30 Jan Sao Miguel is Heavenly Shelter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean
There is a word in Portuguese language which, they say, can’t be translated – saudade. The word describes deep emotional state similar to nostalgia, i.e. type of melancholia which appears in situation when you feel the love after someone is gone. At the same time saudade brings feelings, happiness and sadness at once. Sadness from missing something loved and happiness for having experienced the love. Azores insensibly get under your skin. You keep the spark of your long distance relationship through pictures. Sao Miguel Island encourages you to let go all the unnecessary feelings, and enjoy in spectacular landscapes, smells and flavors on every step you make. Mystical lagoons, blue volcanic lakes surrounded with woods, pineapple plantations and the only tea plantations in Europe together with dolphins, whales, thermal waters and geysers makes excited all who decide to reveal the islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
Where are Azores
Our decision for visiting Azores came completely spontaneous. We were looking for a relatively close destination with mild climate during our summer months. Destination where we can enjoy in nature beauty with the emphasis on woods, hills and lakes. The research had brought us to Azores who perfectly fitted to our seventeen day Portugal trip. Before we decided Sao Miguel will be part of our itinerary, I didn’t think at all about this island. As more as I discovered, I couldn’t stop, and I was more and more excited knowing we’ll spend one part of our holiday on the green volcanic island in the middle of Atlantic.
Azores are archipelago of nine volcanic islands. The biggest one is Sao Miguel with its 62.1 km length and 15.8 km width. Until 15th century when Portuguese explores came to Azores the islands were uninhabited. Through the history due to its position in the middle of the Atlantic and influence of Golf current Azores were favourite shelter to sailors, merchants and whale hunters. The islands became the place with big numbers of different influences, and at the same time managed to keep its authenticity which can be seen today, and what makes them special.
The islands are connected not only with mainland, but also with flights in between islands. The flight from Lisbon takes 2 hours. From island to island it’s possible to travel with ferry, but they say the flight is a recommendation.
What to expect when visiting Sao Miguel
First of all ask yourself how much nature you can stand. Endless greenery, immaculately landscapes, mystical lakes, countless number of hydrangeas, blue Ocean, thermal baths in the middle of the woods. Those are only some of the elements of Sao Miguel’s’ beauty.
Nature lovers will fall in love with island’s countless possibilities for relaxation, recreation and indulgence. Among numerous activities everybody will find something to enjoy. Hiking, horse riding, paragliding, diving, surfing, whale watching, big game fishing, bird watching, biking, canoeing, canyoning, golf or exploring the islands caves.
For the end of an active day there is no better option than proper relaxation in some of Sao Miguel’s unique thermal baths. Thermal pools Caldeira Velha are located in the middle of the woods. After the entrance we passed through forested area on a mountain with wonderful foliage next to the creek. At the end of the path we found a mineral water pool under a waterfall.
Another thermal polls, Poca da dona Beija are located in Furnas. This place has six thermal pools, and have local feel. As we visited Sao Miguel in July, what is the summer season, it’s obvious to expect thermal polls sometimes can get crowded. But anyway, I’m sure everyone will like the feel of warm thermal water together with unreal nature details.
Searching for Whales and Dolphins around Sao Miguel
Sao Miguel has several agencies that organize half day or full day dolphin and whale watching excursion. We got the local recommendation to join an excursion in organization of an agency Futurismo.
First step before the embarkation is biologist’s introduction presentation. Beside basic safety instructions we learned how the Azoreans have converted whale hunting to whale watching in the Azores. We also learned which species live around and an overview of what may be sighted during the tour. It’s an interesting fact that the Azores islands, due to its location almost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, are a permanent home or point of passage for more than a third of the world’s whale and dolphin species. Some of the species like sperm whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins are present around the Azores archipelago throughout the year. Other species visit or pass by during specific seasons. And this is the reason why every excursion is different.
Our half day tour took around 3 hours, and unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to see the whales, but we saw huge pod of dolphins. This time whales were too far away to be able to reach them. At least this is one more reason to come again.
Sao Miguel’s Food Full of Flavours
During our stay on the island, we were thrilled with all the fresh and taste-rich food. It didn’t matter if we ate what the hosts prepared for us or if we had a meal in one of the islands’ restaurants.
Unique micro climate characterising the Azores provides the islands with plenty of tropical fruit, sea food you never heard of, excellent beef and unremarkable choice of home-made products. It is interesting to note that 50% of cheese in Portugal comes from the Azores. And the production of wine in the Azores goes back 500 years in the past.
How to move around Sao Miguel
Here it’s necessary to have a car. If you are planning your trip in July or August, to make a reservation several months in advance. This doesn’t mean the islands are crowded, only on the island there is no big number of cars. I would recommend picking up your car upon landing and dropping it of before departure.
How to choose accommodation in Sao Miguel
On the island you can find the accommodation according to every taste, from the lovely apartments up to five star hotels. Most of the hotels are located in Ponta Delgada, the administrative capital of Azores.
It’s good to know Ponta Delgada is only several kilometers away from the airport. If you are coming to the island to enjoy as much as you can in full peace and quiet, I found it better option to take the accommodation in some other part of the island. First two nights we slept in Ponta Delgada in Urban Apart Azores. It was convenient for us to say for two day in Ponta Delgada as we arrived in the afternoon and another day we took an excursion. This location was also excellent for exploring the west side of Sao Miguel.
Accommodation in Povoacao in Casa da Cisaltina was so cozy and homey we didn’t want to leave. From here we explored relaxed east side of Sao Miguel and enjoy not only in all the nature, but also in Fátima’s and her staff infinite hospitality. They took so much care about us! I’m sure with this kind of the approach they get closer to each of their guests, and make the stay on the island even more memorable.
Last night we spent again in Ponta Delgada. This option was more convenient as we had very early flight, and needed only 5km drive to the airport.
Authentic Destination for pure Experience
Even though it’s now more than half a year when I came back from Sao Miguel, my memories are still alive and with an ease I remember all those peaceful moments, amazing colours, scents, flavors and beautiful landscapes. It’s hard not to feel an excitement while thinking about Sao Miguel. Today when more and more people travels it’s nice to know there is an authentic destination with pure natural beauties and at the same time friendly and safe. And yes, our stay in Sao Miguel was a cherry on cake of our Portugal trip.
Photo credits: magic4.club, Martina Lucic Canak