The nine-island archipelago of the Azores is one of the most glittering jewels in Portugal’s crown. Among others, its highlights include Sete Cidades lake (on São Miguel), Europe’s most westerly coast (on Flores), the city of Angra do Heroísmo (on Terceira), and the highest mountain in Portugal (on Pico).
POINTS OF INTEREST
Sete Cidades provides the best introduction to the Azores’ breathtaking landscapes. Conveniently located on São Miguel, Sete Cidades is an area found northwest of Ponta Delgada that is composed of a blue lake and a green lake that a picturesquely placed in the middle of a 3-mile-wide caldera. The area is filled with gorgeous vantage points and hiking trails as well as a little town, which is located at the bottom of the caldera at the base of the lakes. You can hit all these viewpoints and more if you follow the EN9-1A road that takes you directly to Sete Cidades.
LAGOA DE FOGO
In addition to Sete Cidades, another stunning crater lake to see on São Miguel is Lagoa do Fogo. Located int he middle of São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo is more isolated than Sete Cidades and as such, the perfect place to disconnect if you’re hiking. Otherwise, expect to rub elbows with visitors at viewpoints, such as Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa, where there is no parking lot.
If you want to see the Azores’ volcanic activity for yourself, there is no better place than Furnas Valley. The area of Furnas is basically one giant formant volcano. The area is full of hot springs, fumaroles, mud springs, and geysers. Locals have come to use these geological sources in a variety of ways, from bathing to cooking. Here, you can take a bath in mineral-filled waters, eat food that has been cooked on steam vents and drink tea that has been steeped with water from a volcano.
São Miguel boasts a number of beautiful beaches. Praia dos Mosteiros is a good example of the beaches available in the Azores. The small black sand beach is flanked by lush cliffs that stretch as far as the eye can see. Striking volcanic rock formations jut out from the blue waters of the Atlantic.
Pico rises more than 7,700 feet. It is a steep hike for the adventure traveler and it’s best to start early in the morning.