I spent a week in the Azores, and it quickly became one of my favorite places I have ever traveled to. I had heard that it was a mix of Hawaii and Ireland, and those rumors could not have been more true! The islands are known for their beautiful landscapes, green pastures, and stunning walls of hydrangeas. Every street I drove down and path I walked seemed to lead to jaw dropping views. São Miguel, being the largest of the 9 islands, was where I spent most of my time. Here are 5 must see places on São Miguel Island!
If you want to see a detailed trip itinerary of my travels in the Azores (and Madeira) check out my guide on DriftFeed: 10 Days in the Azores and Madeira!
1. Lagoa das Sete Cidades
This must-see place is likely Azores most famed postcard image and a popular tourist destination, but for good reason. To get to the breathtaking view, plan to go to Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. The easiest way to find it is to follow maps to Lagoa do Canário as this will lead you to a small parking lot at the side of the road. On the opposite side of the road, there will be a gate with stone walls, enter through the gate and follow the road. At the end of the road there will be another parking lot with stairs to the left – take these steps to the viewing point!
I would suggest going early to avoid crowds. I went early in the morning and appreciated the stillness and quietness of the area.
Furnas is a village with volcanic activity. With many Caldeiras das Furnas (geothermal springs), it is a phenomenon for all to see. The springs have boardwalks throughout them, so you can walk around and observe the sulphurous smelling steaming pools and geysers. AND if you are lucky you will also get to observe locals cooking the famous Cozido das Caldeira (Furnas Stew) and perhaps even try some for yourself! The cost to enter the springs is 3 euro per person.
During your visit to Furnas, you may also want to stop at Poca de Dona Beiga, a hot springs with 5 thermal pools.
3. Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara
This beautiful and picturesque beach is known for its dark sand, surfing crowd, and great facilities (toilets, surf gear to rent, showers, beach bar). Beside the beach you will also find Ponta das Rasias, lava rock formations and a spot used by the British gunners for shore defense against the German U-boats.
This beach was very quiet when I visited with only a few surfers catching the waves. I enjoyed a nice walk along the beach, watched the surfers, and enjoyed lunch at the beach bar.
4. Lagoa do Fogo
This place is a must see!! A lake within an extinct volcano crater making for breathtaking views of the lake and ocean. I would recommend parking the car at Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo (there is a free parking lot) and then either hike up to appreciate the views or hike towards the lake to end up at Lagoa do Fogo Beach (or do both!)
I went to two different waterfalls during my stay in São Miguel. Both were chosen based on location (close to other activities I was doing that day). But there are many other waterfalls that can be explored on this island! The two I did were:
- Ribeira do Faial da Terra: I parked the car near the trailhead and began the moderate hike that was about 5km. There were some slippery wooden bridges and dense vegetation, but the waterfall at the end was definitely worth it. It was also a plus that no one was else was there!
- Salto del Cabrito: great spot for a swim! You can also go by car, but would highly recommend going by foot if you can! If you are driving, you will want to take the Ac. Salto do Carbrito road which eventually forks and you will want to stay to the left. The road becomes steep and winding, so you may opt to park the car and walk. I parked near the white building and walked down to the waterfall. Once you get to the waterfall, you can enjoy the water and cool off, but you will also want to check out the old hydropower pipes. You can walk along the pipes and at one point you will be above the canyon with the river rushing below you. To get to this, you will need to pass on the right side of the power building and go up the stairs.
There are so many amazing experiences and things to see in the Azores, that this list is just the beginning. These breathtaking and magical islands are SO worth the visit. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!