Dark green Lagoa de Santiago (Santiago Lake) is situated near Lagoa de Sete Cidades, in a place of great natural beauty. It is in the volcanic crater, surrounded by green mountain slopes. A variety of native and exotic species can be found here, as well a few species of fishes.
There is a superb panorama of the lake from Miradouro Lagoa de Canário. On the way back to Ponta Delgada we also made a short stop at Miradouro Lagoa de Santiago though the view from here is not that spectacular.
Picturesque town of Ribeira Grande is located on a volcanic plateau above the sea. It received its name from the stream flowing from Lagoa do Fogo that crosses the town on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Though rather small, Ribeira Grande has rich architecture and offers a visitor some very interesting places to explore.
We started the tour in the charming historic centre which. Its narrow streets are lined with some nice examples of the 17th and 18th centuries architecture. During my visit they were nicely decorated as June is the month of local festivities. Paços do Concelho (City Hall) has unmistakable design from the 18th century, and is one of the prettiest anywhere. Some of your time deserves the municipal garden, Jardim do Paraíso. And there is an interesting bridge with eight arches from the 18th century, Ponte dos Oito Arcos.
Worth a visit is the main church, Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Estrela, where you find a glass showcase with very small figurines made by a nun in the 19th century from bread dough and arabic gum, representing the Old and New Testaments. Igreja do Espírito Santo, in the main square, has one of the most attractive Baroque façades in the Azores. A little further is the excellent Museu Municipal with a vast collection of local ethnography.
more pics in the Ribeira Grande travelogues
I arrived in Ponta Delgada around noon so it was still enough time to visit Sete Cidades (Seven Cities), one of the most scenic highlights of the Azores. Passing several small lakes en route, Lagoa Empadada and Lagoa do Carvao, we made a stop at Lagoa do Canário. From Miradouro Lagoa do Canário are breathtaking views of the mountains, valleys and lakes. A little further along we stopped at
Vista do Rei, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the island, from where you see the village and the lakes.
In the centre of the volcanic crater are the twin lakes, Lagoa Verde (Green Lake) and Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake), surrounded by steep slopes covered with trees. According to a legend, the different colours of the lakes were created when a princess and her lover, a young shepherd, had to take farewell from each other. Their tears became the two lakes, with the water coloured like their eyes.
By Lagoa Azul is a picturesque green area with magnificent trees and benches to relax, in the company of ducks. Inside the crater lies Sete Cidades village, a quiet little village where you find some nice traditional old houses and a 19th century neo-Gothic church, and can see women dressed in black walking in the street.
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On the way from Ponta Delgada to Sete Cidades, after we have passed a lovely old stone aqueduct, there was a sign to Lagoa do Canário. A narrow road lined with azaleas leads down to a car park. There are picnic tables and barbecues, so in summer people come to have a picnic. From here it's just a short walk to the lagoon. Lagoa do Canário is surrounded by green ferns and cryptomeria trees making it a very peaceful and quiet ambience. The water was very shallow at the time of my visit and I noticed several birds on the shore.
There is about 15-minute walk from the car park to Miradouro Lagoa do Canário, one of the best viewpoints in all the Azores. The view of the Lagoa de Sete Cidades and the village is truly stunning. Another rough path leads to a deep and narrow little valley with steep sides and a stream. The area is filled with tree ferns, azaleas and several endemic plants.
Pineapple grown on São Miguel originally came from Cantral and South America and it was introduced to the island around the mid 19th century as a decorative plant. So if you like pineapple you should not miss the famous Arruda Pineapple Plantation. It's a fascinating plantation with various greenhouses showing the small pineapples at different stages of growth and the methods used to make them so sweet. The complete growing period from planting to picking takes 18-24 months. Although in the Azores pineapples are available all year round, the sweetest are from May through August.
There is also a shop selling pineapples, pineapple liqueur and pineapple jam. You can sample the liqueur, an island speciality, which is very sweet and tasty.
It is open Jun-Sep 9am-8pm, Oct-May 9am-6pm; admission is free.
On the northern part of the island, you can visit the Gorreana Plant where they produce the only tea produced in Europe. There are guided visits to the plant, but I just wandered around a bit. You can taste the green tea produced there - it's so good! - and, if you want, you can buy some packets of tea, there.
I tell you: I found the same packets cheaper in local markets, so, it's up to you ;)
One of the most important spots in Sao Miguel island is the "Sete Cidades" lakes. The legendary lost city of Atlantis is linked to the Sete Cidades vulcano by ancient tales. Probably when you face that magnificent landscape you can feel some "magic" through your mind and think about being over the lost Atlantis.
Ok... back to earth again ;) ... Getting ther is easy because this is a known touristic spot, but my advice is to enter the volcano crater by the "Varzea" village side and go through a narrow irregular road that surrounds the volcano crater until you reach the "Vista de Rei" ("King's Sight") near the huge abandoned hotel.
Located inside a volcanic crater in the district of Povoação, Furnas is one of the largest parishes in the island and in the Azores, an area of volcanic activity and natural beauty. It comprises of a lake, a valley and a village, and there is an impressive array of geysers, fumaroles and hot springs. It is a true paradise for any nature lover where yoy find many interesting places to explore.
Furnas village is an idyllic setting with lovely houses, thermal baths (which have a reputation for their therapeutic qualities) and geysers. It has also a splendid botanical garden Parque Terra Nostra, one of the most beautiful parks in São Miguel. Yet, Furnas won its fame primarily from its 22 sources of mineral water. A short drive from the village is a peaceful lake Lagoa das Furnas. It lies among green slopes with hot springs and bubbling mud pools by the lake. This place serves as a 'natural kitchen' where the famous cozido is cooked.
more pics in the Furnas Travelogues
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
The old manor house of São Vicente Ferreira houses Casa da Cultura (Cultural Centre) and ethnographic museum, Museu Municipal. It is located in one of the little backstreets near the city centre. The museum occupies two floors and has 21 rooms for permanent exhibitions of ethnographic collections and azulejos (tiles).
There is a special emphasis on religious art and the crib, a model of the scene of Jesus Christ's birth, along with the exhibitions of architecture, archeology, costumes, ceramics, weaving, carpentry, as well the old traditional kitchen, barber shop and shoe shop. Behind the house is a pleasant garden with trees and flowers. When I visited there were a few young local musicians preparing for the evening performance.
The museum is open Mon-Fri 8:30am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-16:30pm, closed on Saturday and Sunday. The entrance is free.
The volcanic origin is manifested by extremely beautiful landscape and fertile soil. In addition, the low depth of magma sheet warms the spring waters that rise to the surface. There are several hot springs in the area, such as Lombadas, Caldeira Velha and Caldeira da Ribeira Grande.
A 5 km drive inland from Ribeira Grande, set in a beautiful place with lush green vegetation and trees, is Caldeira da Ribeira Grande. This tiny spa village of large old houses surrounds a central square where there is a hot spring and a thermal pond. Now a little neglected, it must have been delightful in its heyday. There is also a bar and restaurant but we did not visit.
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.
Caloura or Vale das Cabaças is a pretty area of Água de Pau, known for its peace and tranquility. It is protected by a high cliff that is overgrown with lush vegetation, and surrounded by old vineyards each with its own black basalt stone wall. In the past few years significant new homes have been built and it is now a very desirable place to live or have an occasional holiday home.
Narrow road leads to a tiny fishing port with colourful boats and a lovely bar facing the sea. There is a beach and a natural swimming pool where you can relax and refresh. Close by you also find a charming Convento da Caloura, a remarkable Baroque structure dating from the 16th century. Now in private hands, it can only be visited with the owner's permission. The convent's church, Igreja de NS das Dores, is beautifully covered with azulejos (also the interior) and deserve your attention.
Going to Vila Franca do Campo one can find several beaches, such as Prainha and Água d'Alto. On the way we also made a stop at Miradouro do Pisão which offers a magnificent view over Caloura.
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
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