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  • Writer's pictureRita Cardoso

São Miguel, Açores | Where our steps took us

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores archipelago and home to the Regional Government of the Azores, it is also an island full of diversity, with many different activities and touristic points of interest. Here, I will write about what I saw, what I did, what I ate and where I went, probably leaving out very interesting places that I haven't heard of, or there was no time or willingness to visit in the full 5 days and two more half-days we've been there.


São Miguel is a big island and we considered essential to rent a car to move around the island at our own pace. We also rented a small apartment in Vila Franca do Campo, as it is a central place, and thus facilitates our trips to all areas of the island.

São Miguel has 6 counties and I am going to use this division to talk about what we did in each of them. Why am I going to use this division, you may ask? Because when we talk about the Azores, we inevitably have to talk about meteorology, and how unpredictable it is, even during the day itself. Visiting days can be very well planned, but it must be borne in mind that flexibility is even more important. To help us decide what to do each day, we used the Spotazores website which has a webcam system, allowing us to see the weather in real time in several different parts on the island. If there is bad weather or fog in the place we wanted to visit that day, there will be another place where the weather is better.

Every day we looked at the site early in the morning, and more scenic spots like Lagoa do Fogo or Lagoa das Sete Cidades were among our priorities due to the trails we wanted to walk, as soon as we saw the weather was good, we headed right there.


Here is a list, with more summarized information for each of the points of interest, you can click on what interests you and you will be redirected to a more detailed post. If any of it still does not forward you, wait, it is because it has not yet been written or published. But you can always get in touch with me.



Ponta Delgada

Probably, one of the top of places to visit for almost all the people who travel to S. Miguel, Lagoa das Sete Cidades impresses by its peculiarity of half being blue and the other half green. It's beautiful. The Vista do Rei viewpoint is where you can easily have a good view of the lagoon. However, the mystical construction behind us does not go unnoticed, and it attracts many curious people. From the famous abandoned hotel, Hotel Monte Palace, you can have an even better panoramic view, but getting in this hotel is not advised, and you are at your own risk, since the building has several cracks, it was vandalized and an accident may eventually occur. There is also the Cerrado das Freiras viewpoint from where you have a side view of the lagoon.


This is a trail with several beautiful views, from the elevated walls of the caldera, to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, mainly the blue lagoon. We had in mind to do this trail on foot, and we went exploring by car where the start and the logistics we would need would be, since it is not a circular route and it is not that short. We were exploring, exploring, and when we found ourselves, we had done the whole trail by car, since most of it is on a road. The condition of the pavement is terrible (dirt, huge holes, stones), the rent a car can not read us, and we took some risks with the Renault Clio that we had.

This trail ends in the parish of Sete Cidades and it is worth taking a walk there and even exploring the water of the lagoons closely, to discover the mystery of the colors. The church of S. Nicolau in the center of the town has one of the façades and the front garden that impressed me the most, so symmetrical and so well framed, it was asking to be photographed.


Mata do Canário seemed to me to be a super nice place to have picnics, have a good time with family and friends, but due to Covid, its gates were closed, however, it had a side "entrance" that was open, maybe it was just closed to cars, or the Portuguese person made a way to get in, because there is no gate to stop it. In this park, you can visit the Lagoa do Canário, the one with the shape of the Snapchat logo, and it also is the access to the viewpoint Grota do Inferno. This viewpoint overlooks Lagoa de Santiago and also Lagoa das Sete Cidades, although, above all, the blue lagoon.


About 10km from the parish of Sete Cidades, to the west, already by the sea, there is Ponta da Ferraria, famous for its thermal springs and the possibility of swimming in sea water with warm temperatures, well above the average of Azores due to its volcanic activity. We would have liked to take a dip, but there were a lot of people, and in times of a pandemic, we didn't want to deal with such proximity.


A little further north, 9 km from Ponta da Ferraria, is Mosteiros, which is very popular because it has beautiful natural pools and a beautiful black sand beach with incredible rock formations. Perfect to end the day with a swim and a sunset.




Ribeira Grande

Lagoa do Fogo, one of the most beautiful in S. Miguel, not to be missed. There are two viewpoints, with breathtaking views, one is the Barrosa Viewpoint and the other I don't know if it has a name, but let's call it Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoint, which is where you can start a trail to go down to the lagoon and its beach. It is very, very worthwhile, although tiring, because if the descent is steep, the climb is exactly the same!


Here we can visit the Gorreana tea plantation, one of the most famous in the Azores, we can also see the museum / process of planting, picking and producing tea. But the best part, without a doubt, is taking a walk through the plantation.


A small 2.1 km linear trail, which passes, as the name implies, through four old electricity factories from the end of the 19th century, where energy was produced with the help of the force of water.



Close to Lagoa do Fogo, we have Caldeira Velha, a beautiful park, considered a Natural Monument where, outside of pandemic times, you can take beautiful hot water baths in 3 different pools, with its own waterfall and everything. You pay to enter, and you can pay a cheaper ticket if you only want to visit the place and not enjoy the baths. It is very beautiful and the Interpretation Center is also very interesting to visit.


An imposing waterfall of fresh water 40 meters high, with a natural pool where you can take a dip in the hottest days. It has pedestrian and car access, on the Lagoa do Fogo road, and it also has a small circular trail, which we did not do. A good place to end a hot day or to see the waterfall that is worth it by itself.


Another beautiful place to spend a few hours, or even to watch the sunset. Difficult to bathe sometimes, the sea is usually more agitated here, more sought after by surfers and bodyboarders, and there are even annual events of the same sports. One of the longest beaches in the Azores.


Concelho Lagoa

  • Caloura - Água de Pau

It was one of our first stops, at the suggestion of a friend of ours who is from São Miguel. A village that has beautiful natural pools to take a good dip and enjoy the surrounding basalt landscape. It seemed like a beautiful place to stop and also explore the area. As we had a connecting flight, we couldn't explore it more.


  • Casa do Abel - Bar da Caloura

Magnificent Azorean beef and side dishes and entrees and everything and everything. Don't miss Casa do Abel, in Água de Pau. Really.

At Bar da Caloura, from the same owners, we hear that the quality of the fish is equal, magnificent. And overlooking the sea! Try it and let me know what you experienced.


Of my favorite (sandy) beaches in the Azores. So much so, that we went there twice to sunbathe and swim in the very few small waves. Not to mention the great temperature and the clarity of the water. It is a relatively long beach, good access and a bar with a terrace. I couldn’t recommend it more!



Concelho Vila Franca do Campo

Simply beautiful and, I think, often overlooked. A small trail of about 1km to the lagoon, in the middle of the lush forest, the silence of people, the noise of nature. Incredible, it is really worth doing this trail.


  • Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz

At the top of Monte da Nossa Senhora da Paz is a Chapel with the same name, and there are many stairs to get there. But even out of shape, I went upstairs slowly and took some pictures so I could rest and I reached the top eventually. It is a very beautiful building and also the surroundings, the nature, the hydrangeas and the cows. But don't forget to turn your back at it as well, as the view over the sea and the Vila Franca islet is worth it.


  • Vila Franca do Campo - Queijadas da Vila

As we chose this village as our base during the week, it was perhaps also the one we explored the most, during the search for supermarkets, the post office, to go to the harbour, among others. It is a very friendly village, with the color of basalt predominating in many of the buildings. In the marina area, there, in a beautiful corner, they sell the best typical queijadas of S. Miguel, the Queijadas do Morgado. I didn't taste any others, but they were good, yes, they were. So, add this stop to your itinerary and maybe try some more, just so you can compare.


  • Ilhéu de Vila Franca

We couldn't be in Vila Franca and not to visit the islet, a Nature Reserve since 1983, which was the result of a crater in a submerged volcano, which caused its interior to become a natural pool, in an almost perfect circle and just a small communication with the sea. It is also a place full of marine life and many protected birds. To visit the islet there are boats with several departures from the harbour during the day.



Nordeste

  • Arnel Lighthouse - Ponta do Arnel

At Ponta do Arnel, there is the Arnel Lighthouse, it is a very beautiful place to see the bay, and the Atlantic Ocean as far as the eye can see. If you don't trust your car's brakes or tires, make this access on foot, I saw cars having some trouble.


  • Ponta do Sossego viewpoint - Ponta da Madrugada viewpoint - among others

When traveling along the main road that circles the island, here in the Nordeste there are countless viewpoints with beautiful views. Many of them with a picnic area and even grills, maybe a picnic with a view is in your plans? Be prepared to share a little bit with the kittens that live there.


  • Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park

In the parish of Achada, there is this magnificent park, along the Ribeira dos Caldeirões. With immense and varied local and protected flora, it also has a beautiful waterfall. Also, part of this park are some water mills from the 16th century. In this place you can also experience some adventure activities, such as Canyoning, so if you hear screams, it is likely that some people full of adrenaline are jumping to the creek.



Povoação

  • Vale das Furnas - Lagoa das Furnas - Cozido das Furnas

Although the last volcanic eruption was in 1630, there are still many steam vents and hot springs, and it is next to the beautiful Lagoa das Furnas (former crater of the Furnas Volcano), that we can find some of the most famous ones, and you can even cook your own famous Cozido das Furnas, with the heat that emanates from the land. The heat and the smell of sulfur. Here, there are several leisure spaces, some kiosks, and other infrastructures.


  • Grená Park

Next to Lagoa das Furnas there is also now a new park, the Grená park. It seems to be quite interesting, and at the end of the park there is a beautiful waterfall. But since you had to pay the entrance fee, and we had already done a lot of trails on several islands in the Azores, we considered that it would not add much more to our visit.


One of the most beautiful views of Lagoa and Vale das Furnas is from Pico do Ferro viewpoint. But it is also in the access to this viewpoint that a secret viewpoint is hidden, the view from the top of a waterfall. The Janela das Furnas or Salto da Inglesa, a quiet and cool little paradise, where we took the opportunity to relax and have lunch while listening to the water running, with one of the best views of the lagoon.


  • Furnas - Caldeiras das Furnas - Bolos lêvedos - Casa Invertida - Poça D. Beija

In the center of Furnas village, there are some mud pots, and you can also observe up close, the water bubbling due to the high temperatures of the rock. There are also, I think, 9 different water springs (hot and cold water), and as the legend goes, they serve to cure various ailments. If they cure anything, I don't know, but although the taste is very strange and different, be sure to try them all. But don't worry, as soon as you walk back to the parking lot, you will find several local vendors selling the famous bolos lêvedos, delicious cakes; the boiled corn in the hot springs and the typical candies from Furnas. Everything delicious, trust me. Also in the village, you can find a unique architecture work, an upside-down house, Casa Invertida. I will also make a small reference to Poça da D. Beija, which we were unable to visit, unfortunately, because of the pandemic.


The famous and beautiful Terra Nostra Park is undoubtedly a top priority. It is quite capable of being one of the parks, with the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. It has a huge variety of plants, some unique in the world and magical corners that seem to be taken out from fairy tales. You feel like walking around exploring all day, with the added bonus that you can bathe in the warm waters of the huge thermal tank. You must spend here at least half a day.


We hiked some trails in S. Miguel and this one I would undoubtedly repeat, through the middle of the forest, through the village of Sanguinho and the highlight, the Salto do Prego waterfall. It's stunning, and the surroundings are beautiful. The water is freezing cold, but after a beautiful climb to get there, there is nothing better than feeling those cold spikes on your skin and bones to cool off. The end of this trail is in the small town of Faial da Terra, along the river.


I hope you like the island of S. Miguel, I loved it and I will definitely come back when there is another opportunity. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if you do not find what you need.

Happy travels!







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