A Perfect 5 Day São Miguel Azores Itinerary
A Perfect 5 Day Sao Miguel Azores Itinerary
Recently there has been more and more buzz about The Azores as the next big travel destination. Its not hard to see why – the landscape, natural beauty, hiking, volcanic activity, hot springs – it has all of that and much, much more. Coupled with the fact that it is now getting easier to travel to with direct flights from throughout Europe and a few cities in the US and Canada, no wonder it has been called the next travel hot spot.
When I was planning my trip to the Azores, I found that there was not so much information out there to help prepare me for my trip and answer some questions I had. I am hoping that this 5 day Sao Miguel itinerary, coupled with all the other useful Azores travel guides I have up on the site can help all future visitors better plan their trip to these incredible islands.
Now if you did not know already, the Azores are a group of 9 islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 900 miles off the coast of Portugal. Sao Miguel is the largest (both in size and population) and is also the most visited out of the bunch. While this itinerary will focus just on Sao Miguel, that does not mean you should ignore the other 8 islands out there. Spending 5 days on Sao Miguel and then heading to another island for a few days is a great way to spend a week or more exploring the Azores.
» Helpful Azores Travel Tips
Before jumping into the itinerary itself, here are some important tips that will get you ready for the trip to Sao Miguel and this itinerary in particular:
♦ This itinerary can be done year-round – with that said though, going during the summer months (June to September) will give you the best chance of good weather. The Azores see a very unpredictable climate on a day to day basis and this is seen even more so as you get farther away from the summer months. A summer trip is your best bet to not have poor weather impact your hikes, views, and activities.
♦ Due to the unpredictability in weather, you do not need to follow the itinerary to the tee. If its rainy and/or very cloudy on a day you are supposed to take in some views, then maybe swap it with a day when weather would not impact the activities as much. This way you will still be able to complete all the attractions and not be poorly affected by weather.
♦ Sao Miguel has plenty of activities to do from east to west and north to south. Because of this I highly recommend renting a car for this itinerary. While you can get by in Sao Miguel using their bus system, you will not be able to complete this itinerary in 5 days without a car. Having the flexibility to do what you want when you want and alter course if need be, can only be done if you rent a car.
♦ While I would recommend staying in Ponta Delgada as it has the most accommodation and restaurant options, there are plenty of small towns around the island that might be more relaxing. If not staying in Ponta Delgada, I would just recommend to stay more central then further out by the far east or west coasts as you will then be adding a lot of additional driving each day. I will touch on some hotel options later on in the itinerary.
♦ There are 4 different potential hiking opportunities to take part of in this itinerary. You can take part of none or can part of all. Just note if you do want to complete the hiking portion of the day, you will want to set aside enough time to complete each one. This could mean earlier starts or later finishes to the day.
♦ This itinerary assumes 5 full days in Sao Miguel. So that means day 1 is a full day – either getting in the previous afternoon/evening or arriving early on day 1. Same goes for day 5 – either leaving later in the evening or on day 6.
Take a look at some Azores guide books to better prep you for your trip:
♦ Scroll through these 5 helpful Azores travel guides to get you better prepared for your trip. These include weather, flights, ferries, car rentals, and a bunch of helpful tips
» Activities and Attractions by Day
Below is a view of the 5 day Sao Miguel Azores itinerary by day. It lists out each attraction and activity you will be able to take part of throughout your trip.
» Sao Miguel Visual View
The map shown below shows the 5 day Sao Miguel Azores itinerary and the attractions that you get to visit throughout. Each set of colored pins represents a different day of the itinerary, and throughout the rest of the guide I will break out the map in more detail.
♦ Day 1 – Lagoa do Fogo & Caldeira Velha
♦ Day 2 – Sete Cidades
♦ Day 3 – Cha Gorreana & Nordeste
♦ Day 4 – Furnas
♦ Day 5 – Sao Miguel Options
I have also highlighted the hiking options along the way along with starring Ponta Delgada in black to give you a sense of where the main city is in relation to the island.
Detailed 5 Day Sao Miguel Azores Itinerary
Below you will find a detailed guide for what exactly you will be doing on a day to day basis. I have added in a map for each day and you should easily be able to follow along with what attractions you will be able to see. Remember – this itinerary does not need to be done in this particular order. Feel free to move things around based on weather and personal preference.
» Day 1 – Lagoa do Fogo & Caldeira Velha
Your first day in the Azores will take you to one of the most beautiful lagoons on the entire island of Sao Miguel – Lagoa do Fogo. You will also have the opportunity to take part of either a 45 minute or 3-4 hour hike to the bottom of the lagoon, and end your day at the natural hot springs of Caldeira Velha.
The reason I have Lagoa do Fogo on day 1, is that it is one of the highest points on the island. Due to this, the clouds/fog constantly hover right above the lagoon and ultimately ruin any potential view to be had. The earlier in the trip you plan to go there, the more opportunities who will have to take in the view in case day 1 weather is not looking good. So as mentioned earlier – just because this says day 1 does not mean you will actually be going there day 1 if the weather is not cooperating.
1) Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa
2) Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo
3) Lagoa do Fogo
4) Caldeira Velha
Hiking Option: Praia – Lagoa do Fogo
Viewpoints of Lagoa do Fogo
You can start the day by driving up the winding road to Lagoa do Fogo and stop at two different viewpoints along the way – the first being Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and the second Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo.
Lagoa do Fogo
At the second viewpoint of Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo, you will have the opportunity to take a 30-45 minute walk down to the beach of the lagoon and take in the view from down below. If you are not interested in walking no worries at all as you can just take your time enjoying the views from up top.
Note: this view is from the opposite side of the lake, at the end of the longer hike mentioned in a bit. I just wanted to put in a picture here so you can get an idea of what to expect.
May to September: 9:00AM – 9:00PM
April & October: 9:00AM – 8:00PM
November to March: 9:30AM – 5:30PM
Price: 8 Euro (Full ticket to thermal pools & center)
Next up are some natural hot springs of Caldeira Velha. Continue the drive up north on the winding road and you will soon arrive at these thermal pools. While the pools themselves are man made, the hot water is coming from the thermal activity underground. There are three different pools as you make your way inside, all around 38C / 100F. Further up the path you will find a natural waterfall pool that is cooler at 27C / 80F but still a great place to enjoy.
I will mention this throughout the article but do not bring your best bathing suit and towel to the hot springs of the Azores. The water does tend to have a strong smell and it can stain your clothing. Once finished at the thermal pools, you can take a quick shower and be on your way.
Lagoa do Fogo Hiking Opportunity
Now I did mention you can take part of a 3-4 hour hike as well to the bottom of Lagoa do Fogo. This hike – Praia to Lagoa do Fogo – was one of my favorites on the island. If this is something you are interested in, you should do this first thing, followed by the viewpoints of the lagoon from up top, and finishing the day at Caldeira Velha.
The hike is a back and forth hike on the same trail – 1.5/2 hours to the lagoon, and around the same amount of time back to the starting point. On the map you can see a purple hiking pin, which is the start of the hike. You simply follow the path up north to the lagoon, hang out by the beach, and then turn around and head back on the same path back to the parking lot. Once you are finished with the hike you can drive to the viewpoints and continue your day.
» Take a look at the Lagoa do Fogo Hiking Guide for more details about the trail
If you do not take part of the longer hike mentioned, then you might have some extra time depending on when you started your day and how tired you are from traveling. Some options to fill up your time could include checking out the Salto do Cabrito waterfall or wandering around the town of Ribeira Grande. You can also just head back and walk around Ponta Delgada to enjoy the beautiful streets and squares that this town has to offer.
» Day 2 – Sete Cidades
After a day of checking out the middle of the island, it is time to go to the western end. Here you will find arguably the best view in all the Azores overlooking the lakes of Sete Cidades, take part of a potential hike, and swim in a natural hot spring in the ocean.
Before heading out in the morning I would check the Azores webcams of Sete Cidades to make sure the view is clear. As mentioned previously the clouds can come and go as the day goes on, so just if the webcam is not looking good initially does not mean it will stay that way.
1) Miradouro da Vista do Rei
2) Monte Palace Abandoned Hotel
3) Lagoa Do Canario
4) Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
5) Town of Sete Cidades
Hiking Option: Mata do Canario – Sete Cidades
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
First up in the day is the Miradouro da Vista do Rei. This will be the first of two viewpoints that you will be visiting. Here you will see the view of the Sete Cidades lakes of Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. Depending on cloud/sun coverage for the day, you will really be able to see the color differential of the two lakes – one being green and one blue in color.
Monte Palace Abandoned Hotel
Right across the street from the viewpoint you will see the Monte Palace abandoned hotel. Just recently this property has actually been purchased and construction will start soon to renovate the entire space. For now, you will see a bunch of do not enter signs all around the outside of the hotel. Depending if construction has actually started yet when you get there, it is quite easy to make your way around the front gate (but at your own risk!).
Lagoa Do Canario
Once you are done at the viewpoint and hotel (if you were able to make it in), hop back into the car and head to the Lagoa Do Canario. As you are approaching the lagoon, you will see a bunch of parking spots to your right (either in the small lot or on the side of the street). Once parked, you can hop out of the car and make the short walk down the dirt path (on the left hand side of the street) to see this beautiful lagoon. From the start of the dirt road, it is only about a 5 minute walk to get to the lagoon.
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
It is now time for the views of all views and what initially got me so excited to go to the Azores in the first place. The Miradouro da Boca do Inferno is one viewpoint you will never forget. The viewpoint can be accessed by either continuing to walk another 15 minutes down the dirt road (from Lagoa do Canario) or you can head back to your car and then drive back down the dirt road until the very end and park there. I would recommend driving down as the alternative does add an additional 30 minutes of walking round trip.
Once you are at the end of the dirt road, just head to your left up the stairs and onto the viewpoint. Hopefully for you it is not too crowded up there and you are able to really enjoy the view and take in all the different lakes / lagoons. Believe me it will not disappoint.
Mata do Canario – Sete Cidades Hiking Opportunity
For those hikers out there, Sete Cidades offers one incredible hiking option to take part of. The hike starts in a small parking lot not too far from the Lagoa do Canario / Boca do Inferno dirt road (pinned on the map above). From this parking lot you will get to walk nearly the entire crater edge of the Sete Cidades lakes and take in some spectacular views from all different angles. The hike eventually ends in the town of Sete Cidades, where you can relax, eat, and enjoy the lakeside.The hike is on the longer side around 4 hours long. If you do opt for the hike, it could be a good idea to bring lunch with you depending on what time you start the day.
The Mata do Canario – Sete Cidades Hiking Guide will go into more detail on all you need to know
Town of Sete Cidades
As mentioned, if you take part of the hike, you will end up in Sete Cidades. However if you did not opt for the hike, after you finish up Miradouro do Boca da Inferno, drive down to the small lakeside town. Grab some lunch at one of the few options you have there and then make your way to lake where you can swim, hang out, or even rent some kayaks to take out on the lake.
Ponta da Ferraria
It is now time to head over to the ocean on the western side of the island. Here you will find Ponta da Ferraria. A natural hot spring found in the ocean itself. The thing is, this spot in the ocean only gets warm around the hours of low tide. If you go closer to high tide you will probably not feel much heat at all (maybe just a bit with your feet). Going 1-2 hours before or after low tide though and it will be like you are in a hot tub. I was told that going directly at low tide is not the best idea as it is too hot to even enter.
It might be difficult to line everything up perfectly in the day but check the tide schedule before you head out for the day so you know what times to aim for.
Check out the latest deals for hotels in Sao Miguel:
» Day 3 – Cha Gorreana & Nordeste
Your third day in the Azores will take you all along the northern and eastern coasts of the island. It will be filled with a stop at a tea plantation, a natural park, and plenty of viewpoints (miradouros) alongside Nordeste.
1) Miradouro de Santa Iria
2) Gorreana Tea Factory
3) Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
4) Nordeste Viewpoints
♦ Miradouro da Despe-te Que Suas
♦ Miradouro of the Farol de Arnel Lighthouse
♦ Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
♦ Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada
Hiking Option: Cha Gorreana
Miradouro de Santa Iria
The first stop of the day will be at the Santa Iria viewpoint. Enjoy the shots of the water alongside the dramatic cliffs and scenery out in the distance.
Gorreana Tea Factory
Once finished up taking in some views, head over the Gorreana Tea Factory – the one and only tea plantation in all of Europe. In the main building of the factory you can walk through the different rooms filled with tea making equipment, take part of a free tea tasting (both hot and iced), and finish up at the souvenir shop to bring home some tea for yourself.
What I would also recommend doing here is walk across the street to the actual tea plantation fields. There is also a hike in the plantation (about 1.5-2 hours), however if you do not want to take part you can still walk through the beginning parts of the fields to see how tea is grown and take some nice pictures. Simply make your way back through the main driveway, cross the street, and follow the dirt path up the fields.
Learn more by reading the Cha Gorreana Hiking Guide
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
Moving along the northern coast is Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões. Here you will find plenty of greenery, waterfalls, and wildlife sprawled throughout the area. There are a few main walking paths that wind their way around the park, and you can just take some time enjoying the scenery around you.
To finish up the day you can just continue the drive along the northern and eastern coasts and stop at some viewpoints along the way. Below in order are 4 different miradouros. You can decide to stop at one or you can decide to stop at all 4 – it is up to you.
1) Miradouro da Despe-te Que Suas
2) Miradouro of the Farol de Arnel Lighthouse
3) Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
4) Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada
Not only will you take in some beautiful viewpoints but the drive itself is incredible as you drive along the coast, passing by small towns, and in and out of greenery. Once you are done for the day, you can either turn around or continue the drive clockwise around the island.
Take a look at some Azores guide books to better prep you for your trip:
» Day 4 – Furnas
Day 4 in Sao Miguel will take you around the town of Furnas, where there is plenty of geothermal activity to be seen and hot springs to relax in. It should also be of note – if you have a bad weather day during your time in Sao Miguel (say on day 1,2 or 3 for example), you can do these activities instead. For the most part they do not require great weather and can be enjoyed either way.
1) Lagoa do Congro
2) Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
3) Caldeiras Vulcânicas
4) Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas
5) Cozido Lunchtime!
6) Parque Terra Nostra
7) Poca Da Dona Beija
Lagoa do Congro
Before heading to Furnas, you can stop by along the way at one of the smaller and less visited lakes on the island – Lagoa do Congro. From the parking lot it is a short 10-15 minute walk through the lush forest to reach the bottom of the lake. The greenery coupled with the sun hitting the lake makes it have this incredible green color.
Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
You can now continue to the drive to Furnas and take part of a bunch of different attractions around the area. First up is the Miradouro do Pico do Ferro viewpoint. Here you will get to take in the view of Lagoa das Furnas as well as the whole city of Furnas down below. You will be able to spot out a couple of the geothermal areas in the distance with their sulfuric gasses rising up from the ground.
After taking in the view from up top it is time to head to one of those geothermal areas – Caldeiras Vulcânicas. You will be able to see (and smell!) up close some of the geothermal activity. There are several pockets of gas all around the area.
Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas
Note that the cost here is 2 Euro per person.
You can then make your way to the second geothermal area down by Lagoa das Furnas. You will find a short pathway that takes you around the sulfuric activity as you can get right up close to some of these gas pockets. Be careful if its windy though as the gas can head right in your direction and believe me it does not smell great!
If you are there are the right time, you might see local restaurant workers picking up or dropping off Cozido (a local stew) into the ground. That’s right, they cook their meals inside these geothermal areas! Cozido is a mixture of beef, chicken, pig, vegetables and more mixed into a stew. For about 6-8 hours, they leave the Cozido in the ground and pick it up before lunch or dinner time to serve to their restaurant guests.
Now that you got to see how Cozido is made, it is time to try some for yourself. There are plenty of restaurants around Furnas that will be serving the dish, so pick out one that fits your budget and appetite and go for it. It really is a once in a lifetime type meal. I mean, when can you say that your meal was cooked underground.
Since this was a very unique experience, my friends and I decided to head to the #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor – Terra Nostra Garden Restaurant. Now although it was probably the most expensive and fancy option, it actually worked out pretty well economically for us. The Cozido here is 24 Euro per person / 40 Euro for 2 people. Now when you order the Cozido, you will also get a free pass to enter the Parque Terra Nostra and its massive hot spring pool – a savings of 8 Euro. So, at the end of the day, lunch + the park will come out to ~20 Euro per person.
Parque Terra Nostra
Entrance Fee: 8 Euro
Opening Hours: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
If you decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant and order Cozido, then you will get to enter free of charge. If coming from another restaurant, just head on over to the entrance to pay the fee and enter the park. Parque Terra Nostra is filled with different walking paths throughout, alongside flowers, greenery, ponds, and more. Front and center of it all is the large orange geothermal pool that you can relax in.
Note that the pool’s orange color can stain your clothes. So bring along a cheaper bathing suit and towel option when heading in. Also make sure to wash up real good at day’s end as the water can stick around on your skin if you don’t give it a good scrub.
Poca Da Dona Beija
Entrance Fee: 6 Euro
Towels: 2 Euro plus deposit / Locker & Quick Shower: 1 Euro each
Opening Hours: 7:00AM – 11:00PM; Last Admission 10:30PM
Time for thermal pool number 2 of the day at Poca Da Dona Beija. Here you will find several different thermal pools along either side of a small river. The pools vary slightly in temperature but are somewhere around 100F / 38C, with one pool at a cooler 82F / 28C. The great thing about this place is that it does close pretty late at night. If you got a late start to the day or if you are staying in Furnas, heading to Poca Da Dona Beija in the evening time could be a great experience as well.
Once you are finished up in Furnas don’t forget to take a nice long shower at the end of the day!
» Day 5 – Sao Miguel Options
For your last day on Sao Miguel, I wanted to list out a few different options to take part of depending on what type of activities you are interested in. Mostly likely you will be able to do ~2 of them, but just wanted to give you some ideas:
1) Complete Missed Attractions Day 1-4
2) Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
3) Faial da Terra to Salto do Prego Hike
4) Whale & Dolphin Watching
5) Beach Day
1) Missed Attractions
Your first option here though would be to look back at the previous 4 days and head to any attractions that you were not able to take part of because of poor weather. So if you really wanted to see Lagoa do Fogo and the clouds were blocking the view, maybe your last day will give you better luck. Now if you were able to complete everything you wanted to here are four different options for you:
2) Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
Right off the southern coast of Sao Miguel you will find a circular volcanic crater with a natural lagoon in the middle of it. You can spend some time relaxing by the water and swimming in the water. Grab some snorkel gear in town to take in the beautiful fish throughout the crater. This is also the spot of the Red Bull Cliff Diving competition, which has taken place there for several years now.
There are some important things to take into consideration before heading over there though:
♦ Bathing season on the island is from June to October. If you are not there during those times you will not be able to get to visit the island. Check the website for the latest dates
♦ To get there you must take a boat from Vila Franca do Campo, and since it is a protected area, only 400 people are allowed to purchase tickets each day and only 200 are allowed on the island at one time
♦ The ticket office opens at 9:45 and you can only purchase tickets the day of. 300 of the 400 tickets per day are available at the ticket office. The other 100 can be purchased on their website
♦ If the weather is looking good and you want to visit the islet, arrive early as the lines can get long and tickets can sell out, especially on sunny days
♦ Full schedule of boats can be found here with the first one leaving at 10:00AM and the last one returning at 6:10PM (although during busy times there may be more boats going back and forth).
3) Faial da Terra to Salto do Prego Hike
There is a hike from Faial da Terra to Salto do Prego that is considered one of the better trails on the island. This circular hike goes through the forest and greenery before arriving at a waterfall, where you can jump in and cool down. It is a great option as well if weather is not looking its best as it is not a “view” type of hike. It is a 4.5km trail and should take about 2 hours to complete. The starting point is located all the way of the eastern side of the island and can take 75 minutes or so to get there from Ponta Delgada.
4) Whale & Dolphin Watching
The third option is to take part of some whale and dolphin watching off the coast of Sao Miguel. The area is known for the vast amount of whale species that pass through its waters at different times of year. You can sign up for some tours that start in Vila Franca do Campo (right near where you would go to the Islet) or straight from Ponta Delgada if it is easier for you. Feel free to browse through some highly rated companies if interested in taking part. Many of the tours will last anywhere from 3-5 hours and cost ~50-60 Euro depending on company.
5) Beach Day
Lastly you can decide to have a beach day in Sao Miguel. While not known for its beaches there are some nice ones around the island, one of which is Agua d’Alto. Although I did not visit myself I did take in the view from up top and it seemed nice and relaxing down below. So if you want some relaxing time you can definitely spend some time lounging at the beach.
All four of these options are not too far away from each other (the hike being a bit further east & whale watching is available in Ponta Delgada too). So if you want to finish up your time in Sao Miguel with one or more of these options, you really cannot go wrong.
» Where to Stay on Sao Miguel
Sao Miguel has many different areas to stay throughout the island. You can decide to make one town your home base or even split up your trip into two. As mentioned at the beginning of the itinerary, the main town of Sao Miguel will be Ponta Delgada. Here you will find the most accommodation and restaurant options compared to the rest of the island. Another option is staying in Furnas (day 4), which is home to the natural hot springs and geothermal activity. Of course there are more small towns that are sprawled throughout so if you want something quieter and more low key, there will be an option for you.
There are two main ways to go here – either browse through Booking.com to find the best hotel that fits your budget and style or check out Airbnb which might have more options.
That about does it for the 5 days Sao Miguel Azores itinerary. If you have any questions about anything mentioned above or the Azores in general write them in below. Also feel free to check out the other Azores itineraries and guides I have up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!