Cover photo by “martapiqs” as found on Flickr.
“Tips on What to do in the Azores, Sao Miguel” is the second installment of a series of nine blog posts about the Azores islands. The posts are meant to give you a detailed overview of each one of them to help you plan your trip, whether you decide to visit one, two, or all nine. If you have any questions or specific request, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it or to put you in touch with the right contact.
Perfect island destination for: exploring mysterious lagoons and relaxing in natural spas.
Sao Miguel is the biggest island in the Archipelago, dubbed “the green island” for its luscious green landscapes, and with some unusual attractions, for European standards that is — famous for its local production of pineapples, the land with the oldest tea plantation in all of the old continent (since 1883), and the island where a valley is known for the local delicacy, “Cozido das Furnas”, that takes 6 hours to cook underground (using nothing else but the power of Earth’s steam). This is the real “slow food”.
The island was discovered shortly after Santa Maria (just 81Km away) in the mid-1400’s and was settled by Portuguese from the North and the South, and later by foreign communities of Moors (North African Muslims), Jewish, French, and English. Quite the melting pot of cultures and influences, wouldn’t you agree?
Sao Miguel is the more “urban” of all islands, for lack of a better description — if you want to experience island life but are not ready yet to go completely offbeat, this is probably your best first stop to ease into it.
Most Popular Activities
I had a difficult time narrowing down activities for this island for two reasons — first, there is a lot to do here and second, there is a lot of land and sea to cover. But I had to leave something out so I chose to include only the activities that allow you to enjoy nature and that bring you closer to the local culture (as is the mission of this blog).
The balance between Earth, Ocean and Humankind is a fragile one, and the local population knows what it’s like to endure storms and earthquakes. The most popular activities in the island focus on our relationship with the sea (through diving and responsible whale watching); hiking, biking and canyoning give you a glimpse of how we actually work around nature and not the opposite; geo-tourism puts you in touch with the land’s heartbeat.
Recommended Local Companies
Please note that we’re not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list we used the following criteria:
- (1) Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- (2) A website in English where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- (3) Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (with a working email)
Nature lovers who provide unique experiences, Futurismo’s team never loses sight of what makes the Azores the second best island destination for Sustainable Tourism. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Portas do Mar – Loja 26
9500-771 Ponta Delgada
Activities: Whale and dolphin watching (there are several possible programs with prices starting from 55€/US $60, per person), responsible swimming with wild dolphins (prices start from 65€/US $70, per person), geo-tours (85€/US $92, per person), walking tours (prices start from 37.50€/US $40, per person), mountain bike tours (prices start from 65€/US $70, per person).
They have a wide range of outdoor activities for those who are fans of highly active holidays. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Activities: snorkeling (35€/US $38, per person), kayaking (40€/US $43, per person), hiking (35€/US $38, per person, for half day; 50€/US $54, per person, for full day), geo-tours and speleology (40€/US $43, per person), climbing (40€/US $43, per person), rappel (40€/US $43, per person), canyoning and cascading (50€/US $54, per person, for half day; 75€/US $81, per person, for full day), coasteering (55€/US $60, per person).
For a full information about the services and prices you can click here to download the brochure.
The only PADI 100% AWARE and 5-star Dive Resort in the Azores that takes you to a great variety of diving spots and with Marine Biologists as Dive Leaders. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Quiosque B – Marina
9500 Ponta Delgada
Activities: Daily scuba diving trips (prices start from 32€/US $34 per dive – 10 dive pack), offshore dives (prices start from 180€/US $196 per person, for 2 dives), PADI dive courses (prices start from 260€/US $283; for each student they give 10€/US $10 for Project AWARE ocean conservation and protection), try out dive (prices start from 40€/US $44, per person).
A company dedicated to Diving and Sea Tourism, founded by three lovers of the sea and diving. Their aim is to offer services to all of those who also love the sea-based activities. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Marina de Vila Franca do Campo
9680 – 187 Vila Franca do Campo
Activities: Espirito Azul (“blue spirit” in English) specializes in different diving activities, with prices starting from 40€/US $44. All dives include a skipper, underwater guide, boat, fuel (up to 6 miles from base), activity insurance, tank, and weight belt.
Beatriz and her husband Pedro love to travel and like to discover the places on their own and feel the “real thing”. As nature lovers, they used to bicycle alone or with their 2 kids in the island. They decided to open the bicycle rental and tour bicycle company in 2013 combining what they love to do in the way they like to do.
Avenida do Litoral, Armazém 4,
Activities: Sete Cidades Jeep & Bike Safari – Nature, Legend, Adventure & Spa (prices start from 70€/US $76, per person), Furnas Jeep Expedition – Volcano Adventure & Outdoor Natural Spa (prices start from 70€/US $76, per person). Self-guided bike tours: Sete Cidades & Ferraria Spa (prices start from 68€/US $74, per person), Sete Cidades Adventure (prices start from 59€/US $65, per person), Lagoa do Fogo & Tea (prices start from 68€/US $74, per person), Furnas Trail, Lagoon & Spa (prices start from 58€/US $63, per person).
Master Jesus help me to forgive myself and others.Bless me in all Thy ways.Thank you for your love and wisdom #Jesus #santocristodosmilagres #divine #inspiration #prayer #spirituality
A photo posted by Silvano Almeida (@silvano.sa) on
The most important local cultural event is a religious one: Santo Cristo dos Milagres (“Holy Christ of Miracles”, roughly translated). Every year, on the fifth Sunday after Easter, a crowd of devotees to this religious figure gather around Convento da Esperança. The nuns in this local convent are responsible for maintaining the Catholic cult, and it’s one of the busiest times of the year for the city of Ponta Delgada. I am not a religious person but, speaking from personal experience, the manifestations around Santo Cristo are some of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. The local Catholic community is incredibly dedicated to this.
Other semi-religious festivities in the island include St. Peter in Ribeira Grande (the other city, in the North) and St. John in Vila Franca do Campo (in the South), both in June.
On a lighter, and not religious, note, Carnaval is celebrated in a peculiar way. On “Mardi Gras” (“fat Tuesday”) people gather in the streets of Ponta Delgada for a ruthless, but harmless, and very wet “lime battle” (“batalha das limas”, in Portuguese). I should explain that no, people don’t go crazy throwing fruit at each other… The “limes” used to be small balls made of very thin wax that people filled with water — when they hit the target, the “lime” would burst and get the “enemy” wet. These days, and because the costs of making wax “limes” were increasing, the ammunition of choice is water-filled plastic bags. Not the cleanest of local traditions…
Here’s a video to show you how things go down:
[videoembed type=”youtube” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J1109fZRs8″ title=”0″ playbar=”1″]
By far, “cozido das Furnas” is the most famous dish in the island. A combination of meats, potatoes (sweet and white), local yams, and cabbages, slowly stewed inside a pot that’s put inside a hole covered in dirt for about five to six hours.
Local sausages, beef, and seafood are, of course, excellent choices, especially if you start your meal with a slice of cottage cheese with “pimenta da terra” (a locally produced chili that is used as a seasoning in many dishes).
Passion fruit and pineapple are perfect for dessert, but don’t leave the island without trying the “queijadas da vila” in Vila Franca do Campo. Or you can have “queijadas” for breakfast; this is Portugal, it’s totally acceptable to have pastries for breakfast — wash it down with a hot cup of Gorreana green tea just to keep things balanced.
A photo posted by Portugalia Marketplace (@portugalia_marketplace) on
Perfect Local Souvenir
The typical blue and white china from Lagoa and pottery from Vila Franca do Campo are great souvenirs. Dolls made from dried corn leaves and flowers made from fish scales are unique, unusual, and a sign of great creativity in using what you have around.
If you want to extend your gastronomic experiences when you return home, and knowing that you can’t exactly take a “cozido das furnas” with you (well, you can take the “cozido”, but you can’t take the “furnas”), get your souvenirs from the local supermarket: grab a pineapple, a bag of “bolos levedos” (it’s a kind of flat but fluffy cake), some Gorreana tea, a box of “queijadas da vila”, some cans of tuna, and a bottle of passion fruit liquor “do Ezequiel” (that, most likely, won’t make past the security check at the airport). This would be the “beginner’s pack”. I could go on with this list for hours.
#saomiguel #pontadelgadaazores #açores
Where to Stay
Please note that we’re not listing ALL accommodation possibilities. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list of places to stay in the island, we used the following criteria:
- (1) Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). We excluded chain hotels.
- (2) A website in English and/or a listing on Booking.com* where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- (3) Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
Private apartment in the small town of Lagoa ( a 15-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada). Two bedrooms, one bathroom, private garden with terrace area and hot tub. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor.
Prices for 2 nights (minimum):
Low season (October to March): Prices start at 30€/US $32, per person per night
High season (April to September): Prices start at 35€/US $38, per person per night
Old 19th Century water mill, fully refurbished, in the famous town of Furnas ( a 40-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada). Three-bedroom house for 6 people (maximum). Three one-bedroom bungalows available in the property too, for up to 3 people. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor.
Prices for the main house:
Low season (October to May): 310€/US $338 per night (rentals for 4 nights minimum)
High season (June to September): 350€/US $381 per night (rentals for 4 nights minimum)
Prices for the bungalows:
Low season (October to May): 135€/US $147 per night (rentals for 4 nights minimum)
High season (June to September): 150€/US $163 per night (rentals for 4 nights minimum)
A 19th Century windmill, classified as Regional Heritage and transformed in 1999 into a country cottage. Located in the town of Candelária (a 20-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada). Rating of 9.3 on Booking.com*
Low season (January and February, November and December): 90€/US $98 per night, for two people (minimum 3 nights)
High season (March to October): 100€/US $91 per night, for two people (minimum 3 nights)
Four typical local houses refurbished to keep the classical elements. Located in the Nordeste area, in the East side of the island (about a 50-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada). Awarded every year (since 2012) with the eco-label “green key” award for best practices. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor.
Casa da Fonte – one bedroom house
Prices from 70€/US $76 per night (minimum stay 3 nights)
Book this on Booking.com*
Casa do Tanque – two bedroom house
Prices from 90€/US $98 per night (minimum stay 3 nights)
Book this on Booking.com*
Casa A Arribana – one bedroom house
Prices from 65€/US $70 per night (minimum stay 3 nights)
Book this on Booking.com*
Casa da Talha – one bedroom house
Prices from 65€/US $70 per night (minimum stay 3 nights)
For more information about these houses click here to download the brochure.
A 300-year-old typical manor house that was bought and recovered by the descendents of the original owners. Located in Livramento, five minutes away from the main city, Ponta Delgada. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Prices January to March (low season):
Double room – 75€/US $81, per day
Suite – 95€/US $103, per day
Apartment – 95€/US $103, per day
Prices April to May and October to December (shoulder season):
Double room – 85€/US $92, per day
Suite – 105€/US $114, per day
Apartment – 105€/US $114, per day
Prices June to September (high season):
Double room – 95€/US $103, per day
Suite – 125€/US $136, per day
Apartment – 125€/US $136, per day
For more information you can download the brochure here.
A rural house dating back to the 18th Century, fully refurbished and with restored gardens, in the town of Feteiras (18-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada).
Prices (minimum stay of 3 nights):
Shoulder season (April to June and 16th to 30th September to October) – 70€/US $76, per night
High season (July and 1st to 15th September) – 80€/US $87, per night
Highest season (month of August) – 90€/US $98, per night
Between the beach and the countryside, the traditional with the current resources, socializing with neighbors or deserved isolation, the chances are many. Two bedrooms, all with view to the sea. Maximum 5 people. Located in Porto Formoso (15-minute drive from Ribeira Grande; 20-minute drive from the main city, Ponta Delgada).
Prices start from 88€/US $96, per night.
Ilha de S. Miguel #lagoadofogo #acores #🅿ortugal photo by @vacationology
A photo posted by Portugal Places (@portugal_places) on
Territory: Sao Miguel is one of the two islands in the Eastern Group (Grupo Oriental) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Time zone: GMT -1 hour
Currency: Euro (€)
Banks and ATM machines available? Yes.
Post office? Yes.
Visa Requirements*: Same as other Schengen area territories. Click here for detailed information.
* Please note that this information may change over time. Refer to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your departure for updated information.
Special vaccinations needed? No.
Health facilities: pharmacies, Hospital and health centers (known as “centro de saude”).
Voltage: 220 volts (round two-pin plugs)
Public transport: Buses and taxis.
Area: 744.70 Km2
Distance from Lisbon (approx.): 1448 Km
Population (as of 2011): 137699
How to reach: By plane – between islands, SATA Air Acores; from the Portuguese mainland and other countries, SATA Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, Ryanair, EasyJet. By boat – between islands (seasonal, from May to September): Atlanticoline SA.
Weather: Climate: Mild temperate. Temperature: average high 22°C/72°F. Average low 13°C/55°F. Average relative humidity: 80.5%. For up to date information from the Azores Weather Institute, you can download the free app Meteo IPMA for iOS* or for Android (Downside: unfortunately, all the information in the app is in Portuguese.)
Best time to visit: May, for the local festivities of Santo Cristo; June to September, for the whale watching season.
Seismic activity*: Frequent, but not considered dangerous. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
WiFi coverage: Yes.
Cell phone coverage: Yes.
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