Nine islands make up the Azores Archipelago – other islands are several hours by ferry or a short flight from Sao Miguel (but closer to each other in proximity). We didn’t have a chance to go to the other small islands this time, but supposed to be beautiful and most of them worthwhile if you have time. Heard a lot of good things from the locals about Pico, Flores and Santa Maria.
Sao Miguel is the largest, most inhabited island – “The Green Island”: lakes, (dark) sandy beaches, green hills/hiking and blue ocean views. Tons of nature/scenery, whale- and dolphin-watching, fishing, natural pools, hot springs, etc.
We were lucky and saw so many whales, a baby whale right under our boat and lots of dolphins – see our video below:
Best time to visit is apparently May through October (May and September/early October are best as we’ve heard from locals, as the weather is still warm enough but not hot, and without the crowds and peak-season prices). Note however, ferries to other islands only run from May through September/early October.
Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel – downtown) is the Ideal location to stay in, with access to marina, historical town centre/cobblestone streets, great restaurants, bars, some shopping, Fort: Military museum and S/ Bras Fort., Torre Sineira, Fabrica de Bordados (local handcrafts), Igreja S. Sebastiao da Matrix (church XVI), Igreja de S Jose (church XVI). There are several great restaurants to eat there, we really liked a small one close to the central square which we were sitting outside with the view to the square, church, and historical buildings.
Some of the places we visited while there:
Sete Cidade: beautiful/very cute/old European small town surrounding the twin lakes, lots of walking and hiking trails. Good restaurants in the area are more difficult to find, so try to book in advance if you are going in a busy season.
Lagoa do Fogo – lake in a volcanic crater, gorgeous views, nearby natural pools and hot springs. If time, include Caldeira Velha – natural monument and small hot spring/pool nearby
Furnas – small town potentially worth staying in – natural hot springs and man-made pools, town known for ‘cozido’ a traditional dish cooked in underground geothermal/volcanic heat.
Dona Beija (hot springs) small park with 6 or 7 natural hot spring (man-made) pools, very relaxing, nice way to spend a couple of hours. ~4 Euros. Supposed to be gorgeous/lit up at night. Unfortunately, we went during the day and didn’t have a chance to come back in the evening.
Terra Nostra hot spring +gardens (stunning gardens, including large man-made pool with natural hot spring water – yellow colour due to iron/sulphor)
Traditional Azorean ‘cozido’ food (slow cook it underground by geothermal/volcanic heat).
Boca do Inferno – hike and lookout
Nordeste/Northeast – many lookout points, beautiful area
Pico da Vara (island’s highest point, two-hour walk – we didn’t do this).
The tea Plantations and factory @ Porto Formos seems to be a big hit. We drove through there few times, but we didn’t have a chance to stop there as we were driving with our child.
Beach located 10 min from downtown Ponta Delgada: