Updated: Oct 9
My time on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores was amazing. I have to share everything I know about this island with you. Recently I have seen travel deals with flights for less than $500 bucks from the US. So, I thought let me show you the Azores today. It is a beautiful place. I spent most of my time in Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, and traveled across the island from there. I have also visited by cruise ship on a transatlantic cruise. From a cruise you can still do all the activities that I listed, or even grab a bite to eat. This blog will give you a brief history, explore the best activities, accommodations and food options on the island.
Also, even though there is more info on this blog. There is a YouTube video available for you to watch.. Click here.
There was a time when I was on a ship off the coast of Ponta Delgada, looking back at Sao Miguel Island, I took this amazing picture. You know when you have one of those inspiring moments. Where something stops you in your tracks, takes your breath away and makes you almost cry because of how beautiful it was........ This was one of those moments. This picture does not do justice to how amazing it was in person.
Airfare right now
Now I do not like to let out all my little secrets on booking airfare, after all I am trying to make a side hustle as a travel planner. But if you do a little digging and pick the right dates you can fly for about $450 round trip nonstop from New York, $500 from Boston, $512 from Washington DC, $515 Chicago, $519 Miami, and $524 from San Francisco. So, give me a yell if you want me to help you with any research. There are times I have seen these flights over $800 round trip. So, this is a good deal.
If arriving by a cruise ship the dock is right by Ponta Delgada, it's an easy walk into the city. Of course, you can book tours from your cruise ship, but will be cheaper if you buy separately from the ship. Just know that if your excursion runs late the ship will not wait on you if you booked from a 3rd party. In my opinion, 3rd party excursions are the best. They are aware of cruise schedules and do everything they can to make your excursion a cheaper option that will have you back at the ship in plenty of time.
Quick Info and History
The Azores is made up of 9 volcanic islands off of the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. These islands fall under the Portuguese flag. Back in the 1700 and 1800's this was a stop on the way to the Americas. The island's temperatures are quite mild, due to the gulf stream. If you actually looked at it on a map you would think it would be quite cold but it is not unless you are up on the mountain tops. My time here was in late April and temperatures on the coast were in the mid to upper 60's.
Even though it is off the coast of Portugal, recently it was discovered that Vikings were here around 800 C.E. This was confirmed by using data from lake sediment core samples. Pretty neat huh.... But the island of Sao Miguel was discovered in 1427 by Goncalo Velho Cabral and was settled by the Portuguese. After this settlement on the southern part of the island there was a volcanic eruption, but the area was inhabited and no records are around to prove when the exact date of eruption happened, Ship navigators could only tell it happened when they seen all the tree trucks floating in the ocean and the destruction of the landscape near the coast of the island.
Other early European settlements dating back to 1433 were Portuguese and a Flemish settlement was also founded around then due to the navigational records of Prince Henry the Navigator. French and other Europeans were also arriving to the island in the 1400's
Huge earthquake destroyed the area in 1522 and took many years to rebuild. The capital Vila Franco de Campo was destroyed. Ponta Delgada was declared a city in 1546 becoming the new capital of all the islands later.
There were many wars, rebellions, raids, and battles over the next few hundred years involving Portugal, Spain or Azores trying to become independent, Portuguese Succession Crisis 1580, British Raid in the late 1590's, Portuguese Restoration War 1640, Liberal Raids 1831, and Carnation Revolution 1974. Plus, in 1943 Portugal leased air and naval bases to the British to help with WW2. In 1944 the US constructed a base here, but it didn't stay long. I just wanted to give you a brief summary, not a total history lesson. But it is good to know a little bit about the area you are traveling to.
My favorite things to do.
You can always rent a car and do things on your own. They drive on the right side of the road so people from the United States will be happy about that. But you can always hire drivers for the day or take tours. This is a frequent cruise ship port, so there are always tours available. I like tours because you learn some random info or see some spots the locals know about. But driving on your own does have its benefits too. I have done both.
Pictures below from Lagoa de Fogo, looking down to the coast at different times during the drive to the top of the crater. Plus, a view from the side of the crater, and me. I just love visiting this area, it is the best.
-Whale and dolphin watching is some of the best in the world. I remember talking to someone and they saw a rare sunfish on one of these trips. I would love to see one of them.
- Visit Lagoa de Fogo (the lake of fire), a crater lake on top of a volcano that last erupted in 1563. This is the highest lake located on the Island of Sao Miguel and has been a protected area since 1974. It has the best view looking at the lake, but also back down to the sea from the side of the road. On the drive notice the changes in landscape and microclimate.
-Sete Cidades another volcanic crater, with a town nearby. Can you imagine living that close to a volcano? A big nope for me. Do hike the Mata de Canario trail, near the Boco do Inferno viewpoint. Total length is over 7 miles, so if that is too much for you just hike part of it, that's what I did. It is one of the best hikes.
Furnas Valley. Visit Ceramic Factories, look at Furnas lake, go to the hot springs, hike, and eat some cozido, a stew cooked underground in the thermal vents, it is the best. Visit the tea factory and look at the beautiful Architecture in Riberia Grande, Visit Caloura (or stay there), and Vila Franca Do Campo (a nature preserve with snorkeling). There is some nice hiking nearby also.
- Visit secluded beaches, waterfalls, hiking, birdwatching, scuba diving.
-Visit a local Pineapple plantation. It was really neat to see, also look at the outside wall on the road of the plantations. Broken glass sticking out of the walls for protection. If you try to cross the wall you will get all cut up. It's really interesting to see.
-Just wander the streets of Ponta Delgada with its sidewalk cafes and cobblestone streets. And go to the Botanical Gardens.
-Santa Barbara Beach- best for surfing.
- Visit the town of Nordeste, Arnel Lighthouse, Poco Azul, and the waterfalls.
-Grute do Cavao- Archeological museum.
-Walking trail Rocha da Relva- a trail down to a tiny seafront village. The climb back up hill is rough,, be prepared.
Pictures below are from the PInapple Farm, and Thermal Pool area near Sete Cidades.
As you can tell from the list of activities, there is so much to do here on the island. With all the hiking, thermal pools, and beautiful views, you will stay busy on the island. So be sure to take some time to sit, rest and relax and feel like you are part of the island community.
-Louvre Michaelense-coffee tea or the best homemade pastries.
-Tabrena Acor- great pub with Mediterranean and Portuguese food, try the octopus and beef burger it is the best.
Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in Ponta Delgada.
-O Principe dos Queijos- Amazing selection of cheeses and wine, you can definitely find local specialties here.
-A Tasta-seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes with generous portions, there is usually a wait but it is so worth it. One of the best I have ever eaten at.
Lan's Pizzeria and Exotic Food cheap eats and open late. Great Pizza, Chorizo pizza with ham is great. They have soups, salads and many items on the menu.
Bar Calara in Caloura, it overlooks the sea. The fish is the best.
Pictures below are from the city Riberia Grande.
Places to stay
-Grand Hotel Acores Atlantica- it offers the best overlook of the Atlantic Ocean in Ponta Delgada with many amenities including pool, restaurant and some rooms have balconies. It's the most expensive on my list but still $165 a night for this nice of a hotel is not bad at all. 4.6 star rated.
-Marina Lounge Hostel-4.9 star rated and very clean. Located close to shopping and great restaurants. Say hi to Antonio for me, he is the best!!
-Please use Hostelworld website to look at other Hostels in the area that are great and cheap. It is a great website for hostels around the world including Ponta Delgada.
-Casa de Monte in Calara- I had to mention because Caloura is an amazing area. This is a rental house about 20 minutes away from Ponta Delgada, where life is a little slower than the city. I would suggest a rental car here, but a mini market pharmacy, bakery and other options are close enough to walk to. I love Calara, being close to the thermal pools and the beach are great.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. There is so much about San Miguel Island in the Azores that I have not touched, but this list of items is what are the best in my opinion. Maybe I will do another blog about here in the future. If you ever need any help planning your adventure here or anywhere in the world, just make an appointment on my website. I am cheaper than a travel agent.
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