Nine inhabited islands form the Azores archipelago. Sao Miguel is the main one, the entry point for majority of visitors. Ponta Delgada international airport is located here. It would be a shame not to visit some of the other ones. It is true that Sao Miguel is the most turistic of all of the islands, but it does offer some great perks, too. Hot springs, mineral springs, hiking, majestic views, beautiful roads, typical towns, ocean wildlife,… In this post, I will talk about some of the towns and villages, in the next one, I’ll show you some of the natural wonders. Did you know we grow tea and pineapples in Europe?
Ponta Delgada is mainly an administrative center. The city center is small and basically comprises of the main square with church, few pedestrian streets with shops and the waterfront.
There are also beautiful gardens and parks, out of which I can recommend the Jardím António Borges. It is a botanical garden but made as a park, with free entrance, a café and a playground for kids. There is a big parking place next to it, good to leave your car and visit the city on foot.
The cruise ship dock pier offers quite a lot things to do. There are several restaurants, out of which we can recommend the Stage restaurant for lunch menu or the Yarsagumba indian restaurant. There is also a very nice swimming place, well protected from big waves. We went there several times to cool down a bit.
Whalewatching tours depart from this pier, too. We have chosen the Moby Dick family operated company and we were very satisfied. We have spent three hours on the sea, have seen several whales and many playful dolphins, complemented by interesting stories and information from the crew.
At the outskirts of Ponta Delgada, there is a regular looking house with a big gate. That gate opens into quite a big space filled with greenhouses full of pineapples. Each greenhouse has pineapples in different stage of growing and most of them are open for visitors to have a look for free. Did you know that each plant produces exactly one fruit, which takes 2 years to grow? The place is called A. Arruda pineapple plantation and is family-run for more than 100 years. In the shop, you can taste their pineapple liquor made according to old family recipe.
We stayed at San Antonio village at the north of the island. There is a former whaling port with natural pool and very nice picnic park with a small playground. We went on an oceanside trail run, which starts behind the port. It is marked PR17SMI. It goes up and down, is well maintained and features beautiful views and a few places from the whaling era, marked by a signpost with short explanation. It runs over a few small waterfalls, through a rocky beach and ends by a viewpoint.
Sete Cidades is a little town at the west of the island, surounded by 2 lakes. It is nice to spend some time by the lake, just taking in the scenery. As for refreshment, we definitely reccomend the Casa de Chá O Poejo. Seating in a beautiful garden, local tea combined with local white cheese and jam is a perfect treat. After that, take the road over the lake and head up for a ride with spectacular views over half of the island.
Ribeira Grande, north of Ponta Delgada, is a town with beautiful church build from lava stones and a market where locals go for food.
Supposedly the only tea plantation in Europe, Cha Gorreana is an interesting place to see. The leaves are hand-picked and also a big part of the manufacturing process is done by hand. For a small fee you can have a look in the factory, see some old machines and get an explanation of the process then and now. It is also possible to walk between the tea bushes for free, and if lucky, get a look at the picking. There is a tea shop where you can taste their basic black and green tea for free and buy some other refreshments, as well as the whole portfolio of Gorreana tea.