© moinefou | Pixabay

What to do on São Miguel, Azores

Last year we made one of our travel dreams come true by visiting the Azores islands. These nine islands lie around 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As we didn’t have much time, we decided to visit just the main island of São Miguel. Here’s our pick of what to do on São Miguel island. 

Stay at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

We had the privilege of staying at one of the best hotels on the island – the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. Located in the middle of a lush historic garden, the hotel offers plush botanical decorated rooms and an excellent spa. If you want to read more about what we thought of the hotel, read my review for The Telegraph to discover more.

Terra Nostra Garden hotel entrance, Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.
Stay at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel in Furnas, São Miguel |© Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

Bathe in the thermal lake at the Terra Nostra Gardens

As guests of the hotel, we had free access to the famous Terra Nostra Garden with its iron-rich thermal lake. If you’re not staying at the hotel however, you can always buy a ticket and spend the afternoon there. There are also several hot springs hidden around the grounds.

Thermal lake in Terra Nostra Gardens | © Dan Convey

Visit the geothermal cooking holes in Furnas

One of the things we were looking forward to most was visiting the geothermal cooking holes, just outside the village of Furnas. Here, locals cook in big holes in the ground on the edge of Lake Furnas. Surrounded by pools of bubbling mud and steaming vents, the ingredients are placed into a big pot and lowered into the ground. Make sure to get there around midday to watch the process.

cozido, slow cooking, underground cooking, furness, Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.
Restaurant staff removing cozido from the fiery underground in Furnas, São Miguel | © Dan Convey

Try Cozido

If your stuck for ideas of what to do on São Miguel, then why not try cozido. Cozido das Furnas is the traditional dish which is cooked in the geothermal cooking holes. It’s made from meat and vegetables and cooks underground for around seven hours. Most of the local restaurants in Furnas will serve this dish. We managed to find a vegetarian version at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.

Furnas, cozido, underground cooking, slow cooking, hearty stew, Sao Miguel, Azores
Cozido – the typical dish of Furnas in São Miguel, Azores |© elchicogris (Flickr)

Hike around Lagoa das Furnas

One of our favourite days on São Miguel was spent visiting Lake Furnas, and then going for a hike all the way around it. You can easily reach the lake by walking from Furnas village and there’s a lovely pathway all the way around, passing lush green hills, forested areas, old churches and big graceful houses.

Hiking around Furnas Lake, São Miguel, Azores|© Dan Convey

Visit the Lagoa das Sete Cidades

One of the most famous sights on the island is the crater lake of the Sete Cidades. Named as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, it’s a huge lagoon split in two – a blue lake and a green lake. Our guide told us that legend says it was formed from the tears of a shepherd and a princess who shared a forbidden love. Unfortunately, the day we visited it was extremely foggy, windy and rainy, and we could even see the lakes, let alone what colours they were. Later we discovered that fog around the lake is extremely common, and one local girl told us she had only ever seen the lagoon once when it was not shrouded in fog.

Sete Cidades lake, Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.
View over stunning Sete Cidades lake on São Miguel | © moinefou (Pixabay)

Explore the capital of Ponta Delgada

The pint-sized city of Ponta Delgada is a picturesque place, filled with unique architecture. Visiting Ponta Delgada is great place to go if you’re wondering what to do on São Miguel when it’s raining.  The buildings here are whitewashed with trimmings and embellishments in black basalt stone. There aren’t a whole lot of attractions, but it offers some lovely little shops, as well as some excellent restaurants. In fact, the food we ate in Ponta Delgada was actually the best food we had the whole time we were in Portugal, particularly because lots of places offered great vegetarian food.

Black and white architecture in Ponta Delgada of Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.
Typical architecture like this can be found in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel| © Comanche0 (Pixabay)