The Azores archipelago, a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic, 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 than 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 (Viewpoint) da Vista do Rei
Located near the city of Ponta Delgada, this viewpoint is, for sure, one of the most beautiful in the island. The “king view” gives amazing views over the Caldeira das Sete Cidades and, most specifically, over its natural lakes, with clear blue and green waters, including the magnificent Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
- Tip: If you want to enjoy this postcard view, visit the “Vista do Rei Viewpoint” with a clear sky to avoid fog. You will find 18 km of well preserved roads surrounding the lakes. Ideal for hiking lovers.
2. Caldeira Velha
Surely you will enjoy the peacefulness and relaxation this verdant place has to offer. Located in Ribeira Grande, in the centre of the island, “Caldeira Velha” is characterised by its beautiful waterfall dropping into Lago de Fogo.
The heat of the natural pool is around 27 °C (photo above) and 38 °C in the natural pool located further down. Caldeira heights will give you the opportunity to enjoy one of the most beautiful landscapes in São Miguel island.
- Tip: In Fumarolas you will find water at a temperature of 61 °C, so be careful not to get burnt!
3. Terra Nostra Park (Parque Terra Nostra)
This beautiful 12-hectare park with lush vegetation offers a peaceful time in an impressive botanical collection (ferns, hydrangeas…).
Take the opportunity to enjoy the rusty thermal water pool (38 ºC). Though you’ll have a pleasant swim, the rusty water will dirty your clothes, but don’t worry because you’ll find sanitary facilities there to wash up.
- Tip: bring a used/old swimsuit because it will be difficult to take the rust off.
4. Caldeirões Park (Parque dos Caldeirões)
Located in the east coast of the island, this park will amaze you with its river, watermill and beautiful waterfall. You can’t miss the beautiful trees and flowers. While at the park, relax and take some beautiful photos.
- Tip: There, you will find a café and a souvenir shop.
5. Lagoa das Furnas
A magnificent lake, along which you can walk and admire the nature.
- Tip: The inhabitants and local restaurants cook the “cozido à portuguesa” (Portuguese stew) in the natural ovens heated by volcanic activity. To taste this local dish, you’ll have to make a reservation.
- Information: To get to Lagoa das Furnas you’ll have to pay a parking ticket (small amount) and an additional 0,50 € per person.
6. Miradouro (Viewpoint) Lagoa do Canário
The lagoon of Canário offers an astonishing view. Surely the most beautiful view over the island and one of the most relaxing places.
- Tip: many people leave their cars next to the entrance gate of the lagoon. Know that you can drive in and enjoy the viewpoint. It’s a 2-km hike you won’t have to do.
7. Lagoa do Congro
A lagoon of crystal clear water, peaceful and charming; a place where you won’t find any tourists.
- Tip: To access the lagoon you’ll have to go into the beautiful woods which will turn out to be a relaxing hike.
8. Miradouro (Viewpoint) da Ponta do Sossego
In this viewpoint (my favourite) you will find a fascinating bucolic landscape. It’s the perfect place for a picnic.
- Tip: There, you will find toilets and numerous spots to have a barbecue.
9. Miradouro (Viewpoint) da Pedra dos Estorninhos
Located in Salga parish, this viewpoint offers an amazing view over the ocean and the north coast of the island. Seize the opportunity to take a stroll and discover the beautiful Ribeira waterfall.
- Tip: You will find in this viewpoint, as well as in the previous one, all you need to have a picnic.
10. Miradouro (Viewpoint) Pedras Negras
Pedras Negras viewpoint is one of the most unusual places in the island. The name comes from the cliff Tromba do Elefante that looks like an elephant head with its trunk and big ears.
If you haven’t visited the Azores yet, what are you waiting for? Buy your plane ticket now and discover one of the most extraordinary places in Portugal.
- Days you will need to visit São Miguel: 5 days, excluding the arrival and departure days.
Where you can spend the night
Marina Mar II (affiliate link)
Located in a new complex, Marina Mar II offers its guests modern accommodations with an outside pool. The hotel is located in São Miguel island, 150 metres from Vinha da Areia Beach.
Marina Mar II is an extraordinary place to spend your holidays in São Miguel island.
Solmar Alojamentos (affiliate link)
Located in the Ponta Delgada seafront promenade, facing the Atlantic Ocean, these apartments offer a comfortable stay during your visit to São Miguel.
Marina Lounge Hostel is located 200 metres from the marina, in Ponta Delgada, and 900 metres from the city centre. Some of the amenities the hostel offers are free Wi-Fi and a daily breakfast in the dining room.
Vintage Place – Azorean Guest House (affiliate link)
Vintage Place is a colourful lodge in São Miguel island, at a 5-minute walking distance from Ponta Delgada historic centre. Free Wi-Fi access and a shared kitchen are available at this lodge.
How to get to São Miguel Island
The only way to get to the Azores is by plane. The airlines flying to Ponta Delgada from the mainland are: Sata, TAP, Ryanair and Easyjet. It’s a 2h30m flight, costing +/- 100 € per person (depending on the dates).
Getting around São Miguel Island
The best way to discover the island is by car. Prices are more expensive than in the mainland, however it’s cheaper (minimum 2 people) than visiting the island in a tourist bus.
Are you going to visit the Azores? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car 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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