As one of the most remote places you can visit in Europe, the Azores have some incredible things to see! It so often starts with an image seen somewhere years ago, that fuels a desire to visit a certain place and this was definitely the case to explore São Miguel in the Azores.
When we plan certain trips, isn’t it so often a state we are seeking – freedom, a sense of adventure, spontaneity or an active day-to-day? São Miguel or Ilha Verde as they call it, fulfils all of these criteria as it got at least these 17 things to see!
What To Expect from the Azores and São Miguel
The Azores are these magical 9 islands some 1600 miles off the coast of Portugal. They are an autonomous region, that boasts activities for all kinds of people – with nature being in the centre of it all.
Voted one of the top sustainable destinations in the world, the Azores are a fantastic destination to visit as a female traveller. It’s very safe!
São Miguel is the biggest of the 9 islands and the gateway to the Azores. Ponta Delgada is the capital of the island of São Miguel and probably your starting point when adventuring the island. It’s a small city with a lovely old town, cobblestone streets and a nice seaside promenade and fort.
For anybody who wants to feel a sense of freedom, a safe solo trip, a place to feel like adventure is around every corner – the Azores is for you.
Imagine roads fringed with colourful flowers, dozens of peaks where you can see the ocean from, lush rolling green hills with pastures, grazing cows and sleepy villages – there are so many reason to fall for this island!\
General Tips for Your Trip to São Miguel, Azores
How to get to São Miguel
Ponta Delgada will likely be your point of entry to São Miguel. With direct flights from Boston, USA and of course mainland Portugal – its so easy to get to and affordable! Fligts with TAP Portugal from Lisbon can run as low as 45 Euros return.
How to get into Ponta Delgada
The way to from the airport to to city cost 8 Euro one way or I believe 15 Euros return. The shuttle leaves until 11.45 pm and starts again 5 am and stops at a variety of points. The guys working at the office were super friendly and can tell you the stop number to get off at.
How to get around São Miguel
There is local bus network available that connects the bigger cities with each other. However, the reality looks like that it’s unreliable and also very weather dependent. For this reason I’ve been told the best way is to rent your own mode of transport.
São Miguel is a medium size island that can be circumnavigated in about 4 hours. The island’s roads are in a good condition and spacious . A car is a great choice if you want to explore the island while a scooter might be more economical.
Contact one of the shops ahead of time and check for availability!
Best Time To Go to São Miguel, Azores
The weather in the Azores can change at any minute. Just as it keeps changing depending on where on the island you are. However ,the best months to go with a higher chance of sunny days are July and August.
However quick the change of weather might come, don’t get discouraged by it. Generally, when its rainy on one side if the island, it’s probably sunny onother side! Give it a go anyways!
São Miguel, Azores: Best Things to See in the West
Some of the most beautiful natural sights can be found on São Miguel, from West to East, they a scattered around the island. And those are the exact sights and places that I visited during my trip through São Miguel.
São Miguel is an incredible island and I left a few spots out, due to respect of the island and its locals who want to enjoy them away from the crowds.
Anyways let’s jump into them!
1. Sete Cidade
Sete Cidade is a civil parish that is famous for its stunning emerald Twin Lakes and extremely beautiful surroundings. If you are lucky enough to experience a sunny day, make a trip to Sete Cidade your main goal. Seeing this sight without the clouds is as spectacular as it gets and definitely the highlight of any Azores trip.
The way to get there is fairly easy. From São Miguel it’s a 20min drive by car and you will pass some great viewpoints on the way. Once you see the parking lot, head towards the right and follow the path. You’ll stroll through a pleasant forrest walk and arrive at the rim of the ridge.
Go a bit further and you see well-lined path leading to the viewing platform.
As the weather was perfect, the place was super crowded so I ventured off towards the open field on the left. There views over there just as great and made room of the Atlantic Ocean in the far distance.
2. Miradouro do Boca de Infierno
Particulary the Miradouro do Boca de Infierno must be the most famous thing to see in the Azores. On a clear day it doesn’t get better than this. The Blue and Green Lagoon beneath you, the Atlantic Ocean in the back and calderas of green everywhere, it’s a gem!
For the most perfect-looking crater lake, put this at the top of your list of the things to see in the Azores!
No entry or parking fees.
Tip: Head West towards the city of O Poejo and stop by the Lagoa Azul restaurant. They got the nicest menu and seating.
3. Miradouro Da Lagoa de Santiago
Right after you admired the view from Miradouro do Boca de Infierno, simply go to the right (not the way you came from) and continue to an open field. Voila, you have arrived to Miradouro Da Lagoa de Santiago. Straightaway you will be greeted by the most emerald-looking crater lake.
This spot is in walking distance from the scenic footpath of Miradouro do Boca de Infierno.
4. Lagoa Verde
You’ve seen Lagoa Verde while you were on Miradouro do Boca de Infierno. Now its time to go down and explore more of its beauty. There is a short 5km walk you can do to stretch your legs and explore the stunning Green Lake.
As its on your way to the O Poejo village, it makes a convenient photo stop.
Mosteiros is a cute little civil parish that is famous for its uniquely shaped islets and black beaches. I found it to be perfect to spot some of the most colourful houses. Furthermore, I heard it’s one of the best places to watch the sunsets since its facing west.
Tip: Go check out Restaurante Gazcidla for lunch or dinner.
6. Lookout Viewpoint Whale of Feteiras
You cannot spend time on an island without watching at least one sunset. If you are lucky to experience a sunset, make sure to head to this point! Its near the Miradouro Escalvado and provides excellent views of the sun setting in the ocean.
During the day its also a nice spot to admire the local fauna, the pink flowers were the prettiest!
São Miguel, Azores: Best Things to See in the East
7. Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
This mirador has the most looked-after garden. It’s full of beautiful flowers with lots of friendly cats and a fantastic view. There might be many lookouts, but this one straightaway caught my eye with its cliffside by the ocean. Definitely worth a stop and actually the nicest one I’ve seen on the North East side of the island.
8. Miradouro do Pico dos Bodes
On your journey to the East of São Miguel, you likely will come by this one. Miradouro do Pico dos Bodes is an observation deck that offers fantastic 360-degree views of the surrounding landscapes and ocean.
9. Arnel Light House
São Miguel being an island in the Atlantic, undoubtly has its fair share of lighthouses. In the extreme northeast of São Miguel, you can find Arnel Light House. It was the first lighthouse that opened in 1876 in the Azores and has undergone all kinds of improvements.
This one is a fun adventure that takes you a down a steep hill, with the ocean in plain sight. I wouldn’t dare go down and up with a scooter, but with a car it was amazing. You can visit the Arnel Lighthouse every Wednesday and the entry is free. Also, to your right you can see a small waterfall.
Regardless of its steep nature, I recommend you walk down towards the ocean to see fishermen doing their choirs.
São Miguel, Azores: Best Places to See in the South
10. Vila Franca do Campo
The village is not only famous for its Miradouro da Nossa Senhora da Pa but also for its adrenaline activities. Just off the coast of Vila Franca do Campo lies a remote and unique islet. Every year, it attracts hundreds of cliff jumpers and spectators for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. It’s a special place not to be missed!
If you got time, make sure to head to the unique church Nossa Senhora da Paz. With its white, multilevel stairs its a real eye-catcher.
11. Lagoa do Fogo
Lagoa do Fogo is a magnificent crater lake in the centre of São Miguel. The special thing here is that it’s the highest elevated lake on São Miguel and just drop-dead stunning. Therefore, 0n your drive up might actually drive through a bed of clouds, super special!
Up at the top are two different view points, Miradouro da Barrossa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo. Both make fantastic options to see the lake from different angles!
No parking fee!
12. Pineapple Plantations
São Miguel in the Azores is the only place in the world where pineapples grow in greenhouses. How exotic? The island is home to over 6000 pineapple plantations, from which only a few are open to the public.
My top tip for a rainy day is to visit the Pineapple Plantation in Ponta Delgada. The tour starts with an explainer video of how the plantation came to be. The guide then shows you the greenhouses where the pineapples grow – the only place in Europe where this is happening!
The pineapples themselves are smaller than I thought, and it takes 2-3 years to grow one single fruit. Definitely, something to appreciate next time you eat one.
It’s also one of the starter dishes you can find in many local restaurants.
At the end of the tour, you get to have a little degustation and can shop for homemade pineapple marmalade or beer. This one makes one of the most unique things to see in the Azores for sure!
Entry: By donation
13. Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
The mirador lies within the area of Furnas and is the best place to see the turquoise Lagoa do Furnas. To really enjoy this viewpoint you need to visit on a clear day or wait until the possible fog has passed and made way to below lake.
Surprisingly, there is also a souvenier stand and a few snack shops next to the parking lot. On a sunny day, this could be the best spot to unwind!
No parking fee!
São Miguel, Azores: Best Things to See in the North
14. Miradouro and Cascata da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
The Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões lies in the North-East of São Miguel and is an Azores’ highlight. The powerful waterfall sits right next to the street, surrounded by lush ferns and greenery. It really makes the perfect photo spot and a chance for a quick 1 km hike.
No entry or parking fee!
15. Miradouro do Salto da Farinha
Miradouro do Salto da Farinha is a lookout at the North of São Miguel, in da Salga. Once you get to the parking, you’ll see a nice picnic area with toilettes. To the right, there is the viewpoint of the impressive 40-metre waterfall. This is also where you would begin 6 km out-and-back trail to the popular waterfall.
For more information how the trail, check out Alltrails.
16. Ribeira Grande
The biggest city in the North of São Miguel is Ribeira Grande. It greets you with a cool statue depicting a surfer on a wave. The city got a gorgeous black-sandy beach – Praia de Santa Barbara, the Frade Natural Pools and a nearby waterfall, Salto do Cabrito.
Head towards Rabo de Peixe to Botequim Acoriano for some of the best meals!
17. Tea Factory
This is a major must-see, Europe’s only tea factories are located in the Azores, especially in São Miguel. It’s a lovely place and definitely, a must-do on any day. The two factories are the family-run Gorreana and Porto Formoso Tea Factory, only 2.5 km located from each other.
The drive from Ponta Delgada shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes.
Gorreana runs free tours every so often over the day. The staff will lead you through the processing part, and explains the different leaves, and the drying process. You will end in a little museum-like room. There you find some old tools that were used to make the tea, an explainer video and more antiquities. At Porto Formoso you will find a fantastic restaurant area with view of the ocean and tea plantation.
Also, the best part comes last – trying the tea! At Gorreana they produce Black Tea and Green Tea and you can try both. For Porto Formoso, you can only try Black Tea.
To start or end the tour, have a little walk through the tea plantations. They are gorgeous to see up close.
The entry is free for both, but you are welcome to leave a tip as a donation.
The Azores with its nine islands have so many more to offer, and by visiting Sao Miguel you’ll only get a taster. Even in this island, I didn’t manage to cover everything there is – although we drove pratically all day! Besides the mentioned sights, you can also find various thermal baths, for example in Poca da Dona Beija, different tide pools and other hot springs.
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If you liked these 17 fantastic things to see in the Azores, make sure to have a look at my other Europe posts for Georgia for example!