Sao Miguel Experience
2 reviews from the community
Review of "Sao Miguel Experience"
Having had a rest from writing I am trying to get back to Ciao and catching up with reading reviews. I am having problems rating, will try and come back if it hasn't worked, please message me if I need to come back to you.
Sâo Miguel also known as the Green Island is 65 kilometres long and 16 kilometres wide. It is the largest of the islands making up the Azores. The island is made up of several volcanic groups, the black lava fields form a dark coastline dotted with a handful of beaches, but the green hills provide some splendid scenery, and every turn (and there are many!) along the windy roads unfolds some wonderful surprises.
In the east the highest point is Pico da Vara standing 1,103 metres tall, in the centre is the Sierra de Água do Pau, with a volcanic Lake called Lagoa do Fogo. In the west are the smaller volcanoes, and the highest point is about 900metres, one of the most popular places to visit called the Caldeira das Sete Cidades, where the ground still rumbles and geysers boil and streams flow with the water of hot springs. There are two beautiful lakes here, one green and one blue.
The Airport is called Joao Paulo II, and is on the outskirts of Ponta Delgada. There are daily flights to Lisbon which takes about 2 hours. Also flights to Canada, USA and Scandinavia. One flight a week from London is available during the summer months. Sata Air Açores fly daily to the other Azorean islands. Beware, we discovered we could not buy a liqueur at the airport as our destination was Lisbon were we were staying for 2 days! We hadn't realised it was classed as an internal flight, as the Azores is in Portugal. Had we bought it in a supermarket, it would have been OK!
Beaches. Actually there are very few, considering this is an island! One of the best is near Agua de Pau on the south of the island. There are a couple of cafes and toilets and showers, but it gets very busy with local people and whilst we were there they were widening the road and making extra parking as the road soon became blocked. The sea is warm, although the waves quite strong!
Buteo Buteo Rothschildi is the name of the Azorean buzzard. A large bird, seen soaring above the cliffs and diving to kill its prey. I loved sitting watching them through the binoculars. The early settlers thought they were goshawks and that is believed how the islands were named, as açor in Portuguese means goshawk.
Caldera of Sete Cidades is the most spectacular volcanic scene in the Azores. The two volcanic lakes, the Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde are separated by a bridge. Legend has it they were created by the tears of a princess and a handsome shepherd, whom the king would not allow her to marry, the tears were shed on their last meeting together. (All together now- awww!)
Dining was perhaps the only disappointment with the island. We had read that this was not a place for gastronomic delights, and considering it is an island I had expected more fish on the menu, but perhaps hotels cater for what they think their guests will like. There were lots of local specialities though, using local fish including the wreck fish and meat. Pork and chicken seemed popular. They had a very sweet tooth and I admit I sampled too many sugary desserts! The wine from the other islands was good though!
Excursions. We didn't go on any as we hired a car and went off the beaten track to see the Azores , but there are loads of buses taking people all over the narrow roads. My advice is DIY! Choose the time you want to leave and stop where you want.
Furnas was one of my favourite places. It is full of fumaroles or hot springs. The mud plopped and bubbled, the heat from the ground was amazing, so much so that local restaurateurs bury cooking pots and cook a stew in the ground, which takes about 7 hours. We went early one morning before too many tourists arrived, and enjoyed the walk by the lake and exploring all the springs, and saw the mounds covering the cooking pots.
Gardens. There are municipal gardens in Ponta Delgada and a famous one called the Terra Nostra Garden, near Furnas. We also found a lovely park with flowers and animals in a little town on our tour of the island.
Geothermal energy is supplied to the island, steam can be seen rising from the green hillside in a few places, but the silver structures we saw didn't spoil the beauty surrounding them, there is so much energy, I am pleased it was being utilised.
Hydrangeas, in gorgeous blues flower all over the island, growing as wild flowers. Some were so high they formed hedge banks. We saw the petals being gathered for a festival when they were laid out on the street in patterns.
Ilhéu de Vila Franca , across from the town of Vila Franca , it is one of the biggest attractions of the coast of S. Miguel . It forms a natural swimming pool, shaped in a perfect circle. From its rocks, curiously shaped by the sea and the winds, arises a formation shaped as an ancient column. Due to the interest of preserving its environment, it is considered a Natural Reservation.
Jardim Botanico is open from 10am until sunset and is classified as being of Public interest! It contains rare trees and plants. It rained when we intended visiting, so will have to return to tell you more!
Keepsakes. My husband bought me some lovely earrings made from flower petals. The islanders are very industrious and make items from whale bones, fish scales, corn leaves and wicker. Wood carving and shells are also used to make some beautiful Nativity scenes. Embroidery also was on sale.
Lagoa do Fogo is a lagoon in the interior of a crater of an extinct volcano. Its name means Fire Lake! There is a narrow slippery path down to the bottom, which we didn't attempt, someone from the hotel went on a walk, and went around the lake which included walking waist high through the water, he was over 6 ft, so not for vertically challenged! The clouds sometimes obscured our view, but it was well worth a visit.
Miradouro. Or viewpoint, there are so many and they are kept beautifully, several have barbecues complete with running water and toilet facilities. The local people use them for Sunday lunches or evening barbecues, there is usually plenty of parking too. Mostly there are well kept gardens and seats, we stopped at most of them to take photos!
North Atlantic current, I don't profess to understand the sea currents but together with the Azores High pressure, the sea currents influence the weather. The Azores have a maritime climate with an average of 13 - 22 degrees. In July/ August we had temperatures of over 30, and very little rain, so were lucky. When it did rain, it didn't last long and was warm, sometimes though it was very humid.
Nordeste is a very quiet town, we parked the other side of a lovely arched bridge, decorated with hanging baskets and walked back into the town for lunch. The roads didn't provide good access to this part of the island for a long time so boat was the main way of travelling here. I managed to speak enough Portuguese to order our lunch, as very little English is spoken here!O
The Orange trade dominated the islands in the 19th century, the Victorians would buy their "St Michael's" for Christmas, but sadly disease struck and California and Florida started supplying fruits to other countries. Some trees can still be seen growing in gardens and along streets, and citrus fruits are still grown to supply local demand.
Ponta Delgada is the largest town, classed as a city as it has a university. There is a harbour and promenade and so many beautiful churches, in Baroque style. The shops are worth a visit in the quaint narrow streets, parking is a problem though, but once you feel in need of a rest there are plenty of bars and cafes to stop at for a drink. Historic buildings mingle with modern structures, and the city gates with its unusual road markings are well photographed.
Another P that I can't forget are Pineapples! They are grown under cover here, and a local starter is cold spicy black pudding and pineapple, which although it sounds strange is very tasty.
Queijadas da Vila. These are little cakes made in Vila Franca da Campo. I believe they were made using ground beans! Anyway they tasted good, and we enjoyed them!
RRibeira Grande is a town on the north coast. Centre of the livestock trade now, it was once a centre for wool manufacturing and many of the buildings are from that prosperous time. The river wasn't so "Grande" when we were there, as there hadn't been a lot of rain!
Shearwater or to be exact the Cory's shearwater are the noisiest birds I've come across! Every night they flew in to roost on the cliffs near the hotel and proceeded to tell their friends and relations all the gossip of the day! I never actually saw one in daylight, but we sat on the balcony and listened to them returning each night.
Tea. Or Cha as it is known. There are two tea plantations, we visited the smaller one which I have written about separately. The tea tasted delicious, and was refreshing on the hot day we visited.
Umbrellas! A very useful item, to protect you from the showers!
Vila Franca do Campo, was the nearest town to our hotel. There are lovely black and white churches, white houses with red roofs. It was the islands first capital. The harbour is busy with fishing boats and trip boats to see the whales and dolphins.
Whale watching is a very important tourist industry, and boats go out regularly. They are not allowed to go too close to the whales and dolphins and legislation protects these creatures. The trip my husband went on only saw Dolphins but of different varieties, there was a marine biologist on board and people who wanted were allowed to swim with the dolphins too.
Is the last letter of RELAX and that is what you do in the Azores. The pressure is off, they don't rush and things do get done but it all takes time! We certainly recharged our batteries there.
Yachts. Sailing is a popular sport and there are harbours in a lot of towns, the wind can be quite strong at times, but this adds to the pleasure that the experienced yachtsmen enjoy. Sitting in the sun watching yachts sail by is a lovely way of spending a morning.
Z bends! The roads out of the towns leave a lot to be desired at times! There are numerous bends, and not always barriers protecting the traffic from steep drops, but as you turn a corner another fantastic view appears. Driving takes longer than you think, so allow plenty of time. The roads are really winding, and you seem to climb up and then down! In villages you can get delayed by travelling shops selling their produce and by farmers, who still use horses to transport their milk!
**UPDATE**SATA is the airline of the Azores and they have been operating flights from UK to Azores for two years. In 2007 they are increasing their frequency from one flight a week to two flights a week. Non-stop flights take 3 hrs 40 mins and are operated using an Airbus 320 and flying from Gatwick, flights operate 5 May - 29 Sep 2007
Outward Flights Homeward Flights
Tuesdays 11.45-14.25 06.15-10.45
Saturdays 19.40-22.25 14.00-18.45
Price of SATA flights from UK to Azores.
Product Information : Sao Miguel Experience
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Listed on Ciao since: 05/10/2006