After visiting São Miguel for 2 weeks we have few highlights, recommendations and “must see” to share with you. Read about our top 10. We travelled in June 17.
1. Have a beer with the locals
In Agua de Alto you can meet locals from the surrounding areas of Vila Franca do Campo having after work beers in front of the church of São Lázaro (Portuguese: Igreja Paroquial de Água de Alto/Igreja de São Lázaro). The bar Lagoinha isn’t obvious but as soon as you get there you will see where everybody gets the cold beer and a snack called Tremoços (Lupini beans) from.
2. Experience nature by hiking to a waterfall
At first glance the landscape of the Azores island São Miguel looks much like grasslands everywhere. To find the hidden beautiful spots you should try out hikes from the website trails.visitazores.com. The trails are marked very well. We especially liked the circular trail to Salto do Prego where you can enjoy a bath in the the waterfall and also get a beautiful view of the village Faial da Terra on your way back.
3. Visit a local tea plantation
Even though it is a touristy spot we still enjoyed the plantation Chá Gorreana in the north of the island. You can stroll though the tea fields, sip a free cup of tea and enjoy the view or explore the area of the factory to see the different stages of the tea process. Everything is open to public. There is also 3.5km trail around the plantation where the highest point is a great lookout over the tea bushes out to the ocean. Don’t forget to purchase a bag of tea to take back home.
4. Try local bread and pastries
Bolos Lêvedos is a portuguese muffin that is originated from the Furnas Valley. Stop by Gloria Moniz (hidden in the backyard) when you visit Furnas and try the fresh baked Bolos Lêvedos with cheese or enjoy any of the other delicious treats for example Queijada Feijão – a sweet bean tart.
5. Visit the abandoned hotel with stunning views
We love the mystic side of abandoned places and the Monte Palace Hotel is even more special. It offers a beautiful view of Sete Cidades. Just walk up the stairs to the former rooms and enjoy the view. It’s worth checking the webcam before since Sete Cidades is always cloudy. If you are interested in the story behind the hotel check out this great article.
6. Have bbq with great views
The islands offers plenty spots to have a barbecue with a decent view. If you drive up to Nordeste from Povoação you can find a spot we especially liked. It is called Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada. Also the east coast of São Miguel is perfect for a scenic roadtrip.
7. Eat grilled fish and Queso Fresco
The daily catch is served at Bar Caloura. With a terrace overlooking the sea it’s a great spot to have some grilled fish. We recommend the fish platter which comes with various kinds of fish and potatoes. There is also a salat buffet, but who needs salat with all this great fish. Since the restaurant is very popular and they don’t take reservations you have to patient to wait a little. As an appetizer try Queso Fresco and if you want to try some honey liquor from the Azores they have Abelheira. Bring your swimsuit and you can go for a swim in the sea water pool first.
8. Relax in the hot springs
There are several places on the island where you can relax in the hot springs. In Furnas you can enjoy the thermal pools of Poca da Beija which costs €4 /pP or you could go to Ponta da Ferraria and swim in a little bay with warm water due to hot springs in the ocean. With the app “Ferraria Hot Springs” you can check when the temperature is best for swimming. Both places are usually busy but it is still worth a trip.
9. Swim in a lagoon
The moste beautiful lagoon on the island is Lagoa do Fogo. Again check the webcam since it is usually very cloudy. It is always worth a second trip to catch the lagoon with blue skis which looks so much prettier. If you have time there is a nice hiking trails down to enjoy the beautiful water or have a picknick. There also few lagoons hidden in the forest that are definitely worth a trip. Check out Lagoa do Congro for a small lagoon hidden in the forest.
10. Take the boat to Ilhéu de Vila
From the marina of Vila Franca do Campo there are hourly boats (10am – 6pm) going to the island. Try to get your tickets early in the day since they are selling out fast (or try to book online). There is only a certain amount of people allowed to the island, per day. The trip takes 5min. The amazing little crater island offers a great place to relax, swim or snorkel in crystal clear water. The walls of its crater are lined by endemic vegetation, while inside there is an almost perfectly circular natural lake, which is linked to the sea by a narrow channel towards the coast of São Miguel, which prevents the entry of waves from the sea.