Planning your trip to the Azores Islands12/06/2023
Cost of a two-week trip to the Azores18/06/2023
12 Best things to do on São Miguel Island
São Miguel is one of the 9 volcanic islands which make up the Portuguese archipelago, the Azores Islands.
São Miguel island should certainly be on your list while planning your trip to the Azores.
Besides the fact that it is the largest island among the archipelago, it is also often your point of departure for the other islands - therefore, you will probably have no choice but to pass through this amazing island. Hard life, I know :)
It's hard for me to describe in words (although it is my job) how diverse and beautiful Sao Miguel is.
There are lots of cool things you can do there, starting with hiking trails, pampering yourself in hot springs, basking in the sun on beautiful beaches (if it's not raining, of course), viewpoints that make me want to cry because they're beautiful, and a lot of other things I don't want you to find out about yet because I want you to keep reading :)
It is very useful to rent a car in order to travel around the island and to see all the beautiful things it has to offer.
We ordered a car through Rentalcars and we were very satisfied.
I won't keep you waiting too long though, so let's start with a review of the 12 things you absolutely mustn't miss in Sao Miguel!
1. Ponta Delgada
Punta Delgada is the capital city of the Azores and is considered the largest city in the islands.
Luckily, you cant really miss Ponta Delgada because you'll be landing there :)
You can happily spend one or two nights there, and wander among its cute streets.
In the city center you can find the Portas de Cidade, a set of three arch-shaped gates that were built in the 18th century in the main square.
Next to them you can also find the Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, a beautiful and impressive Catholic church (from the outside, I personally did not go inside).
A short walk along the beach will bring you to Forte de São Brás, an ancient fortress that has now become a museum. The cost of visiting it is really negligible (3 euros per person - as of 2023).
We enjoyed just wandering the boardwalk, eating ice cream and watching the boats dock.
If you feel like visiting a farmer's market, in the city center you can find the Mercado da Graça, which is open every day except Sunday, at varying hours (you should find out what the opening hours are when you arrive).
In addition, there is a cute place a little outside the city center called Plantação de Ananás dos Açores , where you can find out about pineapples in a greenhouse and learn about their cultivation and also drink pineapple liqueur..!).
If you are a lover of botanical gardens (and there are a lot of them in Sao Miguel), try to also visit Jardim Botânico José do Canto.
In addition, of course, the city offers many restaurants, nice bars with live performances, festivals and various events throughout the year.
2. Parque Terra Nostra - Furnas
Furnas is one of the most popular towns on Sao Miguel, and for good reason.
When I say popular I of course mean tourism :) But, not for nothing..!
In Furnas you will find some of the most worthwhile attractions on the island, and you can even have fun spending two days there.
Parque Terra Nostra is a really, really cool and recommended park, the entrance fee to which is 10 euros (as of 2023), and it has some things that are really worth visiting.
The Botanic Garden
I personally was surprised because I thought I was only coming to dip in a hot spring, but to be honest, I liked the botanical garden much more.
You can have fun spending an hour or two there and walking around among all the hidden spots of the garden.
Do not arrive with a white swimsuit!
But Chutsamza is a huge hot spring, not such an unflattering brown color, but overall very pampering.
The temperature in it is between 35-40 degrees, in short perfect.
It's even quite nice to spend rainy times in it.
The main disadvantage is that the brown water will simply color anything possible, so don't come in white, and come with shampoo :)
Terra Nostra Garden Hotel
The hotel that you can notice the existence of when you enter the park.
The hotel was built in 1935 and today still continues to serve as a luxurious accommodation for travelers.
3. Lagoa Das Furnas
Another place worth visiting if you are in the town is Furnes Lake.
The entrance costs about 3 euros per person if you arrive during the defined operating hours.
You can also come in the evening (we arrived by mistake because we thought it was hot springs to bathe in, and they didn't charge us money).
There are some very cute things to do at the lake and it's fun to spend half a day/a whole day there.
Fumarolas Lagoa das Furnas
This place is home of a geothermal phenomenon where you can watch bubbling mud, but the really cool thing to see is a technique they use to cook food in the ground. They have pits which access the hot spring, and the food is placed in the pit and steam cooked.
Yes yes, real food, which sits and cooks in a pot, and which is served by the restaurants of the area.
Such a dish is called Cozido das Furnas and you can taste one of these dishes at the park's restaurant.
Lagoa Furnas hiking trail
A walking trail that surrounds the park and is approximately 8 km long.
Two thirds of it goes inside the park, and the last third requires walking on the main road to get back to the parking lot.
We just hitched a ride when we got to the stretch of road, and it was a cool opportunity to meet some locals for a minute and a half ride :)
The route itself is easy and nice and passes through many really beautiful spots.
Towards the middle of the route you will also find the beautiful cathedral Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias.
Cascata do Grená
A walking path to a waterfall (we didn't do it) which is inside the park.
The entrance fee to the trail costs about 10 euros.
Travelers say that the route itself is beautiful, and there is an ascent of about 300 steps.
I think it would be nice to mention it as an option, even though we decided that we didn't want to pay 10 euros for a waterfall when there are so many beautiful waterfalls for free.
4. Lagoa Do Fogo
What a place (and aptly named)! Out of all of Sao Miguel, this is the place we liked the most.
The weather in the area was simply terrible in our first days, but we decided not to give up, and as mentioned, we really didn't regret it.
Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo
The lower observation point of the lake.
The truth is that we drove towards this observation point one afternoon, and everything was so cloudy that we could barely see the tree in front of us, and we had no idea what kind of view we would discover there.
The next day we returned because we said - well why don't we jump to an observation point for a few minutes before we continue?
When we arrived we were presented with such a beautiful view. I found some small path and we started walking on it.
Walking track to the lake shore
An unnamed hiking trail, which was revealed to us when we found the small path from the observation point.
We started walking in it just like that, and then we said - why don't we actually continue all the way down?
And so quite spontaneously, without even water, we just flowed the way we started and reached the shore of the lake below.
The route is a little more than 3 km, and requires a real ascent and descent, but definitely worth it.
You can rest on the shore of the lake and watch all the seagulls resent us humans for sitting there :)
5. Visiting hot springs
Well, you can't go to Sao Miguel and not visit at least 50,000 hot springs :)
I can understand if you don't have the time for many springs, so at least I will give you my recommended ones.
Ponta da Ferraria
Well look, this is no ordinary hot spring. If it were possible to equate a hot spring to a roller coaster - this is the place.
These hot springs are actually hot streams that arise from the ground next to the open ocean, and they are best appreciated during low tide.
You need to know what time to arrive according to the tide times in order to enjoy the warm water and not freeze in the ocean instead.
I don't know if it's always like this, but when we were there the water was rough and just turned the experience into an anaerobic workout.
There are ropes that you can hold on to in order not to die, and it was quite entertaining to be spread over everyone there when a big wave comes.
I've never been to anything like this, and although it's not a particularly relaxing hot spring experience - the place is so worth a visit..!
I laughed out loud there the whole time until I was already tired of the mental investment of my brain in trying to survive.
The hot springs I liked the most on the whole island.
Entrance to them costs about 10 euros and it is highly recommended to order tickets in advance online.
You can also get there and ask at the ticket office, but there won't always be a place when you arrive.
The place is right in the heart of a cute jungle, and there are several springs at different temperatures.
I won't tell you too much about the wonders of the place, because it's pretty cool to explore it and discover its hidden corners on your own.
Termas das Caldeiras
A small hot spring at a cost of 3 euros entrance for a visit of about an hour.
A cute place that also limits the number of visitors so you have a more intimate experience.
There are two pools at different temperatures and it's really nice to go there in the evening.
Note - there is another hot spring that we visited that is written elsewhere in the post so you must read in depth so as not to miss the recommendation for it :)
6. Sete Cidades Lakes
Two lakes, one green and one blue which are connected by a bridge.
A really cute and beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful beaches all around, ducks and lots of worthwhile observation points.
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
The lower observation point of the lakes is very crowded with tourists, but worth a stop.
No walking is required and there is a reasonable chance of even finding parking, maybe :)
Miradouro da Grota do Inferno
The most beautiful observation point in my opinion, but not because of the view, but because of the railings and the walking path over the edge which is really beautiful.
There is a short walk to the observation point, about 1.2 km from the parking lot.
We got there in the evening and it was really nice and not crowded.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
The high vantage point over the lakes which was nicer than the lower one.
What's more, it got a lot of good ratings on Google, so it's probably worth going there :)
7. The Gorreana Tea factory
Make a note - an ideal place to visit on rainy days.
This cute tea factory is completely free. You can walk around it independently or take a short guided tour (free of charge) between the parts of the factory.
In my opinion, you should take the tour to understand and learn the methods of growing, picking and processing tea in the area.
You can also roam freely in the beautiful tea fields, and of course taste the tea they produce and eat delicious tea cookies.
There is also a tourist shop in the factory that sells the tea they produce, if you want to stock up on some caffeine for the trip.
As someone who no longer consumes caffeine, their tea cookies definitely made me a bit high :)
8. Islote de Vila Franca
This is the moment I fear the most when I write posts like this.
Such posts often require research, so that I can give as much correct and relevant information as possible about the destination.
And in the research process, sometimes I find out about places that I never heard of until now, and then I get upset and my heart breaks.
I can't visit all the places that exist, because what can I do, I still don't get paid to travel the world, and so it turns out that I miss such beautiful places.
That's what happened here with Islote de Vila Franca.
But the fact that I didn't see it for myself doesn't mean you should miss such a beautiful place.
A small, uninhabited coastal island located south of the center of São Miguel, somewhere in the ocean.
You can sail to it at a cost of about 15 euros round trip, or alternatively combine it with a whale cruise.
9. Gruta do Carvão
Another one of the attractions we missed because we didn't check on Google 'what not to miss in Sao Miguel'.
But it's not bad, because we saw 2 pretty cool caves on Terceira Island, so I don't want to feel bad about myself for missing this one too.
In any case, I will provide you with the information from the recommendations of travelers who have visited there.
This is a lava cave that can be toured through a guided tour (it is advisable to book in advance).
There are two types of tours - a short one that lasts about 30-45 minutes and costs about 8 euros, and a long one that lasts about two to three hours and costs about 20 euros.
Tell me how it was in the comments :)
10. The towns of Achadinha/Salga
Two small towns next to each other, and what's cool about them is everything in between.
Miradouro do Salto da Farinha
An observation point that can be reached by car (don't be afraid to try to drive further down).
What's beautiful about it is that just a little below it, there is a nice spot to stop for a picnic.
On one side there is a really beautiful view of the waterfalls, and on the other side the view of the ocean.
In my opinion, it was a really special place and allowed us to both visit the beach below, and also start a walking route from there.
Poço Azul and other waterfalls
A cute hiking trail that can be done in all kinds of variations and takes you to several different waterfalls along the way.
The waterfalls are really cute, and you don't have to visit them all, but it is possible to combine all these routes into one long route, and even reach some isolated beaches.
11. Visiting beaches
So you can't really visit a wild island in the middle of the ocean without visiting some beaches.
Unless you're me and you're not so fond of the sea :)
Nevertheless, we had a very hot day and jumped to a nice beach for a bit of rest called Praia dos Mosteiros.
The beach itself isn't amazing, but what's cool about it are the giant cliffs that are reflected from it. One of them is actually in the shape of a triangle!
A beach that is highly regarded by most travelers is Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara located on the shores of the town of Ribeira Grande.
Another beach that is said to be worth a visit is Praia de Água D'Alto on the south side of the island.
Of course, it is also very worthwhile to go down to the shores of the Lagoa do Fogo lake that I mentioned in the previous paragraphs and get a slightly different atmosphere (just note that you are not allowed to enter the water).
12. Cat observation points
Yes, it is exactly as it sounds.
On the east coast of the island there are several observation points/botanical gardens (this whole island is a botanical garden, I tell you), where there are also colonies of cats.
There are those who make sure to feed and pet them, and they sit in their little spots at every corner you pass. They even have small houses where they live.
It's really cute, really.
The observation points are really beautiful, and not only in terms of the view that we will reveal to you. Even just walking through them feels like you are on a short visit to Japan. Everything there is precise and organized, and I wouldn't be surprised if people come every morning to trim and shape the bushes.
I found two such observation points (maybe there are more?)
Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
This is the better one in my opinion. You can wander through it and reach all kinds of hidden places.
There are picnic tables and barbecues, and it's fun to spend an hour or two there and prepare a meal if you want (just don't get dirty!).
Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada
The southernmost observation point of the two.
Also very beautiful, a little smaller than the previous one but amazing views all around.
I recommend jumping to both because what do you care? It's a five minute drive from one to the other :)
Wow Sao Miguel is an island you should not miss in the Azores.
I tried to summarize here some of the things that are unique to this island, and hope that it will give you some good points to mark on the map.
And if you came to other cool places, tell me about them in the comments..! I would love to know what else I missed and kick myself about it later ;)
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All photos were taken by me, and may not be used without permission.
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