The Azores are perhaps the best-kept secret in Europe. It became only recently possible to fly directly to São Miguel from the mainland and I am grateful that they have done so. It’s about four hours of flying from Brussels, and it seems like you’ve flown for ten hours to get something so exotic. You have beaches, mountains, nature, volcanic activities, etc. In short, you really have everything. The island that I visited was the “main island”, the largest island of the Azores where you can fly directly to from mainland Europe, and some American cities: São Miguel. Want to know more what the best Azores travel activities are?
Spotting whales and dolphins
Or you are very lucky to spot whales, or you have a weak stomach, or you have the fun of your life. Or maybe all at once. On my first day I immediately went into Ponta Delgada to discover that a speed boat was available to spot whales and dolphins. So you sit there on a small chair in a small boat, you sail over the ocean about the same speed as an airplane does and you feel the happiness flowing through your stomach and to discover then in the middle of the ocean that you are seasick. Lovely feeling.
I will not go into the consequences of seasickness, but I can guarantee that it is a special experience (spotting whales and dolphins). If you look back, you see where you came from. If you look forwards, right and left you only see water. And then, as if they knew we were there, dolphins leaped into the air. Then you just know: seasick or not: you must have done this at least once.
Becoming a foodie
Now, if you’ve been following me a little longer, you probably know that I’m not the biggest foodie out there. If you did not know it yet; plot twist! But in the name of God, what the Portuguese do in their food; remains a mystery to me. I had to wait and see how it would be at São Miguel, although it seemed to be delicious as well. Highly recommended is the food on the east side of the island: more specifically in Furnas. A place where volcanic activity is at its hardest. There they leave food in the ground for 6 hours (fortunately fully covered) to let it boil through the heat of the volcanic activity. The result? A delicious stew with all kinds of meat, chicken, potatoes and vegetables.
Looking for a cozy eatery where you can also buy souvenirs? Look no further than Louvre Michaelense in Ponta Delgada. Here I have spent more than an hour enjoying a delicious hot chocolate milk (yes, on a hot day) with their local asset: an Azorean éclair. The service was friendly and the food was simply fantastic. Even the coconut and butter cookies.
Lagoa do Fogo, the lake of fire
Also called the lake of fire, because of its volcanic activity, Lagoa do Fogo is the hotspot if you want to take a nice picture of the area without too many tourists in the picture. You have to find where you can find the most beautiful viewpoint for you, but Miradouro do Barrosa has it all. It offers an excellent view point to come to yourself after all the impressions of the island. Please note that you will see this viewpoint when there is virtually no fog in the air. I just saw it without fog and it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Walking and taking pictures in Sete Cidades
Sete Cidades is the biggest attraction of São Miguel. It looks like two lakes: the green and the blue lake, but small fact: it is just one lake. Because of the bridge that is almost in the middle, but certainly not quite, it looks like it’s two lakes. The colors can be deduced from the sunlight that reflects on the bridge in cooperation with the crater.
This crater is best reached if you are looking for the viewpoint of Miradouro Lagoa do Canario. Actually the viewpoint that you find on postcards and / or the images of Google. Go at a less busy time (before noon or late in the afternoon) to avoid most people and to score that perfect picture.
Getting hot in Furnas
If you want to be adventurous but still want to relax, you can go to Furnas (especially to eat such a tasty stew). Here you will find one of the most beautiful hot springs to relax in. Perhaps not the best if the temperature from the water is more than 25 ° C -just why I decided not do it, but something I will do in the future.
Throughout the area you can see vapor coming out of the ground, so you know that this is a place where the activity of the volcano is the greatest. A warning for those who do not like the smell of volcanic activities: Furnas has a certain smell (not unhealthy apparently), since temperatures are higher than the boiling point.
Discover the tea-plantations
Tea, we love it or not. But have you ever tasted the Azores? More specifically, the tea of Gorreana? This tea plantation is one of the most traditional in Europe, which it does according to the manner of China. You will find green and black tea and after a guided tour you can taste the tea for free in the tea house attached to it. With a tasty dessert, your day can not go wrong.
Taking a break at the most iconic viewpoints
It is miradouro here, miradouro there if you drive the island by car. You can see beautiful viewpoints of São Miguel almost everywhere. If you have time: stop here and take your camera with you to take pictures after you have absorbed the view in you first. If you do not have time, you should definitely free up more time. It is hard to believe how beautiful the Hawaii of Europe is. São Miguel has a lot of viewpoints, and even though the one Miradouro is more beautiful than the other: ugly viewpoints will not come across here. This island is perhaps one of the most beautiful islands that exist. Not overrated at all.
Tasting the sweet pineapple even though you’re not a fan of pineapple
Me and pineapple; you should meet us both. And I warn you in advance that this is almost impossible. Even when I see pineapple on a pizza, I shrink because I just do not like it. Then I discovered the pineapple plantations of São Miguel. My hair was already standing straight up when we as an excursion group were allowed to taste the famous Portuguese pineapple that lasts exactly three years before it reaches the market. Since then I ate every morning (!) a bowl with pieces of pineapple. If that does not say enough.
Hiking, walking, trekking, climbing
Those who say the Azores say walking in one sentence. The day of the hike (Saturday), I prepared for the most difficult tour of the week, since the mountains / hills are not to be underestimated here. So I put on my walking shoes, got in the car with great guides who would accompany me and left for Faial da Terra, one of the most beautiful hiking trails in São Miguel. The trek was tough, but it was an experience that I just had to do. In the Azores you have a lot of hiking trails, be sure that you buy those well-deserved walking shoes before you go to the Azores or simply wear walking shoes you already bought, because you will need them.
Sanne Grieten is the travel blogger of Mostly Abroad. Just like any travel blogger, she loves to travel and discover new places. In addition, she also fights every day with her mental health. To end the stigma, she also writes about this regularly.