São Miguel Azores: everything you need to know to visit the island

Visitar Ilha de São Miguel nos Açores.
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All you need to know to vist São Miguel Azores (Portugal). The Island of São Miguel, also known as the Green Island and the Island of dormant volcanoes, is the largest in the Azores.

We spent a week discovering the region, and we realized why so many travelers are delighted with this place!

It is a place with stunning natural landscapes, historic centers full of character (the churches are so beautiful!), and some surprises we had never heard of (have you ever heard of the purple tea at Chalet da Tia Mercês?).

To help you plan your trip to the Azores (Portugal) we have prepared this blog post by organizing the tourist attractions by category, that is, lagoons and waterfalls (…) but also by geographic location so that it is easier to plan an itinerary according to your needs.

Explore the beauty of São Miguel in a unique way! Download the island’s official trails for free, which include essential information such as distance, difficulty, maps and photos, for an unforgettable experience!

23 Trails in São Miguel Azores

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    Things to do in São Miguel Azores

    Depending on the number of days you have to explore the island, it can become a challenge to choose what to visit in São Miguel, as there are so many tourist attractions and natural wonders to explore.

    Thus, some of the must-see spots include Ponta Delgada, Ribeira Grande, Vila Franca do Campo, Furnas and Povoação.

    Check it out in more detail below.

    Visit Ponta Delgada

    Ponta Delgada.
    Ponta Delgada.

    Since Ponta Delgada is the largest city in the Autonomous Region of the Azores and the main gateway to the island of São Miguel, it has many tourist attractions to visit.

    So, on a trip to the Azores, you should include in your list of places to visit in São Miguel the Portas da Cidade, the São Brás Fort, the Graça Market, the Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, the António Borges Botanical Garden and the Gruta do Coal a few km, among others.

    Visit Ribeira Grande

    Ribeira Grande (São Miguel - Açores).
    Ribeira Grande (São Miguel – Azores).

    A visit to Ribeira Grande in the North of São Miguel should include a stroll through the historic center, passing by the Municipal Garden that overlooks the Ribeira Grande Bridge, or Ponte dos Oito Arcos, but also the Church of Nossa Senhora da Estrela with the imposing staircase.

    Dedicate a few hours to contemplating the curious miniature statues of the Museum of the Arcane and before ending the visit, stop by the Miradouro do Palheiro.

    The Islet of Vila Franca do Campo and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz

    Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz.
    Church Nossa Senhora da Paz.

    Ilhéu de Vila Franca is a small volcanic islet located about 500 meters from São Miguel.

    As it is a seaside resort, it is very popular with tourists in summer, who spend the day at the beach.

    To get there, take a boat from the Tagarete pier in Vila Franca do Campo.

    During the rest of the year, you can only see the islet from distance, and the best places to watch it are at the top of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz or Praia do Corpo Santo.

    In the center of Vila Franca, it is worth visiting the Igreja Matriz, the Igreja de São Pedro, and the main house of the famous Queijadas da Vila.

    They are already for sale all over the island, but the Queijadas de Vila Franca do Campo, also known as Queijadas da Vila do Morgado, are original from here.

    If you have time, go into the forest to discover the Cascata do Segredo.

    Discover Furnas’ fumaroles or calderas

    Chá Roxo no Chalet da Tia Mercês (Furnas).
    Purple tea in Chalet da Tia Mercês (Furnas).

    The main attraction in Vale das Furnas is the boilers, or fumaroles, which are used to prepare the famous Cozido das, Furnas.

    The meats and vegetables are placed in pans and buried for about six hours.

    To see the pots going out of fumarolas, you can go to Lagoa das Furnas before lunchtime, when restaurants go get the Cozido das Furnas.

    Another fun experience is the purple tea at Chalet da Tia Mercês.

    Gorreana green tea is placed in a teapot with thermal water from the source of Father José (Fonte Padre José).

    Within minutes, a chemical reaction takes place between the antioxidants in green tea and the components of thermal water, and the tea turns purple.

    You have to book an appointment, but it’s worth it.

    The most beautiful lagoons in São Miguel Azores

    Lagoa do Fogo em São Miguel - Açores.
    Lagoa do Fogo: São Miguel – Azores.

    Lagoa do Fogo, Lagoa das Furnas, Lagoa das Sete Cidades and the neighboring Lagoa de Santiago must be the best-known lagoons on the island of São Miguel, however, other lesser-known lagoons are well worth visiting.

    We are talking, for example, about Lagoa do Canário and Lagoa de São Brás, which have easy access by car.

    More difficult to reach, and perhaps, for this reason, less visited, Lagoa do Congro is a greenish lake, surrounded by trees on all sides.

    To get there, you need to take a dirt road in poor condition, following a trail on foot until you reach paradise.

    São Miguel waterfalls

    Cascata do Cabrito.
    Cascata do Cabrito.

    To discover some of the most impressive waterfalls on the island, you need to go into the Azorean Laurissilva forest.

    If you prefer waterfalls easy to visit, we highlight the Cascata do Salto do Cabrito (Ribeira Grande) and the waterfall of Ribeira dos Caldeirões, in the municipality of Nordeste.

    In the first case the car can be parked next to the Hydroelectric Power Station, and in the second there is a park next to the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park.

    The waterfall of Janela do Inferno can only be visited by going through the PRC 37 Water Route – Janela do Inferno, which is 7.6 km long.

    The trail starts in Remédios and is easy to complete. In any case, it is advisable to carry a flashlight as the route includes passing through several tunnels.

    The viewpoints of São Miguel Azores

    What is not lacking in São Miguel are viewpoints with spectacular landscapes, although the weather does not always help.

    On several occasions, we arrived at a viewpoint, and it was impossible to see anything other than the fog.

    We already knew that, so it wasn’t an issue for us.

    Of all the viewpoints we saw, and believe me, there were many, we highlight the Salto do Cavalo viewpoint that overlooks the Furnas area and the Santa Iria viewpoint from where you can see the north coast of São Miguel.

    The Boca do Inferno Viewpoint must be one of the best known and most spectacular in São Miguel, but unfortunately, we had no luck with the weather and only saw fog.

    To get to Bova do Inferno, leave your car in the Lagoa do Canário parking lot and head towards the viewpoint. You will pass through a dense forest, following a dirt track until you see the Sete Cidades crater.

    Despite not having seen the postcard that we were waiting for because of the fog, the journey there was pleasant.

    São Miguel’s stunning parks and botanical gardens

    Parque Botânico António Borges - Ponta Delgada.
    Parque Botânico António Borges – Ponta Delgada.

    Maybe you’re not expecting it, but in São Miguel, parks and gardens are popular among locals and visitors.

    Some have paid admission, such as Parque Grená (10€) and others, such as Jardim António Borges and Jardim da Ribeira do Guilherme, have free admission.

    In Terra Nostra Park, also with paid entrance (10€), you can either stroll in the gardens or take a dip in the thermal waters.

    The historic gardens of São Miguel originated in the 18th century when the wealthy families in the region, to show their wealth and power, began to build gardens with exotic trees and plants, and the further away these plants were, the better.

    So, species from New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and Chile arrived on the island.

    The truth is that some of these species have become invasive, such as the tree fern that can reach 12 meters in height and the conteira, which has a beautiful yellow flower and measures between 2-4 meters in height.

    The Jardim do Palácio de Sant’Ana in Ponta Delgada and the Mata-Jardim José do Canto in the Furnas area have a paid entrance.

    Hot waters and thermalism in São Miguel

    Vale das Furnas em São Miguel - Açores.
    Furnas in São Miguel – Azores.

    The therapeutic qualities of the thermal waters of São Miguel have been known for a long time, but the fact is that for the usual traveler, the simple fact of diving and enjoying warm waters is more relevant than the medical qualities.

    So, to relax and take advantage of the therapeutic qualities of the Azorean thermal waters, there is an extensive list of places to explore.

    One of the best known is Parque Terra Nostra, whose construction of the thermal water tank dates back to 1780. This is the place of the famous iron waters of brown color, and a source around 35-40 degrees.

    The ticket can be purchased at the entrance to the park, and guests staying at the Hotel Terra Nostra Garden Hotel have more time to access the park.

    The Caldeira Velha Natural Monument is a group of four thermal pools located in the center of a stunning forest.

    Tickets must be purchased online in advance, otherwise, you may arrive at the ticket office and not be able to enter. Count on paying around €3 to visit the place, and if you want to take a shower, then the entrance costs €8 (Micaelenses do not pay).

    Poça da Dona Beija is another place for those who want to soak and relax in the Azorean thermal pools.

    The stay is limited to an hour and a half, and there is a car park not far away.

    On the other hand, Ponta da Ferraria has free entrance, and it’s near the sea. The best time to dive into the warm waters of the Ponta da Ferraria natural pool is two hours before and two hours after low tide.

    Best trails in São Miguel to do as a family

    Trilhos em família - São Miguel Açores.
    PRC 37 Rota da Água – Janela do Inferno – São Miguel (Azores).

    If you combine stunning landscapes with well-signposted trails, you have the right recipe for nature trails for you to remember.

    In the case of families, it is even more important to be prepared.

    We did some trails in São Miguel and suggested the ones we found most interesting, considering that our children are already grown up (19 and 10 years old).

    So, our favorite trail is the PRC 37 Water Route – Janela does Inferno, which includes tunnels, stairs, and a wonderful waterfall. It’s a bit long (7.6km), but our kids didn’t complain.

    Another trail that we liked was the PRC 28 – Chá Gorreana, which crosses the tea fields.

    Restaurants and typical dishes of São Miguel

    Cozido das Furnas - São Miguel - Açores.
    Cozido das Furnas – São Miguel – Azores.

    If you’ve been with us for some time, you know that we attach great importance to gastronomic experiences on the go.

    We were able to taste several local delicacies, of which we highlight the Cozido das Furnas, the Bife Regional (regional steak), the tuna steak (in fact, all the fish dishes were very good), and the bolos Levedos.

    Generally speaking, the restaurants were reasonably priced, and the food was well prepared.

    We highlint the Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel, O Alabote, O Miroma, Restaurante Lagoa Azul and Casa de Pasto O Cardoso.

    We also had some meals at the accommodation, namely dinner, which allowed us to save a few euros.

    Tours and Excursions in São Miguel Azores (free and paid)

    Organized tours are very convenient for those who value a guide, as well as not having to worry about transportation.

    A good part of the tours and excursions in São Miguel depart from Ponta Delgada, and some include hotel pick-up.

    Thus, the most common tours are those related to cetacean observation, such as the whale watching boat tour and the Whale and Dolphin watching tour with a visit to Vila Franca

    Shore excursions such as the excursion to the west region (Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo (…) and to the east region (Furnas, Ribeira dos Caldeirões and the northeast coast), both with lunch included, are not interesting if you have a car rented.

    In addition to these, you can also take note of the following free tours.

    Visit Gorreana’s tea factory and plantations with tea tasting (free)

    Fábrica e plantação de chá Gorreana.
    Factory and Gorreana tea plantation.

    The visit to the factory and tea plantations in the town of Gorreana is free. You can stroll through the tea fields and see the factory at work.

    The tea tasting is also free, and if you want, you can stop by the shop to buy tea, cookies, ice cream, and other products.

    We bought green tea cookies (€1.5 each), and they were delicious.

    Visit Azorean pineapple plantations in São Miguel Azores (free)

    Visita à Plantação de Ananás dos Açores em Ponta Delgada.
    Visit Plantação de Ananás dos Açores in Ponta Delgada.

    In Ponta Delgada, we visited the Pineapple Plantation of the Azores.

    In addition to being able to see the greenhouses where the pineapples grow, at the end we have the possibility to taste the pineapple liqueur and toast with pineapple jam. Both the visit and the test are free, but be careful if you are going to drive.

    The António Borges Botanical Garden (free)

    Descansar nos Jardins de Ponta Delgada.
    Gardens in Ponta Delgada.

    If you’re on a tight budget, there’s nothing better than enjoying the free gardens in the Azores!

    There are a few private botanical gardens (with a fee) in Ponta Delgada, but the António Borges Botanical Garden is beautiful and free.

    Accomodation in São Miguel Azores

    Tradicampo Eco Country Houses.

    Choosing where to sleep in São Miguel is an important decision.

    We stayed at Quinta das Cycas, which is part of the Tradicampo Eco Country Houses, and we recommend it.

    It is located about 45 minutes from Ponta Delgada Airport, in the most unspoiled part of the island.

    This means it’s the perfect starting point for hiking with the family and spending quality family time.

    The T2 we stayed in (Casa do Arco) can be converted into a T3 as there is a connection to the upper floor.

    Book directly with Tradicampo or through Booking.

    How many days does it take to visit São Miguel Azores?

    Voos para São Miguel - Açores.
    Flights to São Miguel – Azores.

    Usually, visitors stay only three or four days in São Miguel, which is little time to see the main attractions of the island.

    We stayed for a week and didn’t get to see everything!

    Therefore, the best tip we can give you is to stay at least eight days in São Miguel.

    Map and how to go to São Miguel Island

    To go to São Miguel, you can take advantage of Ryanair and Sata’s low-cost airfares, and TAP flights, all departing from Porto and Lisbon (Portugal)

    To get cheap flight prices, try to book your plane tickets as early as possible and avoid traveling during school holidays.

    Renting a car in the Azores is almost mandatory, as public transport schedules and routes aren’t suitable for tourists.

    If you don’t want to rent a car, you can always use tours (we’ve given some examples before), taxis, and Uber.

    Driving in São Miguel is easy, as the roads are well signposted and in reasonable condition.

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