The most common way to arrive at São Miguel is by air. There are daily flights between Ponta Delgada and the mainland cities of Lisbon and Oporto, with an approximate duration of 2 hours. There are also daily flights to all the islands of the archipelago, and regular international flights from Germany, the United States of America, Canada, England, Spain and France. Between May and October, you may take the sea transport to travel between the islands.
The island of São Miguel is the largest in the archipelago of the Azores, covering an area of 744,7 km². It is 62,1 km long and 15,8 km at its widest. Together with Santa Maria, it forms the Eastern Group and has in Pico da Vara its highest point, reaching an altitude of 1105 m. Known as the “green island”, it is home to over half the population of the archipelago, with 137 856 residents.
The island of São Miguel was discovered in 1427, following the discovery of Santa Maria. Its initial settlement occurred round 1440, under the leadership of Gonçalo Velho Cabral, ordered by the King of Portugal. The first settlers came from the northern regions of Portugal, the Portuguese southern regions of Algarve and Alentejo, and the province of Estremadura. Later settlers included Jews, Moors, French and English people.
To get around in the island of São Miguel, you may rent a car, use the taxi service or the public transport bus service that connects most localities of the island. Inside Ponta Delgada, you may use the Minibus service. It has several routes across the city and is available on weekdays, from 7:30h to 19:30h.
The itineraries of the buses are as follows:
1 – Ponta Delgada, Fajă de Baixo, Fajă de Cima Itinerary
2 – Ponta Delgada, Ramalho, Relva, Feteiras, Candelária, Ginetes, Várzea, Mosteiros. Itinerary
3 – Ponta Delgada, Ramalho, Relva, Feteiras, Candelária, Ginetes, Várzea, Sete Cidades Itinerary
4 – Ponta Delgada, Fajă de Cima, Capelas, S. António, Sta Bárbara, Remédios, Ajuda, Pilar, Joăo Bom, Mosteiros Itinerary
5 – Ponta Delgada, Fajă de Cima, S. Vicente, Aflitos, Fenais da Luz Itinerary
6 – Ponta Delgada, S. Roque, Praia do Pópulo, Lagoa, Água de Pau, Água d’Alto, Vila Franca do Campo, Furnas, Povoaçăo Itinerary
7 – Ponta Delgada, Pico da Pedra, Calhetas, Rabo de Peixe, Ribeira Grande Itinerary
8 – Ponta Delgada, Ribeira Grande, Achada das Furnas, Furnas Itinerary
9 – Ponta Delgada, Ribeira Grande, Lomba da Maia, Fenais da Ajuda, Lomba de S. Pedro, Salga, Achadinha, Achada, Feteira Grande, Feteira Pequena, Algarvia, S. António Nordestinho, Săo Pedro, Fazenda, Nordeste. Itinerary
10 – Nordeste, Pedreira, Água Retorta, Faial da Terra, Povoação.
Located inside a volcanic caldera with a perimeter of around 12 km, the Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the largest freshwater reservoir of the Azores. With its two lagoons, the blue and the green, the Lagoa das Sete Cidades is one of the most fascinating landscapes of the Azores.
Located in the center of the island, it is a beautiful lagoon surrounded by endemic vegetation where many birds come to nest. It is possible to go down to he lagoon shores through the trail starting at the main sightseeing spot.
Park located in the parish of Achada, exhibiting a gigantic waterfall that used to power the old water mills in the park.
One of the main touristic attractions of the island that one can visit by boat. Also known as “Anel da Princesa”(ring of the princess), this natural reserve resulted from a submerged volcano, and its interior presents crystalline waters and a small beach, perfect for a swim.
Beautiful lagoon in the Vale das Furnas, associated to the volcanic formations of the area and surrounded by dense Macaronesia vegetation. On its shores you can find volcanic water calderas and fumaroles.
The two only industrial tea plantations in Europe. The Fábrica de Chá Gorreana is the oldest in Europe, established in 1883. Visit for a leisure stroll in the tea platantions landscape and try the wonderful green tea.
Located in Furnas, this is a place of mystical relaxation in the middle of Azorean nature. It consists of 5 bathing areas, with the water temperature reaching 39°C. The hot water has therapeutic properties, helping with several ailments.
The highest point in the island of São Miguel, reaching an altitude of 1105 meters. To climb it, you must pass through a protected area where you can observe the priolo, an endemic bird. A license is needed, and can be requested from the Direção Regional do Ambiente.
A beautiful view over the volcanic caldera of Vale das Furnas, where lies the Lagoa das Furnas, can be seen from here.
In the center of the island, this is a lagoon surrounded by beautiful thriving vegetation.
One of the largest gardens in the Azores and also one of the oldest. Here you will find a large and diverse botanical collection, and a great pool of thermal water, where you can swim.
Of geological origin, these natural thermal pools offer the possibility of a swim in hot sea water, heated by volcanic activity.
Area of secondary volcanic activity, visible in its fumaroles and thermal springs. It has an enchanting waterfall and abundant vegetation. Here you can bathe in pools of hot water.
The oldest lighthouse in the Azores, it is located in Ponta do Arnel and is a landmark of the heritage of Nordeste. There, you can enjoy an exposition on the lighthouses of the Azores.
Two of the most emblematic sightseeing spots of São Miguel, where you can lean over the coastline and surround yourself with the mystique of the silent and sprawling gardens.
Hydrologic area rich in different kinds volcanic activity, such as the boiling water fumaroles, muds and mineral waters.
Grota do Inferno presents a spectacular view of the several lagoons in that area of Sete Cidades. Vista do Rei, with a magnificent view of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, was named after the visit by king D. Carlos and queen D. Amélia to the area.
Large park with many leisure areas and a strong environmental component. Here you can find a vast collection of camellias, ferns, pine trees and cacti.
Leave Ponta Delgada in the direction of Covoada, which will take you to the Lagoa das Empadadas. Keep following he road to Lagoa do Canário. Enjoy these lagoons and take some pictures of the beautiful surrounding landscapes. Still on the same road, you will arrive at one ex-libris of the Azores, the Lagoa das Sete Cidades. From the sightseeing spot of Vista do Rei, you can view the whole lagoon, and just behind you, you can see the Hotel Monte Palace, abandoned for over a decade. Before taking the road leading to the bridge that divides the lagoon, pass by the sightseeing spots of Serrado das Freiras and of Lagoa de Santiago. Have lunch at Sete Cidades. You will then head towards Mosteiros, passing by the sightseeing spot of Escalvado, from where you can have a complete view of the isle of Mosteiros. Stay on the same road leading to the locality of Mosteiros, from where you can have a closer look at isle, countouring the West tip of the island and entering the north coast. Take the opportunity to enjoy the coast and its landscapes, shaped by the sea. Head to Capelas, where you can visit the Museu Oficina, home to ethnographic depictions of ancient traditions of the Azorean people. Return to Ponta Delgada, have dinner there and enjoy the evening walking around the historical center of the city.
Leaving Ponta Delgada, take the highway to the city of Lagoa, taking a turn at the Lagoa de Fogo sign (before stop at the F’brica de Cerâmica Vieira). At the end of the road you will find one of the most beautiful lagoons of the region, and several sightseeing spots, with views over the lagoon and the city of Ribeira Grande. After observing this wonder of the Azores, head down to Caldeira Velha, where you can view one of the most well known thermal water areas of São Miguel, with a magnificent waterfall. Still on the same road, head down a bit further and turn at the Salto do Cabrito sign. There you will have the opportunity to see an incredible 40 meters waterfall and the water conduit that supplies the whole city of Ribeira Grande. Keep following the road that will take you to the historical center of Ribeira Grande, where you can have lunch. Visit several places with typical elements of the municipality, such as the liquors, the handcrafts, the churches, among others. After lunch, take the highway from Ribeirinha, and just at your left you will have a sightseeing spot with a surprising view over the Ponta do Cintrão. Stay on the same road until arriving at Chá da Gorreana. At the Chá da Gorreana factory, you will have the opportunity of tasting the tea of the Azores – the only tea produced in Europe – and you will be able to admire the amazing landscapes of the tea plantations. On the same road, further ahead, turn in the direction of Vila Franca do Campo. There, you will have the chance of admiring the famous isle of Vila Franca do Campo – also known as “Anel da Princesa” (ring of the princess) – and also climb up to the Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Paz, an hermitage with a beautiful stairway, overlooking Vila Franca do Campo. After, you may visit the Fábrica das Queijadas de Vila Franca do Campo, where an emblematic gastronomic product of the Azores is made. It is possible to observe the production process and even taste this typical confectionery. Closing the day, return to Ponta Delgada and relax.
Leave Ponta Delgada towards Ribeira dos Caldeirões. Arriving there, you will be able to see magnificent waterfalls and old water mill facilities. Head to Nordeste and visit the Farol do Arnel, a lighthouse with an incredible view over the Eastern part of the island. After, stop at the sightseeing spot of Ponta do Sossego, a place for relaxing and observing the nature of the island in a peaceful environment. Follow the road to Furnas, where you will be amazed by its lagoon of singular beauty. Close to the lagoon, pass by the Ermida da Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, an hermitage of neogothic style built by José do Canto. On the other end of the lagoon, you can see where the famous Cozidos das Furnas are cooked, a dish that you can try in a restaurant in the town center. Still inside Furnas, head to the boiling water fumaroles, the volcanic activity will surprise you. You may also try another very typical food product of the Azores, the bolo lêvedo. It is easy to find in Furnas, the main place of its production. End the visit to Furnas with a hot water bath at Poça da Dona Beija. Here you can bathe in relaxing waters of temperatures over 30°C, with many benefits for your skin and for your health.
The island of São Miguel has a calendar filled with events offering maximum entertainment. In March, the Tremor festival, turning São Miguel into a concert stage, with a diverse program mixing music, art and intellectual interaction. In the beginning of July, the Festa do Chicharro hosts several concerts by regional, national and international artists, while reminding us of the traditions and local gastronomy through the blue jack mackerel. A few days after, Nordeste hosts the Festas do Nordeste, attracting many people to its music concerts. In Rabo de Peixe, there is the Festival Caldo do Peixe, a gastronomy fair of fish dishes, that also offers music concerts and seminars. Still in July, Caloura hosts the Caloura Blues, a festival dedicated to blues and jazz that brings cheer to the locality and features captivating artists. Ending July, RFM Beach Power, in Ribeira Grande, features renowned electronic music names, attracting mostly young people.
The month of August starts with PDL White Ocean, the largest white party in the Azores. The city center of Ponta Delgada is decorated in white, with close to 20 stages where over 150 performances are given by artists. Right after, and returning to the city of Ribeira Grande, the Monte Verde beach hosts the MEO Monte Verde Festival, where renowned international, national and regional artists give 35 performances on 2 different stages, over 3 days. At the end of August, and still in Ribeira Grande, the Azores Burning Summer Festival brings cheer to the parish of Porto Formoso with music concerts and lectures on environmental awareness. The Festival das Marés, in Mosteiros, brings several artists to the area, and the Festival da Povoação attracts thousands to the municipality of Povoação.
The clay, abundant in the hills of the island, pushed the economic development of the region. Ceramic works, hand painted tiles, roof tiles, pots and many other clay utensils form the basis of this culture. Fishing has served as a means of subsistence, still present today. The water mills are also a testimony to the corn and flour work of the island. The cloak and hood were the typical popular dress. It has its origins in the 18th century, and has been adapted into the garments of the university students of the Azores. The art of spinning is another valuable artisanal expression. Using ancient looms, blankets, quilts, and rugs of many patterns and colors were made. The handmade embroidery and the wickerwork are other artisanal treasures of the island.
The Festas do Espírito Santo are one of the most typical religious traditions of the Azores, celebrated with great cheer and devotion in São Miguel. The streets are decorated and great feasts of sopas do Espírito Santo, meat stew, massa sovada and sweet rice are had. These extend from May to September through several localities of the island. In the Summer month, each parish celebrates and worships its patron saint.
The marches of São João, in Vila Franca do Campo, are a tradition typical of this place, attracting more people every year. The populace celebrates São João with fervor, in a spectacle of over one hundred marches with 900 participants. The entertainment continues through the night, with music concerts by renowned artists, next to the Frades roundabout. The Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres are the largest religious festivity of the Azores, happening yearly on the 5th Sunday after Easter. The image of Santo Cristo dos Milagres, stored in the Convento da Esperança, is displayed on the streets in a great procession in its honor. Many emigrants to Canada and the United States of America return to their origins to worship the saint for 3 days. Several devotees make promises and crawl on their knees around Campo de São Francisco.
The Romeiros de São Miguel are another typical tradition of the island. Groups of men from each parish take a pilgrimage, walking around the island for 8 days, visiting churches and hermitage swith the image of maria. This tradition happens from the start to the end of Lent. The Cavalhadas de São Pedro, in Ribeira Grande, are a parade of colorful and uniquely dressed horses and riders. The parade, that goes through Ribeira Grande, includes a king, lancers, knights, buglers and stewards. On the day before, the marches of São Pedro brings cheer to the locality and people to the streets.
Monuments of Ponta Delgada
This temple houses the image of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. Its walls are covered in tiles of great value.
Old Jesuit college, it was not finished due the expulsion of the Jesuits. Today it houses the Núcleo de Arte Sacra do Museu Carlos Machado.
Served as point of entry to the city. The kings D. Pedro IV and D. Carlos have passed under these arches.
Church of fascinating construction due to its interesting front. Its front is not turned to the sea, unlike the other buildings in the area, for fear of having the masonry work eroded by the sea.
Building from the 19th century, today serving as headquarters of the Presidency of the Regional Government of the Azores.
Located on Alto da Mãe de Deus, this hermitage offers a panoramic view over the city of Ponta Delgada. The structure it is built upon is made of the remains of old bunkers and walls.
Installed in the old Convento de Santo André, this museum houses several valuable collections of paintings, sculptures, ethnographic and natural items. It has two other hubs, in Núcleo de Arte Sacra and Núcleo de Santa Bárbara.
The largest fort in the island, served as defense from attacks by pirates and corsairs. It is home to the Museu Militar dos Açores.
Main church of Ponta Delgada, displaying Manueline, Baroque and Gothic elements.
Monuments of Ribeira Grande
Built in the 16th century, it is a vestige of the old settlement, destroyed by the eruption of 1563, in the parish of Ribeira Seca.
It displays collections of tilework, ceramics and ethnography of the 16th century. During Christmas, it displays a great moving nativity scene deserving of your attention.
Dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Estrela, this church houses impressing religious items, pictures and carved woodwork.
Home to a collection of great artistic value, with hundreds of figures made of bread crumb, starch and alum, depicting the old and the new testament.
Located in the old convent of Nossa Senhora da Guadalupe (Igreja dos Frades), it has, for its visitors, an exposition on the life of São Francisco de Assis and the presence of the Franciscan order on the island.
One of the ex-libris of the city, built on stone masonry. It is the largest arches bridge on the island.
Displays a collection rich in souvenirs and gifts of emigrants from the countries that welcomed them.
Also known as Igreja dos passos, it has one of the most beautiful Baroque fronts of the island.
Monuments of Lagoa
In spite of its build date, its front shows elements of the 18th century. Its interior stands out for the main chapel’s vault.
One of the richest buildings in the island, due to its Baroque style and gilded woodcarvings.
Built on a hermitage, it houses a collection of sculptures by Machado de Castro.
The altar’s front is covered in Hispano-Moorish tiles.
Monuments of Vila Franca do Campo
One of the oldest temples, it houses the oldest church bell in the island. Its three halls and gilded woodwork are admirable.
Franciscan building of educational importance. Its chapel is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosário.
Located at the top of the hill of Nossa Senhora da Paz. Climbing its great stairway leads to an excellent sightseeing spot, overlooking Vila Franca do Campo and its isle.
Museum with several objects of investigation and ethnographic heritage of São Miguel. It has several hubs, organized as pottery, electricity and naval.
Monuments of Nordeste
Suffered several alterations in the 18th century and has a very interesting front.
Has an important collection of local ethnographic items on display, such as agricultural tools and utensils used in the old pig slaughters.
The priolo is an endemic bird of São Miguel, that has been considered extinct at times. This center organizes walks through the areas where this bird thrives.
Monuments of Povoação
Placed on the southern shore of the lagoon of Furnas, it was built by José do Canto as a burial place for him and his wife. It is a rare example of neogothic construction in Portugal.
Inaugurated in 2005, this monument marks the place where the first settlers of the island landed.
Placed in the old square, it is one of the oldest churches of São Miguel.
The gastronomy of São Miguel is diverse and rich in flavors. The blue jack mackerel with vilão sauce, the octopus stew or roasted octopus, the greaves, the bloodsausage with pineapple, the fish stews, the limpet rice, the regional steak, the iconic cozido das Furnas, cooked by the heat of the earth itself, are some dishes you must try. Regarding seafood, the limpets with Afonso sauce, the lobsters, the slipper lobsters and the crabs are some of the most popular dishes.
The confectionery of São Miguel includes the famous queijadas da Vila Franca do Campo, the sweet rice, the bolos lêvedos from Furnas, the malassadas and the massa sovada. When it comes to fruit, try the wonderful pineapple of the Azores. The climate of the island confers a unique taste. Also try the several pineapple based products, such as pineapple pastries, cakes and jams. Try also the local passionfruit, the blackberry, custard apple, orange and banana.
To accompany your meals, try the locally produced vinho de cheiro and the several liquors – blackberry, tangerine, passionfruit and pineapple. Try also the tea of the Azores, perfect for regional confectionery. It is the only tea produced in Europe.
São Miguel has several bathing areas with clear waters that invite you for a swim. In the municipality of Ponta Delgada, you can find the swimming pools complex of São Pedro, the natural pools of Portas do Mar, the pools of São Vicente Ferreira, the Pópulo beach, the Milícias beach, the thermal baths of Ponta da Ferraria. In the municipality of Ribeira Grande, there is the beach of Santa Bárbara, which hosts the Surf world championship, the Moinhos beach, the municipal pools complex of Ribeira Grande, also known as Poças, and the beach of Monte Verde. In Vila Franca do Campo, you may bathe in the beach of Vinha, Água de Alto beach, and, only during the Summer, in the isle of Vila Franca do Campo. In Nordeste you will find the bathing area of Foz da Ribeira and the beach of Lombo Gordo. In the municipality of Lagoa, we recommend the bathing area of Caloura and the natural pools of Lagoa. In Povoação, go for a swim at the beach of Fogo and at the port of Faial da Terra.
It is possible to fish, depending on the time of the year, on the coast, in creeks and lagoons. In the lagoons you can find trout and carp. In the sea, the tuna season runs between April and June, while the blue merlin and jack mackerel seasons last from July to October. There are many other species that you may capture through trolling, bottom fishing, buoy fishing and spearfishing, such as sea bass, grouper, anchovy, barracuda, white seabream and parrotfish. Fish from the coast fishing docks, such as the ones found in Ponta da Bretanha, Fenais da Luz, Nordeste, Porto Formoso, Rabo de Peixe, Mosteiros and Vila Franca do Campo. Fishing permits may be obtained from the Serviços Florestais or in RIAC.
As in the other islands of the archipelago, whale and dolphin watching is a sought after experience. The spotted dolphin are common in the Summer, and the blue whale is easily seen in the end of Winter. The spermwhales and sei whales can be frequently seen in the Summer. The sea of the Azores displays a great number of species, throughout the year. These excursions are usually made from the marinas of Ponta Delgada or Vila Franca do Campo. There are several enterprises specialized in this type of service, and you can find them in the services section of this guide book. Boat tours and sailing are other activities usually made available by specialized enterprises, usually in the same areas.
The ocean floors surrounding the island of São Miguel are a natural paradise for a dive. Among the vast fauna and flora that allow for amazing views, you can observe immense schools of fish. Dive at the Navio Dori, an old military freighter sunk off the coast, at the Arcos da Caloura and at the Ilhéu dos Mosteiros. There are several enterprises that provide these services, look them up on the services section of this guide book.
The island of São Miguel hosts, yearly, the Surf world championship at the beach of Santa Bárbara, in Ribeira Grande. A beach for experienced surfers due to its beach break. In general, the morphology of the island allows the practice of this sport in several contexts, with various reef, beach, and point breaks. You may also surf at the Monte Verde beach, Milícias beach, Mosteiros, Maia, and Fajã do Araújo. Windsurf can be practiced in the lagoon of Sete Cidades, and in the beaches of Monte Verde and Milícias.
The hiking trails of São Miguel offer unique landscapes. Horse rides and mountain bike tours are other ways of observing the nature of the island. Try the trails of Sanguinho, which goes through a rural village and ends at the beautiful waterfall of Salto do Prego, the descent to Lagoa do Fogo, with a magnificent view over the endemic flora and a small lagoon beach, the trail of Salto do Cabrito, where you can witness an imponent waterfall of 40 meters, the trail of Boca do Inferno, in Sete Cidades, which offers a beautiful view of the several lagoons in the area, and, for the more adventurous, the climb to Pico da Vara, the highest point of the island.
These activities may be practiced either in the lagoons or in the sea. You can explore the lagoons, row around small isles, observing the birds and exploring caves. The isle of VIla Franca do Campo, the lagoon of Sete Cidades and the lagoon of Furnas are great spots for these activities.
For lovers of extreme sports, these are activities to try. You may go canyoning in Ribeira dos Caldeirões, in the area of Lombadas, with 5 rappel descents for its 45 meters drop, in Pico de Vela, with 40 meters drop over 8 rappel descents, and in the creek of the 40 meters waterfall of Salto do Cabrito. For climbing, try Ferraria and Água de Pau.
Tennis lovers may play this sport at the sports complex of Fajã de Cima. Paddle tennis can be played in the two courts of Ribeira Grande, or in the single court in Livramento.
The island features two golf courses, Batalha and Furnas. Both courses provide, beyond the practice of the sport, an intense contact with the nature of the island.
This activity provides angles and views out of the ordinary. It is possible to paraglide throughout the year, but the Summer is the best season for it. São Miguel features several spots ideal for its practice, with several take off and lading zones. These include Sete Cidades, considered one of the best paragliding spots by a European jury, the area of Salto do Cabrito, Lagoa do Fogo, and the beach of Santa Bárbara.
Paintball is becoming an increasingly demanded activity. This combat sport, played with pressured air guns that fire balls of colored paint, finds perfection in the island of São Miguel due to its fields and landscapes. For more information contact 912032482.
Wild rabbit hunting is an activity typical of São Miguel. Hunters, together with their hunting dogs, head to the designated hunting areas of the island. Woodcock, duck, and rock pigeon are some other hunted species.