Sao Miguel Azores Guide : Top Things To Do
Azores is truly a unique destination to visit. If you love adventure, nature and exploring – you will love this destination even more. Made up of 9 islands, Azores island are best discovered individually. The Azores are known as the ‘Hawaii of Europe’ surrounded by mountains and rugged coastline. Sao Miguel being the largest of the islands and is perfect for nature lovers and born romantics, with dramatic viewpoints, hot springs, dolphin watching and diving to admire the rich marine life – there is something for everyone. It has also been consecutively been named as the top sustainable destination in the world.
Here are top things to do in Azores Sao Miguel:
1Sete Cidades ( Twin Lakes )
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One of the most popular things to do in Sao miguel Azores is visiting Sete Cidades. This crater lake is popular for a reason and a must visit when visiting Sao Miguel. Sitting roughly 575 metres above sea level, the area is an inactive volcano. In the centre of the dormant volcano lies the twin lake called ‘Lagoa das Sete Cidades’. These lakes both appear to be different colours. One a vivid green and the other lake is blue due to vegetation in the area but are in fact the same lake.
Between the merge of these lakes is a narrow, man built bridge that separates the two colours. The view is the main attraction at Sete Cidades, although don’t be fooled into thinking it is ‘just a view over a lake’ views over Sete Cidades are guaranteed to take your breath away. Make sure you get views from different angles, there are plenty of ways to explore the area you can drive down, walk around, hike or bike. The dirt road that leads down is the exact same road that has been used in the World Rally Championship. The view over the lake is so beautiful that a fiver star hotel is set to open overlooking the lakes.
If you are looking to base yourself close to this beautiful lake we recommend Sete Cidades Lake Lodge, features wooden bungalows with a unique architecture. 3 wooden hideaways that are surrounded by marigold and lemon tree gardens. The architecture is simple and ecologically conscious, with wood burning fireplaces and enormous windows overlooking a lake or forest.
Best viewpoint of sete cidades:
- Miradouro da Vista do Rei often known as ‘Kings view’ is one most accessible and popular viewpoints of Sete Cidades. This spot allows you to witness both the lakes and all their glory.
- Miradouro da Boca do Inferno viewpoint: Our favorite and one that we highly recommend for that wow jaw-dropping factor, arguably one of the best view points of Sete cidades is the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno viewpoint. From here you can get a complete panoramic view of the entire volcanic crater, along with the lagoons you can also see the dramatic mountains and se in the background. This viewpoint is sometimes also referred to as ‘ Lagoa do Canario’.
2 Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada, which is the largest city and the capital of Azores provides a great base to explore the island of Sao Miguel. Ponta Delgada is a charming little town that consists of beautiful, white-washed houses with narrow streets that lead to the open-aired city centre. Explore this lovely little city on foot, stumble upon one of the many trendy restaurants, kitsch shops and quaint cafes. Head down to the marine which is lined with restaurants offering a nice waterfront view, especially in the evening as the city lights up.
Discover: Hotels in Ponta Delgada
3 Ananases Arruda – Pineapple Plantation
If you are looking for something different and unique to experience whilst in Ponta delgada, head to Ananases Arruda, a pineapple plantation. São Miguel is the only place in the world where pineapples are grown in greenhouses and has been in Azores for over 100 years. Wander around the plantation and learn all about the delicious, juicy pineapples grown in Azores. Head to the kiosk where you can taste various products made with pineapple, such as pineapple juice, pineapple cake, pina colada, pineapple mojito, and of course just pineapple.
4 Whale & Dolphin Watching
Azores is one of the best places to whale and dolphin watch. April to September is peak whale watching season in the Azores and with a plethora of whale and dolphin watching tours throughout the day, it is a must do while visiting Azores Sao Miguel.
Sperm whales are the resident species of Azores which are most frequently sighted, luckily most tours comes with an expert marine biologist on board to help you spot these majestic mammals. Manta rays, sea turtle and various other species of sea birds can be spotted throughout the year. During the months of May and June Baleen Whales including Blue, Sei, Fin and Humpback Whales are also known to pass through Azores on their annual migration.
5 Lagoa do Fogo ( Fire Lake )
Located in the middle of the island of Azores lies the inactive volcano called Água de Pau. Within this dormant volcano stands a lake, Lagoa do Fogo, also referred to as the fire lake. This lake is one of three of São Miguel’s crater lakes, and Lagoa do Fogo stands taller than both. This place is beyond breathtaking, and it is a place where even pictures don’t show the pure beauty of this place that you could see in person.
This lake gets protected by the Azorean Government, and swimming isn’t permitted. Although you cannot swim in this area, you can take a hike up or down this mountain. This trial is known as the Lagoa do Fogo trail. This trail passes through farmlands, various landscapes, wooded areas, and even evergreen valleys. Or you could even hike down to the lake from the mouth of the volcano, which takes roughly 30 minutes to hike all the way down. If you’re looking for the best place to view Lagoa do Fogo, go to Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa. Just 15 minutes from the lake towards the coast is a hot spot with the locals – Bar Caloura, seving fresh seafood with a sea view.
6Ponta da Ferraria – A Hot Spring in the Ocean & Viewpoint
Surrounded by lava rock cliffs and captivating natural landscapes lies Ponta da Ferraria. This natural wonder is one of the many unique experiences Azores Sao Miguel has to offer. Natural hot springs have naturally formed underneath the ocean’s surface which warm up the ocean water, you can swim in warm volcanic water while taking in the views of sea and cliffs. Hot springs isn’t the only thing Ponta da Ferraria has to offer, if you don’t fancy taking a dip in the natural hot spring, visit Ponta da Ferraria as it offer the most breathtaking viewpoint in Azores showing all of Sao Miguel’s western shore.
7 Caldeira Velha Hot Springs
During your visit to the islands of Azores, you have to go to the Caldeira Velha hot springs. Caldeira Velha has three built hot spring pools that are flowing with thermal water. That’s all-natural heated volcanic water dropping from above. These hot spring thermal pools are walled with stone and had luscious nature as their background. Caldeira Velha feels a lot like Jurassic Park with added hot springs.
You’ll notice that the waters gives off a reddish-brown tone, and this is because the water in this area is super rich in iron. The hot springs pools are located on the upper terrace when visiting Caldeira Velha. At the end of this site is where you want to be present, as this is where you can find the most beautiful naturally heated swimming pool. That’s gotten built underneath a gentle waterfall. This location is a perfect place for pictures and to see the volcanic wonders that get found in Caldeira Velha.
8Black Sand Beaches
The beaches in the Azores are not your typical tropical beach destination. As most of the beaches in the Azores are of volcanic origin, this makes them very unique. The beaches in the Azores area sand has been infused with the lava rocks, leaving the sand an electric blue colour.
There are many beaches on the Azores, but the highly recommended ones include Praia de Santa Barbara, which the world surf league gets held. Praia de Agua d’Alto is another good beach that many people enjoy visiting. This beach has panoramic views of volcanic sand, clear waters, and beautiful scenery of the rocky cliffs. Ribeira Quente is perfect for small families. Due to it being a quiet bay that gets enclosed by towering cliffs. The Ribeira Quente beach under half an hour from Furnas. Lastly, Praia Formosa in Santa Maria is an iconic beach worth visiting on your trip to Azores. Praia Formosa is the only beach with golden sand, crystal clear water out of the four beaches.
Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort is a fantastic options for a beach resort. This luxury resort is nestled on the black sand beaches, it features 14 glass fronted villas, all offering sea views and decks with hammocks. The unique, almost magical, green pastures and mountain hues that contrast with the azure blue oceans are the ideal backdrop for a calming resort retreat. Not only that it is Azores’ first ecologically-friendly eco-beach resort.
Discover: More Hotels in Ribeira Quente
9Vila Franca do Campo & Islet
Vila Franca do Campo and Islet is famous for the beautifully decorated Shrine of Senhora da Paz. From the shrine, you can admire the fantastic scenic view of the town, as well as the tiny islet of Franca do Campo. Vila Franca do Campo gets located between Ponta Delgada and Furnas, whilst the impressive islet gets situated 1km off the coast.
In the warmer months of the year in Vila Franca do Campo and Islet, you can go swimming or bathe in paradise. Vila Franca do Campo and Islet is also a good place for their snorkelling spots due to the islet bay that provides crystal clear waters. In the centre of the islet, you’ll find a natural pool that is worth visiting. Travelling via boat is the only way to reach the island. And the tickets to the nature reserve get reasonably limited due to the rate that gets sold per day. If you plan to visit Vila Franca do Campo and Islet, it gets recommended to plan ahead.
Are you looking for the wildest or the most remote place in Sao Miguel? You have to visit Nordest. Everything around Nordeste is quite impressive and have many gorgeous lookouts that give you a jaw-dropping experience. Such as Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego and Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada. From these lookouts you’ll find views of the beautiful coastal area that gets surrounded by vibrant flowers. These flowers tend to get decorated most of Azores paths.
Heading North, you’ll find many fun things to do in Nordeste. Like visiting Farol do Arnel, one of the oldest lighthouse in the Azores that still remains intact. Ribeira dos Caldeiröes is a natural park in Nordeste that is a protected area with beautiful cascading waterfalls. The park’s main attraction is the beautiful series of waterfalls framed by the looming cliffs and lush rainforest. There is also a botanic garden and five watermills not too far from the main waterfall attraction. Nordeste is an ideal spot for those who enjoy adventurous hikes with winding paths through mountains. And even for those looking for some rainforest trails. Nordeste has many opportunities to explore and many places perfect for those picture-perfect photos.
Disover: Hotels in Nordeste
Located to the eastern side of Sao Miguel Azores, Furnas Valley is the centre of geothermal activity on the island. Furnas is well worth visiting for a few days. Famous for its hot springs, this beuatiful town is set in a picturesques valley surrounded by mountains, there is plenty to do in this small parish town. Explore the cosy little streets that are lined with white buildings and beautifully decorated churches.
Although the last eruption was in 1630, Furnas is still very alive with volcanic activity. Geothermal activity can still be felt, seen, and smelled wherever you turn in the form of steaming fumaroles, thermal pools, and natural mineral springs. While in Furnas make sure you vist the regions 2 active volcanic sites : Terra Nostra Gardens and Lagoa Das Furnas (see below).
12Lagoa Das Furnas & Cozido Nas Caldeiras
One of Sao Miguel’s three main crater lakes is Lagoa das Furnas (also known as Furnas Lake). Visit this lake to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. This beautiful crater lake is surrounded by lush forest Around the lake, there are a number of hiking paths, lovely parks, and the renowned Neo-Gothic Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias. Rent a kayak or paddle board, then head out to the lake’s centre to take in the 360-degree views of the stunning landscape. For the best viewpoint over the lake, heac to Pico do Ferro. From here, you can see the entire Furnas Valley, from the settlement with the hot springs and little dwellings on your left to the magnificent Furnas Lake on your right.
Nearly 30 boiling, steaming caldeiras and fumaroles of various temperatures and biological components may be found in the middle of Furnas, with a strong sulphur odour permeating the entire area. A unique experience on offer in Sao Migue Azores is “Cozido Nas Caldeiras” which loosely translates to cooking in the hot springs. Portuguese stew (cozido) is prepared in pots that are immersed into the caldeiras’ naturally boiling water, buried, and then cooked for several hours. Around midday, you can witness the crew digging up the food-filled pots. Although the stew has a distinct flavour, it is well worth trying.
Discover: Hotels in Furnas
13Terra Nostra Gardens (Parque Terra Nostra)
Terra Nostra Park (Parque Terra Nostra) is located in the heart of Furnas valley, covering around 12 hectares (30 acres) and was landscaped over 200 years ago. It is surrounded by beautifully landscaped botanical garden, that is home to exotic plants that can only grow in warm, humid climate.
Within the gardens, you will find many geothermal pools but the main attraction is the heated mineral water pool that is orange in colour – the unusual hue is a result of the high iron content. It is one of the most unique experiences in Azores, the pool’s tempreature ranges between 35 – 40°C and the mineral rich water can stain your swimwear so it is recommend you wear an old one. The Thermal Water Pool of Terra Nostra Park is without doubt a highlight of the Azores. We highly recommend Terra Nostra Garden which is nestled in the heart of Terra Nostra Park. Not too far away from Terra Nostra Park are also the famous Poca da Dona Beija hot springs – 5 open air thermal pools.
Discover: Hotels in Furnas
14Poça da Dona Beija
There are plenty of opportunites to experience the magical healing benefits of the hot springs in Furnas. In addition to the thermal pools in Terra Nostra Par, Poça da Dona Beija hot springs also offer a great experience. Poça da Dona Beija offers 5 thermal baths ranging from 28 to 39 degrees Celsius. This heated water is rich in iron and renowned for its healing qualities. Plus it is also open until midnight. In fact, you can even book night hot spring tours.
15Tea Plantation: Cha Gorreana
The oldest, and currently only, tea plantation in Europe, Cha Gorreana in Sao Miguel Azores has been operating since 1883. The plantation still uses the same machinery and continues to produce 44 tonnes of tea each year while looking out over the same gorgeous Atlantic ocean view. Depending on the time of year, you can tour the plant to see the tonnes of leaves being picked and packed. After the tour you even get to sample some of the green and black tea. There is a trail that winds through the tea fields just outside the Cha Gorreana mill, providing unending vistas of the plantation, you may even stumble upon some local cows along the way.
Grown in the lush, emerald-green hills of the Gorreana estate hundreds of miles away from industrial pollution, the tea is harvested fresh every April to September, with a big celebration at the height of the yearly harvest. In fact, tea produced here is exported to Japan, Brazil, Germany, the U.S.
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