Off-the-Beaten Path Adventure in São Miguel, Azores
Sao Miguel is the largest island of the Azores, which are a chain of islands far off the coast of Portugal. The island mixes a classic European town feel in Ponta Delgada with an impressive variety of natural wonders: expansive crater lakes, beautiful beaches, lush jungles dotted with mineral pools, and cliffside hot springs and plentiful whale watching. The island still feels undiscovered, despite a growing amount of tourism and offers some of the most affordable lodging and high-quality seafood you'll have had in a long time.
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Where to stay
Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort
On the north coast of São Miguel, this resort retreat celebrates its beach and mountain setting with intimate villas, an ocean-facing infinity pool and raft of activities.
€25 hotel credit per room, per day.
Complimentary welcome drink per guest, per stay.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.
Terra Nostra Garden Hotel
Iconic Azores Islands hotel with elegant accommodations and a lush garden park for leisure.
Pestana Bahia Praia
Beachfront hotel in Sao Miguel with an external fresh-water swimming pool, two restaurants and a bar and two tennis courts.
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Day 1: Ponta Delgada & Furnas Valley
From the airport, it's an easy drive or cab ride into the town of Ponta Delgada. Renting a car is recommended for maximum flexibility. If driving around the island, watch out for some of the small roads going across the island that can quickly turn into unpaved, hilly trails.
Use the morning and early afternoon of your first day to get your bearings in Ponta Delgada. Enjoy a fresh breakfast or lunch that features some of the pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts,) fresh fruit or fresh cod that the Azores are known for. Walk through the town center and see some of the main sites, including the town square Praca Goncalo Velho Cabral and the arched, 18th century city gate Portas da Cidade. Others near town include Sao Sebastiao Church, Town Hall, the Bell Tower and the Fort of Sao Bras.
Starting in the early evening, take a trip outside of Ponta Delgada to Furnas Valley to experience the magical island hot springs at night time. There are several tour operators who can help facilitate this experience, and pick up in Ponta Delgada. Their activities may include a walk around Furnas Lake, dinner with a traditional Azorean stew cooked with steam from the hot springs and a dip in the thermal pools at Poca da Dona Beija. It's also worth stopping through town to see the steaming geysers and spring-fed water fountains, agua azeda, that line the streets. Each is believed to have its own healing property.
Day 2: Sete Cidades & Ponta da Ferraria
Take a trip over to the Western side of Sao Miguel for a scenic crater lake hike followed by a dip in the ocean hot spring at Ponta da Ferraria.
In the morning, take one of the many hiking routes that goes around the crater rim of Lagoa Azul, ending in the town of Sete Cidades for a late lunch. From here, drive to Ponta da Ferraria, where you can park and descend down a steep walking path to find a natural ocean hot spring that feels like a hot tub at low tide.
Day 3: Whale Watching & Beach Day
In the morning, take one of whale watching tours that leaves from Ponta Delgada. With over 20 species of whales and dolphins, and a whale watching season that stretches from April to October, you are likely to see an impressive array of migratory and residential whales.
In the afternoon, take a short drive to one of the beaches on the North side island near Ribiera Grande to relax. Try a surfing class at the Azores Surf Center, enjoy a drink at Tuka Tula Bar or swim in the oceanside municipal pool of Ribiera Grande. There are a number of dramatic cliffside view points nearby, including Porto de Santa Iria.
Need to Know
For more adventure travel, check out Misha's guide: What to Do on An Outdoor Adventure in New Zealand.
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