I have to admit that 4 months ago we knew nothing about the Azores! We first came across it in one of the travel forums and curiosity killed us. But not for long! The info and videos we found about the islands made us decide instantly that this a destination that cannot be missed.
For those of you who are not familiar with the stunning islands, let us tell you briefly what they’re all about.
The Azores Archipelago is the collective name given to 9 islands situated in the North Atlantic ocean, 1,600km away from Europe (Portugal). They are divided into Eastern, Central and Western islands. The biggest of the 9 islands is Sao Miguel, which is part of the Eastern group of islands. Ponta Delgada is the biggest city in Sao Miguel and the only one with an airport to receive flights from different parts of Europe.
How to get there:
Tourism in the Azores has increased a few years ago when low-cost airlines were finally allowed to fly from Europe to the island, besides the official island airlines SATA.
Other airlines that fly to Ponta Delgada from Europe:
- Book your flight way ahead as tickets are not cheap!
- Flight from Lisbon is a bit over two hours
- Taxi flat fare from the airport to any hotel in Ponta Delgada is 10 euros.
The biggest city in Sao Miguel, followed by Lagoa. You will land in their small airport and will be out in no time (they only have one baggage belt)!
- The city is small, quiet, with very friendly people
- You will be surprised and impressed by the number of locals who can speak English there
- At one point you will feel like you have gone back in time in this little town (80’s and 90’s feel)
- Shops and supermarkets (and some restaurants) close really early – by 7pm and some will close by 6pm
- There are plenty of cafe’s and restaurants yet you will not be consumed by choice. It is easy to decide where to go and eat – spares you some major decision fatigue!
- Seafood and cheese are the most popular foods (try their white cheese, octopus and Azorean pineapple)
- Prices are very affordable
- You can pretty much walk everywhere
- Very safe and calm
- If you love shopping, forget about it in this city. Not a shopping destination by any means!
Driving in Sao Miguel:
Since no one intends to spend their entire time in Ponta Delgada, everyone who visits the island intends to see the famous lakes and craters. And there’s no other way of doing that but to drive!
- Renting a car in the island is fairly easy and hassle free (we rented a small Skoda for 3 days with the insurance for 177 euros)
- You can rent the car online or through the hotel you are staying at (which we did)
- Some rental companies accept only cash and they don’t take a credit card guarantee at all
- Make sure you have an international driving license
- Traffic in Ponta Delgada and on the island in general is quite good. No major jams and no crazy drivers
Lagoa do Fogo & Sete Cidades:
These are two of the major lakes in the island and a must-see for any visitor! The lush greenery and stunning scenery will blow you away. These virgin sites are excellent spots for relaxation and meditation. No nature lover can skip such beauty.
Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire):
- 35 minutes drive from Ponta Delgada
- A fairly easy route that goes up the mountain (you are literally among the clouds)
- Temperature decreases as you go higher so make sure you have a jacket
- Common view is cows and horses grazing
- Be careful while driving as some cows tend to cross the street
- There are 3 view points of the lake on your way up. Get down and see them all. There are parking spots for cars
- The hike down to the lake is about 30 minutes. Easy but the presence of mud can aggravate your descent
- Once down at the lake you can spend all the time you want there. The silence and scenery are just wonderful down there. And sometimes all you can hear are the birds. This is an extremely relaxing and picturesque spot that you need to spend some time at. For photographers, this is simply photo paradise!
- The hike back up is steep and exhausting but will surprisingly take less time than the descent
Sete Cidades (7 Cities):
- 40 to 50 minutes drive from Ponta Delgada (in the opposite direction from Lagoa do Fogo)
- The drive and scenery are completely different from that of Lagoa do Fogo
- Forests are what you are surrounded by on your way to the lakes
- Best two views of the lakes are King’s View and Lagoa do Canario
- Those with major fear of heights might find difficulty in going to Lagoa do Canario as this is the highest point from which you can see the lakes (I almost had a break down up there!) But the view is out of this world!
- Sete Cidades is a very small and charming town, with a few houses, bars and cafeterias. Cafeterias are very cheap and food is of good quality (we had a burger for 2.5 euros)
- Photographers will be very pleased with the different views and spots from which they can capture this beauty
The islands are great to visit any time of the year due to their temperate climate but the real fun is in August where they have some local festivals and parties.
For those who are looking for a place to relax, reflect, recharge and unwind – Sao Miguel is definitely your haven!3