This summer I met my sister and brother-in-law just about exactly halfway across the Atlantic between my home in Sweden and theirs in America. A tiny series of volcanic rock, barely seen on a map unless you are really looking for it, the Azores Islands are a lush and surprising destination- all the more special for its relative obscurity. There were no tour busses or hordes of selfie-takers here. In fact, here was an island more concerned with enjoying its own beauty than becoming the next tourist hotspot. And that was just fine with us.
First stop, Lagoa do Fogo. One of three main lakes in São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo is a moody, mercurial landscape. We were often surprised in the Azores how many times we needed to put on more layers- island does not necessarily mean warm island!
Any self-respecting island trip will have plenty of views like this one. Our hotel had a beautiful view with a whale-watching bar, though we didn’t succeed in seeing any.
Definitely a highlight of São Miguel was Setes Cidades. We spent many hours seeing it from many different viewpoints.
Miradouro Boca do Inferno was my favorite viewpoint of Sete Cidades. Even getting there was beautiful, a walk through Japanese cypress which was again unexpected!! No palm trees here, just cypress!
We did a little bit of sanctioned trespassing to an abandoned hotel called Monte Palace. Though there were signs saying Do Not Enter there were also parking attendants helping people to find the best way in. It was just as cool and spooky inside as the outside views from the roof and blown-out windows were beautiful. Definitely a juxtaposition.
We spent half a day doing an awesome canyoning excursion in Ribeira dos Caldeirões Parque. We hiked through jungle, rappelled down waterfalls, jumped off cliffs into lagoons, slid down rocks and had all sorts of fun adventures!
One of the most unique things about São Miguel is that, being situated on multiple volcanoes, it has many naturally occurring hot springs. We hit up a couple of them though the water was more lukewarm than hot, and in certain spots you could definitely smell the sulfuric action bubbling underneath. Termas da Ferraria was beautiful and free, so cool to lay out on the black volcanic rocks. Caldeira Velhas was situated inside a nature reserve so there was a charge to get it but if sitting underneath a waterfall in a hot spring that looks straight out of Jurassic Park- that one might be for you.
Driving through Nordeste, the wilder east coast of São Miguel, every view was better than the one before.
We did a two hour hike to (another) waterfall- called Salto do Prego. Some people were bathing in the pool but it was too cold for me! The Azores flora and fauna really is so interesting because it’s not what I was expecting. We also had a wild rooster that we named Reginald accompany us for a large portion of our hike.
So that was our experience in the Azores! Of course it was only one island out of the nine but it was a beautiful introduction to a special and unique place.
By the way, my brother-in-law has an Etsy shop of gorgeous photographs perfect to hang in any room of your house- including some of this trip to the Azores! Check it out here!