São Miguel, Azores Tourist Guide
A mystical green, a fluorescent blue; infinite pastoral lands dotted by grazing cows and sheep are the first images of São Miguel. The way up the flourishing wild hills brings you through the freshness of this natural and unexplored land until you reach spectacular large craters, filled with deep blue waters and surrounded by magical forests. The views over the rounded slopes of the island heading down towards the sea are truly extraordinary. The infinite opportunities to enjoy what nature has to offer are all exposed in front of you.
As you enter the main city, Ponta Delgada, you immediately find the calm and tranquil life a blessing for your visit. The history and marks left by the several passers by on this island are obvious. The city gates composed of three arches and built in the 18th Century are the first steps into the city. Around the centre of Ponta Delgada, the importance of religion to the lives and culture of this town becomes more and more apparent. Starting with the magnificent Matriz de São Sebastião, São Pedro and São João, erected in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries respectively. Due to constant pirate attacks in the 1500’s, the nuns of the Caloura Convent moved to a new Monastery, bringing with them the image of the Holy Christ of Miracles. This is now known as the Hope Monastery, where beautiful blue tiles can be found in its interior as well as outstanding golden carvings in the chapel. Wander through the streets of Ponta Delgada and down the main boulevard on the sea front; you’ll come across fantastic historical buildings, a heritage of the city’s long existence.
It is the lagoons and craters that distinguish São Miguel from the other islands. Venture with a trekking group or with an organised tour company to explore this island. The Sete Cidades lagoon’s beauty is something you will have imprinted in your memory for years to come. The Lagoa do Fogo is one of the most impressive lagoons. Its rounded shape, surrounded by steep sloping cliffs covered in a lush green forest is stunning! Reaching the third lagoon, the Lagoa das Furnas, gives you the sensation you are arriving in paradise. The flowered shore surrounding the lake makes this a truly magnificent setting for romance and magic. Walk around the hot springs that release a white smoke from the ground. Here is also where you will find the Furnas “cozido” or stew, cooked in these hot springs. This is one of the most emblematic dishes of the island; apart from its particular way of cooking, the taste is delicious. These small holes also have a medicinal mud that is great for your skin. Within the small caves are the thermal baths. The natural relaxation and rejuvenation you may experience at the Furnas is certainly an experience you won’t forget.
The island’s most exciting time is during its festivities. These happen mainly from the months of May straight to September, as is the case of the Holy Spirit Festival that runs throughout all 6 months, with a special emphasis on the 7th Sunday after Easter. For three days, the island celebrates the Holy Saint of Miracles, from the fifth Sunday of Easter onwards. For over 400 years, this has been a practice on the island, when everyone comes together to adore the image of the Holy Christ. Nowadays many cultural and sporting events happen during these days, which make the city of Ponta Delgada an even more interesting destination during these dates. Another typical festivity happens in Ribeira Grande, on the 29th of June, when volunteers dress up in different characters, including a King, a Foreman, Knights, lancers and trumpeters, and ride horses in a colourful parade.
The weather here can be sometimes unpredictable and with occasional rapid changes, adding a mystical feel to this hardly known land. The climate is mild, with temperatures in winter reaching an average of 16ºC and 26ºC in summer. There is an added sense of adventure as you see the sky covering over with clouds, or you envisage the sudden appearance of the rays of sunshine shooting through a misty cover. Rainfall tends to be even throughout the year, although it is stronger and more constant during winter (from December through to March).
The island of São Miguel is a living testimony of the history of the discoveries and the natural beauty created by nature. It is an opportunity for you to visit an island and to explore its magical wonders and traditional lifestyle.