7 Days in São Miguel , Azores Mini Guide

7 days in São Miguel

Welcome to paradise! This 7-day mini guide unlocks the magic of São Miguel Island in the Azores. Imagine lush, rolling hills dotted with grazing cows, framing crystal-clear lagoons in a scene that captures the island’s peaceful charm. Nestled amidst the vastness of the Atlantic, São Miguel offers unparalleled natural beauty, from dramatic coastlines to vibrant botanical gardens and breathtaking volcanic craters.

Flexibility is Your Friend: Our guide is perfect for travelers with kids aged 5 and 7, and we stayed near Ponta Delgada during our own adventure. With no set order to the days, you’re free to tailor your itinerary to your preferences. Just keep in mind that certain activities are weather-dependent. To make the most of your time on São Miguel, check the live São Miguel webcams each morning. This allows you to seize the day with the clearest skies for that perfect viewpoint photo (Lagoa das Sete Cidades, anyone?).

Car Rental in São Miguel: For a 7-day stay, renting a car is necessary. With several rental companies available, ensure availability during peak seasons by booking your car rental and flight simultaneously. This way, you’ll avoid the inconvenience of arriving for a week-long trip and finding no available cars. Plan ahead and enjoy a hassle-free experience on your São Miguel adventure.

Embrace the Unexpected: São Miguel’s magic lies in its ever-changing weather. One moment you might be basking in sunshine, the next, enveloped in a refreshing mist. Pack for all seasons – you might just experience them all in a single day! This adds a touch of excitement and unpredictability to your exploration, making each moment a unique adventure.

Island Essentials: The currency in São Miguel is the Euro (€), and Portuguese is the primary language spoken. However, don’t worry if Portuguese isn’t your forte – many locals are comfortable conversing in English, making communication a breeze.

Unforgettable Experiences Await: Whether you’re seeking breathtaking panoramas, tranquil garden strolls, or a refreshing dip in a volcanic lagoon, São Miguel has something for everyone. Get ready to discover hidden waterfalls, volcanic wonders, dramatic coastlines, and of course, the island’s iconic crater lakes.

7 Day Itinerary in São Miguel

Day 1 in São Miguel – Lagoa das Sete Cidades

1. Trail Boca do Inferno

boca do inferno
View Point of the Trail Boca do Inferno

Kick off your first day in São Miguel with an unforgettable panoramic experience. Set out on a bright, sunny day and head to the parking area (directions) near Lagoa do Canário, where both the Boca do Inferno and Serra Devassa trails begin. While parking is free, keep in mind it can fill up during peak season, so plan your arrival accordingly.

The Boca do Inferno Trail (website) is an easy 2.6km, 50-minute hike along a dirt path that leads you to the breathtaking Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring vistas of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades (Lagoon of Seven Cities), where the chromatic magic of the blue and green lagoons will captivate your senses.

2. Trail Serra Devassa

Lace up your boots for the crown jewel of São Miguel Island, the PRC 05 Serra Devassa trail (website)! This scenic 5km loop winds around several picturesque lagoons, with stunning viewpoints that will leave you breathless. Immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty on a refreshing 1.5 hour hike. Just remember to pack water and keep in mind that some areas can get muddy after rainfall!

3. Sete Cidades and Best View Points

miradouro vista do rei
View from Miradouro da Vista do Rei

After head to Miradouro da Vista do Rei (directions). Easily accessible by car and located near the once-grand Hotel Monte Palace, this viewpoint offers best views of the lagoon.

Hotel Monte Palace
Ruins of Hotel Monte Palace

The Hotel Monte Palace, once a luxurious retreat, now stands as an urbex explorer’s attraction, bearing witness to its short-lived existence and offering a haunting glimpse into the past.

Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras

Afterward, continue your journey to Sete Cidades, but be sure to make a stop at the Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras (directions) viewpoint. Here, you’ll discover alternative perspectives of the iconic lagoon, adding depth and diversity to your exploration of this stunning natural wonder.

Igreja de São Nicolau
Igreja de São Nicolau

Next, head down to Sete Cidades, where you can explore the charming Igreja de São Nicolau (directions). If the weather permits, consider renting a kayak for 1 hour to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the lagoon. It’s a fantastic way to experience the tranquil waters and majestic surroundings of this iconic destination.

Additional Viewpoint Options:

For even more breathtaking vistas of the Sete Cidades region, consider visiting these viewpoints:

These additional viewpoints are perfect for those who want to capture every angle of the Sete Cidades region and experience its beauty from different vantage points.

Day 2 São Miguel – Whale Watching and Ponta Delgada

1. Whale Watching

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Ponta Delgada, the vibrant capital of the Azores archipelago. Start your second day by venturing on a thrilling whale watching expedition in the marine waters surrounding Ponta Delgada. The Azores boast a rich marine ecosystem, making it one of the world’s premier destinations for encountering majestic whales and dolphins in their natural habitat.

Several reputable tour operators offer various whale watching tours, catering to different preferences and durations. Choose the one that best suits your interests and get ready for an awe-inspiring encounter with these gentle giants of the sea.

2. Ponta Delgada

After your exhilarating adventure, head towards the heart of the city, the town square. Here, you’ll be greeted by the Portas da Cidade (directions), also known as the Gates of the City. This iconic landmark, one of the island’s most visited monuments, stands as a symbol of Ponta Delgada’s rich history. Admire the intricate details of the gates, especially when they are illuminated at night, creating a truly magical spectacle.

Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião
Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião (37°44’24.4″N 25°40’06.0″W)

Next, delve into the city’s religious heritage by visiting the Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião (directions), the main church. This magnificent structure, built in the 16th century, showcases a blend of architectural styles, reflecting the island’s cultural influences.

Town Hall Building
Ponta Delgada Town Hall (37°44’21.9″N 25°40’07.7″W)

Just a few steps away, discover another architectural gem – the impressive town hall building. This symbol of local government stands proudly in the city center, adorned with a beautiful fountain in the square. Take a moment to appreciate the details and capture a quintessential postcard moment.

Feeling adventurous? Test your mettle by climbing the clock tower of the town hall. Imagine the panoramic vista of the city and surrounding area that awaits you from this unique vantage point.

Continue your exploration by exploring the Forte de São Brás (directions), a well-preserved 16th-century fortress. Originally built for defensive purposes, the fort now houses a museum offering insights into the island’s fascinating past.

Botanical Garden of António Borges
Botanical Garden of António Borges

After delving into the city’s historical heart, take a moment to commune with nature. São Miguel is renowned for its captivating botanical gardens, offering a tranquil escape from the urban bustle.

The Botanical Garden of António Borges (directions) is a free public haven, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of flora, where colorful blooms and captivating foliage create a serene atmosphere.

For those seeking further botanical exploration, consider visiting the Botanical Garden of José do Canto (directions) as well. Both gardens provide a delightful opportunity to appreciate the diverse plant life that thrives on this verdant island.

Santuário do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres
Santuário do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (37°44’17.4″N 25°40’23.4″W)

For a dose of spiritual significance, visit the Santuário do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (directions), a renowned pilgrimage site. This impressive sanctuary, adorned with intricate tilework and religious imagery, holds a special place in the hearts of locals.

As the day draws to a close, indulge in a delicious meal at one of the many charming restaurants nestled within the old town of Ponta Delgada. Savor the flavors of Azorean cuisine, featuring fresh seafood, locally grown vegetables, and unique regional specialties.

Day 3, Lagoa das Furnas

1. Geothermal wonders

fumarolas furnas

Embark on an unforgettable journey to the enchanting Furnas region, celebrated for its geothermal marvels and the mouthwatering Cozido das Furnas (Furnas Stew) don’t forget to take swimwear.

Begin your day by immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Furnas, nestled amidst the volcanic terrain of São Miguel Island. Explore the fumaroles near the Furnas Lagoon and marvel at the mesmerizing sight of steam and hot gases billowing from the vents, a testament to the island’s volcanic activity.

Fumaroles and geothermal cooking holes near Furnas Lagoon

For a truly authentic experience, time your visit around lunchtime (12 PM – 1 PM) to witness a local tradition: restaurants in the area unveiling the Cozido das Furnas from the underground cooking pits.

2. Lunch Cozido das Furnas

cozido das furnas
Cozido das Furnas at Tony’s Restaurant

After witnessing the unveiling of the stew, indulge in a steaming serving of Cozido das Furnas, allowing the robust flavors, infused with the subtle earthiness of the volcanic cooking process, to tantalize your senses and leave a lasting impression.

3. Exploring Furnas

Following your culinary adventure, make your way to Furnas town center (directions), where you’ll discover a unique garden featuring various types of fumaroles. Take your time exploring this fascinating natural phenomenon, marveling at the steam vents and geothermal activity that characterize the area.

Afterward, head to the Garden of Alameda (directions). Here, you can delight in the sight of the waterfall and visit the Furnas open-air aquarium. Additionally, consider exploring Poça da Tia Silvina (directions), but be mindful as the water can be quite hot.

4. Park Terra Nostra

Terra Nostra
Terra Nostra Thermal Water Pool

Then, venture to Park Terra Nostra (directions | website), a breathtaking park renowned for its thermal water pool, offering a serene oasis to unwind in the soothing hot springs. Unlike other hot springs, there’s no time limit, but be prepared for crowds during peak seasons. After a refreshing dip, immerse yourself in the park’s lush botanical gardens, where you can admire a diverse array of plant life. It’s the ideal spot to rejuvenate and unwind after your flavorful journey through Furnas.

Day 4, Tea Plantation and Waterfall Trails

1. Gorreana Factory and Tea Plantation

gorreana tea plantation 1
Gorreana Tea Plantation (37°49’06.0″N 25°24’08.6″W)

Kickstart your day with a visit to the Gorreana Tea Factory and Plantation (directions), a rare gem as one of Europe’s few remaining tea plantations. Take your time and marvel at the lush fields of tea, made possible by the Azores’ unique climate. Conclude your tour at the factory, where you’ll delve into the fascinating process of tea production.

2. Trail Moinho do Félix

Next, make your way to the starting point of the TM06 Moinho do Félix – Cascatas trail, a captivating circular route spanning 5.5km and approximately 2 hours. Along the trail, you’ll be treated to the sight of a stunning waterfall, a tranquil lagoon, and breathtaking panoramic views, making it an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

3. Natural Park Ribeira dos Caldeirões

Conclude your day with a visit to the Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões (directions), a protected area boasting an enchanting array of waterfalls and captivating landscapes. Immerse yourself in the serene ambiance as you wander through lush greenery and marvel at the cascading waterfalls. It’s the perfect way to unwind and connect with nature after a day of exploration on São Miguel Island.

Day 5, Ribeira Grande, Salto do Cabrito and Lagoa do Fogo

1. Ribeira Grande

ribeira grande eight arch bridge
Ribeira Grande Eight Arch Bridge

Embark on your first day by journeying to Ribeira Grande, a charming coastal town nestled along the northern shores of São Miguel. Upon arrival, park near the beach (directions) and treat yourself to a leisurely stroll along the sandy shores, soaking up the tranquil ambiance and refreshing sea breeze. While there, be sure to marvel at the iconic Ribeira Eight Arch Bridge, an architectural marvel that spans the river and adds to the town’s picturesque charm.

Ribeira Grande Town Hall
Town Hall

Afterward, venture into the city center, where you’ll discover a delightful blend of historic architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, and vibrant local culture. Take your time wandering through the charming alleys, stopping to admire the colorful buildings and ornate facades that line the streets.

2. Trail Salto do Cabrito

Afterward, venture to the Trail Salto do Cabrito (directions), embarking on a short 2.7km trail that begins next to a pipeline. Follow the trail as it leads you along a metallic sidewalk, guiding you through the lush landscape until you reach the captivating waterfall known as “Salto do Cabrito.” Tucked away in the heart of São Miguel, this hidden gem of the Azores awaits, offering a serene escape into nature’s embrace. Immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings as you explore this enchanting trail, soaking in the sights and sounds of cascading water and verdant greenery.

3. Best Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoints

miradouro da lagoa do fogo
Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo

Next, make your way to Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo (directions), offering stunning views of the Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake). Consider exploring the trail leading to the lagoon for an up-close encounter with this natural wonder.

miradouro do pico da barrosa
Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa

Then, head to Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa (directions), an awe-inspiring viewpoint renowned for its panoramic vistas of Lagoa do Fogo. Don’t miss the opportunity to soak in the breathtaking scenery from this elevated vantage point.

4. Viewpoints in Nordeste

Afterward, journey to the two primary viewpoints in the Nordeste region of São Miguel. Begin your exploration at Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada (directions) and then proceed to Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego (directions). Both viewpoints offer stunning vistas and beautifully manicured gardens that deserve to be savored and explored at a leisurely pace. When the weather is favorable, take the time to soak in the breathtaking scenery and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings. These vantage points provide an exceptional opportunity to appreciate São Miguel’s natural beauty from diverse perspectives, leaving you with memories to cherish long after your visit.

5. Poça da Dona Beija

Wrap up your day with a soothing 1-hour-and-30-minute session at Poça Dona Beija ((directions | website), one of Furnas’ most beloved attractions. As one of the island’s premier thermal pools, it’s highly recommended to book your reservation in advance to secure your spot. With its four pools filled with mineral-rich thermal waters heated to a comforting 39°C, it offers the perfect opportunity to unwind and rejuvenate after a day of exploration. Indulge in this tranquil oasis, allowing the therapeutic waters to replenish your energy and soothe your senses, ensuring you’re ready for whatever adventures await you tomorrow.

Day 6, Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz, Trail Quatro Fábricas da Luz and Trail Salto do Prego

1. Ponta da Galera

Kick off your 6th day by exploring Ponta da Galera, Caloura (directions), situated along the coast. This picturesque spot provides stunning views and tranquil waters, perfect for a refreshing swim during the hotter months.

2. Trail Quatro Fábricas da Luz

After rejuvenating at Ponta da Galera, gear up for the Quatro Fábricas da Luz trail, a easy 4km hike lasting approximately 2 hour. Known as the “Four Mills of Light” trail, it offers a fascinating historical and cultural journey. Wander past the ruins of four former hydroelectric power plants, constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving you a urbex sensation in the middle of the forest.

3. Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz

Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz
Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz (37°43’42.8″N 25°25’53.1″W)

Next, Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz (directions), where you can ascend the stairs to enjoy a breathtaking view of Vila Franca do Campo and the picturesque Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo.

4. (Summer only) Ferry to Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo

In the summer months, embark on a boat trip from Vila Franca do Campo to the island and spend several hours basking in the beauty of its secluded beach.

Day 7, Last day in São Miguel

As your São Miguel adventure draws to a close, this final day offers a delightful blend of sweet treats and breathtaking sights. Plan your itinerary based on your flight schedule.

1. Pineapple Plantation Boa Fruta

Pineapple Plantation Boa Fruta
Pineapple Plantation Boa Fruta

For a delightful final act on São Miguel, delve into the island’s most iconic fruit at the Boa Fruta Pineapple Plantation (directions) in Ponta Delgada. This fascinating tour unveils the secrets behind cultivating pineapples, a crop deeply woven into the island’s identity.

Witness firsthand the meticulous process, from planting to harvesting, and gain a newfound appreciation for these spiky treats. As your tour concludes, indulge your taste buds at the onsite cafe. Here, a delectable array of pineapple-based creations awaits, offering the perfect opportunity to tantalize your palate with everything from sweet pastries to refreshing drinks. It’s a sugary send-off that perfectly encapsulates the essence of São Miguel!

2. Muro das Nove Janelas e Aqueduto do Carvão

After your delightful pineapple adventure, continue your exploration with a historical and scenic double feature. First, head to the Aqueduto do Carvão (directions), a striking example of São Miguel’s rich engineering heritage. This impressive lava-stone aqueduct, whispering tales of a bygone era, once served as a vital water source for the island.

Next, a short distance away awaits Muro das Nove Janelas (directions), a sight that will leave you breathless. This enigmatic “Wall of Nine Windows” isn’t a traditional structure, but rather a section of the aforementioned Aqueduto do Carvão, cleverly integrated into the surrounding landscape. Stand in awe of its unique form and imagine the panoramic vistas it once offered to those who traversed the aqueduct path. Capture stunning photos against this backdrop and soak in the natural beauty that surrounds you.

3. Considering a return to Lagoa das Sete Cidades?

If your previous visit was hindered by unfavorable weather, today presents a fresh opportunity. Make your way to Miradouro da Vista do Rei (directions) and relish the captivating scenery at your leisure.

4. Ponta Ferreira

Ponta Ferreira
Ponta Ferreira

Afterward, venture to Ponta Ferreira (directions), renowned for its natural pool heated by hot springs at sea during low tide. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this unique phenomenon, particularly refreshing during the summer months. While there, be sure to explore A Porta do Diabo (The Devil’s Door), an intriguing geological formation that adds to the area’s allure.

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope that this guide has enriched your adventure on São Miguel, offering valuable insights and ensuring that your journey was as enjoyable and stress-free as mine. May your memories of this beautiful island stay with you long after you’ve departed its shores, and may you carry the spirit of São Miguel with you wherever your travels may take you.

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