In the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the Portuguese mainland, slumbers São Miguel, the largest of the Azores islands. Its nearly 759 km² surface area combines two extremes: water and fire. While the waves of the sea crash onto the coast and the island boasts countless imposing waterfalls, its volcanic origins are evident almost everywhere. Some of its fiery mountains are even still active to this day. Immerse yourself in São Miguel’s fascinating landscape around Ponta Delgada and feel the power of fire and water.
A Very Particular Crater
Imagine standing on the edge of a crater. Only that it’s not bubbling lava you see below you, but rather brightly sparkling water instead. And rather than being surrounded by a grey and stony desert, what you can see are wooded hills and flowering hydrangeas. It may sound like a dream, but it’s perfectly real – a wonder that you can see with your own eyes. In the western part of the island, nature found its own way thousands of years ago: the island’s largest lake, Lagoa das Sete Cidades, was formed from a volcanic crater. A particular eye-catcher: while the northern part of the lake shimmers blue, the southern part shimmers green.
Whirlpool in the Sea
Near the town of Vila Franco do Campo is a spot that is so beautiful, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s artificial. Yet there is hardly another place that has been created in such a natural way: a wooded rock formation, just big enough that you could walk around it several times in a day, blasted by a crater lagoon whose circular shape and turquoise water are reminiscent of a whirlpool – and that in the middle of the Atlantic. This natural phenomenon is located on the Ilhéu de Vila Franca. Simply take the ferry from the port in Vila Franca do Campo and spend a somewhat different kind of day at the beach. On your way back, take a stroll to the ‘Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz’ chapel that dates back to 1764 and is picturesquely situated on a hill above Vila Franca do Campo.
Water, Water, and More Water!
If you want to see the Salto do Prego, you’ll start off in a quite civilised manner in the small village of Faial da Terra, from where you’ll head out along narrow paths through the forest with its bony branches growing thickly and ginger lilies emitting their scent. As in any real primeval forest, expect to cross paths with wild animals from time to time: chickens. Once you reach your destination, be sure to take a moment to pause on a rocky outcrop, enjoy the local pastry - Queijadas da Vila (Franca do Campo) - and take in the impressive sound of the water.
A Bath in Pure Nature
You’ve already experienced this, right? It’s summer, you go on holiday, and take a swim in the Atlantic – and then you need a hot chocolate, or possibly even two, to help you warm up again. But for those of you who travel to Ponta Delgada, there’s some good news: where you have volcanoes bubbling beneath the surface, hot springs can’t be far off! Be sure to make a detour to the Caldeira Velha Environmental Interpretation Centre. Surrounded by bilious green ferns, sharp-edged rocks, and gushing waterfalls, this is the place to sit back and enjoy the view of the urwald. And the best thing: the water is guaranteed to be 39 °C – no matter the time of year!
Some Hustle and Bustle?
The port of Ponta Delgada is quite different from the untouched nature. It’s considered the most important port in the Azores and has been enlarged many a time over the years to accommodate not only container ships and fishing boats, but also a harbour for 640 yachts belonging to the rich and (sometimes also) beautiful. Our tip: visit the port as the sun slowly begins to set over the Atlantic. Head to ‘Cais Da Sardinha’ to sip Portuguese wine on the terrace, polish off a serving of mussels, and enjoy an unrestricted view of the dazzling port at night. The view is priceless – just like most of the yachts in the harbour.
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