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10 Best Things to Do in São Miguel in the Azores, Portugal

São Miguel is an island mostly untouched by the tourist industry, though that is starting to change. This magical island is the gateway to the other 8 islands of the Azores.

But make no mistake, this island has big personality with a lot to offer. If you’re planning a visit to the “Green Island”, this is the guide for you.

I have listed the 10 best things to do in Sao Miguel in the Azores, to help you plan your own trip to this beautiful Portuguese island.

Views over Fajã dos Vimes on Sao Jorge Island

Gorgeous views that you can see while hiking in the Azores

10 Best Things to Do in São Miguel, Azores

Visit Furnas

To see volcanic activity at its best, visit the sleepy town of Furnas. Here you can find caldeiras burping and bubbling Sulphur steam into the air all over the town.

The locals use these caldeiras to their benefit, cooking in them and drinking the mineral rich springs leaking from the earth around them.

Home of the famous Terra Nostra Garden, you can stroll around the park or take a dip in the mineral rich thermal pool at the main focal point of the park.

But be sure to bring an old bathing suit because these waters are so rich in mineral your suit (and your skin) will turn orange.

Click here to book your Furnas & Fire Lake tour!

Terra Nostra Gardens, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Terra Nostra Gardens, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Journey to the Mythical Seven Cities

There is a legend that the King of the Seven Cities had a beautiful daughter who fell in love with a shepherd.

However, the princess was already betrothed to a prince from another kingdom and her father forbade her from ever seeing this shepherd again.

Before their parting her father allowed her to see the boy one last time and during that meeting, they both cried so much it created two lakes, one green and one blue.

If you wish to see these mythical lagoas (lakes) there are several view points and two main hikes.

One around the rim of the caldeira surrounding the two lakes and the town of Sete Cidades or you can follow the famous Miradouro Da Boca Do Inferno to the most photographed sight on the island.

Both routes offer fantastic photo opportunities at every turn.

Click here to see prices, availability and more info for an epic Seven Cities 4WD tour!

Pico de Vara, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Pico de Vara, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Eat Cozido

If you are going to try any food in São Miguel it has to be the famous cozido. This delicious monstrosity is a mixture of various meats and vegetables cooked in their own broth in a pot that has been buried inside a caldeira for 6-8 hours.

The meat falls apart on your fork and everything has the slightest hint of sulphur to it. I know what your thinking. Yuck, right? Wrong.

It’s so tender and juicy, with all the flavours of the meats, cabbage and various types of potatoes mixed in. The sulphur smell is barely noticeable.

This meal can only be found in Furnas, with their bubbling caldeiras all over town. The two best places to have this meal are Anthony’s and the Terra Nostra Hotel.

Secret: if you eat at the Terra Nostra Hotel, they give you free admission to the Terra Nostra Gardens, which includes the thermal pools within. If you are a vegetarian, the Terra Nostra Hotel also offers a vegetarian cozido option.

Chouriço; a traditional Portuguese dish where the sausage is served on a flaming dish

Chouriço; a traditional Portuguese dish where the sausage is served on a flaming dish

Hike to the highest peak

For some of the best hiking on the island make sure to check out the highest peak, Pico de Vara. In order to hike to this 1103m peak you will need a permit.

This is because only a certain number of people are allowed to climb the mountain per day.

Try to wait for the best day possible, to give you the best chance to see the 360-degree view, though don’t be disappointed if you don’t see everything.

I hiked to this peak and had beautiful views until the last 10-minute stretch to the top where I was engulfed in a cloud.

Not only does this hike provide some fantastic views, there are also two memorials along the route for two plane crashes that occurred on this mountain. So, take your time, take it in and enjoy being completely surrounded by nature.

There are incredible hikes all over the Azores Islands. Terceira had some of my favourites, as well as loads of other fun things to do.

Seven Cities, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Seven Cities, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Sit in a spa in the ocean

Near Ponta da Ferraria is a beautiful spa, once a bath house where a doctor would travel to twice weekly on a donkey to see patients.

Travelling down a road of tight switch backs with a sheer cliff drop you can park your car and walk straight past the spa and down to the ocean.

What you will find there will blow your mind. At low tide there is a small inlet in the ocean where the volcanic rocks heat the ocean water and become a hot tub in the ocean.

It is complete with ropes strung from one side to other where you can just hang on and drift back and forth with the ebb and flow of the tide. It is by far one of the most relaxing places in the world.

Soak in a natural thermal pool

On the road to Riberia Grande from Ponta Delgada lies Caldeiras Velha. Natural thermal pools situated in a tropical forest.

As you soak in the various natural spas you are surrounded by palm fronds and ferns, making you feel like you stepped into Jurassic park.

This place is best visited, in my opinion, when it’s raining. As you bathe in the warm, slightly sulphuric waters you can listen to the rain hit the wide leaves and feel the stress just melt away. 

For more information on all the thermal pools on the island, check out this thermal pools guide.

The natural rock pools of Simao Dias in Sao Jorge Island, in the Azores

The natural rock pools of Simao Dias in the Azores

Visit the Terra Nostra Gardens

The famous Terra Nostra Gardens, once an orange plantation, is not just home to one of the most beautiful gardens but also an expansive natural thermal mineral pool.

There are several options for taking a dip, the main mineral rich thermal pool and several side “hot tub style” thermal pools.

You could spend the day here just wandering the gardens, siting around the mineral pool, eating at the Terra Nostra Hotel (which boasts the best cozido in all of Furnas) or relax in one of the many natural thermal pools. It’s heaven.

Visit a pineapple plantation

Just outside of Ponta Delgada lies the only pineapple plantation on the island. This plantation has a multitude of greenhouses with pineapples growing at various stages.

You can learn all about the growing process and then head inside to the gift shop to taste some of their plantation made pineapple liqueur.

A pineapple plantation in Sao Miguel, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

A pineapple plantation in Sao Miguel, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Wander around a tea plantation

Gorreana is the only tea plantation in the Azores. Looking for a way to boost the economy, the owners had tea masters come from Asia to teach them how to grow tea.

It kind of took off from there. Visiting the plantation there are several loop hikes around the property providing you with views of the entire plantation.

Back in the main tea factory you can taste the various types of teas, tour around the factory, and watch a video on the plantations beginnings. All for free. The factory still uses the same machinery used in the very beginning (1883!).

Over time the tea leaves have developed their own distinct flavor. Now Gorreana ships their tea all over the world, from the US and Canada in the West to Europe and Asia in the East.

A tea plantation in Sao Miguel, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

A tea plantation in Sao Miguel, photo by Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Go whale watching

This is probably the biggest draw for tourists to this island. The Azores has a rich whaling heritage, which has transitioned to a prosperous whale watching industry.

At any time of the year you can see several species of dolphins and the sperm whale, made famous by of course Moby Dick.

Click here to book your Sao Miguel whale watching tour!

Whale watching tour in Pico Island

Whale watching tour in the Azores

Where to stay in Sao Miguel 

I’ve listed below some accommodation options in Sao Miguel for every budget.

Budget: Vintage Place Azorean Guest House – This guest house is located right in the heart of Ponta Delgada, within easy walking distance of bars and restaurants. They also have lovely rooms and an inner courtyard.

Click here to book your stay at Vintage Place – Azorean Guest House!

Mid-range: A Villa by the Sea – With an epic sea view, this is the perfect place if you want to spoil yourself without breaking the bank. The tastefully decorated hotel is a short drive away from Ponta Delgada.

Click here to see prices and availability at A Villa by the Sea!

Luxury: Furnas Boutique Hotel – If you’re looking to treat yourself somewhere unique, this is the place. It’s a bit far from everything, but that’s its beauty.

Lost deep in the greenery with its thermal spas and pool it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after exploring Sao Miguel.

Click here to book your stay at Furnas Boutique Hotel – Thermal & Spa!

One of the colourful churches in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island

One of the colourful churches in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island

Final thoughts on best things to do in Sao Miguel Island, Azores

Have you been to Sao Miguel, Azores, before? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below! This island has much to offer and is special in it’s own way.

The Azores are also amongst the best places to visit in Europe in winter. Take your time and let the island lifestyle help you unwind and reconnect.

These are my 10 favourite things to do in Sao Miguel, I hope you find them useful in planning your own trip to the Azores in Portugal!

Looking for more Portugal travel tips? Check out my other travel guides!

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Photo collage of iconic spots in Sao Miguel Island with text overlay saying "10 best things to do in Sao Miguel in the Azores"

About the author

Nicole is a full-time veterinarian and travel junky who writes about adventure travel and reconnecting with the world around her. She hopes her blog will inspire and empower you to get out of your comfort zone and live an authentic life on your own terms. Her writing focuses on nature, wildlife, and exploring cultures around the world, off the beaten path. And it is her wish for herself and for others to strive to leave the world better than how you found it, whether that is through volunteering, ecotourism, or conscious travel. If you are looking for an adventure and a way to connect to something deeper, look no further than Wandering with a Dromomaniac.

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Nicole, author of Wandering with a Dromomaniac

Nicole, author of Wandering with a Dromomaniac