When you are visiting the Azores for the first time, it is very likely that São Miguel is your destination. When you airplane is approaching the airport of Ponta Delgada, you will immediately understand why São Miguel is called the green island. If the weather is clear, you plane will descend next to green hills, pastures, forests and mountains. Even before touchdown, you have the feeling that you are going the love the Azores.
The green Island
São Miguel is the largest of the 9 islands, 64 km from west to east and about 15 km across. The island is the prime destination of most of the tourists visiting the archipelago. Not without reason, you are able to experience on one island some of the most famous sights, but also hidden treasures. São Miguel is definitely touristically most developed among the Azores, which has also its drawbacks. If you are looking for what the Azores are famous for, quiet unspoiled nature, you might get disappointed during the summer season. The availability of low fare flights and cruise liners offering it as destination, has lead in particular during the summer season to a massive inflow of tourists. Nevertheless, São Miguel is a good starting point for newbies, and there are still some untouched areas.
Take your car, drive around the island and feel why São Miguel is called the green island. Spend some time in the city of Ponta Delgada, enjoy it’s typical Portuguese white buildings with their black basalt window frames. If you have visited Madeira, you will be reminded of Funchal, though despite the recent tourist rush on São Miguel it is still a calm and quiet place. In Ponta Delgada, you can visit pineapple farms, the fruit is grown in greenhouses and it used to be a major export item. Another Azorean specialty are Europe’s only tea plantations in São Brás on the north coast. Visit the hot springs of Furnas towards the east, situated in a large crater it is probably the most charming place. Do not forget to visit the breathtaking Terra Nostra park, you can spend an entire day there. West of Ponta Delgada, the volcanic lakes of Sete Cidades can be viewed best from the Vista Do Rei viewpoint. Surprisingly, another volcanic lake you should not miss out, Lagoa do Fogo, it is the site of the last volcanic eruption on São Miguel which happened in 1563.
São Miguel is 64 km long and up to 16 km across. It has about 140.000 inhabitants half of which live in Ponta Delgada. São Miguel is the main entry point to the Azores and has daily flight connections to the Portuguese mainland and several European capitals and North America. The services are operated by SATA, TAP and several low cost carriers. Even though São Miguel is considered to be the main island of the Azores and the seat of the government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores is in Ponta Delgada, the Azores do not have a Capital proper.