Well, I don’t even know where to begin. Amazing and mind blowing are just not enough to describe the first impression of the Azores… and it gets even better when you start exploring Ilha Verde, the Green Island, as Sao Miguel is called.
!I heard stories about the Azores. Stories glorifying its beauty and idyllic landscapes. Well, I also heard the same stories about the Dominican Republic which turned out to be a disappointment. The Azores were everything but a disappointment. I can’t believe that such a small island can be so incredibly special, so green, sooooo beautiful. Driving through Sao Miguel made you feel like you were driving through a huge park. Presuming people who live there know that, as along the roads are small parking places where you can stop and admire the views. To be frank I was speechless. Luckily there were not many cars on the road as I was catching myself very often to focus on the views instead on the road ahead of me. Well, just have a look yourself.
Never before did I see so many shades of green in one place. And the weather? Afterall, I went to the Azores in December, outside of the high season. Very good. It was around 15 degrees and it was windy, especially at the peaks but when you dress warmly it’s OK. Also, there was rain occasionally, but it lasted like 10/15 min and that’s it. Good thing is that it wasn’t crowded so I could enjoy the views in peace and quiet without facing hordes of people. The owner of the car rental company where I got my car told me that in the main season – June till august the hotels are full, and the viewpoints overcrowded. The be lashed by cold wind sometimes is a very small price to pay to gaze with admiration at the landscape in total blissfulness. At some point I started to wonder, how is it possible that there is so much beauty on such a small island like Sao Miguel. Not sure if that’s because of the Atlantic climate or the vital rain and the wind but most Caribbean Islands I visited can’t measure up with the Azores. I was simply amazed every single day when I was there. Presume now you are waiting for the but… do you huh?! Yes, there are a few, two actually. It’s semi easy to get to as there are no direct flights from most of the European countries, meaning you will have at least one stopover. However! There are direct and not very expensive flights from Lisbon, Porto, and Funchal. Meaning if you plan a holiday in Portugal, account for those extra 4 or 5 days to visit the Azores. The other but is that places are completely closed during public holidays, even McDonalds. It’s not a complaint, it’s an observation. Usually when I was travelling over Christmas restaurants and open. Not all of them but some, so at least you could go and have dinner or buy a bottle of wine. On Sao Miguel on the 24th of Dec all restaurants closed at around 3 pm and on the 25th Dec everything was closed. The only place where you could find something to eat was your fridge if you made provisions or hotel restaurants. On the 26th of Dec life came back to normal as the majority of the businesses were running again. So, if you plan to go to the Azores during Christmas or Easter or other public holidays make sure you buy enough food the day before or make respective reservations at any hotel restaurant in case your hotel doesn’t have one.
As already mentioned, Sao Miguel has lots to offer for such a small island in the middle of the Atlantic. Sure, you can make an itinerary of places you want to visit on the island but generally wherever you go it’s so beautiful that you don’t even need a rigid itinerary at all. However there some jaw dropping and surprising places which are worth the attention.
Would you believe that Sao Miguel has the only tea plantation in Europe. Oh yes, they have a tea plantation. Despite visiting many places in the world, it was the first time I visited a tea plantation. It was different than I imagined. When visiting a tea plantation, I had in mind that the air would smell like freshly brewed tea. It wasn’t like that. Even when I picked a leaf and cursed it in my hand it didn’t smell like tea. Yes dummy, tea leaves need to be dried only then they become their smell and flavour dahhhh. Yeah I sometimes have romantic visions of something. However, it was super cool because it was possible to walk along tea bushes and admire them. Additionally, next to the plantation was a tea shop. You could not only buy tea there but also try the tea they are producing – free of charge. Inside were four big flasks keeping the tea warm and in each flask was a different type of tea. As the tea was free of charge, I thought it was only right to buy some tea in the shop. Hey, how many times can you say that you have tea directly from the tea plantation? I got bergamot tea for my ehem B-Friend, green tea for my friend Joann and that’s the blast, parsley flavoured tea for myself. Yup parsley flavoured tea… and it tastes amazing.
Oh good… yes… double even triple yes. The owner of the guesthouse I was staying at enlightened me that I should try out the thermal baths in Furnas. I knew that Azores is a volcanic island with geothermal waters, but I was a bit sceptical about the thermal baths as I’m more of a sauna person. In Furnas itself you can smell the sulphur in the air and see the boiling water getting out from underneath the surface but the thermal bath… oh my my… nice! In the Terra Nostra park you can not only walk around beautiful green alleys, admire the thermal streams but also dive into the thermal pool which is in the middle of the park. The water is yellow due to the minerals, all those things which do good to your body… in case you want to visit take your oldest bathing suit as the water colours the fabric yellow. Another place I went to was Poca Da Dona Beija. Admission was 8 Euros for 90 min, which you can then extend for another 90 min if you don’t have enough. Man, it was soooo relaxing. I felt very much rejuvenated after visiting the thermal baths. Additionally, the smell of sulphur stuck to my skin and hair, so I smelt like a dragon 😀 Although I took a shower after that at my hotel I didn’t wash my hair… I wanted them to smell like a dragon a bit longer.
Pineapple plantation and all the treats
He what? Pineapple plantation? Indeed! Here we come to the amazing thing Sao Miguel has to offer when it comes to food. There is a pineapple plantation. It’s not huge or something but there are many greenhouses where pineapples grow in different stages of development. You have small baby pineapples and fully grown ready to harvest pineapples. It’s cool to see that. Also, I couldn’t resist myself and had to buy handmade pineapple liquor in the gift shop next to the plantation and pineapple earrings 😀 Also on the island of Sao Miguel is a large population of cows, meaning the milk, butter and cheese tastes divine!!! I couldn’t get enough of the cheese. See for yourself in the pics below. As a bonus, go to the first cake shop you can find and buy whatever… all cakes are delicious.
Peaks and views
You don’t need photo filters here. Doesn’t matter what you photograph, each picture will come out as perfect. Aside from the whole island being amazing there are a couple of places which stand out. One of them is Boca do Inferno – Hell’s Mouth, Lagoa do Fogo, Sete Cidades Lakes, Viewpoint Vista Do Rei, Viewpoint de Santa Iria, Furnas Lake which funny enough looks like a penis I think 😀 (last pic in the gallery). In case you are a fan of making detailed visiting plans for your trips, you can skip that in Sao Miguel. Driving around the island is easy. It’s not very hilly or demanding. There is a small or large parking space – free of charge at each super cool viewpoint. You only need to drive and follow the signs to a viewpoint and admire the astonishing views. Guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
After spending five days in the Azores, presume this is how paradise must look like. Not with sandy white beaches and palm trees but with endless fields/hills of green, excellent cheese washed down with delicious pineapple liquor. Will definitely go back to Sao Miguel for diving as in December it was way too cold for me to jump into the waters of the Atlantic in a wetsuit.
4 thoughts on “Welcome to the Azores”
Breathtaking! It’s like a different world. The terraced hills look especially cool. Thanks for sharing!
All the best from Strasbourg, France
Stephanie and Jerome
Thank you and enjoy Strasbourg 🙂
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What an absolutely beautiful place! The pineapple plants are so cheerful. Not a place I’ve thought to visit but now I’m intrigued. Great post, thanks for sharing!
Neither did I, Azores were never high on my list but after visiting can say it’s one of the best islands I saw… well if you like green 😀