Having been invited by expat friends living in Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island to come for a holiday, I decided this was one invitation not to miss. Packing my bags, and booking my ticket, I took off on the two-hour flight with SATA, the Azorean airline that operates daily between Lisbon and Ponta Delgada. You can pick up a rental car at Ponta Delgada Airport.
A group of nine dormant volcanic islands make up the Azores, a province of Portugal, set in the Atlantic Ocean midway between the United States and Portugal. The landscape of the Azores is extremely beautiful, and Sao Miguel Island, the largest and busiest is commonly called “the green island”.
The capital city
Ponta Delgada the capital and the seat of the regional government, are full of very old buildings and narrow cobbled streets. A central square dominates the shopping and commercial area, with a panoramic view of the marina, with its spectacle of yachts varying in size and flying the flags of various countries.
Travelling between the scattered villages used to take days of travel, but now there is a modern tarred road system for touring and sightseeing the island with ease.
Things to see and do on Sao Miguel Island
With a climate ranging from about 14º to 26º Fahrenheit, you can visit this area throughout the year. However, there are also times when there is significant humidity, but a visit to the beach provides welcome relief for those unused to this type of atmosphere.
The sand on the beaches is volcanic and its dark clammy texture may seem strange when you lie down to relax and enjoy the sun. Nevertheless, the beaches of Agua d’Alto, Ribeira Quente and Pôpulo are all immensely popular with local beach enthusiasts.
There is beautiful scenery throughout Sao Miguel island, with a particularly spectacular sight being the ‘twin lakes’ in Sete Cidades. One of these large lakes formed from the volcanic craters of unknown depth, is blue while the other is green. The view of the lakes from the lookout point of Vista do Rei is magnificently surreal.
The Lagoon of Fire
Lagoa do Fogo or the Lagoon of Fire in the Furnas Valley, is an area where the vegetation is very green and lush with many hot spring geysers. The people living in this part of the island bake their evening meal by burying in a heavy pot into the hot ground. Contained in a muslin pouch, the stew they call cozido under its covering of earth, is left for about four to five hours to cook and then removed and taken home ready to eat. Bolos Lěvedos, special sweet Portuguese bread, is also baked in this way.
Produce grown on the island
The farmers in the regions of Fajã de Baixo, Villa Franca do Campo and Lagoa, grow pineapples and passion fruit for local use and exporting. There are also thriving tea plantations to be seen, adding to the beautiful greenery of Sao Miguel island.
The islanders make the utmost of celebrating their Saints Days, with brass bands pounding, combined with church ceremonies, street parties and endless bouts of fireworks displays throughout the day and night. For New Year, the fireworks displays are even greater.
The local specialties, to be enjoyed in the lively atmospheres of restaurants are dishes such as fresh mackerel with Vilāo Sauce, and boiled barnacles. Mashed red peppers served with cheese and Peri-Peri chicken is popular as is the local ‘tea pudding.’ Bolo Lěvedos from Furnas is served as accompaniment with all dishes.
This was a different and amazing experience and one to be remembered and if possible, repeated!