July 18, 2019

São Miguel (Azores Part #1)

This year we spent two weeks on the Azores, which is a lesser known group of nine islands in the Atlantic ocean about 1.500 km west of Portugal.

A quite nice thing about the Azores is that the islands are not very touristic. Yet. There are no tourist buses, no cruise ships that spit hoards of retired people into the cities and no spots that are absolutely overrun. When you stand on Marcus square in Venice, you probably see more tourists than you will see when you travel the Azores for two weeks in sum. So everything is quite slow and relaxed. We really enjoyed this trip.

Our trip started on São Miguel, which is the biggest of the Azorian islands, about as big as Madeira. We spent five nights there and I would say that this is a good amount of time. However, I would not recommend that you spend much more time there as it is quite nice to “hop” to the other islands.

If you have two weeks, you can easily squeeze four islands into your trip as we did. We visited São Miguel, Faial, Pico and Terceira.

But first things first: São Miguel

Day 1

You need quite a lot of time to reach the islands from Germany. From Munich there is only a stop over flight via Lisbon and the stop over takes dreadful four hours. So despite starting in Munich at 6am, we couldn't do much on day 1 as we arrived with a bit of delay around 3pm at the airport. So we only walked a bit around the town where our first BnB was located.

🌍 Picture location – Coast near the town of Maia.

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Day 2

At day two we first visited the town of Ponta Delgada, which is the “capitol” of the island and quite nice.

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Next, we followed the south/west coast and went to the Sete Cidades area where you can find a couple of volcanic lakes, i.e. craters that are now filled with water. I guess the view from the “miradouro” down to the lakes was the first highlight of this tour.

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You can also walk around the lakes, which we didn't completely do.

🌍 Picture location - Yes, that thing came out of the lake and was crawling around.

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… some more photos from the north/west coast area.

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Day 3

The next highlight of the tour was a half day whale watching trip. I went whale watching on Madeira a couple of years before and I think I would not have booked this activity as I am not tooooo sure about it, i.e., do the boats disturb the whales?

However, the agency that organized the trip for us has this activity included in their package and so we went whale watching. And it was a blast. And I can only recommend you to do such a trip.

They are using quite small boats which can be pretty fast and the skipper always kept a lot of distance to the animals. So I thought this was quite respectful and maybe even helps people to realize how much life there is in the ocean and that we should take care of it…

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🌍 Picture location - Sperm whale

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🌍 Picture location - Sperm whale. And yes I know, this one looks quite odd.

🌍 Picture location - Duuuuuuuude!

🌍 Picture location - Bottlenose dolphin

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Later that day we were at the Furnas area, which is known for a big volcanic lake and hot springs. In said hot springs (some only produce hot steam), some restaurants are cooking some kind of stew in holes dug into the ground.

🌍 Picture location - View to the town of Furnas

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🌍 Picture location - Hot springs near lake Furnas

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🌍 Picture location - Cheap cooking energy

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Finally, we visited the only tea plantation we have in Europe.

🌍 Picture location - Tea plantation and factory

🌍 Picture location - Tea plantation

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Day 4

At the morning of day 4 we finally learned that the weather on the Azores is not always as stable as it was in the last days. Low hanging clouds can build up incredibly quick and change the weather in 10 minutes from sun to fog. And sometimes – not always – the fog is filled with super much humidity and it starts to drizzle heavily…

However, we were still able to do a nice trip to the north east coast …

🌍 Picture location – Ponta do Arnel

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… and (again) to Furnas. This time, however, we were in the city center which also has hot springs. If you like, there is a bathing establishment which a lot of people seem to go to. This was actually the only place which was totally overcrowded that we came across. For that reason we did not go.

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Day 5

Day 5 finally was a bit sporty. We hiked up to the Lagoa do Fogo and took a dip in the sea.

Some general words about hiking on the Azores: Although I thought that the Azores are a super great hiking hot spot, I was surprised that hiking isn't sooooo super great there. The reason is of cause not the landscape but the trails:

Let me take today's trail as an example, which can be found in a Rother Wanderführer and also online including the GPS track. I guess the title was “Dream Tour to Lagoa do Fogo” or so, if you want to search for it. In this case it was quite difficult to follow the path as the markings were not that good. So we stood in the woods twice and actually saw on the GPS that we were a bit wrong but we had no idea where the failure was and how to get to the path… Well, survival is everything.

Other hiking trails we used later were easier to find. However, we noticed that a lot of trails use – at least in parts – public roads. The good thing is that there is not much traffic on said roads but I simply prefer not to walk on/near roads as I can do that at home when I take a tour through my city.

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Later that day we went swimming in the sea. If you see one of these things (below), back off. This is called an Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war or Floating Terror and it is highly toxic.

This specimen was washed to the exact spot of beach where I left the water only a couple of minutes later… From what I know, these things are quite common on the Azores, as I have seen 10 or 15 specimen from the whale watching boat.

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Links

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