Nature at its best, this is how I could briefly summarize our experience on São Miguel island in Açores.
Even though January is considered there as off-season, and we haven’t seen the famous Hortensia flowers in full bloom… and the fact that the island is indeed tiny, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and influenced by ocean currents and winds, that presently the rainy days are more likely than the warm and sunny days… I was still totally amazed how rich this place is from nature point of view.
Nicknamed as ‘The Green Island’, offers a number of nature related activities with its interesting vegetation and geography, thus making it an excellent holiday destination with a difference.
São Miguel is also influenced by the cyclonic Gulf Stream, which functions as a moderating force in the island, keeping temperatures hovering between 14 °C and 26 °C throughout the year. The real feel though could be colder during the night and on the gloomy, rainy days, and the other way around, when it’s sunny, you suddenly get the desire to jump into the milky white ocean waves.
The island is extremely vivid green during the whole year, making the local cows very happy and well fed. Regardless ‘The Green Island’ is the largest and most populous island in Azores, in 1 week you are able to visit it all. Thanks to the local road network, most of the places are easy to reach by car, and you can plan a round trip around the island – starting from and arriving back to Ponta Delgada, the capital, where nearby the airport is located too.
So let’s see that round trip! 😉
1. Ananases A Arruda, a pineapple plantation, that you can visit for free. It’s approx. 10 minutes ride from the capital, easy to get there by car if you follow the local signs, even if they are sometimes misleading. The whole visit shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes as it’s on a small area, but you will find and able to visit a bunch of different greenhouses, learn how the pineapples are grown and taste the locally produced pineapple liquor – must have! 😋 – for free too, in their cute gift shop.
2. Sete Cidades is located between Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, a tiny place on which the best view one can get is from the Miradouro da Vista do Rei. There are less than 1000 inhabitants in this village, so when at the viewing point I asked a local lady where the nearest place is to get a coffee and the answer was – ‘only down there in the city’… I couldn’t stop smiling. But she had right, there are three places indeed in the ‘city’ where you most likely able to get a coffee. 🙂
3. Ferraria, by the ocean in the far west of the island lies Ferraria. It’s famous for its thermal bath, and the breathtaking panorama from Ponta da Ferraria. At this unique natural attraction, you can have an opportunity to swim in warm, volcanic waters, while you enjoy a brilliant view of the ocean and cliffs. In addition to the natural pools, in Ponta Da Ferraria you’ll find stunning panoramas. Even if you are not interested in making the trek to the pool, the views alone are worth the trip.
4. Mosteiros, the place that was the biggest surprise for me, the place that none of the pre-read reviews mentioned, the place where I could even imagine to live. It’s true that you need to leave the main road in order to get to Mosteiros, but it’s definitely worth it. Its black basalt sandy beach, the monumental rocks, the view on the bay with the big ocean waves make this place unforgettable.
5. Tea plantations: Gorreana Tea Factory in São Bras & Tea Porto Formoso. These are two famous tea places that you can visit, and both are located next to the main road, approx 5 kms from each other, so it’s really easy and recommended to stop by, especially on the rainy days when you would desire a hot cup of tea. Gorreana is definitely a tourist spot, with lot of people, where you can try their black and green teas for free. While at Porto Formoso you need to pay a symbolic price for tasting, but their views on the plantation is definitely better. Hard to compare and choose, if you have time both places are definitely recommended.
6. Caldeira Velha, it’s one of the biggest highlight of the island, with its three open air hot thermal pools. The place is easy to access by car and after a short walk in the middle of the mountain forest you can find the entrance gate to the park. Out of the three thermal pools, 2 are with extremely hot water around 36-40 degrees, while the third, with the natural waterfall inside is around 22 degrees. Hard to describe how beautiful it is, and it’s definitely a must have if you are on the island.
7. Lagoa do Fogo, after visiting Caldeira Velha, it’s worth to continue your trip into south direction to reach the ‘Lake of Fire’. You will find fascinating landscapes, many viewing points of beautiful nature sights one after each other. If you are lucky and the weather is not foggy, it’s worth to stop by at all miradouros.
‘This huge blue lake – it is about 2 km long and 1 km wide – fills the ground of an extinct crater, whose caldera was formed during an eruption in 1563. Surrounded by high mountains and luxuriant endemic vegetation, this mystical lake, where an ambiance of divine tranquillity and beauty is reigning, has transparent waters, a peninsula and white sand beaches and is declared nature reserve.’
8. Furnas, Parque Terra Nostra is one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe, currently it features a thermal swimming pool with yellow steaming thermal water, some separated jacuzzis, and more than 2,000 different trees and plants.
“There has been a garden in the Furnas Valley for over 200 years. Seen from the top of the Pico do Ferro viewpoint, you can see that the “valley” is actually a crater, seven kilometres in diameter, and the last remains of an apparently long-extinct volcano. The Furnas Valley became popular towards the end of the 18th century, due to the growing interest in the use of mineral water to treat health problems, such as rheumatism and obesity. Furnas has hundreds of small springs and streams, all with different properties.”
Fun fact, that the mineral-rich water of the warm pool will leave a stain on light clothes. Therefore, be sure to bring a dark bathing suit and a dark towel. Likewise, if you plan to keep your original hair color, it’s better to avoid going under the water. 😉
+1: Whale and Dolphin watching. Out of the season we could find only two places where whale watching tours were organized, Terra Azul in Vila Franca do Campo and Futurismo in Ponta Delgada. Both tour agencies were very helpful, and the only obstacle that we needed to face was the weather conditions. Regardless they schedule tours two times per day, if the wind is too strong, or the weather is too rainy, or simply the ocean conditions are not perfect, the tours are being rescheduled for an other day. This is why we finally ended up with having the tour on our last day on the island, in the morning at 8:30 in Ponta Delgada by Futurismo. The tour was very well organized, with a well prepared and professional crew, we were on the ocean approx for 3 hours, and we were able to observe some whales from a distance – unfortunately it’s impossible to take pictures about them from such a distance. But many dolphins we could see from very close. 🐬☺️