A vibrant garden in the middle of the Atlantic. It is no coincidence that the island of São Miguel in the Azores archipelago is also known by the nickname “Green Island“.
The island is the largest and most populated of the entire archipelago, and here also resides the Presidency of the Autonomous Region of the Azores. Sao Miguel has about 150 thousand inhabitants, of which 50,000 reside in Ponta Delgada, the largest city of the Azores.
The scenery that São Miguel offers, so diverse, is a pleasant awakening for visitors, thanks to the beautiful lakes, sandy beaches, hills, high mountains, green plains and blue ocean.
São Miguel still retains that unique charm of yesteryear, when life passed serenely and unhurriedly. The island is easily accessible thanks to good air connections, and there are many things to do and see, starting with some truly breathtaking volcanic landscapes.
The island of Sao Miguel is full of places to visit. Each town or village has its own characteristics that make it unique, both culturally and naturally.
Quite simply, the capital. With the right mixture of ancient and modern, Ponta Delgada throbs with life thanks to the streets full of stores and markets. A mandatory visit to the Church of St. Joseph and the Church of St. Sebastian.
It is located within the municipality of Ponta Delgada, although outside the town. Inside a large crater, the nature of this fantastic place offers two beautiful lakes, the Green Lake and the Blue Lake, connected by a bridge.
It is located in the northern part of the island of Sao Miguel. In addition to an architecture worthy of great attention, this place is also appreciated for the natural landscapes that leave you speechless. Essential point of your tour must be the Church of the Holy Spirit, but do not miss to go to the Municipal Garden and the Sierra de Agua de Pau.
Nordeste is the most fascinating municipality of the island of Sao Miguel, and at the same time its wildest place: here you will find a succession of mountains, deep gorges and rivers. One of the most beautiful places of this area is the Salto do Farinha, but here there is also the most important lighthouse of the island, called Faro Ponta do Arnel, and the Pico da Vara, the highest volcano of the island.
Unlike Sao Jorge and Flores, characterized by a very jagged coastline and not very rich in beaches, Sao Miguel has beaches of surprising beauty, offering some of the best conditions in the world for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. The water temperature is mild throughout the year thanks to the action of the Gulf Stream.
Sao Miguel’s beaches, like pretty much all of the Azores’ beaches, are mostly dark sand, due to their volcanic origin, and rocky. The black sand beach of Praia do Populo is located near the town of Sao Roque, about a 15-minute drive from Ponta Delgada. Near the beautiful fishing village of Calorua is the beach of Ribeira Quente.
Praia do Lombo Gordo, located in the municipality of Nordeste, is reached through a steep and winding road. Finally, the Praia de Santa Barbara, in Ribeira Grande, is the largest of the whole island, and is characterized by black beach and crystal clear sea.
There are several activities that you can do on the island of São Miguel. Let’s see some of them.
Sao Miguel is full of volcanic craters, lagoons, small rivers and waterfalls that are only accessible on foot. There are at least 20 official trails on the island that cover all types of landscapes. All of them are worth walking.
The Azores are considered the Mecca of those who love to admire cetaceans in their natural habitat. Sao Miguel is probably the best place in the entire archipelago to do this activity. Not surprisingly, the chance of seeing both dolphins and whales here is estimated to be around 98%. Not bad at all!
Canoeing will be one of the activities you’ll love to do on the island: the best places are undoubtedly the lagoons of Sete Cidades and Furnas. Paragliding is becoming more and more popular in Sao Miguel. After all, the island is ideal for both take-off and landing.
The most important religious feast in the Azores is the Festa do senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, that is the Feast of Christ of the Miracles, which has been held since 1700 and is celebrated in Ponta Delgada on the fifth Sunday after Easter. During this festival pilgrims follow the ancient statue of Christ, coming from Rome, and the streets of the city are beautifully decorated with flowers.
The statue was given to the nuns of the Caloura Convent, the oldest in Sao Miguel, when they went to Rome to collect the Papal bull recognizing the newly founded convent.
Of all the islands in the archipelago, São Miguel is undoubtedly the one that offers the widest range of accommodations, some of which are top-notch. From romantic boutique-style hotels to modern Scandinavian-style chalets to traditional country houses, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
Most travelers coming to Sao Miguel choose to sleep in its main town, Ponta Delgada, the only town on the island that also has an evening life and a good choice of restaurants to relax in the evening. It is definitely the recommended area for most tourists.
For those who do not want to sleep in Ponta Delgada, Vila Franca do Campo is a good alternative to enjoy the maximum tranquility: in front there is a small island reachable by boat, to spend pleasant days on the beach. Caloura, which is often denoted as the most beautiful village on the south coast, can also be a good option: it is located along a bay near a small beach, with direct access to beautiful natural pools.
It is also located in Ponta Delgada, and was originally a music school; the building that houses it, dating from the 19th century, has incorporated much of the original architecture and basalt. The decor is minimalist, and in the new parts of the building, the clever use of glass stands out. In the Hotel do Colegio there are 53 rooms with bathroom and 2 suites each with minibar, telephone, TV, hairdryer and air conditioning.
This property offers its guests apartments consisting of one or two rooms. It is located near the port of Ponta Delgada and is an aparthotel, where guests can enjoy a spa with lots of sauna, turkish bath and massages. The location is also great for reaching restaurants and clubs in the surrounding area.
A small hotel located in the beautiful town of Furnas, in the central plateau of the island. Located within the volcanic basin, the hotel features ‘boiling’ pools and famous botanical gardens. Opened in March 2015, it has an excellent restaurant and bar, and is one of the few places on the Island that offers spa treatments. You can relax in both the outdoor and indoor thermal pools. Alternatively, you can make use of the sauna, Turkish bath and gym.
It is a modern hotel located near the village of Caloura. It is located on a small promontory, near a sandy beach, with direct access to natural pools. The hotel also has suites and is a great base for those who want to explore the island, staying halfway between Ponta Delgada and Furnas.
The island of Sao Miguel, unlike many of the Azores, can be reached by plane without great difficulty. The airport, dedicated to Pope John Paul II, is by far the busiest of the archipelago and is located about 3 kilometers from the capital Ponta Delgada.
There are also air routes connecting the island with some cities in the United States and Canada. The scheduled airlines that fly to Sao Miguel are Tap Portugal, Sata Air Açores and Azores Airlines, but there are also some charter flights that arrive there mainly from Northern European countries. Since 2015 in the airport of Ponta Delgada has also ‘landed’ the Irish company Ryanair, with connections to and from Lisbon, Porto, and other European destinations.
It is possible to move around Sao Miguel using public transport such as buses or cabs, or rent a car or scooter. The latter option will allow you to move without problems and in complete autonomy, without the need to keep up with the schedules of the means, often approximate.
The best choice is undoubtedly to pick up the car directly at the airport, so you can start exploring Sao Miguel in total freedom right away and save money for the airport-hotel transfer. To take advantage of the most convenient offers, it is a good idea to book online before departure.
For those who for some reason do not want to follow this route, there are many private companies that organize trips to the most popular tourist attractions of the island: in local tourist offices you can get information on schedules and stops. Do not exclude cabs, as they cost a few euros.