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The Hidden Azores – São Miguel Island

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Azores coastline ©Getty Images

The Azores: A Mid-Atlantic Paradise

The Azores, situated off the western coast of Portugal, is a remote archipelago that abounds with adventures. Often referred to as the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic, the Azores is a beguiling mix of wild nature and volcanic thermal pools, lush calderas, crater lakes, and steaming geysers. Each of the nine islands in the Azores has developed its own unique culture among its beautiful natural surroundings.

How to Get to São Miguel Island

Getting to São Miguel Island is straightforward. The island, unlike many of the Azores, can be reached by plane without great difficulty. If you are coming from the East Coast can hop on a direct flight operated by Sata Azores Airlines from New York (JFK) or Boston (BOS) and arrive in Ponta Delgada (PDL) just five hours later!

Accessibility in The Azores

In recent years, the Azores have made significant strides in becoming more accessible to all travelers. The development of São Miguel island’s infrastructure, as well as the diversity of services available, means that this gateway to the Azores islands is also the most accessible. From Sete Cidades to Nordeste, you can find many accessible routes and activities, as well as adapted transport and accommodation.

The Magic of São Miguel Island

São Miguel Island, often referred to as “The Green Island,” is known for its vibrant flora and fauna. The island is home to the Sete Cidades Massif, a landscape characterized by its twin lakes situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. One lake is blue, reflecting the sky, while the other is green, reflecting the surrounding vegetation. This natural wonder is a must-visit for any traveler.

The island is also home to Furnas, a valley with thermal springs, where you can experience the unique opportunity of cooking the traditional “Cozido das Furnas” underground with volcanic steam.

Adventure and Activities

The Azores offer a wide range of activities for adventure seekers. World-class whale watching, sailing, diving, hiking, and canyoning are just a few of the activities you can enjoy. Diving in the Azores isn’t quite as accessible as other islands, but the Rosais Reef near São Jorge Island and the Terceirense Shipwreck near Graciosa Island are among the best dive sites.

Here are some of the popular things to do on São Miguel Island

Explore Ponta Delgada: The island’s capital, Ponta Delgada, is a charming town with historic architecture, cobblestone streets, and a bustling harbor. Visit the Portas da Cidade (City Gates), the Sé Cathedral, and the Carlos Machado Museum.

Thermal Baths and Hot Springs: São Miguel is known for its natural hot springs and thermal baths. The Terra Nostra Garden in Furnas is famous for its geothermal pool, while the Caldeira Velha offers both hot springs and lush surroundings.

Sete Cidades: This is one of the most iconic spots on the island, known for its twin lakes, Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) and Lagoa Verde (Green Lake). You can hike around the rim for breathtaking views.

Lagoa do Fogo: Another stunning crater lake, Lagoa do Fogo, offers hiking opportunities and scenic viewpoints. The hike down to the lake is challenging but rewarding.

Whale Watching: São Miguel is a great place for whale watching. Several tour operators offer boat trips to see various species of whales and dolphins in their natural habitat.

Hiking and Nature Trails: São Miguel is a paradise for nature lovers. There are numerous hiking trails, including those in Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo, and the Salto do Prego waterfall trail in Faial da Terra.

Furnas: Visit the town of Furnas to experience its famous geothermal activity, including bubbling mud pools and the cooking of cozido das Furnas, a traditional stew cooked in the ground. You can also relax in the beautiful Terra Nostra Botanical Garden.

Golfing: São Miguel has a couple of golf courses, including Batalha Golf Course and Furnas Golf Course, where you can enjoy a round of golf in stunning natural surroundings.

Historical and Cultural Sites: Explore historical sites like the Forte de São Brás, the Convento da Esperança, and the Museu Militar dos Açores to learn more about the island’s history and culture.

Local Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Azorean cuisine. Try fresh seafood, local cheeses, and traditional dishes like Cozido das Furnas and Lapas grelhadas (grilled limpets).

Botanical Gardens: Besides Terra Nostra, São Miguel Island has other beautiful botanical gardens like the Jardim José do Canto and the Jardim António Borges, which showcase the island’s lush flora.

Beaches: São Miguel has several beaches, including Praia do Populo and Praia das Milícias, where you can relax, swim, or engage in water sports.

Canyoning and Adventure Sports: For adrenaline seekers, there are opportunities for canyoning, kayaking, and other adventure sports on the island.

Cultural Festivals: Check the local events calendar for festivals and cultural events happening during your visit. São Miguel hosts various festivals throughout the year, featuring music, dance, and traditional celebrations.

The Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit São Miguel Island is during the summer months, from May 14th to September 9th. This period offers ideal weather conditions based on average temperature and humidity. The warmest months are July, August, September, and October, with top temperatures typically hovering around the low 20°C and never reaching higher than 29°C. However, the weather is generally good all year round in São Miguel, making it a great destination for any season. If you’re planning to swim, the best months are July, August, September, and October. Please note that December is the rainiest month, so plan your activities accordingly.

Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or a couple looking for a looking for a tranquil getaway, São Miguel Island in the Azores has something for everyone. Its commitment to accessibility ensures that everyone can enjoy the beauty and adventure that this island has to offer. So why wait? Start planning your trip to this hidden gem in Europe today!

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