São Miguel Island – Part 1 – Azores – Portugal

Given that I’d spent several days in Porto on my last trip to Portugal earlier in the year, Pedro decided that we should head further afield and spend some time with a friend of his on São Miguel Island in the Azores. Located between Europe and North America, São Miguel is the largest of the 9 volcanic islands making up the Azores, one of the Portuguese autonomous territories.

When you think of an Island holiday – you expect amazing beaches and incredible weather.   Well, the beaches were amazing, but we were greeted on our first evening with fog and rain.

Great weather - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

Of course this didn’t stop us from heading out to visit the first of many hot springs on the island.  The Poça da Dona Beija has 4 hot pools (~38 degrees – heaven!) and one colder (but still not cold) plunge pool set within in a beautifully landscaped area.   Wonderful way to spend the evening!

Poça da Dona Beija - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

On Day 2, our first stop was the Reserva Natural do Ilhéu – a mostly submerged volcanic crater just off the coast from Vila Franco do Campo.  

Reserva Natural do Ilhéu - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Reserva Natural do Ilhéu as seen from Vila Franco do Campo

We had originally planned to kayak out, but the wind had picked up and it was going to be very tough going, so we caught the boat instead.  Beautiful place to swim and relax with amazing views!

Reserva Natural do Ilhéu - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

We then headed to Furnas so that I could try one of São Miguel’s most typical dishes – the Cozido – and then onto the gardens and thermal pool (yay for hot water!) of Parque Terra Nostra.  Unfortunately, given how late we arrived, we had very little time to explore the gardens, and yes, the water really is the colour of rust due to the high iron content!

Parque Terra Nostra - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Photos: Pedro Torres

Like Melbourne, São Miguel suffers from 4 seasons in 1 day, though it is generally said that if there is cloudy/crap weather on one side of the island, just drive to the other side (~12km away) and it will be fine.   Quite often though in the late afternoon, all the peaks are covered in cloud.  On this day, it was beautifully clear, so we drove home via the high road for some awesome views over the crater lake: Lagoa do Fogo

Lagoa do Fogo - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
A few minutes after this, the fog started rolling in over the hills

Day 3 on São Miguel saw us doing the wonderful ~12km Mata do Canário – Sete Cidades hike.  But first of all we stopped off at the very famous Vista do Rei viewpoint for the classic view of the island that you see on every postcard.

Vista do Rei - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

The hike we were about to embark on started off to the right of the above image and basically followed the rim of the crater all the way around to Sete Cidades, the town that you can see on the left.

I was extra-excited because one of the first things we saw along the route was an old aqueduct.  Yes another of the things in this world that enchant me for no obvious reason are aqueducts.  I find them fascinating and beautiful, and this one was no exception!

Aqueduct - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Oh how I love aqueducts! This one is called the “Nine windows wall” for obvious reasons

The views all the way around the hike were absolutely gorgeous, and really showcase just how green and blue the colour palate of the island is when the sun is out (quite the contrast to Greenland, where I’d spent the previous 5 weeks!).

Mata do Canário - Sete Cidades hike - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

We arrived in Sete Cidades after a very enjoyable few hours of walking, and sat down for a coffee before trying to figure out how we were going to get back to the car.  Yes, the only problem with this hike is that it is a linear one – which means you end up a looooooong way from where you started, and to get back to your car, it is all up a very, very steep hill.

Our plan was to hitchhike (something I’d never done before), and it was beginning to look a little grim, as the first 1/2-dozen people drove right past us as we walked along the road.   We’d just gotten to the last of the flat bit when, fortunately, a local lady and her daughter pulled over and gave us a lift all the way back to our car.  A million thank yous to these lovely ladies!!

We drove a little further along the road so I could gawk at another part of the aqueduct

Aqueduct - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Did I mention how much I love aqueducts?

and to visit a place Conceição (Pedro’s friend who we were staying with) recommended to us –  Lagoas das Empadadas

Lagoas das Empadadas - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal

This area has two lovely, peaceful lakes surrounded by a forest of Criptoméria  (Japanese Cedar) trees, and the the Miradouro do Pico do Paul for some of the best views of the island. 

Miradouro do Pico do Paul - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Amazing view of the island

We finished off the day at the Praia do Pópulo beach.  Yes – I did go in the water (it happens occasionally), but not for long … while it may not be as cold as the water in Porto, I wouldn’t say it was warm!   We also figured out that the last time I was at a beach was last March! Poneloya in Nicaragua … with Pedro!

Praia do Pópulo - São Miguel - Azores - Portugal
Yes, I do occasionally go to the beach! Mostly with Pedro it would seem… Photo: Pedro Torres

Continued in Part 2.



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