You are currently viewing 6 places to visit on São Miguel Island in the Azores if you take advantage of the deals to Ponta Delgada

Do you know the Azores? It’s a Portuguese archipelago of volcanic islands in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, where outdoor activities and relaxation go hand in hand. All in an enchanting setting. Tempting, isn’t it? Although this isolated destination may seem cut off from the world, the Azores are much more accessible than you might think!

The outbound flight to Ponta Delgada takes just 5 hours from Montréal and under 6 hours from Toronto, which is shorter than flights from those cities to California! The Azores are regularly featured on Flytrippers’ deals page for cheap flights in the $500s-$600s roundtrip, including yesterday from Montréal!

Here’s my experience on the São Miguel Island, which deserves to be better known.


Overview of Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island and the Azores

Nicknamed the “Hawaii of Europe”, the Azores archipelago is still relatively unknown to North Americans.

Location of the Azores (image credit: Google Maps)


The geographical location of the Azores, between the Old Continent and the “New World”, has made it the ideal place to stop off when crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Christopher Columbus and his Niña stopped here on the way back from his first voyage to America in 1493, as did Captain Piché during the miraculous emergency landing of Air Transat Flight 236 in 2001.

Of the archipelago’s 9 islands, São Miguel is the largest in size and population. It is home to some 130,000 people (56% of the Azores population), which is a little bit more than the city of Kingston, Ontario. Its airport is Ponta Delgada (PDL).

In spring 2017, I spent 3 days there during an extended stopover en route to Lisbon, along with my husband and a friend of ours. I discovered a singular and colorful destination, with a relaxed atmosphere and lush vegetation.

The Azores show a little-known side of Portugal. My 3 days there were enough to make me want to explore this archipelago further. It’s perfect because it’s conveniently located between Europe and America, so it’ll be easy to go back!

Here are 6 places to discover on São Miguel Island.


1. Ponta Delgada

Although Ponta Delgada is the capital of São Miguel, it has the authentic charm of a small, picturesque town. We’re a long way from the urban chaos of deafening rush-hour traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city.

Instead, here you’ll find a calm island and a gentle Portuguese way of life.


A stroll through the various historic monuments took us from Gonçalo Velho square, home to the city gates (Portas da cidade), emblems of Ponta Delgada, to the fortress of São Brás (Castelo de São Brás), where we visited the Azores Military Museum.

Opposite the fortification is a thin strip of land that gave the town its name, since Ponta Delgada means “thin point” in Portuguese.

In the evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal at A Tasca. This restaurant serves typical Portuguese dishes, such as the national soup Caldo verde and rice with duck (arroz con pato). For dessert, I had a caramelized pineapple cake that I’ll remember for a long time. It was so good that I ordered a second one!

In terms of accommodation, my travel buddies and I stayed at the Procyon Hostel. I really appreciated the impeccably clean facilities, the stylish decor, and the services offered. What’s more, the friendly and attentive staff greatly contributed to enhancing our stay there.

Private room (photo credit: Procyon Hostel)


From Ponta Delgada, we explored the rest of São Miguel with our rental car.

As public transport on the island is rather limited, renting a car was the best option for making the most of our short stay.

Example of the abundant vegetation in São Miguel (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


2. Whale watching

The Azores are a prime location for observing marine mammals. You will find dolphins, sperm whales, and blue whales — the world’s largest animal!

Given the large number of species present near the islands, cruises are offered throughout the year (weather permitting), departing from the port of Ponta Delgada.

Unfortunately, as we passed through, thick fog made visibility almost impossible. Perhaps you’ll have better luck during your visit?


3. Sete Cidades

At the western end of the island lies the protected landscape of the Sete Cidades basin.

The crater of this volcano has the particularity of containing a duo of green and blue lakes (Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul), which can be observed from the Vista do Rei. This viewpoint was inaugurated in 1901, on the occasion of the visit of King Carlos and Queen Amelia.

Legend has it that these lakes were formed by the tears of a princess and a shepherd amid an impossible love affair. A kind of Portuguese Romeo and Juliet. The Sete Cidades caldera offers the perfect panorama for a short hike.

Green and blue lakes of Sete Cidades (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


4. Tea plantation

On our way to the attractions located on the east side of the island, we stopped at the Porto Formoso Tea Factory (Fábrica de chá Porto Formoso).

Porto Formosa Tea Factory (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


We took the time to enjoy a cup of comforting orange pico tea and admire the view of the gardens and the coast.

Porto Formoso and Chá Gorreana are the only 2 tea plantations in São Miguel, the Azores, and even in the whole of Europe!

Field of tea bushes (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


5. Furnas

As Sete Cidades has been inactive for over a century, Furnas (pronounced “fournach”) is the place to go to witness the island’s volcanic activity.

Fumaroles in Furnas (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


There, we observed the impressive fumaroles, which are emanations of volcanic gases. It is also possible to bathe in the thermal springs.

Throughout the village, you’ll find fountains flowing with various types of spring water, which you can taste. A visit to Furnas is not without a slight smell of sulfur, but as they say, you can’t make omelets without breaking eggs!

Spring water fountains in Furnas (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


6. Abandoned hotel

Just a few steps away from the aforementioned Vista do Rei,  you’ll find the Monte Palace, a 5-star hotel in a superb location.

However, there’s a little problem with this establishment: it’s been abandoned since the early 1990s!

Abandoned hotel in Sete Cidades (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


It has seen better days, but it’s possible to visit what’s left, and we did so with curiosity and interest. Strolling through the large and empty grand hall, overlooked by the mezzanines, offers a unique experience that’s hard to describe.

In the basement, the dark, ruined kitchen exudes a gloomy atmosphere, while the roof of the building allows us to admire a magnificent view of the caldera. These deserted places now serve as the hangout for several graffiti artists who have come to leave their artistic signatures.

Monte Palace (photo credit: V pour Voyage)


Bonus: Other options

That concluded our adventure on the São Miguel Island, but know that there are plenty of other options when visiting this island.

For hiking enthusiasts, the Reserva da Lagoa do Fogo is a must-see! Beach lovers will enjoy the village of Ribeira Quente.

Among other activities, you can visit a pineapple plantation at the Plantação de Ananases Augusto Arruda and learn more about volcanism by venturing into a lava cave at the Monumento Natural Regional da Gruta do Carvão.


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Featured image: São Miguel (photo credit: V pour Voyage)

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My globetrotting journey began as early as high school with a humanitarian aid trip to Ecuador. Since then, I've never stopped traveling the world: Latin America, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East. I travel to witness foreign realities, meet people from all over and learn about different cultures. To date, my travels have taken me to 28 countries, and I'm not about to stop!

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