São Miguel not only boasts rugged waterfalls and circular crater lagoons formed by volcanoes, but also other eye-catchers from times long past: from the aqueduct and the ‘Portas da Cidade’ to Europe’s only tea plantation – Edelweiss will show you the highlights of the island in the Azores.
Tea with Tradition
The scenery is reminiscent of a painting: green tea fields cover rolling hills, interspersed with the occasional hyacinth, and in the distance the Atlantic shimmers with its foaming waves. Welcome to ‘Gorreana’, Europe’s only tea plantation. This area has been all about hand-picked black and green tea since 1883, and it’s now brewed all over the world. Visitors to the plantation don’t only learn about the elaborate process involved in producing tea, they can also enjoy a cup of tea while enjoying a view of the sea.
In the middle of the 19th century century saw amateur botanist José do Canto choose a barren patch of land on the southern shore of Lagoa das Furnas, where he commissioned a landscape architect to plan a botanical garden. Today, it’s known as ‘Mata Jardim José do Canto’ and holidaymakers can admire it in full bloom. From the deep ‘Fetuses Valley’ to pink azalea beds along the path, and a giant sequoia – there is lots to discover. As you would expect of god-fearing people of their time, Canto even included a church. In its neo-Gothic splendour with its jagged spires, it defies the centuries and yet appears small and fragile amidst the imposing nature.
The ‘Muro das Nove Janelas’, or the ‘Wall of Nine Windows’ is located near the town of Sete Cidades. Far from being a normal wall with ordinary windows, it’s rather part of a stone aqueduct that was once built to carry water towards Ponta Delgada. Right through green hilly landscapes, past peacefully grazing cows, the stone wall stretches on for kilometres. In places, the moss growing on it is so thick that it blends almost perfectly into its surroundings. Our tip: Ideally, set off in hazy conditions because the misty haze lends the strange structure a particularly magical effect.
Vast Expanses, Hiking, Waterfall
From north to south and east to west, ‘Boca do Inferno’, or ‘Pico do Carvão’ – there’s one thing you’ll always find on the volcanic island of São Miguel: fantastic vantage points offering seemingly limitless views. As you stand high up on ‘Miradouro de Santa Iria’, surrounded by jagged cliffs and green fields where bulls and horses graze, and let your gaze wander over the vast sea, you’ll have to take a moment to reassure yourself. Firstly: yes, this really is Portugal, not Scotland. Secondly: it’s actually real. And the best thing: the ‘Cascata Ribeira do Lameiro’ waterfall is just a short hike from the viewpoint. So, set off into the jungle and then take a cool dip.
Light in the Dark
No tour of the island is complete without a stop-off in the small community of Nordeste in the east of the island. While there, be sure to visit the ‘Nor Coffee’ café to sip your coffee on the terrace while enjoying the view of the palm trees and turquoise waters, before going to see the lighthouse ‘Farol da Ponta do Arnel’. Its bright red dome at a height of 15 metres is unmistakable, while the remainder of the building is a simple white. It’s the oldest lighthouse in the Azores and can be seen for 25 nautical miles to guide ships in the right direction. Our tip: what applies to seafarers applies just as much to everyone else on land: a lighthouse’s magnetism is strongest in the dark.
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