Cha Gorreana is the biggest commercial tea factory in europe and it´s open for visitors and the entry is free.
The Azores has a tea production of roughly 100 tonnes of tea a year and their green tea is in particular famous.
The tea fields are right next to the factory and you can visit them too if you like.
They also have free tea tastings at the factory and you can see the whole production line there and become a bit wiser when it comes to tea.
Ponta Delgada is the biggest town on the Sao Miguel island and a lively city with a nice historical city center.
Ponta Delgada has the biggest selection of hotels on the island and it is also the center of infrastructure, so it´s the place that most people will use as a base when exploring the island and i think that is a good choice as there are quite a lot of things to see there.
There is a lively harbour with a nice old fortress next to the old part of town and the town has a good selection of restaurants too, so don´t miss out on Ponta Delgada.
Furnas Village belongs to the municipality of Povoação. The population in 2001 was 1,541, its density is 45.5/km² and the area is 33.88 km². The parish is one of the largest in the island and in the Azores, and is located 45 km east of Ponta Delgada, west of Povoação village and southeast of Ribeira Grande.
Places must see:
Dona Beija Spot
If you are the kind of person that likes hiking in damp and moist jungle-like environments you should definately try out the Faial da Terra hike on the Azores.
Faial da Terra is a small coastal village on the south eastern side of São Miguel surrounded by mountains.
The hike takes about 2,5hrs and is approximately 6,5km long (round-trip). The first bit is the really tough one because of the massive inclination of the path. On a hot damp summer´s day you will feel quite beat after just a few hundred meters. After a while the steep inclination softens up and the hike continues on a small gravel path.
During the hike you will have the possibilty to see the beautiful waterfall Salto do Prego and even take a swim in the 15 degree C water. This is a great place to eat and drink before you go back.
Swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat was an experience of a lifetime! On the morning I was quite nervous about plunging from the boat right into The Atlantic but as we came across the first group of dolphins i was no problems getting into the water.
One peak moment was when one wolphin swam about 20m in front of me and suddenly turned towards me. My heartbeat increased, hoping that she would come close enough to touch, but about 5m in front of me she switched direction and went deeper into the sea...
Another thing that really caught my attention was the sounds the dolphins made...You have heard it on discovery, but actually beeing in the ocean hearing these wonderful creatures talking to eachother - Amazing!
It was an truly amazing experience and I would like to do it over and over again....
Before the trip there was a short briefing on what Animals we could expect to see, so that you learned to look for the characteristics of different dolphin/whale types. It´s well worth the money, and during the high season the company we used has a money-back guarantee if you shouldn´t see any dolphins.
Oh, and you should go and buy a cheap one-time-underwater camera before you plunge into the ocean unless you already have an underwater camera...
The 2 km long Lagoa das Furnas is São Miguel's second largest lake. On one side is a neo-Gothic Chapela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, one of the richest and most original churches of the Azores. It was built by José do Canto, one of the Azores' great gardeners. Not far from here is a private garden mostly devoted to camellias.
Across the lake is a small sandy beach where you can rent paddle boats during the summer. Here you will find caldeiras where the famous cozido is cooked. About 1 m deep holes are made in the hot earth where they put a pot with all ingredients (meat or cod fish and vegetables). Try to be here around lunch time and enjoy the delicious dish in the beautiful area by the lake.
At the entrance to a dining room are a few stands with local sweets and cakes, such as bolos lêvedos, fofas, traditional caramels, and liqueurs made from pineapple and passion fruit.
There is a stunning panorama of the lake from Miradouro do Pico do Ferro.
On the north and northeast coast of São Miguel there are numerous miradouros (viewpoints) which offer spectacular views of the coastline and surrounding countryside. Miradouro de Santa Iria is one of the most astonishing on the north coast, offering excellent views across over idyllic beaches at the foot of steep cliffs and wide pastures.
Continuing northeast comes Miradouro do Salto da Farinha. A path leads down a steep slope to the beach below and there is a waterfall on the way. Blose by is Miradouro da Pedra dos Estorninhos and a welcoming picnic area.
After the visit of Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões and a lunch in Achada we made a stop at Miradouro do Pesqueiro and Miradouro da Despe-te Que Suas, both with spectacular view of the coastline below. Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego and Miradouro da Madrugada come next to Nordeste and are well worth stopping at to admire gorgeous flower gardens and the incredible landscape.
more pics in the São Miguel and Nordeste travelogues
As you drive along the main road to Nordeste you can not miss the charming Parque Natural da Ribeira das Caldeirões with the lovely Achada waterfall. If you cross a granite bridge and continue further up, you come to a beautiful area with lush vegetation, very green. The park consists of several species of endemic plants, including heather and holly and huge tree ferns reminding of palm trees.
There is a river, fresh water streams cross the park and ponds with water flowers. Once the area was famous for watermills but severe floods in 1986 destroyed most of them. Three have been acquired by the municipality to help restore the natural park area of Ribeira dos Caldeirões and to preserve the area's heritage and connect with a past traditional way of life. One mill has been restored as a working museum.
There is parking place, picnic area, café and a nice craft shop. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours as the park is a very enjoyable place to stroll around.
more pics in the Nordeste travelogues
Located on a fertile plain (campo) of the south coast, Vila Franca do Campo was the first capital of the Azores until it was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1522. Today it is a prosperous town with economy based on fishing, cattle raising and agriculture, with a concentration on pineapple cultivation. There is a small port with brightly painted fishing boats and you find some good fish restaurants. Vila Franca do Campo is also famous for its delicious sweet cheese cakes called Queijadas de Vila Franca do Campo.
It is one of the main tourist centres of the Azores with many historical buildings. The churches deserve a special mentioning, in particular Igreja Matriz de São Miguel Arcanjo. Completed in 1537, this three naved church boasts an impressive façade built completely of basalt, with carving of Christ on the cross. It has a beautiful Gothic portal and an an interior rich in Gothic arches carved with plant motifs.
Other interesting churches are Igreja de São Pedro, dating from the 18th century and built over a Gothic chapel, featuring a remarkable Baroque façade and gilded wood carvings in the interior, and the Igreja de Santo André, a structure from the 16th and 17th centuries showing a mixture of Baroque and neo-classic style, with two naves, a carved wood high altar, panelled ceilings and walls decorated with azulejos. On the edge of the town by a pretty little public garden is the old Igreja e Convento de São Francisco, dating from 1525.
Worth visiting is the ethnographic museum, which houses, among other things, a nice collection of pottery and ceramics. And if you have time, well worth visiting is Ermida de NS da Paz. Ith can be seen from Vila Franca high on the hillside behind the town and can be reached by a monumental staircase. From there is a splendid panorama of Vila Franca and the green landscape down to the coast, including the marvellous tiny islet Ilhéu.
more pics in the Vila Franca do Campo Travelogues
Ponta Delgada is the capital of Saõ Miguel and the largest city of the Azores, with university established in 1975. The city is well worth exploring a day or two, it has many beautiful churches, such as Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, Igreja de São José, Igreja do Colégio de Todos-os-Santos and Ermida da Mãe de Deus, palaces, museums (especially Museu Carlos Machado is well worth a visit) and other magnificent buildings from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Praça Gonçalo Velho Cabral with Portas da Cidade (City Gates) is perhaps the best point from where to start a city tour.
There are several attractive squares and beautiful gardens to relax. Jardim António Borges is a charming and enjoyable garden which really deserves a visit. There is long esplanade along the harbour. At the end of the present-day harbour you'll find Forte de São Brás (Fortress of São Brás).
The city is easy to explore by foot. I very much enjoyed wandering through the cobbled narrow streets of the historic centre with attractive shops and inviting cafés and restaurants, and completed the tour of the city in Café Royal with a nice cup of coffee and some typical sweets of the island.
More information in my separate page about Ponta Delgada
The place where in the 15th century the first inhabitants of the island settled, Povoação is located at the foot of Pico da Vara and surrounded by seven hills. Today, with its modern tourist infrastructure, it is a popular stopover point for visitors en route between Furnas Valley and the eastern part of the island.
The town has a pretty little square and old streets with Calçada Portuguesa (Portuguese pavement) leading down to the harbour. Of special interest is Ermida de Santa Bárbara, dating from the 15th century, considered to be the oldest church on São Miguel. Close by, in a picturesque setting on the ocean side, is Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Matriz Velha). It was built at the point where the island's first settlers disembarked.
To the northeast of Povoação lies Pico da Vara, the highest point on São Miguel. The 1105-metre climb takes about two hours. On the coast between Nordeste and Povoação is Faial da Terra, another lovely small parish. The landscape that surrounds these towns is especially beautiful.
Nordeste is a charming town on the north east end of São Miguel. It has always been a sleepy little place that only few tourists visit, but it lately shows some progress with opening a new restaurant and a small hotel. Entering the town you see the gracious Ponte de Sete Arcos (Seven Arch Bridge), that is one of the largest and most beautiful bridges on the island and was constructed in 1882. The town centre is dominated by the 18th century Igreja de São Jorge. Below the left side of the church is a small museum (open Mon-Fri 9:30am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-4:30pm) with old ceramics from Lagoa and Vila Franca, clothes, weaving and other items from the ares. Nearby is a tourist information office (open weekdays only, 10am-noon and 2pm-4pm) and there are some nice old colonial buildings and an impressive Town Hall.
The only problem with this place is that it is quite a long way from anywhere. It takes almost two hours from Ponta Delgada. There are two ways to get there. We went by the north road and returned by the south road. As we made several stops along the way, this was a very nice whole day trip.
São Miguel has a number of smaller lakes, no less beautiful than the big ones mentioned in the travel brochures, and worth visiting as well. Lagoa do Congro is one of them. Located in the middle of the island, a few kilometres north-east from Vila Franca do Campo, this lake of dark green waters is surrounded by a dense grove of trees. It is a mysterious place.
You'll need a car to get there. A narrow road leads to a point where you leave the car. Here starts walking trail through the forest to the lake and it takes about 20 minutes.
I saw some nice pictures of the lake's panorama, so we tried to find a viewpoint to get a better picture of the lake. We drove all around but unfortunately could not find it. Well, I'm still asking myself where were those pictures taken from.
Halfway from Ribeira Grande to Lagoa do Fogo you will reach one of São Miguel's most visited natural attractions, Caldeira Velha. Part of a very important bio-reservation, it is a charming place with exuberant endemic and tropical vegetation which includes species like the laurisilva and tree ferns among others.
There is a warm waterfall creating small natural pool where people may take a relaxing bath. The stream is fed by several springs of thermal hot water creating brown cascades due to the abundance of iron in the waters. In this area it is quite evident that there is still volcanic activity in the region.
The hot water natural pool is a popular place to bath and everybody may use it. There are small wooden sheds to change clothes, and picnic tables under the trees.
Continuing from Caldeira Velha, the mountain road leads to Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake) with its fascinating landscapes, one of the grandest nature attractions of the island. It is a crater of an extinct volcano whose caldera was formed during an eruption in 1563. This huge blue lake, about 2 km long and 1 km wide, is surrounded by high mountains, and several endemic plants can be seen here. The caldera walls are steep, but there is a narrow, very slippery path to the bottom where you find transparent waters, a peninsula and white sand beaches.
This is a mystical lake, an ambience of divine tranquillity and beauty and is declared nature reserve. There is a superb panorama of the lake from Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo and Miradouro da Barrosa. And if you walk a little further to the top of the mountain Pico da Barrosa you'll be rewarded with a splendid vista of the lake, the sea and the mountains.
During my visit of São Miguel we visited Lagoa do Fogo two times but the lake was always hidden in heavy fog. We gave it a last try on my last day and this time we were very lucky and visibility was excellent.