Sao Miguel, Portugal’s green island and off the radar gem
Sao Miguel is Portugal’s green island and off the radar gem 2 hours flight from Lisbon with plenty of cheap airlines flying direct from most European countries, New York, Boston and Oakland. Part of nine volcanic islands spread apart in the Atlantic Ocean, Sao Miguel definitely ranks as the first island of choice to fly to from Lisbon or Porto.
Having spent a week, Sao Miguel can be seen from north to south, east to west in 5 days, and here are some of the most incredible things you will get to see and do.
The charming little town of Sao Miguel with its unique architecture and narrow streets is the entry point and also a good place for a base while exploring the island. Filled with restaurants and bars with a variety of cuisines to choose from, but somehow Ponta Delgada is a sleepy town. Nothing really lasts past 11pm.
Musical events from spring to summer take the streets and main square to keep people entertained. Ponta Delgada has an incredible variety of restaurants, but for a dish and atmosphere you can’t go wrong with, Calçada do Cais is definitely a favourite.
Antonio Borges Gardens
A municipality owned botanical garden nestled in the center of Ponta Delgada a perfect place to spend an afternoon for a wander. One of its most unique things to see at this botanical garden are the small grotto's and caves made from lava, and the trees that have grown through them. It’s certainly something one wouldn’t see anywhere else.
Jose Do Canto Botanical Garden
One of the most stunning botanical gardens owned by the Do Canto’s a wealthy landowner of the island over a century and a half ago. Don Canto had introduced many species of plants collected from all over the world and planted there. One of which is a bamboo forest. Who would have thought a bamboo forest would ever exist in Europe.
Lagao Do Fogo (Fire lake)
One of the most beautiful moments in Sao Miguel is the moment eyes meet the stunning lakes around the island. The Fire Lake is located Centre of the island. With luck of clear skies, and the reflection of the sky on the water, Lagao Do Fogo sure makes it into one the most beautiful lakes to visit.
Parque Terra Nostra
Known for its thermal baths, this Botanical garden is a mind blowing beautiful place to spend half a day wandering around and exploring its unique flora. The thermal bath situated in the middle of the Parque Terra Nostra is quite large in its size and although the water is murky in its own right being a mineral hot spring, it is quite pleasant to be in.
Furnas is quite a fascinating town as the entire area was formed as a result of an erupted volcano in 1630’s. Even though a dormant volcano, there are still small and large geothermal holes seen across the town and near to the lake itself.
Close to the lake are small steaming holes used by local restaurants and families. These are cooking holes. A large cooking pot with meat, chicken, pork and vegetables is lowered into the hole to cook for 6 hours underground. This is one of the Azores specialties.
Our lady of peace Chapel
An extra ordinary stairway of 155 steps leading to the Our Lady Of Peace Chapel. An 18th century church modeled after one of the most beautiful churches in Braga, Portugal. It boasts one of the most spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and coastal line of Vila Franca Do Campo, Sao Miguel’s former capital and worth every minute spent climbing those steps.
Lagao Das Sete Cidades
To the far west side of the island, is the Lagao das Sete Cidades, situated in a dormant volcano are two lakes that are believed to have different colours, blue and green that are connected as one. It has the largest body of water on the island and is the most important freshwater resource for the island. An amazing place for hiking.
Islet de Vila Franca
Classified as a nature reserve since 1983, Islet De Vila Franca was named after the former capital of Sao Miguel. Its uniqueness being a crater of an extinct underwater volcano. It welcomes people to enjoy a few hours a day out at sea for a swim and sunbathe on the rim of the Volcano. Reached either by a 10 minute boat trip from Vila Franca Do Campo (tickets can be bought here) or on one of the half day or full day tours from Ponta Delgada.
The Pineapple plantation
Learn about the Pineapple plantation in the Azores and how long it takes for the sweetest and tiniest of pineapples to grow. Pineapple will never taste the same after Sao Miguel. Keeping in mind Pineapples grow in warm and humid climates, it’s quite fascinating learning how they grow in the Azores.
Being the world’s largest whale sanctuary, the Azores should be on everyone’s list. May and April are the best months to see the larger sized whales such as the Blue Whales, Sei Whales and Fin Whales. Whereas up until October, Humpbacks can be spotted and all year round the resident sperm whale can be seen.
Swimming with Dolphins
There are 20 different types of cetaceans that can be spotted in the Azores. This includes Bottlenose dolphins, Common Dolphins, Risso’s and the Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. There are opportunities to take a boat out on a tour to spot dolphins and there are also opportunities to wear a thick diving suit and swim with them out at sea. Either way, it surely should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Gorreana Tea Plantation in Ribiera Grande
It’s as if one has stepped out of Europe and suddenly in the middle of a tea field in Sri Lanka. Who knew Sao Miguel hosts the oldest and only tea plantation in all of Europe. Interesting visit to learn how black tea and green tea are made, as well as the entire process behind a box of tea!
Caldeira Velha hot Springs
25 minute drive north of Ponta Delgada are the Caldeira Velha hot springs. It’s as if one has walked into a Jurassic park, as the luscious green vegetation fill the surroundings of the paths leading up to the hot spring pools. These are unfiltered springs of minerals that are believed to benefit the skin and overall well being, a completely raw experience. What’s truly missing is a masseuse to complete the relaxing time at the Caldeira Velha.
This isn't all that one can see in Sao Miguel in 5 days. There are plenty more. If you’re interested in a trip to the beautiful Azores or have questions. Send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, or whatsapp us direct on +96181800598. We are happy to help.