São Miguel is the largest and most visited island in the Portuguese Azores. The island is filled with lush volcanic scenery, marine life, hot springs, and overall a nature lover’s paradise. Now that there are direct flights from the United States and Europe, São Miguel Island is becoming a hot tourist destination. That being said, there is not a lot of information out there regarding the Azores, so it can be difficult to plan. That is why I created this ultimate São Miguel Azores Itinerary to help you plan your perfect trip!
Where are the Azores Located?
The Azores are located about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal. They are a chain of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Want to visit another Azores island? Check out even more of my Azores itineraries!
São Miguel Island Travel Tips
How Many Days to Spend on São Miguel Island
This itinerary is designed to spend a full five days on São Miguel. If you want to see the island in its entirety and really soak up all that São Miguel has to offer, I recommend visiting the island for five to seven full days.
Best time of year to go to the Azores
You can visit and use this ultimate São Miguel Azores itinerary year-round. However, the best time of year to visit the Azores are during the summer months, generally from June to August. Typically the days are warmer and less cloudy with little to no rain, plus the Atlantic Ocean will be warmer and swimmable during these months!
If you are looking to visit during shoulder season to experience fewer tourists and score lower prices, check out early fall from September to October or late spring from April to May.
One thing to note about the Azores is you can experience all the seasons in a single day. It will be pouring rain, cold, and windy, and then the sun comes out and it feels like a hot summer day. You will notice the drastic weather change in the photos I took on my trip. And some photos were even taken minutes apart!
Since the weather can be so drastic, packing can be a challenge. I recommend dressing in layers, bringing a raincoat, and waterproof hiking shoes. Check out my Azores packing guide to help you pack for your trip.
A lot of the sites you will be seeing on São Miguel Island are dependent on clear weather. If it is cloudy you will be unable to down into the craters. Luckily, there are webcams placed throughout the island so you can check the weather before driving to a location.
Where to Stay on São Miguel
The most centralized city is Ponta Delgada. It is the largest city and the capital of the Azores. Ponta Delgada has the most accommodation and restaurant options, plus it is a more lively town. However, if you are looking for a more secluded setting, there are plenty of smaller towns to stay in.
If you choose not to stay in Ponta Delgada, I recommend at least staying in a centralized location to limit the amount of driving you would have to do each day. Or even stay in multiple areas during your time on São Miguel to experience even more places!
Mel’s Travelers Tip: Pick an accommodation that serves breakfast. I found that most restaurants do not open till later in the day, making it difficult to have a hardy meal before a long day of exploring. You do not want to be hangry!
Want to stay in more remote places? Below are my top choices:
- Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, Furnas
- Hotel Moinho das Feteiras
- A Villa by the Sea Bed & Breakfast
- Full List of Top Accommodations on São Miguel Island
Getting around São Miguel
The best way to tour São Miguel is by renting a car. Having the flexibility to do and see what you want when you want and to alter plans due to weather is crucial.
Feel free to browse through Rentalcars.com for plenty of car rental options. You can filter by car type, price, and more to find the perfect rental car for your trip to the Azores.
Book Everything in Advance
I cannot stress this enough – Book EVERYTHING in advance! Flights, hotels, rental cars, hot springs, cave tours, and even popular restaurants. The Azores are not a mass tourism destination and have limited accommodations. Planning and booking ahead are often essential.
The Ulitmate São Miguel Azores Itinerary Map
- Green Pins: Sete Cidades
- Purple Pins: Lagoa do Fogo & Caldeira Velha
- Orange Pins: Furnas
- Blue Pins: Cha Gorreana & Nordeste
- Yellow Pins: Additional things to do
- Brown Pins: Things to do in Ponta Delgada
Please Note: Due to the unpredictability of the weather, do not follow my itinerary to a tee. If the day turns out to be rainy or cloudy, you will want to swap it for a day when the weather won’t impact the activities as much. For example, if you plan to see Sete Ciades, but the clouds cover the view, go to Furnas and soak in the hot springs instead.
Day One – Green Pins: Sete Cidades
One of the best views in all of the Azores is overlooking the lakes of Sete Cidades. This area requires good weather, otherwise, you risk seeing very little. That is why I recommend trying to make this your first stop. That way, if the weather is not in your favor, you can easily try again another day. Of course, check the webcams before going if you are unsure.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
From this viewpoint, you can see stunning views of the Sete Ciades lakes, Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul.
Monte Palace Hotel Ruins
Honestly, one of the best views of the lakes can be found at the Monte Palace abandoned hotel. If you dare go in, you can climb to the top for stellar views.
Lagoa do Canário
This lake is located in a volcanic crater and is surrounded by forests. Park on the side of the street, then follow the signs to Lagoa Do Canario.
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
This is one viewpoint you will never forget, and probably the reason you decided to visit the Azores, to begin with! When we visited, the parking lot was closed, so we kept our car on the side of the street (the same spot as Lagoa do Canario) and walked down the dirt path. The walk takes about 15-20 minutes. Once you are at the end of the dirt road, just head to your left up the stairs, and onto the viewpoint. You won’t miss it!
Enjoy the view and take in all the different lakes.
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
As you drive down towards the lakes, there will be plenty of stopping points. Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras was one of my personal favorites.
Town of Sete Cidades
Enjoy lunch and tour the town of Sete Cidades. You can even rent kayaks to kayak the lake. Make sure to also check out the church of Saint Nicholas. The beautiful tree-lined walkway leading into the entrance is worth a stop.
Ponta da Ferraria
After a long day on your feet, it is time to relax in a geothermal spring in the Atlantic Ocean! Check the tide and try to go 1 to 2 hours before or after low tide so the water is not scalding hot.
This is one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life! It felt so great to be swimming in what felt like a hot tub while being in the ocean.
Day Two – Purple Pins: Lagoa do Fogo & Caldeira Velha
Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa & Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo
Start the day driving up the winding road to Lagoa do Fogo. You will see stunning viewpoints of the lake, again check webcams! If you would like, you can take a 45-minute walk down to the lagoon.
Caldeira Velha is a beautiful hot spring and waterfall preservation center. The park is absolutely breathtaking, make sure you purchase your tickets a few days in advance, especially during the summer season. There are specific time slots and only a limited number of people can be in the park at once. Purchase your tickets in advance here.
Cascata do Salto do Cabrito (Waterfall Hike)
If you are looking for more hiking while in the area, check out Cascata do Salto do Cabrito Hike. This hike is a 4.9-mile loop, but you don’t need to do the entire loop. You can go to the waterfall point and turn around.
Vale das Lombadas
The road to Vale das Lombadas is pretty traitorous. So only go down here if you feel comfortable driving down a tiny, steep road. Once you have arrived, it is absolutely captivating and remote! There is a waterfall close by as well, but we were unable to hike to the waterfall due to the muddy ground and rain.
Lagoa do Congro
Unfortunately, when we traveled to São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo was completely covered in clouds the entire time. So we decided to check out Lagoa do Congro. This lake felt like a hidden gem! There was hardly anyone on the trail or down by the lake. Overall, Lagoa do Congro is a very peaceful setting and an easy hike to do.
Day Three – Orange Pins: Furnas
Furnas is a charming village in the middle of São Miguel Island. There are over thirty geysers and hot springs! You will really feel the volcanic origins of the Azores in this area. I really wish we stayed here for 1 or 2 nights, it is an exquisite area.
If you decide to stay in Furnas for one or two nights, explore my Furnas pre-filtered hotel list.
Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
Pico do Ferro is a viewpoint located in Furnas. You will see an immense view over the volcanic crater of Vale das Furnas, Lagao das Furnas, and the massive valley.
Lagoa das Furnas
After taking in the view from up top, head down to the lake. There are tons of hikes in this area too, if you are not hiked out yet! Visit All Trails for hikes in the Furnas Area.
Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias
The neo-gothic chapel is a small funerary chapel located on the southwestern corner of Lagoa das Furnas.
Caldeiras das Furnas and Fumaroles from Lagoa das Furnas
For only 2 euros per person, you can take a short pathway that takes you around the sulfuric activity and get very close to the gas pockets. Fair warning, you will be blasted with hot steam that smells like sulfur.
The Caldeiras are so well known because locals cook a traditional stew called Cozido inside these geothermal areas. The stew is a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, and vegetables that are cooked for about 6 to 8 hours.
If you would like to try this delicious stew, make reservations in advance at Terra Nostra Garden Restaurant. Your Cozida lunch will also get you a free pass to enter the Parque Terra Nostra.
Parque Terra Nostra
This park is an absolute must! The park is home to a 200-year-old botanical garden that has a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers from all over the world. After you have walked through the park, enjoy the orange-colored geothermal pool, that Parque Terra Nostra is most known for. The pool is about 94 to 104 degrees. It is an orangy color due to the iron-rich minerals in the water.
Mel’s Travelers Tip: Wear a dark-colored and inexpensive swimsuit for soaking in the orange hot spring. The color will easily stain your clothes, skin, and towels. There are showers and changing rooms located near the springs to rinse off and change.
Poça da Dona Beija
Another excellent swimming spot is Poca Dona Beija. This pool is more geared towards relaxation, with a few naturally-hot infinity pools.
Caldeiras das Furnas
Walk to Caldeiras das Furnas on the “beautiful Furnas walk” I have labeled in the google map. You will feel as if you are walking through a fairy tale. You can visit even more Caldeiras and then walk through the town of Furnas.
Day 4 – Blue Pins: Cha Gorreana & Nordeste
Miradouro de Santa Iria
The first stop of the day will be at the viewpoint of Santa Iria. Gorgeous views of the dramatic cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean.
Gorreana Tea Factory
Now it is time to tour the only tea plantation in all of Europe. Gorreana Tea Factory offers a free self-guided tour of the plantation, where you can see all the equipment used, and then taste the tea.
After you finish exploring the inside of the factory, walk across the street to the actual tea plantation fields. The maze of tea plants winds all the way up the hill. This is a beautiful spot for photos.
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões
Welcome to another fairy tale setting! Here you will find lush greenery and waterfalls. There are a few main walking paths that go throughout the park. Relax and soak up all the beauty.
The rest of the stops are all viewpoints and lookouts. They are all unique and captivating in their own way.
Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel
This lookout is of a lighthouse, you can also hike down to the lighthouse.
Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
Stunning lookout point where you can see sweeping Atlantic ocean views from the mountainside gardens.
Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada
My all-time favorite lookout point on São Miguel Island. Walk along the ridge of the cliff and be mesmerized by the view. If you want to see an epic sunrise, head here early in the morning!
Continue the day by driving around the eastern side of São Miguel. There will be so many quaint towns that you will drive through. All the towns are so intriguing, I really enjoyed the feel of this region. It felt more traditional and secluded.
Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz
Drive up the steep road to reach the white chapel. This chapel has panoramic views, but the chapel itself is reached by walking up a beautiful stairway.
Day 6 (Optional) – Yellow Pins Day: Villa Franca do Campo Island
Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo
Located right off the southern coast of São Miguel Island, lies a circular volcanic crater with a natural lagoon in the middle of it. This is a great place to have a beach day and relax by the water, go swimming, or even snorkel.
- The island is only open from June to October.
- Since the island is a protected area, only 200 people are allowed on the island at a time.
- Purchase your tickets online in advance or if the weather is looking clear and you want to purchase the ticket the day of, head to the ticket office.
- More detailed information can be found on their website.
Brown Pins: Things to do in Ponta Delgada
If Ponta Delgada is your home base, then you will be able to work in most of the points of interest during your stay. Or you can carve out an entire day to tour the capital city of the Azores.
São Miguel Azores Itinerary Conclusion
I hope this blog post helps you plan your ultimate São Miguel Azores Itinerary and inspires you to add the Azores to your travel bucket list!
Want to visit other islands in the Azores? Check out my Azores itineraries!
If you need any help planning or have any questions, please comment below or message me on my contact page! I would love to hear about how your trip went as well. What was your favorite day? Tell me in the comments below!