After a few days in Lisbon, we flew on to the Azores and really had no idea what to expect. Neither of us had been before, nor really knew what they were like. Fortunately, after a fairly hairy flight (tiny islands in the middle of the Atlantic and a storm don’t make for comfortable flying), we landed and made our way to our beautiful BnB by Lapsa.
We couldn’t have be more pleasantly surprised by the Azores, they were astonishingly beautiful, even on foggy days and we wished we’d had more time there. Below you’ll find our top five recommendations for things to do while you’re on Sao Miguel, the biggest of the islands, to maximise your time.
*Top tip* walk along the waterfront and speak to the helpful guys in the booths, rather than visiting the tourist office. They really want to help you and will show you the best and cheapest ways to do it. There is also free wifi in the bus stops along the waterfront in Ponta Delgada should you need it.
After we’d settled on a plan, this is what we came up with:
1. Take the public bus to Furnas:
It costs a mere €4.03 per person to take the hour and a half public bus journey to Furnas, return. Along the way you may encounter purple rinsed Azorean grannies who take no prisoners, amazing sea views and witness some masterful driving on tiny, windy mountain roads as the driver speeds you to one end of the island. We got off at the lake at the top of the hill down to Furnas, which was very pleasant, but actually meant a fairly long walk down to Furnas and as a result less time spent soaking in the many thermal baths in Furnas. We’re not saying don’t get off at the lake, but just give yourself time and be prepared for the walk. The thermal baths in the botanic garden are beautiful and absolutely worth your time.
2. Eat at Rotas da Ilha Verde:
This place was very conveniently situated directly opposite our b’n’b, but even so we had to book for the later sitting the following day. They do two sittings, one at 7pm and one at 9pm and serve nothing but the most amazing vegetarian food. Don’t be put off by this though, the food is more varied than I’d ever thought possible and is seriously tasty.
3. Take a tour with Holistika:
Run by the energetic and extremely likeable Jorge, Holistka is really doing something different with touring on the Azores. Jorge offers, basically completely customisable tours, that focus on mindfulness and the holistic. He will show you around the gems of the island, both hidden and more common and while you’re at it, you’ll feel like you’re hanging out with your best friend.
We initially opted for the Blue and Green Charms Sete Cidades tour, but based on the poor weather early in the day, we took Jorge’s advice and let him take us wherever he felt would suit us across the islands. I can’t recommend both Jorge and Holistika enough. We had the most amazing day and came back feeling refreshed and just a little more grounded. If you’re really lucky, you might end up back at Jorge’s experiencing his Reiki skills and playing with his kitten, Leao.
4. Go to Sete Cidades:
Even if it’s foggy early in the day, don’t be put off! You’ll probably still be able to see the lakes and enjoy the view down onto them. It’s the view that everyone sees when they Google the Azores and it’s well worth the drive. Just make sure that you also explore the area and see some of the other lakes and villages in the area. They’re well worth the trip too.
5. Visit the Termas de Ferraria:
If you can visit the Termas towards the end of the day, do. They’re at the western end of Sao Miguel, so you can watch the sun go down from the geothermally heated saltwater pool and soak up the last of the sun’s rays. They’re in the most incredibly beautiful setting. You’re at the foot of some huge cliffs, surrounded by a volcanic landscape that is as alien as landscapes come on this planet, but also able to just relax with a drink from the poolside bar – best of both worlds! On certain days of the month, the entertainment carries on late into the night, so bring a change of clothes for when you’re done with the pool.
The last two we’d recommend doing by yourself. The whole island is easily driveable and has recently had some pretty serious money sunk into road infrastructure, so there are shiny new, fast roads that speed you from one end of the island to the other. Make sure you get off the main roads though and explore the side streets, that’s half the fun of having your own car.
We’d recommend booking your car hire with Azorescar, as they were very helpful and remarkably cheap for a day’s hire. Our little smart car, Percy (don’t ask…) served us very well! (There is also an excellent restaurant/cafe immediately above the car hire place called Regresso a Conversa with very cheap and tasty lunch options.)