Considered one of the most beautiful islands in Portugal and spanning from 8 to 15 km wide and 64 km long, the island of São Miguel, in Azores, hides several wonderful places that will blow your mind!
Its numerous viewpoints offer breathtaking views over an ocean populated with whales, sperm whales, dolphins and even sharks. Its black-sand beaches, waterfalls, beautiful lagoons, 38 ºC natural pools, lush hills, forests and sunny cliffs are a guarantee for nature lovers to spend unforgettable holidays.
Do you want to visit this wonderful place but don’t know how to prepare your trip? In this Azores travel guide, I’ll show you a 5-day itinerary for you to discover the amazing island of São Miguel.
Day 1: Azores Travel Guide – São Miguel Island
To fully enjoy this travel guide in São Miguel, I recommend that you hire a car by clicking here (affiliate link) so that you can easily move from place to place and visit locations that aren’t accessible by other means of transportation.
1. Lagoa do Canário & Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
My suggestion is for you to begin your itinerary in one of the most beautiful places in São Miguel, Boca do Inferno viewpoint. This viewpoint offers breathtaking views over the lagoons Lagoa das Sete Cidades, with blue and green waters, Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Rasa.
- Information: to fully enjoy this place, visit it on a sunny day. Click this link to get informed about the weather with a live-feed webcam – choose “Sete Cidades” webcam.
- Tip: you will find a gate at the entrance of the lagoon – many people leave their cars there. Know that you can enter with your car and go to the viewpoint. You won’t have to walk 1 km in each direction.
2. Miradouro Vista do Rei
This 251-metre high viewpoint is the best known viewpoint in São Miguel Island – it will give you the opportunity to gaze at Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Nearby, you will find Monte Palace hotel, an old five-star hotel completely abandoned for years.
- Information: to fully enjoy this place, try to visit it in a sunny, not foggy day. Click this link to get informed about the weather with a live-feed webcam – choose “Sete Cidades” webcam.
Bonus: during your itinerary between Vista do Rei viewpoint and the next stop (Sete Cidades), don’t hesitate to make a stop at Cerrado das Freiras and at the Lagoa de Santiago viewpoints to admire the view over the lagoons Lagoa das Sete Cidades and Lagoa de Santiago.
3. Sete Cidades
In this village you can visit the beautiful church Igreja de São Nicolau and the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Don’t hesitate to drive around the lagoon until you get to the tunnel created in 1937 to maintain the water level.
4. Miradouro Ponta da Ferraria
From this viewpoint you can gaze at the sea, at the Ferraria lighthouse, at the natural pools and at the hot springs.
It is the perfect place for a picnic. You’ll find tables, barbecue places and restrooms. The other option is for you to go to the hot springs Termas da Ferraria and eat at the restaurant.
At the hot springs you can relax in the spa or enjoy the natural pools located a few metres away without paying.
In this village you can discover Mosteiros islet, swim in the natural pools or enjoy the typical black-sand beach.
Bonus: before moving on to the next point of interest, make a small 7-km detour to discover the wonderful Cumeeiras viewpoint that offers some of the most beautiful views over the amazing lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Regarding this viewpoint, you should know that it is less known than Vista do Rei viewpoint and offers the opposing view over Lagoa das Sete Cidades. For these reasons, I can tell you that this is the perfect place for those who want to admire this natural beauty away from crowds.
6. Miradouro Pedras Negras
Pedras Negras viewpoint has views to Tromba de Elefante which is one of the most unusual places on the island. The name comes from the cliff that looks like an elephant head with its trunk and big ears.
To the left of this viewpoint you’ll find a boat where you can take some amazing photos.
Where to sleep in São Miguel island
Hotel Canadiano *** (affiliate link)
Hotel Canadiano is an excellent option for those who want to visit the beautiful island of São Miguel.
Guests who choose this accommodation will certainly find all the necessary amenities to enjoy a wonderful stay. Apart from this, they can also eat at the hotel’s restaurant or have a drink at the hotel’s bar.
Azor Hotel *** (affiliate link)
Considered as one of the favourite hotels by those visiting the archipelago and, in particular, the island of São Miguel, Azor Hotel is facing the Atlantic Ocean and offers some of the most beautiful views you’ll find on this island.
This five-star hotel offers its guests all they could ask to spend some dream holidays! Here, you’ll find an outdoor pool with amazing views, a fitness centre and comfortable rooms.
Day 2: Azores Travel Guide – São Miguel Island
1. Miradouro Lagoa do Fogo
Begin your day by going to this viewpoint where you can admire Lagoa do Fogo, the lagoon located at a highest altitude on the island (575 metres) and the second biggest.
To admire this lagoon, don’t hesitate to make a stop at Barrosa viewpoint and Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint where you’ll have a parking lot.
From Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint, you’ll have the opportunity to climb down to the lagoon and its beach (a 2-km walk). However, be careful since the weather can easily and rapidly change (the blue sky can turn into a cloudy sky and foggy day).
- Information: to fully enjoy this place, visit it in a sunny day. Click this link to get informed about the weather with a live-feed webcam – choose “Lagoa do Fogo” webcam.
Information: know that you can also visit Lagoa do Fogo (affiliate link) if you book an activity that will take you first on a boat trip to the open sea to admire whales and dolphins. After lunch, you will set off on a jeep adventure to discover this natural wonder.
For hiking lovers, know that you can do a 7-hour activity that will take you on an 11 km route around Lagoa do Fogo (affiliate link).
2. Caldeira Velha
You will definitely love the beauty and calmness of this incredible place. Caldeira Velha is a park where you will find an important biosphere with two pools with naturally warm water (38 ºC in the small pool and 21 ºC in the big pool).
- Information: at the location you will find changing rooms and showers.
3. Ribeira Grande
While in the beautiful town of Ribeira Grande, don’t miss the opportunity to eat there and to discover the amazing botanical garden, the 17th century city hall square, the churches Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Estrela and Igreja do Espírito Santo and the beach.
4. Miradouro de Santa Iria
After visiting Ribeira Grande, head east and stop at Santa Iria viewpoint to enjoy this magnificent landscape.
5. Praia de Moinhos
In my opinion, Moinhos beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in São Miguel. At the location, aside from its beauty, you’ll find a restaurant / snack bar, changing rooms and a big parking lot, 200 metres away from the beach.
Bonus: less than 5 km away, you’ll find the only tea plantations in Europe for industrial use.
Located in Porto Formoso and Maia, Gorreana and Porto Formoso tea plantations will give you the opportunity to discover the different stages of the tea production process and you can also enjoy their teas.
Information: the visit to Porto Formoso plantations is more authentic and you’ll have the company of a knowledgeable guide. Even if you visit Porto Formoso factory, I suggest you make a stop at Gorreana tea plantations to stroll through the 1-km long fields (across the road, facing the factory).
Right next to the village of Salga you’ll find an amazing place with two viewpoints, a waterfall, a small pool, a beach and several picnic places.
The first thing you’ll find at the place will be Miradouro do Salto da Farinha, where you can see the waterfall and the sea.
By going through the path on the left, you will see some picnic tables and, at the end of the path, you will find the viewpoint Miradouro da Pedra dos Estorninhos, where you can admire the sea, the beach and the pool.
To head down to the beach and waterfall, you have to climb down a path just before you get to Salto da Farinha viewpoint.
As an alternative, you can drive to this place but you must be very careful since there is a steep road that can be dangerous, especially during rainy days or if you hired a small car with not enough horsepower to go uphill. To avoid any problems, I suggest you go the last 500 metres on foot.
To visit the waterfall, you have to cross the path behind the house (opposite to the sea). If you visit the 40-metre high waterfall in the summer (like I have) you will be disappointed because you won’t see much water falling down.
7. Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
Located 5 km from Salga, you will find in Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park a beautiful waterfall (even in the summer), a botanical garden, old water mills, a souvenir shop and a snack bar.
- Information: the waterfall is located to the right of the road and the rest of the park on the other side.
Information: if you like adventure, then know that you can do canyoning (affiliate link) in this beautiful park, an experience you won’t forget!
Day 3: Azores Travel Guide – São Miguel Island
1. Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro is a peaceful and charming lagoon with crystal clear water. This place is far from being a tourist destination but is one of my favourite places on the island.
How to visit Lagoa do Congro?
When you find a sign indicating “Lagoa do Congro“, leave the main road and then follow the byroad that will turn into a dirt road. After 900 metres, you’ll find another sign of “Lagoa do Congro”. There, you should leave your car and walk 300 metres through a path in the woods until you get to the lagoon.
2. Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
From the viewpoint Miradouro do Pico do Ferro you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views over the lagoon Lagoa das Furnas and the calderas Caldeiras das Furnas, where locals cook the “cozido à portuguesa” (Portuguese stew) in ovens powered by volcanic activity. If you want to try this speciality, you should make a reservation the day before.
3. Lagoa das Furnas and Caldeiras das Furnas
You can visit Lagoa das Furnas and Caldeiras das Furnas before or after having a good meal in Furnas. If you want to visit Caldeira das Furnas, you’ll have to pay a symbolic amount.
Further south, I recommend you make a stop to visit the beautiful chapel Ermida da Senhora da Vitória. The access to the southern part is free but you’ll only get there on foot (you’ll find a parking lot close to the road, not free though).
4. Parque Terra Nostra
This beautiful 12-hectare park with lush vegetation offers a peaceful time in an impressive botanical collection (ferns, hydrangea and others).
Even though the 38 ºC rusty coloured thermal water pool invites people for a swim, the truth is that this orange-coloured water is dirty, but don’t worry because this place has changing rooms.
- Tip: bring a used/old swimsuit or swimming shorts in case you have to throw them away.
5. Poça da Dona Beija
This place was originally a spring where the locals would bathe in a 30 ºC naturally warmed water.
A few years ago this place underwent some construction works and, since then, there are many available pools for people to swim in this rusty-coloured water.
In comparison to Terra Nostra Park, this place is better because it closes later (23h) and the price is cheaper.
- Suggestion: you should only visit this place if you don’t have time or don’t want to visit Terra Nostra Park.
- Tip: bring a used/old swimsuit or swimming shorts in case you have to throw them away.
When you visit Furnas, don’t be surprised if you drive through the avenue Avenida Victor Manuel Rodrigues and see an upside down house!
This “work of art” is, in fact, a transformation substation of the electricity company of Azores.
Bonus: if you have time, I suggest you go discover Ribeira Quente waterfall and the beach Praia do Fogo, both located 9 km south of Furnas.
Situated close to the road that leads to Ribeira Quente, the waterfall with the same name is definitely one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island.
Information: the access to this waterfall is located between the two small tunnels you’ll come across on the road. Don’t park your car here; you can park it on the roadside, 300 metres away from the tunnels.
Around 3 km after the waterfall, you’ll find the beach Praia do Fogo, one of the beaches I suggest you discover during your visit to São Miguel. Apart from its beauty, you’ll have all you need to spend some pleasant moments (parking lot, restaurant and others).
Day 4: Azores Travel Guide – São Miguel Island
1. Faial da Terra
Start your day with a 4.5 km stroll through the woods in Faial da Terra and enjoy the beautiful Salto do Prego waterfall. During the 2-hour walk, you will find, aside from the waterfall, beautiful landscapes and even an abandoned water mill.
2. Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada
With an amazing view over the Atlantic Ocean, this viewpoint also has all that you need to have a pleasant picnic .
3. Miradouro Ponta do Sossego
The views from this viewpoint are magnificent but what really makes this place extraordinary is the possibility of walking along the cliff that is surrounded by hydrangeas. Don’t miss the opportunity to have a picnic at the viewpoint Miradouro Ponta do Sossego to enjoy a little bit more of this paradise.
4. Farol do Arnel
Located close to the town of Nordeste and side by side with the sea, Arnel lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in the Azores. It started working on the 26th November 1876.
You can head down to the site to admire the lighthouse up close and the houses and fishing boats.
My suggestion is for you to leave your car when you see the sign “Farol do Arnel” and walk the last 500 metres. You can drive to this location but you will find a narrow and steep road.
Information: to take some beautiful photographs, don’t hesitate to stop at Vista dos Barcos viewpoint, located 2 km south of Nordeste.
5. Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz
You should end your day at the chapel Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz which was erected in 1764. According to legend, this chapel was built after the apparition of Virgin Mary to a shepherd.
What stands out here is the wonderful view over Vila Franca do Campo and its islet that you can visit by boat.
Information: it’s on the islet of Vila Franca do Campo that one of the stages of Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship takes place.
Day 5: Azores Travel Guide – São Miguel Island
For your last day in the Azores, I suggest you go discover the regional capital, the beautiful city of Ponta Delgada.
Firstly, you should leave your car at Parque Atlântico shopping centre, where you can find free parking, and then begin your journey at António Borges Garden.
1. Jardim António Borges
António Borges Garden was created in the 19th century in a Romantic style. It is a beautiful botanical garden where you will find the most exotic species. This place was a private garden that belonged to a distinguished citizen in the region (António Borges) and it is open to the public since 1957 (when it was bought by the city of Ponta Delgada).
Bonus: before beginning your visit to the garden Jardim António Borges, you can visit the cave Gruta do Carvão, located 1 km away from the shopping centre Parque Atlântico.
Considered as a regional natural monument, the cave Gruta do Carvão is a unique place not only in São Miguel but in the whole country.
What stands out in this volcanic-origin cave is the fact that here you’ll find the biggest lava tunnel on the island. Among other interesting characteristics, you should know that you can admire stalactites, stalagmites and other traces left by the lava flow.
2. Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo
Located at a convent, the church Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo was erected in the 16th century and houses the famous image of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, with an amazing set of gold accessories and gemstones that date back to the 18th century.
Apart from this, the convent is also the present residence for the religious women of Maria Imaculada.
Bonus: at the same square (Praça 5 de Outubro) where the church Igreja Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres is located, you’ll also find the church Igreja de São José that you can visit as well.
3. Forte de São Brás
São Brás Fort was built in the 16th century to defend the Azores from pirates, attracted to the treasures of passing ships from Africa, India and Brazil. Inside the fort you must visit the Azores Military Museum, where decades of the archipelago military history are shown.
4. Portas da Cidade
The City Gates are a symbol of the island’s line of defense. They were built in 1783, east of the island, and transferred to the square Praça Gonçalo Velho in 1952.
5. Igreja de São Sebastião
The beautiful church Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião was built in the 19th century with magnificent Manueline-style doors.
After visiting the church and the beautiful streets nearby, return to Parque Atlântico shopping centre. If you haven’t eaten yet, know that you’ll find many restaurants here.
Bonus: before returning to Parque Atlântico shopping centre, don’t hesitate to visit the museum Museu Carlos Machado, the church Igreja Colégio dos Jesuítas and José do Canto Botanical Garden.
6. Ermida da Mãe de Deus
Leave the shopping centre and drive to the beautiful chapel Ermida da Mãe de Deus.
This chapel was built between 1925 and 1947. In this place there was a chapel that was demolished in 1915, during the First World War. The reason why it was demolished was because it could be a target for German submarines.
Aside from admiring the chapel, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the views over the city, its surroundings and the Atlantic Ocean.
Information: if you want to discover the most beautiful places in Ponta Delgada and discover the history of the city, I invite you to book a guided tour of 3h30 here (affiliate link).
Your trip to São Miguel Island should end with a couple of hours sunbathing at Água de Alto or Vila Franca do Campo beaches.
This travel guide to discover the island of São Miguel was made especially for nature lovers that want to discover all the places they can in 5 days.
Are you going to visit São Miguel, in the Azores? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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