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Explore São Miguel in Azores like a local

Explore São Miguel in Azores like a local

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Welcome to São Miguel, the largest and most enchanting island in the Azores archipelago! There are various volcanos from the islands and São Miguel is no exception. David, our local insider is giving us a tour and sharing the secrets and hidden gems of this remarkable destination.

Getting There

Before we dive into the wonders of São Miguel, let's talk about getting here. You'll likely arrive at João Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada, the island's capital. From there, renting a car is highly recommended. It will give you the freedom to explore São Miguel at your own pace, including those hidden spots that tour buses often miss.

Now that you know how to get there, I bet you are asking what should I visit first? Well, the biggest attraction of the island is the beautiful backdrop. The various lagoons are a must!

Exploring Nature's Wonders

- Nordeste: A beautiful sunrise. That's how you start your day! Situated on the east coast of the Island, Nordeste is a place to go, but before you get there you must wake up early. I know that is a sacrifice but I guarantee it is totally worth it. Google when the sun is going to rise and be at Ponta da Madrugada when it does.

- The Lagoa do Fogo Nature Reserve: The "Lake of Fire" is one of the busiest tourist attractions (nowadays only accessible by Bus). This Nature Reserve occupies a central position on São Miguel Island, has an area of 506.82 hectares, and corresponds to the collapsed caldera of Fogo volcano.

Fogo volcano is a central volcano of trachytic nature, formed over the last 300 thousand years, and has a summit collapse caldera. Caldeira do Vulcão do Fogo – the smallest and youngest caldera of the island, formed about 15 thousand years ago.

Experience it. Don't just look.

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Besides the visit to several viewpoints, one can access the lagoon’s margins through the Praia - Lagoa do Fogo walking trail, where you can take a quick dip, before walking back up again.

- Sete Cidades: The area is dominated by the large Sete Cidades Volcano, like the Fogo Volcano, which is a collapsed caldera, with an average diameter of 5.3 kilometers, a maximum depth of about 630 meters, and was probably formed around 36 thousand years ago. After the formation of the caldera, occurred inside about 15 explosive eruptions. The last of these eruptions took place around the year 1439, in Caldeira Seca.

The largest lagoon in the Azores, the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, consists of two distinct bodies of water, the Lagoa Azul and the Lagoa Verde, meaning the Blue Lagoon and the Green Lagoon – there's a popular story for the color of the lagoons, try to look up when you get there!

Experience it. Don't just look.

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+‏‏On top there's the viewpoint called Vista do Rei. This viewpoint was named in honor of King (“Rei”) D. Carlos and Queen D. Amélia, who visited this place in 1901. Is situated on the ridge of Sete Cidades, south of Lagoa Verde (lagoon), and offers a view over the entire volcanic depression formed by the Caldeira das Sete Cidades, with a special highlight, located inside the crater, to the lagoons, Lagoa Verde it and Lagoa Azul, the Sete Cidades parish.

- Furnas: This is where you going to end your day.
Head to the town of Furnas to witness the geothermal wonders of São Miguel.
This caldera features the Lagoa das Furnas (lagoon), with about 200 hectares of surface, the manifestations of secondary volcanism and the combination of natural and cultural values, such as thermal baths and the mitical “Cozido das Furnas” – a gastronomic dish, cooked inside holes on the hot volcanic ground using natural geothermal heat, for about 5 to 6 hours!

Furnas is considered one of the largest hydro poles in Europe, due to the wide variety of thermal and mineral water springs. Also, don't miss the Terra Nostra Park, home to a stunning botanical garden and a thermal pool with rust-colored waters. The water here is packed with essential minerals! It's like the ultimate energy boost, and it totally lets you soak up all natural vibes of Terra Nostra Park and the Valley of Furnas.

Local Cuisine

Seafood: São Miguel is a paradise for seafood lovers. Sample local dishes like "Lapas" (limpets), "Bacalhau à Brás" (codfish), or "Polvo à Lagareiro" (octopus). Look for restaurants with a view of the ocean for an unforgettable dining experience.

Queijadas da Vila Franca do Campo: Satisfy your sweet tooth with these delicious custard tarts, a local specialty. They make for a perfect snack during your island explorations.

Hidden Gems

Gorreana Tea Plantation: São Miguel is home to Europe's oldest tea plantation. If you're a fan of tea, take a tour to learn about the tea-making process and enjoy a cup of fresh tea with a view of lush green fields.

Caldeira Velha: Discover this hidden natural thermal bath nestled in a lush forest. The warm water and soothing atmosphere make it a tranquil retreat.

Salto do Prego: A lesser-known gem, this waterfall can be reached via a hike through Faial da Terra. It's a local favorite for a refreshing dip in its crystal-clear pools.

So there you have it. If you have the opportunity, come to São Miguel, experience these breathtaking views, enjoy good food and be surrounded by warm and welcoming people as Azoreans are.

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About the author

David was born in Azores and it is sports journalist who likes nature and traveling.

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