Whilst looking for an off the grid, no-filter-needed, nature-tastic adventure, we struck gold when we decided to take a holiday in the Azores.
The cluster of nine volcanic islands slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic ocean felt sufficiently off the beaten track, and promised the perfect combination of clean air, stunning scenery and fresh, delicious produce. Our only mistake? Not staying longer. Here’s how to spend a perfect three day trip on the island of São Miguel.
Day One: Scoping out São Miguel
You’ll fly into Ponta Delgada, but the rest of the island is so quick and easy to access, it is better to book your accommodation in a more remote location. If you fancy a quick pitstop before heading out, don’t miss the curiously quaint Louvre Michaelenese.
Once an old-fashioned haberdashery, now a cute cafe and gift shop, the New York Times recently described it as “something out of a British children’s book“. It was the perfect place to sample my first glass of local wine and watch the world go by.
We then set off for São Vicente, where we had booked to stay in what turned out to be the most peaceful and picturesque guest house I’ve ever stayed in (and that includes glamping on an Indonesian island). Not only did we have a cozy cabin to ourselves, but the sun-drenched garden was bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables that we were encouraged to forage for our breakfast! Bananas, strawberries, spinach and lemongrass – even fresh eggs from the chicken coop. Winning.
For dinner we headed to Mariserra, to tuck into seriously fresh seafood. Think Cervejaria Ramiro, with a sea view. Yes please.
Day Two: Stunning Views & Thermal Pools
On our second day we set off early for Sete Cidades, where you can see the picture perfect lake that is half blue, half green. Legend has it the lake was formed when a Princess and a shepherd who were forbidden from being together cried pools of tears; her eyes were blue, his were green. Or it could have something to do with you know, nature.
However it was formed, this vantage point is guaranteed to take your breath away. Head for the Miradouro de Vista do Rei to get the best view. We spent a good hour simply gazing at the scenery that was almost mystical in its majesty.
Top tip: Before you head out to the various lookout points around the Azores, you can check how good the visibility at SpotAzores.com That way you’ll know if the pesky clouds are in the way.
After polishing off a burger from the conveniently located Komaki Burger Van (all that staring gives you an appetite OK?) we made our way to Poça da Dona Beija in Furnas, for a dip in the famous thermal pools.
Decked out like a tropical paradise, Dona Beija has seven pools of varying temperatures, mostly around 37 degrees. It’s like melting into a steaming hot bath under the sky.
Top tip: This is the ideal activity when the clouds come in.
Day Three: Watching for Whales
No trip to the Azores is complete without a whale watching experience. The massive mammals can be spotted around the archipelago during most of the year. We booked a three hour tour with Futurismo (€55 per person) and were not disappointed!
After nearly two hours of chasing a whale we knew was just ahead of us, he decided and make an appearance above the water so we could all whoop, clap and snap pictures as he sprayed water in the air and lolloped back down below.
Two cheeky dolphins then raced the boat back – getting so close we could almost touch them. Blue Planet, eat your heart out.
Our final stop (yes it was about now we wished we were staying another week) was Parque Nostra Terra. A two hundred year old garden which a huge thermal bath in the centre, it was the perfect place to end an incredible getaway.
For a first visit, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. There is so much more to see and do, we could have easily stayed several days more on São Miguel alone. With eight other islands to explore, we’ve decided a trip to the Azores should be annual, at least.