Explore the São Miguel Island in the Azores, Portugal
Upon landing on the Ilha de São Miguel, one is immediately surrounded by verdant rolling hills dappled by dairy cows and country roads lined with soft blue and purple hydrangeas. This isn’t your typical island vacation. Being an active volcanic set of islands some 800 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, the Azores is the perfect destination if you’re looking for countryside respite from the hustle and bustle of the city while still remaining in Europe. It is also a hotspot for whale watching. Expect to pack in some adventure while enjoying your lush, seaside retreat in São Miguel, the Azores.
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Where to stay
Pedras do Mar Resort & Spa
Azoris Royal Garden
Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort
On São Miguel's north coast, a stay here is all about the modernist villas and exceptional seafood restaurant.
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Things to do
When you first land on the island, start indulging in its unique cuisine and acclimating this way. Book a volcanic stew lunch orCozido das Furna at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel in Furnas, a town known for its volcanic hot springs from the Furnas Lake (or Lagoa das Furnas). Cozido das Furnas is a mixture of local meats (vegetarian options available) and veggies that have been simmered underground for at least five hours by the heat of the hot springs’ thermal waters. The dish has an intense earthy, and comforting taste. The hotel also has an extensive garden, so feel free to walk off your stew before taking that steamy plunge. You also get access to their private thermal pools on the hotel grounds.
EXPLORE THE COUNTRYSIDE
The Azores islands are small, taking at most a day trip or a couple of hours to explore with their easy-to-navigate streets. Take a picnic basket to Sete Cidades for gorgeous views atop a massive volcanic crater lake, which is sometimes known as two separate lagoons, Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. There are tables around when you come down from the hiking trail where you can nosh on some local treats while soaking in the beauty of your surroundings. You may also witness others peacefully kayaking, canyoning and biking on the many trails.
Then, venture north of Fogo Volcano to find a waterfall of warm iron water, Caldeira Velha, to take a relaxing dip.
The Azores are a whale-watching hotspot. While your hotel will most likely be more than happy to arrange a tour for you, consider booking with the ocean life connoisseurs from Futurismo. They have several boat options, and the travel guides are highly knowledgeable about the different species you’ll come across on your voyage.
A note from Selena
Though not your typical island visit with white-sand beaches and sun, the Azoreislets are quite memorable on their own. The simple things appeal here, with quiet drives or bike rides along waterfalls, hydrangea-lined roads and pit stops to seaside surfer joints with pleasant and welcoming locals. To be in this green island is to be embraced by nature at a slow and easy pace while being aware of the power of mother nature that brews underneath as steam billows on the mountainside.
Eat & drink
Depending on where you’re staying, the Azores have some of their own culinary particularities. One of the local specialties are lapas or Azorean limpets. These delicious seafood morsels are simple but pack a tasty punch.
Cha Gorreana Tea Factory: This Portuguese tea factory in Maia is internationally recognized to have “world class” tea and is Europe’s only and oldest tea plantation. Go for tastings and tour the plantation.
A Tasca in Ponta Delgada: A restaurant that does these well amongst local specialties. Call ahead, as this local favorite tends to book up quickly.
Louvre Michaelense: Not far down the road from A Tasca, this quaint cafe is a cozy pitstop from your afternoon stroll, filled with vintage knick knacks and soft natural light, not to mention a fine cup of coffee!
Tuká Tulá: This restaurant on Santa Barbara beach in Ribeira Grande is complete with excellent local seafood, fun and delicious cocktails and a surf town vibe that’ll make you want to hang loose the rest of the evening.
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