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São Miguel: Sights

São Miguel: Sights

Praça Gonçalo Velho Cabral / Gates to the city
The three arches you see in the Praça de Gonçalo Velho are part of the original (1783) gates to the city, which once stood by the old harbor wall. The statue is of the man after whom the square is named – supposedly the discoverer of both São Miguel and Santa Maria. Just opposite is the tourist information office on the main promenade, this is the perfect place to gather some helpful advice and information from the staff who are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
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Mercado da Graça (Grace’s market)
For a taste of the Azores, head to the Mercado da Graça on Rua do Mercado. This daily farmer’s market (closed on Sundays) offers a variety of traditional and exotic fruits, vegetables, and fish. Next door is the O Rei Dos Queijos, a speciality shop attached to the market that sells cheese, traditional sweet bread, and other products made throughout the Azores islands.
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Jardim Antonio Borges
The António Borges Garden are pretty gardens with just over 2.5 hectares of outdoor space. Many exotic trees and a lake give the place a quiet and almost undiscovered feel. There is a small cafe at one of the entrances and the gardens are free to walk around.
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Antero de Quental Garden
This garden pays homage to Antero de Quental (1841-1892), one of the leading figures in 19th-century Portuguese literature, who was born on the island of São Miguel. It contains a monument alluding to the life and work of this famous poet. The garden is decorated with features that are typical of the “art deco” style, particularly noticeable in the railings and the design of the pathways, which lend a special atmosphere to this leisure area.
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Around the island:

Lagoa das Sete Cidades (Sete Cidades Lake)
A favourite spot to head to for many guests is the Sete Cidades area. Here you will find beautiful hiking trails, as well as the two beautiful lakes which contain different colours due to the minerals in the ground. From the top of the vista, you can see one is green and one is blue, which according to legend, were formed from the tears of a shepherd and a princess who shared a forbidden love.
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Monte Palace Hotel
Vista do Rei is also the location for an abandoned hotel. Built in the 70s and operational for less than 2 years, this is now a popular site to get an even better perspective over the lake. You can freely explore the building as long as you’re careful with the debris (the building has had 0 maintenance). Make sure you go to the top floor for a superb open view. The hotel building has been bought by a group of investors and will open again in 2021 (the site has now some “DO NOT ENTER” signs.) Obviously, if you decide to enter, a simple sign won’t detain you, but do it at your own risk. Can be dangerous inside.
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Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
While the view from Vista do Rei is inspiring, the one from Miradouro da Boca do Inferno will make your jaw drop. Have you ever felt goosebumps when arriving at a beautiful place? If so, it will probably happen here again. From up there, apart from the crazy views of the mountains and the sea in the background, two other lagoons are visible: Rasa and Santiago in a complete 360-degree nature experience. The view is wide open to the entire volcanic crater of Sete Cidades, formed 22,000 years ago.
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Calura Beach & Agua de Pau Village
Small, yet gorgeous, Calura Beach definitely warrants a visit. You can access the beach via a set of stairs and admire the rocky cliffs that surround the bay from ground level. When you’ve had your fill of sand and sea, head to the nearby village of Agua de Pau. Wander through the village admiring its colourful buildings, lush garden, and the Church of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos.
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Caloura
As you leave the village following the regional road, continue on to the miradouro (lookout point) that provides stunning views of the town of Caloura below. Further down the coastal road is another pull-out where fishermen park to reel in their daily catch and visitors pause to take in the coastal views.
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Vila Franca do Campo & Ilhéu da Vila Franca
Vila Franca do Campo was the original capital of the Azores archipelago until a violent earthquake destroyed much of the town in October 1522. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the town began to prosper again from the successes of orange plantations and pineapple production. The most notable feature of Vila Franca do Campo lies just over a half mile (1 km) off the coast. From June to September boats from the nearby marina take a limited number of visitors out to explore the island of Ilhéu.
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Ponta Garça
Ponta Garça is a civil parish within the municipality of Vila Franca do Campo. The church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Mercy) and the 20th-century Lighthouse of Ponta Garça are its two most notable attractions.
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Furnas
How do you know when you have reached Furnas? Well the upside down house sort of gives it away (I kid you not.) Huh? Who lives there?! Well, nobody actually lives inside the upside down house and in fact, it’s not actually a house. Someone just got fancy with the design of an electric substation. It’s great to see in person, nonetheless.
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One of the most intriguing features in Furnas is Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas, the geothermal hot spot near the edge of the lake. (You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee. The process is a little confusing. You get a ticket from the booth on your drive in, but have to pay the nominal fee at a small house-like structure near the lake. You’ll then provide your proof of payment at the booth in order to exit.) Despite that, the walk along the boardwalk over the geothermal area is other-worldly. The smell of sulfur can be a bit off-putting, but the actuality of what you are observing is far more significant.
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Terra Nostra Park
Entrance into the park is still very affordable (€6 adult/€3 child as of November 2016). Terra Nostra is said to be one of the prettiest parks in all of Europe. Here you will find over 2,500 trees, a collection of endemic plant species, a fern garden, and a garden of annual flowers and plants, in addition to several geothermal pools in which you are welcome to take a dip!
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Lagoa do Fogo (Fogo Lake)
High up in the mountains, inside the crater of an extinct volcano, lies the gorgeous Lagoa do Fogo (Fogo Lake). You’ll get spectacular photos from the roadside viewpoint on a clear day, but if you’ve got the time and mobility, it’s worth the steep half-hour descent to visit the lake as well. Part of a nature reserve, the area is protected from development and feels truly unspoiled. Few other people make the effort to hike down there, so you’ll likely have the sandy shoreline to yourself. As you’d expect from such an isolated spot, there are absolutely no facilities at Lagoa do Fogo. Take your own food and drink down there, and bring everything back with you.
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Caldeira Velha
Another place where you can soak your stresses away is at the thermal pools of Caldeira Velha. For a small entry fee (2€ as of November 2016), you can wander through the lush jungle-like setting and relax in one of several thermal pools. It’s still worth a visit even if you don’t plan on getting in the water, as there is a nice waterfall you can hike to.
Google Maps | Website link | Opening Hours

Logoa do Foga
Unless you visit Logoa do Foga on a rare clear day, you’d be convinced that its name translates to Lake of Fog, but it is actually the Fire Lake. Logoa do Foga is said to be one of the most beautiful natural sites on the entire island. The weather can change quickly, so with a little bit of patience, you just might get that picture-perfect view!
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Terra Nostra
This botanical garden also has many thermal bath and walking paths for your enjoyment. There is a small fee to enter the park, but it’s well worth it.
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Exploring the Northern Coast of São Miguel

Gorreana Tea Plantation
While on the island of São Miguel, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the oldest, and currently the only, tea plantation in Europe. The Gorreana Tea Plantation has been in the family for five generations, cultivating tea since 1883 and currently producing about 33 tons of tea per year. During your visit, explore the grounds of the 32-acre plantation, enjoy a complimentary cup of freshly picked tea, and take a step back in time as you admire the original Marshalls machinery dating back to the 1840s.
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Santa Iria
A short drive down the road from the tea plantation is the Santa Iria lookout point. The views of the jagged cliffs along the north coast of the island are truly breathtaking, and it is one o fthe most beautiful places to watch the sunset.
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Praia de Santa Barbara
While on the north shore, the Praia de Santa Barbara beach is well worth a vist. It can get busy during the summer, in the winter months it has some striking views (a warm jumper is recomended to guard against the Atlantic winds!)
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Visit the Oldest Lighthouse in the Azores
On the remote east coast of Sao Miguel lies Farol do Arnel, the oldest lighthouse in the Azores. It’s only open on Wednesdays, but worth visiting on other days of the week because of its stunning location. If you want to visit it and the small, attractive fishing community nearby, be aware of the extremely steep, winding road that leads there. Small cars have been known to get stuck at the bottom, without enough power to get back up again!
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