The Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands about 850 miles west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are made up of lakes, lava fields, volcanic caves, canyons and more!
The biggest island, São Miguel, is truly a one-of-a-kind destination. Known for its tropical jungles, wondrous waterfalls, volcanoes, lakes, relaxing hot springs and endless beauty, you will find no shortage of attractions here to keep you relaxed, refreshed, amazed, entertained and grateful.
Bem vindo a São Miguel!
Ponta Delgada is the largest city on the island. The city sits along the Atlantic Ocean with the striking 3-arched city gates near the harbor. Stay at the classy Azor Hotel for stunning views of the sea (rooms from $256 a night) or stay at the Commercial Azores Guesthouse, a fully renovated historical house in the center of Ponta Delgada (rooms from $77 a night).
For a more real experience on the island, stay amongst the locals in the smaller cities and villages. Check out Airbnb for some amazing places on the island.
My personal favorite place to stay is in Mosteiros, a civil parish on the northwestern part of the island near Sete Cidades.
My brother and I stayed in the most amazing beach cottage, right along the coast. The views from the window were of the ocean and the cottage had a set of French doors that opened up to incredible views of the mountains behind us.
Forneria Sao Dinis – Located in Ponta Delgada near the harbor and just a few minutes from the airport, this restaurant is incredible. The food is amazing and the restaurant has arguably the best shrimp salad you will ever eat in your life. The food is fresh, locally grown and from the island. For desert you can order a slice of fresh pineapple (which is unbelievably mouthwatering) or brownie a la mode. The sangria is also to die for. Order it by the glass or by the pitcher.
The wait staff is incredibly nice and helpful. Mostly everyone speaks a little bit of English, so you don’t need to worry about language barriers. They even have some English menus for the tourists to order from.
Supléxio – If you’re not into seafood or Mediterranean food and you just want a nice, juicy burger, Supléxio is the place to be. Don’t settle for less than the best. This restaurant is a little difficult to find and you can only get there by foot, but the burgers are the best you’ll find on the whole island.
Nordeste Lighthouse – Nordeste is located along the northeastern tip of the island. Make the (extremely) steep hike down to the lighthouse for some truly breathtaking views of the Atlantic. The safest way to get down to the lighthouse is to walk because it’s a 35% incline/decline with lots of twists and turns, but it’s honestly the best way to view all the incredible scenery. You’ll be sure to see some wild cats along the way too!
Canyoning in Ribeira da Salga – My brother and I went canyoning for a full day and it was a blast! It was exhausting but so much fun. We got to jump over cliffs into pools of water, rappel through canyons and waterfalls, swim and trek through miles of tropical jungle. We had two tour guides, who were hilarious. They made lots of jokes and made the day really fun. They even had GoPros to take video and photos of all the people in the group (still waiting for our photos to be sent).
Lagoa das Furnas – Set inside a volcanic crater, this little town has a lake, beautiful hills with lush green forests, and the caldera where you can see the sulfur hot springs with geysers bubbling mud and steam. Local restaurants even cook some of their foods inside the ground where the hot springs are located. It’s a really cool sight to see and each restaurant has their own hole labeled with their name.
Pico da Barrosa – the tallest peak with stunning 360 degree views of the island and the ocean around it. You can see Lagoa do Fogo below. It’s a very steep drive to the top and once you reach the top, the road is extremely narrow and there are no guard rails. I am not one to be afraid of heights and I was very uncomfortable being at the top. It was very beautiful but as soon as we made it up and took some photos we wanted to go right back down!
Lagoa do Fogo – The lake is also a nature reserve on the island. There is a 10km trail you can hike down to the lake, or you can drive down from Pico da Barrosa for stunning views overlooking the ocean, the crater and the lake within.
Four Light Factories (Quatro Fabricas da Luz) – This is a really cool hiking trail near Lagoa do Fogo. It goes a few miles down steep cliffs into the jungle where you will see waterfalls, steep man-made steps, and an abandoned factory. It looks like something right out of Jurassic Park, but don’t worry, there aren’t any dinosaurs down there.
Boca do Inferno – This is probably the most famous and well-known part of the island. This is the point that overlooks the twin lakes, Sete Cidades and the ocean in the background. The views from up top are spectacular and if you’re limited on time spent on the island, this is one place you can’t miss out on.
Abandoned Hotel – On the top of the volcanic crater overlooking the twin lakes is an old, abandoned hotel: Hotel Monte Palace. The hotel itself is incredible, but the views from the roof are amazing. Be very careful if you do go inside. There are signs posted everywhere warning people not to enter because the inside is falling apart and could be dangerous if you don’t watch your step.
Sete Cidades – This quaint little town is set at the bottom of a crater with two lakes, called the twin lakes.
The legend says the lakes represent the tears of a princess and her shepherd boy. One day the princess came across a shepherd boy playing a pan flute and they fell in love. The boy, encouraged by his love for the princess, went to the castle to demand the king’s blessing. The king objected to his daughter marrying a poor shepherd and forbid the princess from ever seeing him again. The princess and her lover, both fraught with heartbreak, cried so much their tears filled up the two lakes outside Sete Cidades, giving them their color. The princess had green eyes and the shepherd had blue eyes and when the light plays off the water just right you can see the differing colors of the lakes.
Whale Watching in Mosteiros – If you have never gone whale watching before, it’s definitely a must! Not only will you see whales, which look incredible up close, you will see dolphins! It’s a really cool experience to see wild animals out in the ocean like that. The dolphins are extremely playful and swim along with the boat, but the whales tend to be more shy. It’s incredible when they dive down and you can see their tail flip above the water. If you’ve never been on a boat, I highly recommend taking nausea medicine. I know that I get motion sickness, so I took a few Dramamine pills and I was perfectly fine. The entire trip actually takes quite a long time, so don’t forget to bring your sunscreen because there is nothing between you and the sun when you’re on a boat in the ocean for 4 hours.
There is plenty more to see and do on São Miguel. Check out this amazing drone footage my brother and I got during our 4 day vacation in the Azores!
Images: Chantel, TripAdvisor