São Miguel

Travel Guide Europe Portugal Azores São Miguel

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Introduction

São Miguel Island, named for the Archangel Michael or, literally, Portuguese for Saint Michael, is also referred to locally as "The Green Island". It is the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. The island covers 760 km2 and has around 140,000 inhabitants, with 45,000 of these people resident in the largest city in the archipelago: Ponta Delgada.

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Geography

The scenery offers stunning lakes, sandy beaches, green hills and plains and crystal blue ocean views. The varying elevations of Sao Miguel give it a rolling hills appearance with separating layers of flat farmland. The Island offers the traditional Portuguese cobble stone streets mixed with contemporary architecture and modern shops and cafes. The volcanic origin of Sao Miguel can be easily observed on the island due to cones, craters and natural boiling water springs.

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Cities

  • Ponta Delgada is the capital and location of the main airport, as well as the economic center of the island. The historic center and most tourist attractions are located along Avenida Infante D. Henrique, which extends from the fort of São Brás in the southwest of the city to Clube Naval and the southeast Marina, and includes Campo de San Fransisco, the Matriz, the "Portas da Cidade" (the City Gates) and the new "Portas do Mar" development.
  • Ribeira Grande, the second largest city, is the gateway to the north and 20 minutes away from Ponta Delgada. It is known for its beautiful historic center, its northern beaches for windsurfing, as well as being one of better access points to Lagoa do Fogo crater lake.

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Sights and Activities

  • São Miguel has several calderas. Hot springs can be found scattered all over the island, mostly in the middle highlands.
  • Lagoa das Sete Cidades is a set of lakes in a caldera northwest of Ponta Delgada. Steep mountain walls surround the twin lakes, Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. The color of the lakes is explained in a local myth. There is an abandoned hotel nearby (Monte Palace) with nice views of the twin lakes.
  • Lagoa das Furnas is an active caldera with steam vents, mud pots, geysers, and hot springs. Locals cook food in earth ovens available in picnic areas.
  • Lagoa da Fogo (Fire Lake) is a caldera lake high up in the mountain known for its dramatic views and white sand beach. It is part of a nature reserve.
  • Caldeira Velha has rich tropical vegetation and hot springs which flow into bathing pools. It is located between Lagoa do Fogo and Ribeira Grande.
  • In Ribeira Grande, there's a distillery/liquor factory called Fabrica de Licores - A Mulher de Capote.
  • Nordeste is the highest part of the island and has breathtaking views. The 10th island of the Azores is visible from here. In this municipality, you will find waterfalls, watermills, well cared for Belvederes, ethnography, gastronomy, and landscape.
  • Ponta da Ferraria is geologically the youngest part of the island, with therapeutic hot springs that have been used since the 15th century. The best time to visit is at low tide. The water starts warming up approximately two hours before low tide and cools down two hours after. The water reaches temperatures up to 62 °C but when mixed with ocean water, it reaches temperatures above 30 °C, depending on the tide.
  • Cha Gorreana is a tea factory in Porto Formoso with self-guided tours of the small museum featuring 19th century machinery and well-marked footpaths through the plantation.

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Events and Festivals

Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, one of the many religious festivities held in the Azores, is held yearly on the fifth Sunday after Easter. The town of Ponta Delgada is transformed into a town of color and lively celebration, decorated with colorful flowers and decorative bedspreads hung from balconies. The celebration starts with the blessing of the bread and meat, and the distribution of food among the needy. The festival then continues with a procession, music and fireworks.

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Weather

Similar to other islands in the archipelago, São Miguel is influenced by ocean currents and winds, and in particular, the cyclonic Gulf Stream. It functions as a moderating force in the islands, keeping temperatures hovering between 14 °C and 26 °C throughout the year. The island's location also makes it susceptible to many Atlantic storms, and precipitation tends to be elevated during the winter periods.

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Getting There

By Plane

João Paulo II Airport (IATA: PDL, ICAO: LPPD) offfers flights to/from Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Billund, Corvo Island, Flores Island, Graciosa Island, Horta, Pico Island, Santa Maria, São Jorge Island, TerceiraBoston, Frankfurt, Munich, Lisbon, Faro, London-Gatwick, Paris-Orly, Porto, Stockholm-Arlanda, Toronto-Pearson, Montréal-Trudeau, Madrid, Funchal and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Some of these are only served seasonally (April-October).

By Boat

Atlanticoline offers services to several other islands, mainly in summer.

Several cruise lines make Ponta Delgada a waypoint when journeying across the Atlantic. Some cruise ships spend a day at the port, often as they reposition themselves between cruising Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

The marina at Ponta Delgada also welcomes many yachts and private boats from around the world that make São Miguel a port of call along their trans-Atlantic travels.

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Getting Around

By Car

Rental cars are available at Ponta Delgada Airport, and one of the best ways to explore the island. Sao Miguel is small enough to drive in a day, and there is much to see that is only accessed by car.

By Bus

There is an airport bus that sells only roundtrip tickets (5€).

Bus routes that cover the entire island are probably the quickest, cheapest, and most eco friendly way to get around. They're usually not too crowded and are very clean.

Buses run the main avenue and are conveniently accessible from major sites in Ponta Delgada. In-town bus services are handled by smaller mini-buses with the larger touring buses handling community-to-community travel on the island. Both services are accessible along Avenida D. Infante Henriques and can confuse the unfamiliar traveler. Schedules are available at bus stops and the tourist office.

There are three lines operated by three different companies. The buses are fairly old, but since distances are short, rides are rarely longer than 90 minutes.

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Safety

There is very little crime on the island. Most crimes are drug-related and are generally localized to Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande. However, petty theft from vehicles does occur, so it is prudent to lock your car and not leave any valuables in sight, especially when parking at trail heads for an extended hike.

Exercise caution driving as roads are often narrow, with blind curves and steep inclines. Wandering livestock and poor lighting are also potential hazards. Pay close attention to any warning signs regarding inclines and avoid dirt or poorly designated roads that are unfamiliar as their conditions may deteriorate at a point in which it is too late to turn back and can cause serious damage to your vehicle. Some deteriorated roads are populated by thieves looking to pilfer from broken-down vehicles.

On the beaches, watch out for large waves and strong undertoe currents and obey any lifeguards or warning flags which may be present. Unsurprisingly, the Azores, including São Miguel, contain one of the world's largest populations of the venomous Portuguese Man 'o War. The largest concentration of the jellyfish-like creatures appear in the spring, and they can be windswept into sheltered areas. Swimmers should be vigilant for plastic-bottle looking "floats" which may be tinged purple or blue, and be very wary of what lies below the ocean's surface as their tentacles extend an average of 8 feet away from the float, but can be as long as 156 feet. Their tentacles cause an extremely painful sting, even if the Man 'o War is dead. Never touch a Portuguese Man 'o War, even if it is washed up on the shore, and beware of tentacles hidden beneath the sand. If you are stung, do not touch the tentacles but apply ocean water to remove them from the skin. Do not apply fresh cold water and do not urinate on the stung area, as this will cause the sting to worsen. Also do not use an EpiPen as this can cause a dangerous reaction. Soaking the effected area in hot water mixed with Epsom salts is recommended, and if a severe envenomation is observed, such as difficulty breathing, disorientation, dizziness, or extreme pain, seek medical attention immediately.

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Sleep

  • Sete Cidades, Rua Dr. João Francisco de Sousa, 34/38 Ponta Delgada, ☎ +351 962311857. Furnished in original Victorian style but is fully modernized to create a cozy and clean feel.
  • Quinta das Acácias, Livramento 9500-605 Ponta Delgada (town of Livramento, on the West Coast of the island), ☎ +351 296 642 1660. It is right near the ocean and Populo beach. Quinta das Acacias offers cottage style living accommodations in the midst of a well kept flourishing green garden. Each cottage averages an area of 50 m². There are 1- or 2-bedroom units available.
  • Hotel Talisman, Rua Marques da Praia e Monforte 40, Ponta Delgada, ☎ +351 296 629 502. In the middle of Ponta Delgata near all tourists attractions and nightlife. This hotel has 53 rooms, 5 suits and includes a restaurant, bar, and esplanade.
  • Casamariadedeus, Rua Visconde Botelho numero 4, Lomba do Loução (town of Povoação), ☎ +351 296 559076. Casamariadedeus has been a home for many people traveling to the area for 25 years. A comfortable place to stay in a small village and experience village life of times past.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 13:51 on May 24, 19 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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