All over the island of São Miguel, you can’t help but find the white wrapped pastries with green ribbons – the Queijadas da Vila Franco do Campo. Koen and I had some time in the afternoon and decided to explore the namesake town! Our favorite way to start a city trip is with a cup of coffee at a local cafe. When I searched the best places for coffee, I was so excited to see that the Queijadas Bakery was open to the public!
Our last day on São Miguel we had beautiful, sunny weather – a welcome contrast from the misty, cloudy weather of the day before. Perfect for a trip to the island’s highest lake – Lagoa do Fogo, or Lake of Fire. Lagoa do Fogo is a crater lake within the Água de Pau Massif stratovolcano in the center of São Miguel.
Koen and I loved the thermal waters at Terra Nostra in Furnas so much we couldn’t wait to visit Caldeira Velha! We were really excited to swim and relax in a Jurassic Park-like jungle setting! There are two thermal pools and a waterfall where you can relax and enjoy the lush foliage of the park. Natural jacuzzis!
Very close to the Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, generally known to be the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, breathtaking viewpoint on the entire island of São Miguel. As luck would have it, the day we decided to visit was the mistiest day of our entire trip! Normally when you arrive you’re able to see the Lagoa Rasa, Lagoa de Santiago, and the Blue Lake of the Sete Cidades with the mountains and ocean as a backdrop. You’re able to see the entire volcanic crater of Sete Cidades. We could see nothing!! But luckily we had been on the island already a few days and knew the weather could change in an instant. So once we arrive we waited half an hour and the mist cleared for a minute! We were able to have a glimpse of the the lakes before the mist came back.
Perhaps the most famous site on São Miguel is the Lagoa das Sete Cidades – a twin lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. The two lakes are connected by a narrow straight, one blue and one green. Because we were visiting in the Fall, I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to see the two colors, but even with the cloudy weather and mist we were able to see both beautiful lakes!
Located just outside of Ponta Delgada is the A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation which you’re able to visit for free. You’re able to peak inside the greenhouses and see the different stages of the pineapple growth. Inside the gift shop we were also able to sample pineapple liquor and buy a few pineapples to take back with us. Yum!
The Azores are really famous for being one of the best places to go for whale watching. Unfortunately we were visiting during the off-season, but we wanted to out to sea anyway. Luckily dolphins can be spotted year-round!
I was really excited to learn that São Miguel is home to the oldest tea plantation in Europe – Gorreana. When we arrived I discovered that there is actually a second smaller tea plantation – Porto Formoso. The two are the only tea plantations in all of Europe! I was even happier to learn they both had free entrance and we could explore and sample the teas!
When researching the best restaurants on São Miguel, all lists include Restaurante da Associação Agrícola. Every list proclaimed you must try the “Bife à Regional” – steak topped with a fried egg, garlic and local peppers. Of course only Azorean beef is served in the restaurant. We were surprised to learn while on the island that cows outnumber humans in the Azores! That helps explain the abundance of delicious cheese! Because São Miguel is so green, there is a vast amount of fertile land and grass for the cows to eat. This results in rich, marbled beef for everyone on the island! As you may have gathered from the name of the restaurant, Restaurante da Associação Agrícola belongs to an association of farmers. Everyone on the island knows this is where you go for the highest quality beef – even the woman sitting next to me on my flight from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada recommended we go here!
The beautiful typical roadside hedgerow of hydrangeas
The village of Furnas was very high on my list of places to visit while on São Miguel. I was excited to see the beautiful Lagoa das Furnas, the bubbling hot springs, and go for a swim in the thermal pools at Terra Nostra!