Nuno Santos, a tax partner at CMS, notes that in the future, programs like the Golden Visa will almost certainly only apply to sustainable investments, and this trend is another reason to look to the Azores.

More Islands, More Choices

The Azores is an archipelago of nine islands often described as a mix of Hawaii, New Zealand and Iceland. It is a unique destination for the diversity of landscapes, ecosystems and entertainment options.

You can choose from several islands depending on whether you want to get lost in the wilderness or prefer measured walks among beautiful scenery with easy access to all the benefits of civilization.

Temperatures on the islands rarely exceed 28° in the summer and drop below 15° in the winter, meaning it's comfortable at any time of year. However, the weather can change quickly and this unpredictability adds to the Azores' own charm.

From black sand beaches and mesmerizing views of volcanoes to lava fields and invigorating thermal pools, the Azores offer a variety of natural wonders to choose from. You can go whale and dolphin watching, or go for a dinner where you'll be served food prepared using the heat of an active volcano. Swim in the naturally heated pools or spend time at Europe's only tea plantation. Fresh seafood, of which there is an abundance, can be accompanied by wine made from grapes grown on the volcanic soil of Pico Island. The islands also offer trekking routes, including a route around an extinct volcano. The Azores can accommodate almost any tourist request.


That being said, the Azores not only fascinate tourists, but also present opportunities for investors. With many attractions and an inevitable rise in popularity, the archipelago holds great potential for those looking for lucrative tourism investment projects.

Compared to Madeira, the Azores are more expansive and offer more than just a tropical climate, white sandy beaches and beautiful nature.

Attractive Destination for Property Investments

While sharing similarities with Madeira regarding tourist attractions, the Azores stand out with their comparatively lower property prices and impressive annual price increases. This distinct advantage positions the Azores as an appealing investment opportunity, poised to rival the likes of Madeira and the Canary Islands. However, as the archipelago becomes more popular with tourists, prices will inevitably rise.

It means the Azores, despite the surge in its popularity as a tourist destination, still offer an excellent investment opportunity for anybody seeking to buy a property or settle in the islands.

In a quick comparison, you can see how property prices in Madeira have risen by close to 110% in eight years, while the Azores saw a growth of 70% during the same period.



Sao Miguel

Jan 2015



April 2023



Increase %




A close look at prices reveals that although the trajectory of price growth in Madeira over the years has been far from linear.

Property prices in Madeira increased by just 30% between January 2015 and July 2020. Over the following three years, prices rose by 56%.

In contrast, property prices in the Azores rose by just 21% between 2015 and 2021, followed by a 40% increase in 2022. Now is the best time to invest in Azores real estate for consistently high returns over the long term.

Location is Another Advantage of Azores

The Azores are farther away from Lisbon as compared to Madeira. However, its location in the Atlantic Ocean will likely work to its advantage, especially in attracting visitors and settlers from the USA.

Madeira is southwest of Portugal and closer to North Africa, while the Azores are west of Portugal. This geographical fact means the Azores islands are significantly closer to North America and the European continent.

Flying from New York to Madeira would take around seven hours to cover 3,150 miles. On the other hand, the Azores is much closer at about 2,500 miles.

For this reason, Americans interested in moving to Portuguese islands are more likely to prefer Azores to Madeira. Given various problems such as lax gun laws, frequent shootings, security risks, cost of living, and strict tax rules in the United States, wealthy Americans are increasingly considering living abroad.

The Azores may be ideal for those who are tired of big cities, but are not ready to seek solitude in remote destinations. It only takes two hours to get from the archipelago to mainland Europe!


Transportation Accessibility

Location and popularity among tourists have ensured the Azores has good connectivity to big cities across the globe. You can fly directly to the Azores from New York, Boston, Toronto, and London annually. The João Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada in the Azores has year-round direct flights connecting it to North America and Europe.

Other destinations like Frankfurt and Amsterdam have direct flights during the holiday season, although this may improve as the Azores attracts more tourists and residents.

The Azores do boast a unique location that allows for easy travel between the United States, Canada and Europe. This is an important plus for investors and entrepreneurs who travel frequently for business reasons.

With three international airports and domestic airfields on each of the nine islands, the Azores boast much better connectivity within and to other countries than Madeira.

An Option Worth Considering

Surprisingly, the Azores offer a little something for everyone. Tourists can start their day with an invigorating hike to Portugal's highest peak and relax with a swim in the naturally heated pool in the Atlantic Ocean. Retirees can find a new community in a safe, beautiful, tranquil and environmentally friendly location. Investors - to take advantage of sustainable investment opportunities in the archipelago.

The possibility of conventional real estate investment under the Portuguese Golden Visa is likely to be closed soon, but the authorities promise to maintain residence permit options based on investments in the restoration and preservation of cultural heritage. Here Azores dates incredible opportunities. For example, an investor can invest in a project to reconstruct an old village or historic building, opening a hotel there.

Such projects can soon become a win-win option for a stable profit and residence permit in Portugal.

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