During Christmas in 2016 I went to S. Miguel island, in Azores, with my friend Rita. It was the first Portuguese island I’ve visited. Funny how more than 1500 km away we have a little piece of Portuguese. S. Miguel is a beautiful island of happy cows and green hills.
Facts about the city:
When measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean to their peaks, the Azores are actually some of the tallest mountains on the planet. Mount Pico, at 7,713 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the Azores and all of Portugal.
Home to about 250,000 people, the 9 islands of Azores are known for their vibrantly-colored blue green lakes, fertile prairies, volcanic craters and colorful hydrangeas flowers. Faial Island is known as the “blue island” due to the vast number of hydrangeas present.
Ryanair started to fly to Azores from Porto and me and my friend Rita took that chance to get to know the island of S. Miguel. Azores is the land of the happy cows. They are all over the island and they like to climb the mountains, whether it’s raining or snowing.
We stayed in a hostel called Big Fat Whale, in Rua do Passal 128, Ponta Delgada. It’s was very cozy. We stayed in a double room with private bathroom and a private living room. The public living room was also very nice, with sofas, a TV and a net bed. The breakfast was included. The total price was 87€ for 3 nights so it was 14,50€ per person, per night.
The lady from the hostel was very nice too and we talked to her a lot during our cigarette breaks. Speaking about smoking, in Azores it’s much cheaper because they don’t pay tax. In Portugal a normal pack costs 4,80€ and there it’s only 2,80€ per pack.
We went to visit the city center of Ponta Delgada and had dinner in a restaurant there. We went to Portas da Cidade (these doors are a symbol of the primitive terrestrial defense of the city and were erected in 1783), strolled along the sea side and stopped in a cool bar close to Forte de S. Brás.
This fort, considered the most important example of military architecture of the sixteenth century and the most powerful fortification of the island, it was erected on a tip in the primitive anchorage of tip Delgada, with the function of its defense against the attacks of pirates and buccaneers, once frequent in this region of the Atlantic Ocean. It felt good to be there relaxed, drinking a coffee, listening to a cover band live and seeing the reflex of the moon on the water.
The next day we were not lucky. It rained a lot so we went to the shopping mall to have lunch and do some shopping. In the afternoon we came back to Ponta Delgada. At night I realized I had lost my iPhone! I panicked because I had everything there. We called the police, blocked the phone, went to Vodafone, but there’s not much else we could do. The next day I was very lucky! The police called me and told me that a homeless guy found my phone and went there to give it. There’s still some really nice people in the world!
Since I had my phone back, we managed to call a taxi driver that my friend Carla recommended. He made our trip much better! He charged us something like 14€ per hour but showed us the whole island. He took us to the main lagoons. The first one was Lagoa do Fogo. This is one of the largest lagoons in the Azores, classified as a nature reserve since 1974.
Then we went to see the Lagoa das Sete Cidades. This is a twin lake situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. It consists of two small, ecologically different lakes connected by a narrow strait, which is crossed by a bridge. The Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the largest body of water in the region and one of the most important freshwater resources in the archipelago.
It is characterized by the double coloration of its waters, on one side a mirror of water of green tone and, on the other, a mirror of blue tone. These characteristics, and the beauty of the surrounding landscape, gave rise to beautiful legends about its origin and formation, including one that which links it to the myth of Atlantis.
We also went to other lagoons, like Lagoa de Santiago or Lagoa das Furnas.
We went to Caldeira das Furnas, with the volcanic vapor and an awful smell of sulfur. There we saw how they cook their famous Cozido das furnas, which is a one-pot stew cooked by the hot springs. The ingredients are cooked under the earth under the heat of the volcanoes (the meat takes about 5 to 6 hours and the cod about 3 to 4 hours). This fact emphasizes an exquisite flavor. We saw a giant Christmas Nativity scene and tried the famous bolo lêvedo.
We passed in front of Parque Terra Nostra and Poça da Beija. Terra Nostra Park is a botanical garden. In this park there’s a pool of volcanic and natural iron water of brown color and whose temperature is around 25 degrees. The Pools of the Dona Beija are an idyllic outdoor spa area. This space was born of a set of hot springs and associated with volcanism phenomena of the Furnas Volcano. The water reaches the surface at about 40°C. In all there are 5 spaces/ pools. We didn’t go in, but then I went to a place called Poça da Tia Silvina to get my feet wet for free.
We went to a dark sand beach. We visited villages like Ribeira Grande and Rabo de Peixe. We drove across plantations of pineapple, inhame (like a potato) and tea.
Discovered by the Portuguese and brought to Europe at the time of the Discoveries, tea has become fashionable among the European aristocracy, thirsting for luxury and exoticism. The Azores’ tea-drying process using the fresh ocean air gives its green teas a unique fragrant scent when they are brewed. We visited the famous tea factory Gorreana. Gorreana holds the title of the oldest tea factory in Europe, since it began to produce it in 1883.
We also went to some places with amazing views.
One of them was Miradouro de Santa Iria. The landscape from here is lush and green until it meets the sea.
Another one was Miradouro da Bela Vista. It’s name means “amazing view” and this is really what this place offers.
I loved to be surrounded by all that green and feel reconnected to nature, something I had already started in the Way of St. James. In our last day we went to the airport and had another bad luck strike – the place had some technical problems and the flight was delayed for over 6h. It was boring to wait, but we got home safe, which is the most important thing. In this trip I had some bad luck, but good luck in the bad moments. These are life lessons, that remind us to be more aware of what surrounds us.