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Volcanic eruptions caused the nine islands that make up the remote archipelago of the Azores in Portugal to emerge from the Atlantic Ocean.
Many people are still unaware of this place halfway between America and Europe. However, it is hard to imagine a better destination for nature lovers.
The Azores are partly characterized by their chaotic climate. Within a 24-hour period, you can experience the four seasons of the year. That is why it is advisable to pack both a swimsuit and a raincoat in your suitcase.
But the good thing is that temperatures are moderate throughout the year. The summers are not too hot and the winters are not too cold. In other words, any time of the year is a good time to travel to this archipelago.
Sao Miguel is the largest of all the islands and brings together the best of the Azores: a volcanic landscape full of forests, incredible lakes, calderas and endless cliffs.
It is known as the Green Island because it is a jewel full of green meadows and wild nature. A color that characterizes it and that contrasts with the blue of its lakes and the black sand of its beaches.
The capital of Sao Miguel is Ponta Delgada, an elegant city full of cobblestone streets with small black and white buildings. This is the perfect place to stay overnight and works well as a base for the rest of the itinerary.
By renting a car one can easily move around the island from this town, making day trips to the most interesting places.
Sights to See and Things to do in Sao Miguel
One of the most famous sights of the island is this caldera located inside a volcanic crater. Twin lakes, one blue and one green fill the base of the caldera. Legend has it that the two colors are due to the tears of two crossed lovers, a green-eyed princess and a blue-eyed shepherd.
The real reason is that the depth of the larger lake, the blue one, makes it reflect the sky. Meanwhile, the green lake is much smaller and shallower, so it reflects the greenery of the surroundings.
To observe this incredible place, you can walk along the shores of the lakes or walk the 12 kilometers that border the caldera and offer unbeatable views. There are also numerous viewpoints, the most famous is Vista do Rei.
However, from Boca do Inferno you can see the caldera in all its splendor. Here a narrow gorge of earth advances towards the abyss of the crater of the lagoon of Sete Cidades.
This lake is one of the oldest lagoons on the island and is quite hidden away from crowds and noise. It is a natural treasure of circular shape almost 500 meters in diameter and an of intense green color. This color is due to the abundant and lush vegetation that surrounds it, with tall trees that are reflected in its waters.
It is a place little frequented by tourists because the access is not as easy as other lagoons which keep it preserved. In addition, due to the surrounding vegetation and trees, it is not possible to observe the lagoon from other places or viewpoints.
To discover it you must go down a dirt path of about 2.5 kilometers. However, you can enjoy its incredible beauty and absolute silence when you reach its shore.
This place is one of the most amazing natural treasures of Sao Miguel. It is located on the slope of the Agua de Pau Volcano, one of the three volcanoes whose eruption caused the genesis of the island.
In its crater has formed the Lagoa do Fogo, one of the most beautiful and impressive lakes on the island. Although the volcano has been inactive for several centuries, its intense internal energy is the cause of the high temperatures of the natural pools of this park.
It is a magical place where the thermal pools are surrounded by virgin nature. In fact, the path that leads to the pools seems to immerse you in the Amazon jungle. A visit to Old Caldera is one of the top things to do in Sao Miguel.
Ribeira dos Caldeirões
This natural park is a protected area located in the municipality of Nordeste. It was born from a landscaping project to take advantage of the waterfalls and mills that run naturally there. The intention was to create an area where locals and tourists could walk and enjoy the environment.
It is located along the Guilherme River and you can take a nice tour to visit waterfalls, five watermills and admire the abundant vegetation. You can even practice canyoning in the Guilherme River Bank. Visiting it is totally free, so it is 100% worth it.
The Furnas Valley is a volcanic caldera that erupted for the last time in 1630. Even four centuries later its interior sulfur and vapors invade the senses in the form of calderas.
It is one of the most intriguing geothermal sites, where the earth opens up to release high temperatures that make small lagoons boil. The locals take advantage of these calderas to cook the traditional Furnas stew, one of the island’s most famous dishes.
In addition to the calderas, in this area of the island, it is worth walking along the path that runs along the shore of Lago das Furnas.
There you can visit the beautiful Capela da Nossa Senhora das Vitórias. Finally, you should go up to the Mirador Pico do Ferro to observe the lake from the heights.
Located in the heart of the island is this immense blue lake, the second-largest in Sao Miguel, Portugal. Its waters rest in an extinct crater and it is surrounded by high mountains and endemic vegetation.
To enjoy beautiful views over the lake, the best viewpoints are Lagoa do Fogo and Pico de Barrosa. The latter allows you to observe the sinuous shapes of the lagoon from a 900-meter peak.
This is an area of the island that is usually covered in fog, so you need to try your luck to enjoy the views without problems.
The best way to explore the lake is through the nature trails that descend to its shores. The path is quite steep so the descent will be a bit tricky but quite fast. Meanwhile, the ascent will take a bit longer.
Puddle of The Owner of Beija
Experiencing this famous open-air hot spring is a top thing to do in Sao Miguel. It is a complex formed by five pool areas that are supplied by the relaxing waters of a thermal spring.
Its waters are therapeutic and the temperature ranges between 29 and 40 degrees. In addition, the environment is amazing and the green of the surrounding flora contrasts with the brown of the hot springs.
Nail Jump Waterfall
This waterfall is one of the most beautiful on the island of Sao Miguel. To reach it, it is necessary to go to Faial da Terra, a small village from where the trail to the waterfall begins. From here, it is a pleasant two kilometers walk upstream. As you go the vegetation will gradually become denser.
It takes about 40 minutes to reach the destination, but the effort is enormously worth it. This waterfall is hidden in a unique natural setting and is a perfect place for a swim or a picnic.
Mosteiros and Ponta da Ferraria
The small fishing village of Mosteiros has a beautiful beach of volcanic origin. The landscape stands out for its huge rock cliffs that rise from the sea, very close to the coast.
Near Mosteiros, specifically in Ponta da Ferraria, are the only natural salt water hot springs on the island of Sao Miguel.
Taking a bath here is quite an experience, as you can feel the currents of hot and cold water due to the swaying of the sea.
This beautiful viewpoint is one of several that can be found along the north coast of São Miguel, specifically in the municipality of Nordeste. This place offers magnificent views over the island’s green cliff coastline and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
The viewpoint was remodeled in 1995 and is now very well preserved, with beautiful, landscaped areas full of palm trees and flowers. There is also a picnic area where you can stop for a snack while enjoying the scenery.
Book This Trip
Start planning your coastal escape to Sao Miguel, Azores today. Get prepared with knowledge on how to get around, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Plan even more fun by booking some unique Sao Miguel activities, expert-led tours and vacation packages through GetYourGuide. Find more information and book your dates in advance here.
For the best flight deals, train tickets and car rental reservations, check out OMIO Travel Partner.
Puddle dona Beija | Azores Termal Paradise (pocadonabeija.com)These are the best places to stay in São Miguel (timeout.com)
Author Bio: Based in France, Lucia Otero Medraño is Spanish with a master’s degree in travel journalism. She has worked in the tourism sector but her true passion is to live enriching experiences and discover amazing places around the world and write about them. In her spare time, she likes to enjoy her second passion, music.