The Azores Recap

Sunrise, Pedras Do Mar

I went to the Azores and the most common question I got was, Where is that? 

Before our current (COVID-19) situation ramped up, I snuck away for 9 nights for my first vacation without email in a year and given where we are now, I am so grateful I did. “Planning” my trip just 10 days before I got on the plane shows the ease with which this type of trip can be planned and how accessible this set of 9 islands really is.

The Azores are a part of Portugal and rest roughly 1,000 miles off the Portuguese coast. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know where it was either until about 4 years ago). Just a 4 hour flight from Boston (which I was shocked about), this archipelago is often referred to as “Hawaii of the Atlantic.” I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I don’t know if that comparison holds true, but I can see why some might think that. Now that I’ve visited, I can say that I see it more akin to a cross between Ireland (seriously, the green fields had me doing a double take), Iceland, New Zealand and Portugal, which is pretty phenomenal in my book.

I mean it could be Ireland if you didn't know better, right?

I visited just one island this time, but I already know I would go back and try to see others next time. São Miguel Island, the most populated of the islands, also hosts the Azorean capital, Ponta Delagada.  Normally I’d run around and try to do everything, but this time, I really wanted to vacation and to absorb into the island. I approached this trip differently than I have any other trip in my life, with a distinct non-attachment and ease. I made no plans, and I let the weather, which is highly changeable, and my intuition guide me. As we often reference in yoga, I was completely “in flow.”

Flights with SATA Azores Airlines are direct from Boston. Other flights can be found, including ones that connect in Lisbon, but this direct Boston to Ponta Delgada link is owed to the diaspora in Massachusetts of Azorean people of all ages. Although I was delayed through an odd turn of events, and we left Logan at 3:00 am (I didn’t even know Logan allowed flights that early), the flight couldn’t have been easier. I had a row to myself and slept most of the short 4 hour flight. Considering how and where you cross the Atlantic to get to the Azores, it was a little bumpy, but manageable.

Waking up to a sunny morning buffered by a wall of clouds being kept barely at bay, the island came into view and my emotion couldn’t be contained. There are only a few places on earth, during my many travels that I have gotten emotional upon entering the air space and landing, and this was one of them. No one could have been more surprised about that than me. I knew next to nothing about this particular island, and yet, a trickle of salt water ran down my face. I was so happy to be there.

The airport was a classic small island airport even though it is an international airport. People filed into the two immigration lines and I was into the main lobby of the airport before I blinked. I grabbed a coffee and then stepped up to the rental car desk and was grateful I didn’t use my normal company because their line was the longest. It was like my whole plane had rented a car from them.

Since I had reserved in advance and I am experienced with the questions and coverage and such, it was a breeze. The staff were kind and gave me the best piece of advice I received while on the island. They said to go to . This simple site has one purpose, to show you the weather around the various islands via webcam. I can’t understate how useful this was to me during my entire trip. The site is organized by island and then by town/ or popular geological location. Since you can have all four seasons in one day on the islands, it was invaluable. I soon found that you could be in a sunny spot and the place you want to go is completely encased in fog. One spot that I visited only cleared one day during the entire nine days I was there. For a small island, it was amazing to watch the weather in this way. I didn’t let it rule me, but I did let it inform me, especially for that one particular spot, Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire). was also recommended and works based on your location and can be helpful for the higher elevations.

Most people base themselves out of Ponta Delgada and do day trips because nothing is really  more than an hour or so drive away. I’ve never been most people, so I headed to the central north coast instead and based myself directly on the ocean for five days. A choice I would come to be grateful for every single morning and every single night.

I visited in the off season (February) and it makes a huge difference for everything I will share in the posts about this trip. First, I was able to stay in much nicer places than I normally would. Meaning I stayed in three separate hotels instead of getting an airbnb with a kitchen like I often do. The hotels were highly discounted and mostly empty. However, that is not the case from May - October, their high season. The average temperature at the beginning of February was 62F. I found the east of the island to be consistently warmer than that but not by too much. And of course, when you get into some of these craters or up on the higher hills, it changes accordingly, but as a New Englander in the middle of winter, it was the perfect temperature for me.

So what exactly is there to do on this island besides relax and go with the flow? Many, many things. There are insta famous places that you can go to for the gram if that is your speed. There is every type of nature you can imagine if that is your thing. Hiking, walking, beaching, hot spring sitting, volcanic rock climbing, waterfall gazing, tea plantation visiting, pineapple farm perusing, little towns for wandering, there is something for everyone.

Here are a few of my favorites. I’ll do longer posts on a few of these, but for now a summary.

Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

This was my first stop on the island once I was on my way after accidentally getting stuck in the small streets of Ponta Delgada right after I got off the plane. This viewpoint is pretty nondescript from the road, and I didn’t know anything about it, I was mostly stopping for a break when I found it. But it is stunning, especially on a clear day. It is right on the edge of a high cliff and you can see both the Atlantic and the coast for quite a distance in both directions. It’s a quick stop but worth every second. I’d say you could picnic here, but the wind was fierce all the times I stopped there.

Sete Cidades 

Probably the most popular place on the island, but the good news is that it is huge, and you can visit it from many different points. This was also one of my favorite places on the island. I visited a number of times over the course of the week, in all different types of weather. While the viewpoints are what tend to be most famous, going down into the town and sitting by the lakes was what I loved most. There was a stillness to this place that felt like the void or a womb. Things were being created there, seemingly almost from nothing. It was protected by old volcanic walls and covered in trees, and the sea was just on the other side.

 The two lakes that make up this area and the whole 3 mile cauldron area, are the result of a massive volcanic eruption in the 15th century. One lake reflects blue while the other connected lake reflects green. On a clear day with the sun just right, it is out of this world. No power place would be complete without a little folklore which this area has in spades. Lovers and tears and creating the color of the lakes, oh my.  I’ll do a separate post on this area with the viewpoints and best spots, soon, there’s a lot to share.

Boca Do Inferno

While Sete Cidades is the most popular place on the island, this is the most popular viewpoint and the most used viewpoint to advertise the Azores. If you’ve seen anything about the Azores, you’ve probably seen a picture of this place. While I had intended to visit this spot at some point, I came upon it by accident and the timing could not have been more perfect. It is VERY hard to get this spot alone, but somehow I did and it was magic.

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões

Another place that I happened upon by “accident.” Or I should say, I didn’t know what was at the end of the road, I knew that lots of waterfalls existed on the island. But this was one of those times when I gasped when I saw where I had been led. One of the confusing things, for my brain at least, is the myriad types of vegetation on São Miguel. There are plants next to each other that shouldn’t be able to exist in the same environment. This fairy land of wildness and waterfalls, was one such place that had me scratching my head. The headline waterfall is impressive enough, but if you walk up the trail, the flora and fauna are crazy. It’s part rainforest, part pine forest, part Lord of the Rings. I stayed here for way too long taking way too many pictures and it was worth every second. It was only after I had gotten my fill of the largest waterfall that I ventured across the road to the lower park area. It was also very beautiful, had a shop and facilities and areas to walk. But beware, all those paths are VERY slippery. I caught myself from falling more than once and I was wearing hiking boots.

Lagoa do Fogo

Ah yes, we come to the unicorn of the island. This area is, well, shy. It only comes out to play once and awhile, aka once in nine days. After the second day of my trip when a visit to this area was thwarted by the fact that all I saw was white on the webcam, it became a ritual for me to check the webcam of Lagoa do Fogo before I decided what to do with my day. On the fifth day of my trip, I woke up with the sun and saw how clear it was out. 10 minutes later it occurred to me to check the webcam. I left my room ten minutes after that and got on the road. After this particular day and visit, the area didn’t clear again while I was on the island. The moral of the story is, if this place clears, scrap whatever day you have planned and get there.

Lagoa das Furnas 

Furnas is famous for hot springs, steam sprouting from the ground, cooking stew in volcanic steam vents and the Terra Nostra Garden, but I liked it because of the lake. Said stew is cooked right next to the lake, the local restaurants each have a labeled area where they cook their stew daily. People gather around to see them take their pots out of the ground, but I found it anticlimactic to be honest. The best part of this area for me was the lake and the viewpoints of the lake high above. By the lake there is also a “forest park” called Park Grená. For some reason this park is 10 Euro to get into when every other natural area on the island is free, including the path that runs along the actual lake. No great surprise, I walked along the lake instead and it was amazing. It was a well manicured trail akin to a “rail trail” here in the states. The trees were massive, the water kept changing color, and I didn’t see anyone else along the way while Park Grená was very busy. This walk along the edge also gave me a distinct view of the unusual bright green mossy substance that covers this lake in areas. More on that later.


About as far east as you can go, this little picturesque town stole my heart. I’m not exactly sure why, but maybe it was the unique arched bridge that lands in a charming town square, or the fact that they had a halfway decent free public bathroom, kidding (kidding that this is why, not that they have free open bathrooms), or maybe it was the fact that I was there on a Sunday when basically the whole town was closed except for people doing their everyday chores. It reminded me a little bit of Spain and Portugal on the mainland. It had that feel to it, except that just beyond the town square, you could see the ocean. From this spot you can travel further south along the coast and come upon a few other great spots too, and it is worth the drive. I recommend the Northern route to get there instead of the Southern, unless you are feeling mighty adventurous and confident in your driving. More on this later.

What I’ve listed here are mostly natural spots, but there is so much more to this little island. If churches are your thing, you will be in heaven (pun intended). The whitewashed churches are framed with black detailing in contrast to the blue and green island background. They stand out in every town as the highest building. Hot springs are not for me, but you can find them all over the island. They even have a natural thermal pool IN the ocean at Ponta da Ferraria. You have to time this place right with the tides though so you don’t either freeze or boil and /or drown. As one can imagine, it’s not exactly a place I went as a solo traveler, but people seem to like it.

I’ll write a little about Ponta Delgada and some other towns as well in another post, so stay tuned. And of course there is the Gorreana Tea Plantation, purported to be the only tea plantation “in Europe.” I visited on a pretty cloudy, dreary day, but I bet in season on a sunny day the place sparkles. Tours only run in the high season, so I took a self guided tour up into the tea fields which was interesting to look at. There is also a trail on this property that will take you on a multi hour walk with a waterfall somewhere in the middle. Part of this trail was closed while I was there due to mud and rain, but it is supposed to be a lovely walk, though fair warning, a lot of it is straight uphill.

There is much more to post and write, but what I will share is that it is extremely easy to get around as long as you rent a car. Their bus system is not so reliable and because of the weather, I think renting a scooter is a tough way to go. Another option is to base yourself in Ponta Delgada and book day trips. There are many tour companies to choose from. Tripadvisor has great notes for Azorean tour companies. If you can part with the money, renting a car is the way to go in my opinion. I found so many amazing spots simply by driving and randomly seeing them. This island is perfect for road trips. The views white driving alone are worth the four hour flight into the middle of the Atlantic.