To find one of the last “off the beaten path” destinations in Europe you have to go to the middle of Atlantic Ocean. Yes, you heard it right! The Azores are situated in North Atlantic Ocean about 1,500 km west from continental Portugal and about 4,000 km east from New York. They consist of 9 volcanic islands and are one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.
It’s still widely unknown destinations, which makes it perfect for travelers that don’t like mass tourism. I really enjoyed my two weeks there and I can’t wait to return to visit the rest of the islands. In this article, I’m gonna give you an idea for a 5-day itinerary for Sao Miguel, which is the main island of Azores. Plus also some suggestions that I personally didn’t get a chance to do/see.
So here it is – My 5-Day itinerary for Sao Miguel
Day 1: Arriving at Ponta Delgada and exploring it
You will arrive at João Paulo II Airport, which is situated about 2km away from Ponta Delgada city center. I would recommend you to rent a car already at the airport or at least the next day. Once you arrive at your accommodation, unpack your stuff and head to the city center.
If you are in Ponta Delgada during the weekdays you can catch Free Tour of Ponta Delgada (you tip the guide). Guides are very knowledgeable so it’s a great way to get to know the city and its history. But if that’s not your cup of tea and you prefer to explore on your own. I can suggest you walk down city’s harbor front promenade, visit City Gates, Church of St. Sebastian and definitely Mercado da Graça (farmers market). To be fair, there is not that much to do in the city. But, the island itself has a lot to offer.
Day 2: Sete Cidades – Ferraria – Mosteiros – Ponta Delgada
Start your day early, pick up your rent a car and head towards Sete Cidades. On your way to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, make a quick stop at Lagoa das Empadadas, Aqueduto do Carvão and Lagoa do Canário. Once you turn to Lagoa do Canário, drive till the end of the road, park there and walk up to Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. From this viewpoint, you will have a jaw-dropping view of Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Next viewpoint is Vista do Rei. Here it’s probably going to be a lot of people, snap few photos, go up to ruins of Monte Palace Hotel and enjoy the views from there.
Now you have to decide if you want to hike from this point down to village of Sete Cidades, drive to it or just continue your way to somewhere else. If you hike down you have to keep in mind you will probably have to hitch a ride back up to your car.
Ferraria and Mosteiros
After all that drive to Ponta da Ferraria where you can take a dip in Termas or in natural pools of the ocean. If you have time you can also drive to Farol da Ponta da Ferraria (lighthouse) to take photos. Next up is a beautiful viewpoint, Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado – one of my favorite viewpoints on Sao Miguel. Continue your drive to Mosteiros, a little seaside village where you can have some snack or lunch.
On the way back to Ponta Delgada
Now on the way back to Ponta Delgada stop at Moinho Fajã de Cima – beautiful windmill and Arruda Pineapple Plantation. At the pineapple plantation, you will learn all about its history, how it’s produced and see different stages of the plant. Pineapple needs about 2 years to grow and they have an interesting method where they make a lot of smoke inside the greenhouse.
Day 3: Faial da Terra – Nordeste – Gorreana
Faial de Terra
Drive to the little village of Faial da Terra, park the car and start the hike. You will hike up to beautiful waterfall Salto do Prego. If you want you can take a dip in the super cold water there or continue your way. On the way back visit Sanguinho – little ex-farming village. Once you reach the car continue your drive along the east coast.
Here you will find some of the most amazing views on the island. The viewpoint of Ponta da Madrugada and Viewpoint of Ponta do Sossego are my favorite. Short after the viewpoints, you will reach Lighthouse Arnel, take few photos and continue. Next stop is Ribeira dos Caldeirões, where you can find another majestic waterfall and cute “village”. Stay here for a bit, have a picnic, take photos.
Gorreana Tea Factory
Did you know that the only tea plantations in Europe are on the Azores? No? neither did I before coming to Sao Miguel. Gorreana Tea Factory is producing tea already since 1883. It’s definitely one of my favorite green and black teas! try some and make sure you buy some to take home!
Day 4: Vila Franca do Campo – Furnas – Praia dos Moinhos
Vila Franca do Campo
First stop is Vila Franca do Campo, visit Our Lady of Peace Chapel and then head to the harbor. Here catch a ferry to the Vila Franca islet and spend few hours there. After that drive to Furnas where you will spend the rest of the afternoon.
You will find numerous hot springs and fumaroles here. Take a dip in Poca Da Dona Beija pools or at bigger Terra Nostra Park. Then walk to Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas, watch how they prepare Cozido nas Caldeiras and find a restaurant where you can eat it. You can also bike or walk around the Lagoa das Furnas. It depends on how much time you have.
*Make sure you wear a dark swimsuit when bathing in hot springs. Minerals in the water can leave a nasty orange stain! I learned it hard way!
Praia dos Moinhos
On the way back to Ponta Delgada stop for a quick swim at Praia dos Moinhos. Definitely one of the nicest beaches on the island. To finish off the perfect day stop at Miradouro De Santa Iria.
Day 5: Lagoa do Fogo – Caldeira Velha – Ribeira Grande
Lagoa do Fogo
After breakfast drive to Lagoa do Fogo – “Lake of Fire”. First stop at Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa to get the best view of the lake and its surroundings. On a clear day, you can see both south and north coast. Continue driving down the road to park your car and start walking down to the lake. It’s such a tranquil place, you can enjoy swimming here or just relax. Walking down should take you about 30minutes. Next stop is Caldeira Velha, halfway between the lake and Ribeira Grande.
Located in the middle of the lush forest you can get a feeling of a jungle. There are two pools, Caldeira Velha (>20ºC) and smaller, but hotter pool (>35ºC). One of them even has a waterfall. There are locker rooms and showers with cold water. Plus a changing room!
*As said for hot springs at Furnas, use a dark swimsuit. Minerals in the water can leave an orange stain! I learned it hard way!
Is a nice, quaint city on the north shore. Stop here to see the old bridge and have a little walk around the city. This would be a great place to have dinner too. I had a very good food at Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel which is close by. Drive back to Ponta Delgada for your last night on Sao Miguel.
Pedras Negras Viewpoint – you can see a cliff in shape of an elephant from here.
Ribeira Quente – cute little village with a nice beach.
Ponta do Cintrao – another beautiful viewpoint.
Whale and dolphin watching
Sports – you can go for a bike ride, canyoning, climbing, horseback riding…
Castelo Branco – best views of Furnas and Vila Franca do Campo.
The festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres – a special event in Ponta Delgada worth visiting.
That’s more or less how my 5-day itinerary for Sao Miguel looked like. Days are fully packed with sightseeing, swimming and exploring the island. If you have more time or want slower paced holidays you can adjust it to your needs.
Also, check out my post about Sete Cidades -> Everything you need to know about it!
-And also here are pins for this post!
+ If you have any other suggestions to add to my 5-day itinerary for Sao Miguel let me know in the comment!