Sao Miguel in the Azores is the biggest island, also known as the green island. There is so much to see, so planning a route, searching for information etc took me a lot of time. A good reason to share my itinerary with the world.
We were on the island from Monday till Monday (8 days/ 7 nights). Most tourists don’t stay that long. But if you really want to enjoy everything the island has to offer, one week is exactly the time you will need.
- This itinerary assumes you have a car. In my opinion the easiest way to visit the island
- You can follow this itinerary in a random order, depending on the weather conditions, you may need to change it.
- We visited the island in April. I don’t know how it is during high season
We started our stay on Sao Miguel in Ponta Delgada. It’s a nice place to walk around in the little streets and have a first impression on the architecture of the island.
We arrived around 4 PM and walked around during 2 hours. This is enough to enjoy the city.
We used the second day to explore the west side of the island. If possible, choose a sunny, clear day.
First stop: Lagoa das Empadadas. Early in the morning it was still foggy. When we arrived at the Lagoa we didn’t see a lot, but it had this mysterious feeling. We went to the Lagoa Rasa, which is a bit higher, but due to the fog, we saw nothing. Because of this, we decided not to go any higher to the Miradoudo do Pico Paul.
Second stop: Lagoa do Canario + Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. The views from the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno are stunning. It’s also the most famous picture from the Azores. It’s a place you can’t miss. We were lucky, because when we arrived there, the fog started to disappear. Yep, a lesson learned, in the Azores the weather changes all the time.
Third stop: Lagoa das Sete Cidades, better know as the twin lakes, a blue one and a green one. We already saw the lakes from the previous miradouro. To have a better view on it, you should stop at the Miradouro da Vista do Rei.
When you are there, don’t forget to walk around in the Monte Palace hotel. It’s a huge abandoned 5 star hotel. It’s kind of spooky to walk around there and the view from the rooftop is even more beautiful then the one from the Miradouro da Vista do Rei.
We ended the day in Mosteiros. It’s a small village with a beautiful black beach. Follow the signs to the natural pools. You can have a walk on the lava rocks and enjoy the view over the rocks in the sea!
- start the day early, so you have enough time to enjoy every place
- you can drive until the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, in case you don’t feel like walking. Follow the signs to Lagoa do Canario
- if you like a beautiful sunset, Mosteiros is the place to be
- costs: everything we did on day 2 was completely free
We started our day at the Miradouro da Tromba do Elefante. If you use google maps to drive around, make sure you mention ‘miradouro’ and not only ‘tromba do elefante’ like we did. It leads you to the top of the rock, which is not accessible (or not anymore).
We made a stop at Ribeira Granda, to see the famous bridge. Also visit the church, you have a beautiful view over the area.
On our way to Porto Formoso, we made another stop at the Miradouro de Santa Iria. Another viewpoint with amazing views over the cliffs. It made me think of Ireland.
We arrived at Porto Formoso, the starting point of our first hike ( Cha Porto Formoso PRC 26 SMI). The trail takes you to the tea plantations of the Fabrica Porto Formoso. It’s not the easiest hike we did on the island, but it was definitely worth it. And for those who don’t feel like hiking, the ‘fabrica’ is accessible by car.
Our last stop for the day was at Furnas, where we also spend the night. We visited the ‘caldeiras’, located in the middle of the village.
- At the ‘fabrica cha Porto Formoso’ you have the possibility to visit the factory and you receive a tea for free. They also have a terrace with beautiful views over the plantations (you pay one euro for the tea if you want to drink it on the terrace)
- If you are looking for a great place to eat, I would recommend Restaurante Caldeiras e Vulcoes in Furnas
- Costs: everything we did on day 3 was completely free (except for the 1 euro we paid for the tea on the terrace).
Furnas is a great place to base yourself in if you want to visit the east side of the island.
In the morning we wanted to hike the ‘Faial da Terra – Salto do Prego PRC9SMI’. But it was raining so much, we decided not to. If you have the opportunity to hike this trail, take it, because it must be beautiful and as far as I know, there is no other access to the waterfall (yes, we searched for it).
The rain and the fog also prevented us to go to the second planned stop which was the Miradouro do Pico Bartolomeu. It didn’t make any sense to drive up there, because it was already difficult to see something from a lower point.
We were a bit afraid the weather would stay like this the whole day. But when we arrived at Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada, the weather started to change. This Miradouro is in my top 3 of most beautiful viewpoints on Sao Miguel. The view is stunning and the small garden around it is also worth a visit. Take a look around and don’t be the average tourist, that looks around for 2 minutes, takes a picture and continues.
Speaking about my top 3 of most beautiful viewpoint, Miradoudo da Ponta do Sossego is also on it. This viewpoint is surrounded by a beautiful garden. If you are lucky, you have the whole place just for yourself.
A bit further north, we found the oldest lighthouse on the island, Farol do Arnel. The road down to the lighthouse is 35° steep, so don’t be a hero and go there on foot. The lighthouse itself didn’t really impress me, but the views are again (sorry, I am repeating myself) stunning! We even discovered a waterfall. The walk back up was a challenge, but I was happy I took the risk 😉
Our last stop of the day was at Parque Natural da Ribarida dos Caldeiroes. It’s a small park with two waterfalls (not sure if they are natural), a nice place to go for a walk next to the river. There is a nice place to eat a sandwich.
- You can visit the lighthouse on wednesday
- costs: everything we did on day 4 was (again) completely free
We spent the fifth day at Furnas. We started the day with a swim in the natural hot springs Poca da Dona Beija. They have 4 pools with hot water (about 39°C). If it’s not too crowdy (which it wasn’t in the morning) you can enjoy the water in the middle of nature. They have showers, changing rooms and the possibility to hire a locker.
Just next to it is the Parque Terra Nostra, a beautiful botanical garden. You have the possibility to swim in the natural hot springs. When we were there we followed the trail that goes around the whole park. I would recommend doing the same, this way you are sure to see the whole park. It’s a must see when you are on Sao Miguel.
In the afternoon we headed direction Lagoa das Furnas to hike the trail (PRC6SMI). The trail normally starts in Furnas and takes about 3h. We decided to skip the part from town to the lake, and just walk around the lake. The walk is easy and the views on the lake are beautiful. During the walk you will see the Caldeiras da Lagoa in which locals prepare dishes in the high temperatures of the caldeiras.
- visit Poca da Dona Beija in the morning, when it’s less crowdy
- Poca da Dona Beija 4 euro entrance
- Parque Terra Nostra 6 euro entrance
- Lagoa das Furnas 0.50 euro entrance for the Caldeiras and a parking fee
We started day 6 at Lagoa do Congro. If you are looking for a quiet place, in the middle of nature and you don’t want to be disturbed by a lot of other tourists, this is where you should go. Just follow the signs, park your car and start the hike down to the Lagoa. The lake isn’t visible from a viewpoint, so if you want to see it, you will need to walk. It’s about 1 km on a very nice path, between the trees. Before you realize it, the lagoa is just in front of you. It’s not the biggest on the island, nor the most beautiful, but it’s so peaceful. We had the place just for us for about 30 minutes (when another family arrived)
From the Lagoa do Congro we went direction Vila Franca do Campo to visit the ‘Our Lady of Peace Chapel‘. It’s a beautiful chapel with amazing views over Vila Franco do Campo and the small island in front of it. I must admit, it wasn’t the easiest place to find. GPS/Google maps couldn’t find the exact location and it’s not indicated in the streets of the village.
Next on the list was the Lagoa do Fogo or Lake of Fire. The road to this lake is without a doubt Sao Miguels most scenic drive. At a certain point it’s possible to see both sides of the island.
The views from the miradouro over this lake are breathtaking. You have the possibility to walk down to the shores of the lake. Just sit down, enjoy the view and relax!
I won’t write a lot about our next stop: Caldeira Velha. If you feel like taking a bath with 20 other people, you should go there. It was small and too crowded.
We ended the day at the Tabaco da Maia Museum, where we were more than welcome. It’s a former plantation, where they produced their own brand of cigarettes. Worth a visit if you are around.
- Visit the Lagoa do Congro as early as possible, you will see, it’s worth it
- If you want to enjoy the natural hot springs, I would recommend the ones in Furnas instead of Caldeira Velha
- The Tabaco da Maia Musuem is closed at 4PM
Bucket list check day!!! We booked a trip with Futurismo for whale and dolphin watching in the morning. The Azores are famous for whale watching, since the islands are located on the migration route. Our tour included a 3h tour on the sea (where else) on a zodiac. We saw a blue whale!!
In the afternoon we hiked the Rota da Agua – Janela do Inferno trail. The trail is a little longer than 7 km and pretty easy to walk. The trail has several tunnels and aqueducts that were used to supply the former Alcohol Factory.
- costs: 55 euro for the whale watching tour, book the tour in advance