We have written these guides to help our guests and visitors to the Azores with some curated tips and suggestions. While we have visited each place, these are just our opinions. Should you have any feedback or places we have not discovered please do email us so we can improve the guide for future visitors.
Click here for a full-size version of the map here
For a historical walking tour of Ponta Delgada or a historical walk around the Solars (or large mansion houses in English) built from the riches of the citrus trade in the town of
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 Google Maps
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 Google Maps
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
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 Google Maps
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 Google Maps
Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo
The Ilhéu of Vila Franca do Campo is one of the biggest attractions on the island. Within the volcano is a natural swimming pool, circular in its interior Between June and September you can visit by using the service between the Port of Vila Franca do Campo and Ilhéu (note you have to buy tickets in advance and they are limited in number – Book here) Google Maps
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 Google Maps
This is a working pineapple plantation where you can see the growing process. The fruits from the Azores are very different
Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara
Stunning beach and surf spot. The cafe that overlooks the beach is a perfect spot for sundown drinks Google Maps
The only working vineyard (that we are aware of) on Sao Miguel. You get a tour of the grounds and vineyard, seeing the process of how the wine is harvested and made in bespoke wooden barrels. You can also buy a selection of wines to take home. Please note you tours need to be booked in advance and only happen on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays between 17:30 – 18:30 Google Maps
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
While the view from Vista do Rei is inspiring, the one from Miradouro da Boca
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.
As you leave the village following the regional road, continue on to the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Google Maps
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 Google Maps
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
Unless you visit
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 Google Maps
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 Google Maps
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 of the most beautiful places to watch the sunset Google Maps
Praia de Santa Barbara
While on the north shore, the Praia de Santa Barbara beach is well worth a
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 againGoogle Maps