The Azores archipelago, a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean, is a tourist destination yet to know but with a unique beauty. Composed of 9 islands, the Azores in general and São Miguel island in particular will win your heart because of its landscape diversity, with peaceful plains, foggy mountains and many ravines with breathtaking views of the Atlantic coast.
Visiting the Azores and São Miguel will, no doubt, give you the opportunity to enjoy an untouched nature and a coast with a marvellous view to the penetrating and captivating blue ocean. For more details you can also check my travel guide of São Miguel and discover everything you can do in 5 days.
Located 1500 km west from Lisbon, northwest from Morocco and 3900 km from North America east coast, these islands with volcanic origins have a lush flora, with many varieties of flowers (hydrangeas, camellias, azaleas) but also an impressive fauna.
The numerous viewpoints offer an astonishing view over an ocean full of life, with sperm whales, whales, dolphins, sharks… You can also swim in the natural pools, formed due to volcanic activity.
Black sand beaches, waterfalls, lush mountains and sunny forests will make dreams come true to nature lovers.
The archipelago was discovered by Diogo de Silves in 1427. Afterwards, it was a Flemish and then a French colony in the 15th century. The Spanish domination between 1580 and 1640 made this archipelago a stopover for ships returning from America.
The Azores towns owe their colonial architecture to these continuous occupations. The archipelago finally became Portuguese after the Portuguese Restoration War.
Previously divided in a random way into three parts, the Azores got a more natural division after the adhesion to a statute of Portuguese autonomous region, giving them the privilege of local administration however dependent, in some affairs, of the national institutions in Lisbon.
Today, the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria compose the eastern group, while the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial compose the central group and Flores and Corvo the western group.
The Azores islands have a unique beauty but it is about São Miguel island that I’m going to talk, because it is the main island and one of the most beautiful in the archipelago.
Here is my top 10 of the places to visit in São Miguel Island
1. Miradouro Vista do Rei
Located close to Ponta Delgada city, this viewpoint is definitely one of the most beautiful viewpoints you’ll find on the island. The “king’s view” offers amazing views over the caldera Caldeira das Sete Cidades and, in particular, over the natural lakes both with blue and green waters like the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades. A change of scenery is guaranteed with this wonderful landscape!
- Pros: 18 km of well-treated walking routes that are side by side with the lagoons. These are perfect for people who love hiking.
- Tip: if you want to enjoy the most of this living postcard landscape, visit Vista do Rei with good weather and avoid the fog.
2. Miradouro das Cumeeiras
This is one of the viewpoints that offer some of the best views over the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades and the western part of São Miguel island. If you have the opportunity, enjoy this landscape while having a picnic on one of the tables you’ll find there.
You should also know that this viewpoint is less known than Vista do Rei viewpoint and offers the opposing view over the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades. For these reasons, I can say this is the perfect site for those who want to admire this natural beauty away from crowds.
3. Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
Located 23 km away from Ponta Delgada, Cerrado das Freiras viewpoint is another viewpoint that offers a privileged view over the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
This viewpoint is also located close to the lagoon Lagoa de Santiago and, if you want to admire this lagoon, you’ll just have to walk 300 metres and enjoy the views from the viewpoint located there.
For the most adventurous, know that there is the possibility to walk down the path located to the left of the viewpoint Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago so that you can admire the lagoon up close.
4. Lagoa do Canário & Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
The lagoon Lagoa do Canário is located 17 km away from Ponta Delgada and, in addition to being able to admire it up close and the woods surrounding it, you can and should also go discover the Boca do Inferno viewpoint.
At this beautiful viewpoint, you can enjoy the amazing view over the lagoons Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Rasa.
You should also know that this is for me one of the most beautiful viewpoints in São Miguel (if you can avoid the fog) and will definitely be one the moments you won’t forget during your visit to the island.
- Tip: you’ll find a gate by the entrance of the lagoon where most people leave their cars, but know that you can enter and drive to the viewpoint. This way, you won’t have to walk for 1 km (for each side)
5. Ponta da Ferraria
Located on the west coast of São Miguel island and 26 km away from Ponta Delgada, Ponta da Ferraria is listed as a regional natural monument due to its unique beauty and is also a bathing site because of its natural pools and therapeutic hot-water fountains of volcanic origins.
Apart from having the possibility of bathing here, you can also explore the surrounding area and admire the landscape as well as the beautiful 18-metre high lighthouse.
6. Ponta Delgada
Once a safe haven for ships sailing to and from India, Ponta Delgada grew and became one of the most important cities in Portugal.
With over 500 years of history and viewed as the economic capital of Azores, Ponta Delgada will amaze you for its beautiful churches, street art, gardens, its fort and the volcanic-origin cave where you’ll find the biggest lava tunnel on the island.
To have a closer look to what you can discover in this city, please read my top 20 of the places to visit in Ponta Delgada.
7. Lagoa do Fogo
The lagoon Lagoa do Fogo is the lagoon located at the highest altitude on this island (575 metres); it is also the second biggest and a true postcard for São Miguel island.
To admire it, make a stop at the viewpoints Miradouro da Barrosa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo where you can find a parking lot.
From Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint, you can make your way down to the lagoon and to the small beach (a 2 km walking distance). If you do that, be very careful because the climate changes rapidly (the blue sky turns foggy in a matter of minutes).
8. Caldeira Velha
Here you’ll certainly have the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet of a beautiful lush place.
Caldeira Velha, located in the centre of the island, between Lagoa do Fogo and Ribeira Grande, is a park where you’ll find a huge biodiversity with two lakes where the water is naturally warm (38 ºC in the small lake and 21 ºC in the big lake).
9. Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Paz
According to legend, the chapel Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Paz was erected in 1764, after the apparition of the Virgin Mary to a shepherd.
The main reason why one should visit this place is because of the view it offers over Vila Franca do Campo and the islet Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo, that you can visit by boat.
Fun fact: some of the qualifiers for Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series took place here.
10. Lagoa do Congro
Located 14 km away from the small town of Furnas, the lagoon Lagoa do Congro is not as known as the other lagoons on the island, but its beauty and peacefulness make it one of my favourite places in São Miguel!
Information: to get to this place you’ll have to go for a small walk (less than 1 km) through the middle of the woods.
11. Praia de Moinhos
Moinhos beach is, for me, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Apart from the beauty of this place, her you’ll find a restaurant/cafe, changing facilities and a big parking lot 200 metres away from the beach.
12. Plantações de Chá da Gorreana e de Porto Formoso
When you visit Azores and São Miguel in particular, don’t miss the opportunity to go to the only tea plantations in Europe for industrial purposes.
Located in Porto Formoso and Maia (less than 3 km away from each other), the plantations of Gorreana and Porto Formoso will show you the whole process of production; you’ll also have the opportunity to walk through the middle of the plantations and, of course, savour their delicious teas.
Information: the visit to Porto Formoso plantations is more authentic and you’ll be accompanied by a guide. Even if you visit the factory of Porto Formoso, I suggest you make a stop at Gorreana plantations to walk along the 1-km long fields (on the other side of the road, facing the factory).
The small town of Furnas is definitely one of the most visited locations in São Miguel and you’ll need at least one day to fully discover its treasures.
Furnas has a magnificent lagoon with two points of interest located on both ends and that you can’t miss.
In the south end of the lagoon, don’t hesitate to make a stop to admire the beautiful chapel Ermida da Senhora da Vitória.
In the northern part, you’ll find the caldera Caldeira das Furnas, a place where the inhabitants prepare the famous cozido (traditional Portuguese stew) in natural ovens fuelled by volcanic activity. To savour this speciality, I suggest you make a reservation in one of the local restaurants.
Another place you can’t miss in Furnas is the park Parque Terra Nostra. This amazing 12-hectare park has lush vegetation and offers unique moments among an impressive collection of fern trees, hydrangeas and much more!
In addition to stroll through a botanic garden, you can also go for a swim in the 38 ºC rusty-coloured thermal water pool. Even though it lures visitors for a swim, know that its water is dirty but you’ll have facilities to take a shower after that.
- Suggestion: take an old swimming suit or swimming shorts.
Furnas has other thermal facilities with pools much appreciated by visitors, like the one in Poça da Dona Beija.
Once, this place was a water fountain for local people to bathe themselves, in a cave where water was heated naturally at more than 35 ºC.
Some years ago, some modifications were made and, since then, there are pools for people to go there and bathe in the 35 ºC rusty-coloured water.
In comparison to Parque Terra Nostra, this place closes later (at 23:00) and tickets are cheaper.
- Suggestions: visit this place only if you don’t have time or don’t want to visit Parque Terra Nostra and take an old swimming suit or swimming shorts.
If you drive by the avenue Avenida Victor Manuel Rodrigues, don’t be surprised by an upside down house!
This “work of art” is, in fact, a transformer substation that belongs to the electricity company of Azores.
14. Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
The viewpoint Miradouro do Pico do Ferro will give you the opportunity to sight Furnas and the lagoon Lagoa das Furnas as well as the calderas Caldeiras das Furnas.
15. Cascata da Ribeira Quente
Located south of Furnas, close to the road that will take you to Ribeira Quente, this waterfall is definitely one of the most beautiful in Azores.
Information: the access to this waterfall is located between two tunnels, on the road. Don’t consider leaving your car there. Park your car in the roadside, 300 metres away from the tunnels.
16. Praia do Fogo
Located at Ribeira Quente, Fogo beach is one of the beaches I suggest you discover during your visit to São Miguel. Apart from its beauty, you’ll have what you need to enjoy a pleasant time, including a parking lot and a restaurant.
17. Miradouro da Pedra dos Estorninhos e Salto da Farinha
These two viewpoints, located in the village of Salga, offer a wonderful view over the ocean, the small beach, the northern coast of the island and its black cliffs; you can also enjoy the view over Salto da Farinha waterfall.
As in many Azorean viewpoints, here you can have a picnic and you’ll find what’s needed for a barbecue.
- Suggestion: you can head down the road to the beach and admire Salto da Farinha waterfall up close (on foot, don’t drive there because of the big road slope).
18. Parque Natural dos Caldeirões
Located in the western coast of São Miguel, this beautiful natural park will amaze you with its beautiful waterfall, its creek, its lagoon, its watermills and all the biodiversity.
- Information: this place has a souvenir shop and a cafe where you can take a break and recover.
19. Farol do Arnel
Situated close to the town Nordeste and side by side with the sea, Arnel lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be built in the archipelago of Azores and started working on the 26th November 1876.
You can head down to that place to admire the lighthouse up close and the small houses and fishing boats.
My suggestion is that you leave your car close to the sign “Farol do Arnel” and walk the remaining 500 metres. You can drive there but it’s a narrow road with a 35 % slope.
Information: to take some beautiful photographs of the lighthouse, make a stop at Vista dos Barcos viewpoint, 2 km south of Nordeste town.
20. Miradouro Ponta do Sossego
The view from this viewpoint is magnificent, but what makes this place amazing is the dirt path alongside the cliff, flanked by hydrangeas. Don’t hesitate to have a picnic at this viewpoint to enjoy this heavenly place.
If you haven’t visited the archipelago of Azores yet, wait no more! Buy your plane ticket and go discover one of the Portuguese treasures still known to few.
- Necessary days to visit São Miguel island: 5 days, not counting with the departure and arrival days.
Do you want to visit São Miguel island? Click below and read my 5-day detailed travel guide (with these 20 locations and other points of interest worth visiting):
Where to sleep in São Miguel island
Marina Mar II (affiliate link)
Marina Mar II is at a new complex and offers its guests an accommodation in modern apartments with access to an outdoor pool. This hotel is just 150 metres away from Vinha da Areia beach.
With all the amenities one could ask for, Marina Mar II is an amazing place to spend your holidays in São Miguel island.
Hotel Canadiano *** (affiliate link)
Hotel Canadiano is another great option you should consider when visiting São Miguel island and, in particular, the city of Ponta Delgada.
The guests that stay here are guaranteed to find the necessary amenities to enjoy a wonderful stay at this hotel. Apart from this, you can also savour the excellent gastronomy at the hotel’s restaurant or have a drink at the bar.
Azor Hotel ***** (affiliate link)
Considered one of the favourite hotels for those visiting the archipelago of Azores and, in particular, São Miguel island, Azor Hotel is facing the Atlantic Ocean, offering some of the best views you’ll find in this island.
This five-star hotel offers its guests all they can ask for to spend some dream holidays. Here, you’ll find an outdoor pool with amazing views, a wellness centre and the most comfortable rooms.
Where to eat in São Miguel island
How to get to São Miguel island
The only way to get to the archipelago of Azores is by plane. The airlines that fly to Ponta Delgada are: SATA (Azores Airlines), TAP and Ryanair. There is no direct flight from the USA nor from the European capitals aside from Lisbon and London.
You’ll have to make a stopover in Lisbon or Porto. The flight from London to São Miguel takes more or less four hours. From Porto or Lisbon to Ponta Delgada it’ll take 2h30.
Information: sometimes, it pays off to buy a ticket directly from one of the airports mentioned above than a ticket with a stopover.
Example: if you live in the USA, instead of buying a ticket from JFK to Ponta Delgada, consider the possibility of buying a ticket from JFK to Lisbon or Porto and then another ticket from Lisbon or Porto to Ponta Delgada. Do exactly the same for your return flight..
By doing this, I was able to save 50 % of the ticket when flying for the first time from Paris to Ponta Delgada.
How to move around in São Miguel island
The best way to visit the island is by hiring a car. The only inconvenient is that the price for car hire (affiliate link) is more expensive that in Porto or Lisbon.
You can also use the public transportation available in São Miguel, but you’ll have to stay longer on the island so that you can admire all of its wonders.
The other option for those who don’t want to hire a car nor use public transportation is booking an activity or tour that will take you to the most touristy points of interest on the island (and others too).
Below, you can find some activities to choose from to explore and discover São Miguel island:
Traditions and Festivities
Taking place from March to April, Festival Tremor is, possibly, the first great event of the year on São Miguel island. This festival’s programme is very eclectic and includes concerts and various activities.
The festivity that gathers more people in the whole island is Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, a festivity in honor of the image of Christ that you can find and admire at the convent Convento da Esperança, in Ponta Delgada.
This festivity takes place in the fifth week after Easter and its highlights are the processions and, of course, the fireworks on Saturday night.
As I mentioned before, Ponta Delgada is rich in street art and the graffiti stand out, embellishing some of the streets of this city. Because of this and other reasons, there is an event you can’t miss during your stay in São Miguel, between the end of June and beginning of July – Walk & Talk.
Are you going to visit São Miguel, Azores? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car and 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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