First things first: What is the Azores and where is it located?
The Azores is an archipelago on the coast of Portugal, composed of 9 beautiful islands: São Miguel, Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge, Graciosa, Santa Maria, Corvo e Flores. These islands are located on the north of the Atlantic Ocean and they have a volcanic origin, being this what makes them so beautiful and unique. The archipelago has around 1766 volcanos, being 9 still active today! All this amazing activity makes it possible for us to have a closer look at amazing nature phenomenons like calderas, craters, lagoons, fumaroles, thermal waters, and caves, among many others.
Why should you choose the Azores for your next vacation?
The Azores are an amazing place to go on vacation because you can visit them all year round and it will always be amazing! You can be mesmerized by the beautiful landscape and even go for a swim on cold days since they have a lot of hot thermal waters. It’s a destination with no high season (meaning no crowds!), pretty much affordable, the locals are extremely nice, the food is simply amazing and you have nature everywhere you look. It’s a great place to go and connect with nature and find some peace in some of our crazy lives. Do you need any more reasons?
Today I will focus on São Miguel Island and to show you how Azores can be a great choice for everyone and all year round I divided this post according to several different types of places to visit: hot/thermal waters & Beaches, volcanic lagoons, natural parks, belvederes and other cultural/natural interest points. In this way, whether you prefer to relax on beaches or hot waters or you prefer to hike the mountains and see the views, you can have a little bit of everything.
Hot/Thermal waters & Beaches – for those of you who love the water!
If you’re like me, your dream is probably to be able to always wear your swimsuit no matter which destination you’re visiting! Well, in the Azores this is possible! I visited the archipelago in September, and we had some rainy and colder days, but still, I was able to dive into some amazing waters every single day! The Azores are a destination where you can carry your bikini all year round, whether it’s cold or not.
So, let’s start with the warmer waters of the island:
Terra Nostra Park
Even if you’re not into water, this is a great place for you, because it has a huge natural garden that you can explore with many endemic species, but also with some flora from foreign countries like Australia. It’s a great place for a walk, to have a picnic or to enjoy its big thermal tank! The temperature there is around 40ºC (104ºF) and, besides feeling amazing, it also has great properties for your skin and health! These waters were used for medicinal purposes and not for leisure like now. Please note that (and this will work for all the other hot waters on the island), the waters have a high concentration of sulfur, so your hair and nails (if dyed) can get stained as well as your swimming clothes, so it’s better to use older or darker clothes. Do not worry, because most of the places will have facilities where you can change and have a shower.
Poça da Dona Beija
This is another place not to miss in the Furnas area. It has several thermal pools also with hot water temperatures and both the waters and the clays are amazing for your skin. This one offers a daily ticket, so if you’re staying in the Furnas area this can be a nice option to have a relaxing day.
Here is where you will fall in love and feel the most authentic volcanic experience of São Miguel Island. You have the main caldera where you can dive and you have two other pools. The main one is really natural and it even has a waterfall! You can find different water temperatures in each pool, so if 40ºC (104 F.º) is too much for you, you have a milder option.
Also, because it is located inside a natural park, its environment is much more authentic than in other places and you can have a shower literally in the middle of nature! For the ones interested in geology and all the volcanic activity of the island, at the entrance, there is an environmental interpretation center where you can get to know better all the Azorean’s geological story.
Ponta da Ferraria
This is, without any doubt, one of the most unique places to enjoy hot waters! In Ponta da Ferraria beach, right in the middle of the ocean, you can find some natural pools created by the contact between the hot lava and the ocean’s cold waters. While getting into the water, there are some ropes you can hold on to and you can enjoy 30ºC (86ºF) water temperatures in the middle of the sea! As you swim away from the rocks or on the waves breaking zone, the water gets colder, so the best time to go to the water is when the tide is not too high or too low, otherwise, the water can be too hot or too cold!
If you wish to have specialized treatments related to the thermal water’s properties, you can do it at Termas da Ferraria, located before the natural pools. Here you can enjoy their spa or do any treatment.
You can read more in my other post here on Traxplorio 🙂
If you’re traveling in the summer and you prefer to enjoy the ocean freshwaters, here are some of my favorite beaches from São Miguel:
- Caloura Beach (this one has natural pools)
- Pópulo Beach (mild waters)
- Fogo Beach (surrounded by mountains)
- Porto Formoso Beach (here you have a small harbor and a view of the village church)
Now for the lovers of snorkeling:
Vila Franca do Campo Islet
This will probably be one of the best experiences on the island since it’s pretty unique. From the village of Vila Franca do Campo, you can take a boat to an Islet (an exploded crater of a volcano) and you can swim in that crater and do some snorkeling! This can be a good place to enjoy some sunbathing and fresh waters!
After visiting the islet, make sure you make a quick stop in the village to explore it!
Volcanic Lagoons – for those who love nature
It is impossible to visit São Miguel Island and not to visit some of its most amazing lagoons, like Sete Cidades! It’s like going to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower! The lagoons are formed after a cone of a volcano collapses, creating a crater. This crater is then filled with water from the rain, creating a lagoon. I’ll leave you below my favorite ones:
Sete Cidades Lagoon
This one is probably the most famous and with a good reason! This lagoon is divided into two areas, and on one side the water has blue tones and on the other side, it has green tones. This makes this lagoon one of the most beautiful ones and it’s a view not to miss! The different colors have a legend associated with them: it is said that the king’s daughter fell in love with a shepherd from the village, but as their love was forbidden, they had to be separated. The King only allowed them one last meeting and they met on the bridge between the two lagoons. It is said that, at that moment, the tears from the girl’s blue eyes formed the blue lagoon and the tears from the shepherd’s green eyes formed the green lagoon! How beautiful? You can see this amazing lagoon from Vista do Rei Belvedere or you can also enjoy a walk in the village and by the lagoon’s waters.
This is the second-largest lagoon on the island and the most recent! This one is also very beautiful, and it’s many times the visiting card of the island. You can enjoy it from the top, but, if you can, I advise you to go down to the bottom of the lagoon. It will take you around 45 minutes of walking and hiking, but once you reach the bottom you will feel an unspeakable peace and you can have a walk around the lagoon and enjoy all its nature.
This lagoon is located in a forest park, and it has very easy access. You can have a picnic in the area or simply go down to the lagoon. This one is very natural and surrounded by a great forest.
Belvederes – for those who are all about the breathtaking views and sunsets
The Azores has probably the best views I had ever seen. Sometimes you see the ocean, other times you see volcanic cones and lagoons, other times you can be above the clouds, and sometimes you can even see all of these at the same time!
As you can imagine, the island has many belvederes, so I’ll leave here my favorite ones:
Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada & Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
I placed these two together, since they’re both on the northeast side of the island and very close to each other. The first one is known for being great to watch the sunrise, so if you’re an early owl, this the place to go for amazing views by the sunrise! You have amazing views of the ocean and all the green areas of the island! The second one has also great views and, besides that, is also known for its beautiful gardens, making it perfect to do a lunch stop for a picnic.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
This belvedere gives you probably the best view possible over Sete Cidades Lagoon. You can see the lagoon in all its splendor and the area is also very good to take a break. For the braver ones, there is an abandoned hotel right on the side of the belvedere and if you go inside, you’ll have the highest view of the lagoon.
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Okay, so this one is for sure my favorite belvedere because here you have the sensation you’re above the clouds and you can see several lagoons from here and also the ocean!
Miradouro do Pico do Carvão
This one is special due to all the surrounding landscape. You can see several volcanic cones from here, the Carvão lagoon, and even the green fields of Azores.
Natural Parks & other volcanic areas – for lovers of walking in nature
Terra Nostra Park (already mentioned above)
Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park
This park is a protected area where you can admire some endemic flora from the Azores. It has a waterfall, some 16th-century water mills, and amazing paths to explore. The most adventurous ones can even do crafting on the watercourses of this area.
Perhaps the most unique place on the island due to what happens here. Furnas is a place with a lot of volcanic activity, and they have a lot of fumaroles (a volcanic phenomenon where you can see volcanic water gases and boiling water coming from the ground). If you visit this area you will see a lot of restaurants selling a typical dish called Cozido das Furnas. Cozido is a typical Portuguese dish made with several types of meat, sausages, potatoes, and vegetables that are boiled, but in this area, they are boiled differently! The ingredients go inside a pan that is placed underground in one of the fumaroles to be boiled by the volcanic waters for 5 hours!! You can expect food with a unique flavor and smell and a once in a lifetime experience! If you wish to try this delicacy, make sure to book lunch in advance, since the cooking time of the dish doesn’t make it possible to be making it all day. If you’re coming across this park you can also try corn cob boiled in these waters, which’s also pretty good!
Other activities/places to explore in the Azores
This is a unique opportunity to be close to cetaceans and it’s a wonderful experience to have in the Azores. We did it from the village of Mosteiros instead of departing from Ponta Delgada (in the capital you go from larger boats, meaning you can’t get so closer to the animals) and we saw some dolphins and sperm whales. It’s a worthy experience!
Factory/Museum Mulher de Capote
The Azores are known for their pineapples and their liquors. If you’re a fan of these beverages, you should for sure visit this place! Here you can see the full process of the liquors, try some of the most famous ones and even get some typical souvenirs.
Arruda Pineapple Plantation
The most known fruit from the Azores is the pineapple since on the island this fruit grows smaller and sweeter than the regular pineapples. You can see the entire fruit plantation and see how they grow, try some homemade liquors at their shop or just relax at their coffee shop and try some delicacies made of this amazing fruit.
This is one of Ponta Delgada market’s and here you can see all the amazing local products they have, and you can even have lunch inside the market! If you visit this place, make sure to buy some island cheese and bolo lêvedo (the typical island bread).
This is the capital of the island and, as it’s not too big, you can easily explore it on foot. You will find some churches and beautiful paths along the ocean. This is the perfect place for a romantic/fine dinner by the ocean.
All the things I mentioned above you can do in 6 days on the Island. If you have fewer days, you can explore just one side of the Island and still see a big part of what I mentioned above.
As an Azores visitor, you should rent a car to take you everywhere since you will not find public transports.
Below I give you some accommodation suggestions:
I hope you enjoyed this and that it helped you figure out what to do once you’ll visit São Miguel island. If you have any questions you can contact me here or on my social media! I wish you a great day and keep traveling to the green!