São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Corvo, and Flores are the nine islands that form the archipelago of Azores. The biggest one is São Miguel, a Nature lover’s dream featuring breathtaking landscapes, relaxing hot springs, and impressive hiking trails. Its natural beauty is undeniable. If you’re a first-time visitor, here is a São Miguel travel guide with everything you need to do and see to make the most of this pearl in the middle of the Atlantic.
How To Get Here
To get to São Miguel, you will need to take the plane. If you’re in Portugal, you can either take the plane from Lisbon or Porto. If you’re in some other country, you might have to do a layover in Portugal so look into platforms such as Skyscanner to find the best deal. Also, keep in mind that the earlier you book, the better chance of getting cheaper tickets.
What To Do
One of the main things to do in São Miguel is to visit Furnas village, where you can experience its hot spring waters and eat the famous Cozido (Furnas stew). Vale das Furnas is located inside the crate of a volcano which heats part of the soil and water. Here you’ll be able to treat yourself to a relaxing mineral-enriched bath known for its therapeutic benefits at Dona Beija (4€). Still at Lagoa das Furnas (0,50€), you will also find Caldeiras, the place where the famous Cozido is cooked in a very unique and interesting way: inside holes and geysers - even if you’re not eating it, it’s worth a visit!
What To See
With so many things to discover in the island of São Miguel, it can be very hard to choose from, especially if you don’t have a lot of days to explore. But something you can not miss is Sete Cidades, one of Portugal's Seven Natural Wonders. 25 minutes by car from Ponta Delgada, you will find the magnificent Green and Blue Lagoons separated by a bridge which, according to the legend, were formed by the tears shed by a shepherd and a princess who lived a forbidden love. The best way to appreciate the beauty of the Lagoons’ colors is to see it from viewpoints such as Vista do Rei or Boca do Inferno. The view of the well-known postcard of the Azores, promises to make your jaw drop. Two other great viewpoints in São Miguel are located in Ponta da Madrugada and Ponta do Sossego where you’ll be able to appreciate a beautiful sunset. When you’re at Furnas, make sure to visit the Ermida de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, a unique temple with neo-gothic style located in the bank of the Furnas Lagoon. Built as a defense against pirate attacks, the São Brás Castle is another thing to see thanks to its incredible architecture and interesting history. In Parque Terra Nostra you will find one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe with more than 2000 species of trees. Last but definitely not least, Ribeira Quente, a small fishing village, also deserves a visit.
Where To Eat
When you visit Furnas village, make sure to try the typical dish of the island: Cozido (Furnas stew). After cooking inside holes and geysers for about 5 hours, they take it to the restaurant around lunch time where you can enjoy a very delicious and rich meal (around 19€ for two people). As for drinks, make sure to stop at Gorreana tea plantation. It is the only tea plantation in Europe so it definitely deserves a visit. There you can not only appreciate the wonderful view of the ocean but also try the amazing black and green tea for free!
Once you’re on the island, we highly recommend renting a car. Public transportation is available but aside from not running frequently, it also doesn’t reach the most remote areas you’ll want to discover. That is why having a car will come in handy if you want to really explore the island and go where buses can’t take you. Also, be prepared to walk and hike so that you can appreciate the beauty of the island from the top.