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The Azores are a dream destination for those who love nature, hiking, SPA relaxing, good food, mountain biking, all surrounded by the ocean.
Azores are composed by 9 islands and they are part of Portugal, it is strange to find a piece of Europe in the middle of the Atlantic. You’ll find stunning scenery with a tropical nature that you would expect to find in the other side of the world and instead they are only 2 hours from Lisbon.
In four hours from Italy (two to reach Lisbon and two to get to the Azores) you will come to a natural paradise.
Every island has its own peculiarities with volcanoes and nature. You can choose to visit some of them (you have to use internal flight, the local airline SATA / Air Azores easily connects them) or pick just one. We did so. In four days we went to Sāo Miguel, the largest island with its 759 sq km (the smallest is Corvo and counts only 17 sq km!). Sāo Miguel is perfect if you have little time and you want to have an idea of all the wonderful beauties of the Azores.
We rent a car in the airport and visited the entire island. Maybe it’s perfect if you have 5 or 6 days to spend here.
When is the perfect time of the year to go to Azores?
Thanks to the famous Azores High, the weather here it never gets too hot or too cold: temperatures goes from a minimum of 14 ° C in February to a maximum of 26 ° C in August. The wet season is from October to March but, being in the middle of the ocean it can rain and then become wonderfully sunshine, the weather changes constantly! Here you can monitor the weather forecasts.
All the explorers of the Americas, from Columbus onwards, have stopped here. Even today every boat or ship that cross the Atlantic Ocean stops here. A place full of charm and excitement.
The Azores are mysterious, no one knows who discovered them, there are ruins of the human presence of 2000 years ago. Certainly arrived here Carthaginians, that were expert navigators.
How to Visit Sāo Miguel in 4 Days
The airport is located in the largest town in the Azores, Ponta Delgada, start your visit from here.
You just need half a day to visit the town of Ponta Delgada. The city is characterized by Portuguese-style colored houses and a beautiful white and black pebble flooring.
You can easily walk from the city gate, with the beautiful church of São Sebastião, to St. Francisco Square with the Fort. Here there is the chapel of Nossa Senhora from Esperança convent, where is located the Santo Cristo dos Milagres, the Homo Ece, one of the most venerated and respected holy figure of all Portugal. The interior of the small baroque church is covered with white and blue tiled tiles in full Portuguese style.
In Ponta Delgada you’ll find beautiful shops with local craft (especially objects made with cork).
If you need a coffee go to Louvre Michaelense a small and beautiful cafè.
Don’t miss the Mercado da Graça, you’ll find pineapple from Azores the only ones in the world that grow in the greenhouse (not hot enough here), smaller, a little soury but really tasty!
Where to eat in Ponta Delgada
Perhaps you will be surprised but in the Azores you’ll eat very well and you will spend very little! Obviously there is many fish, lots of cheese, honey, great wines and local beers. In particular, I recommend in Ponta Delgata:
Taverna Açor, in the city center. Taste typical cheeses with vegetables, honey and jams. Just to give you an idea of prices: great cheese platter for two, water, wine, coffee = 16 €.
Cais 20, oceanfront restaurant, a bit off the center. We were recommended by a local girl. You have to face a “creative” waiting for the table, but it’s worth it! Fish here is a must. Taste the Lapas, very typical mollusks with butter, lemon, garlic and parsley.
LAGOA DE SETE CIDADES
As soon as you leave Ponta Delgada you will immediately notice the explosion of color of hydrangeas and agapanthus at the sides of the road! They will accompany you on all the streets of the island!
Vista do Rei is the most famous view point of the Azores. Here, it looks incredible but true, there is a huge abandoned luxury hotel, do not be afraid, come in and find your way to the roof (there will be so many other tourists, it is not a dangerous place!) And from here you will have an even more beautiful view!
Everywhere there are trails where you can hike but if you have little time like us, choose what to do. From Vista to Rei, a wonderful path runs around the lake but the trail is about 4 hours and does not return to the starting point so if you are by car it is not very practical.
But what are you looking at? These are the “two lakes”, although actually it is just one big lake, one part is green and the other blue. The legend tells of a beautiful green-eyed princess who wanted to marry a blue-eyed shepherd but the king deny and the two lovers poured so many tears to form the lake. Literally a valley of tears of painful beauty…
MIRADOURO BOCA DO INFERNO
Continuing on the road you will find many other panoramic view points from which to admire the lakes of Sete Cidades. Miradouro Boca Do Inferno is where you can make the famous photo with the path and lakes behind.
The road will take you to the lake and the town. After seeing it from above you come to ‘valley’ and here you will find out of being in an ancient caldera of a volcano. You can have a drink at the bar in the park along the lake and take a walk through the beautiful houses.
If you are looking for a place to sleep in the area, there is a beautiful lodge: 7Cidades Lake Lodge we didn’t stay here but maybe nextime!
Furnas (about an hour by car from Sete Cidades) is the main center of the East Zone, the perfect place to stay and then explore the area.
Here you will find calderas, the botanical park and the thermal pools.
Furnas is really a nice village with colorful houses, the beautiful little church and even a wonderful taro field! The only thing a bit odd are the bars, if you try to have breakfast forgot croissants and brioches…
It is really weird seeing in the middle of the village columns of smoke and boiling water! Eat the cobs, they are boiled in the hotspring water!
Where to eat in Furnas:
If you want to try Furnas’s finest restaurant at the Furnace Thermal Boutique Hotel, I highly recommend the fish soup in the pot (the lid is a kind of focaccia!) Here a two-course dinner, water, wine, beer, Cost us 46 €!
At Tony’s I recommend you shrimps and squids! The place is a bit rétro, but you will eat well overlooking the village square!
My favorite place in Azores: Chalet da Tia Mercês
Have lunch or just a snack, this tea house opened few months ago by a beautiful young couple. It is located in a former spa, inside you can still see the pools. Here everything is organic and local. The guys will be happy to tell you their story between aromatic herbs and local products.
I’m still dreaming of their wonderful ibiscus lemonade with mint and honey or sangria with a super tasty cheese platter! You can sit on deck chairs and admire the caldera. Really a place not to be missed!
TERRA NOSTRA GARDEN
In the village center you will also find a huge botanical garden with thermal pools (and hotel). This is Terra Nostra Garden, entrance costs € 8 for adults while it is free for hotel guests.
The park was started in the XVIII century by a wealthy American man. From the very beginning, the great thermal pool attracted many visitors. Think about how incredible it could be in the XVIII and XIX century to get here by boat crossing the ocean from Europe or America and find a tropical paradise and dive into the hot water!
The water is brown and turbid, you will not see any part of your body through it, due to the high iron content in it (curiosity: to turn the hydrangea flowers into blue you need to add iron to the soil. This is not necessary here on the island, you will see only white or blue hydrangeas just because of the ferrous water in the soil). Be careful, you will have to wash your costume very well!
In addition to the main pool, you will also find two natural “Jacuzzi”.
Do not miss the visit to the botanical park: the Azores are a perfect destination for botanical lovers. Their isolation has led to the independent development of various species of plants and their perfect climate provides a luxuriant and lush nature.
MIRADOURO DO SALTO DO CAVALLO
At 800 meters of altitude, you will have a breathtaking view!
PICO DE FERO
Another scenic spot from where you can admire the Furnas green lake.
LAGOA DU FURNAS
The entrance to the lake park costs 50 euro cents (you will have to pay parking too but do not worry: 15 minutes cost 0,20 euro cents!). Here you can see the hot mud puddles and the “cooking holes”. Yes, you understand well, one of the typical dishes of the area is the meat and vegetables cooked under the ground! You will see holes with restaurants names, below them your dinner is going to be cooked (the stew is made with pieces of mixed meat, quite heavy for digestion but I have to admit it’s very good!).
These are the only tea fields in Europe! You can walk among the tea plants (making thousand and thousands of photos) and then visit the farm and discover the history. The entrance is free and they will also offer you a cup of their super good tea! You can buy some tea on your way to go home (€ 2.50 per box. I told you that in the Azores you are not spending too much!).
MIRADOURO DE S. IRIA
The most beautiful panorama of the island! Go during the sunset, from here you can admire the whole coast!
LAGOA DO FOGO
Wonderful! You walk down to the lake, you can reach the beach and maybe even have a bath. This light blue lake is the largest on the island and is in the crater of the volcano that in 1563 erupted devastating the island and making more than 5,000 casualties.
The descent to the lake takes about 15 minutes and other 15 minutes to reach the beach. Knees will be quite stressed because the trail is made by steps, but it’s really worth it (and if I did it with zero workout, you can do it too!).
After the trail don’t stop here, continue with the car following the road, it continues to go up and will take you to several amazing panoramic spots up to the top of the mountain. From here you can decide to go back or go down to the sea.
A thermal swimming pool in a natural park! The entrance costs 2 euros and you can dive into a natural swimming pool with a hot waterfall! Inside the park you will find dressing rooms, showers and toilets.
If we had had one more day we would also have explored the east coast but four days are enough to fall in love with this island!
And now we can not wait to return to the Azores and explore the other islands!
Do not be impressed by the exotic name that evokes distant places, the Azores are only four hours away from Italy, and are an opportunity to see incredible nature and little touristy place. They look like Hawaii (and I can tell you, I’ve been there three times!) remaining in Europe! You don’t need even to change money, they use euros and they all speak an impeccable English. Really a paradise in the middle of the ocean!