Extr-Azores-dinary: São Miguel

Extr-Azores-dinary: São Miguel

 

 

If you’re planning to visit anytime soon, don’t forget to fill out the required health screening info at My Safe Azores! If you can’t get a negative RT-PCR test for COVID-19 within 72 hours, they’ll test you when you at arrivals.

 

 

I planned it out where I’d get a rapid RT-PCR test literally 2 hours before departing from NYC so I could kill 2 birds with one stone: Not only did that rapid PCR to get me out of NYC and into Spain and Portugal, but even with having stayed in Lisbon for 2 days, I was able to rely on that same exact test barely within the 72 hour window to get into Azores as well — No need to retest. And with Madeira 2 days after, which only needs a vaccine card without a test, I minimize all the swabs up my nose to enjoy my time in Portugal.

Otherwise they’ll make you leave the long health inspection line for a rapid PCR test and then have you wait for your results before leaving the airport.

 

 

After arriving the night before from Lisbon into the Azores’ capital city of Ponta Delgada at 8:30pm, we took a cab (10 euro flat fare into the city) to my lodgings at one of my new favorite hostel (with my own private room) at Pé Direito.

And at the time of this posting, we currently have the WHOLE place to ourselves as nobody else is staying there. The front desk staff even let us be on our own, walking around the entire property without a care, and answering questions remotely via WhatsApp if we had any questions.

It’s also as central as you can get with staying in Ponta Delgada:

 

 

The vibes here in the evening have skyrocketed to the top of my list in saudade (fitting since that word is originally Portuguese) travel moments:

 

 

If you’re not familiar with this area, we are in the capital of The Azores, a chain of 9 volcanic islands administered by Portgual and located in the Atlantic about 950 mi from the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula.

Hence this kind of weather:

 

 

After settling in with a dinner consisting of local cheese from the island of Saint George in the center square, the next morning we took a stroll to the iconic 18th century gates of Portas da Cidade, which we already loved looking at the night before:

 


 

It’s located right by São Sebastião Church:

 

 

At 9:30am we arranged for a 2 day tour of the entirety of Sao Miguel via our hostel, thanks to local Azorean and former pilot Bruno. He’s kinda like Sao Miguel’s mayor.

 

 

We began with a look back at Ponta Delgada being blessed by a double rainbow:

 

 

Then we took a short 5 minute hike to see the waterfalls at Povoacao:

 

 

Afterwards, we drove onwards to Ermid de Nossa Senhora da Paz for the rolling hills and the views of the cities at sea level:

 

 

After a quick pick-me-up at Quejaida da Vila do Morgano, famous for its secret recipe since the 16th century…

 

 

…we reached Furnas Lake (Lagoa do Furnas) by noon:

 

 

Furnas Lake is a giant caldera of an active volcano that hasn’t erupted since 1630, during which the Azoreans weighed the benefits over the risk at the time and built entire slew of cities here to guard themselves from the threat of piracy. Since then this entire area has been famous for geothermic hot springs:

 

 

The water here is naturally yellow-orange because of the deposits of iron-rich minerals that gets into everything, including your clothes. Don’t bring any white towels from the hotel unless you intend to pay for their replacement.

 

 

While here, feast on their uniquely flavored local stew that they slow cooked with volcanic heat — with no added water or spices mind you — in holes of volcanic soil they’ve dug into the ground for at least 6-8 hours.

 

 

Afterwards, take a walk around Furnas and examine all the increased volcanic activity that has been popping up the past few decades, and especially so in the past 6 months.

 

 

There’s so much volcanic activity lately they’re even cooking bags of corn in these geothermic pools to sell them on the cob for 1 euro each.

 

 

After about an hour here, we drove 20 minutes northeast to the Nordeste area and walked around the Cascata da Ribeira dos Caldeirõ complex of waterfalls, water mills, and streams:

 

 

Then we capped off our day with locally harvested tea at the tea factory Chá Gorreana:

 

 

The next morning we set out at 10am and took a quick peek at the gilded interiors of Igreja de São José:

 

 

Then driving on we passed by a series of ancient aqueducts that suggest there were civilizations that existed here well before the Portuguese…could it be the Romans?

 

 

These are views of Ponta Delgada from the west:

 

 

We then headed further west to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, a series of crater lakes surrounded by hills. Notice the two different color waters of each lake:

 

 

There’s also an abandoned luxury hotel at the highest viewpoint for those of y’all into urban exploration. Stop by now before it gets renovated as it just got bought out for redevelopment!

 

 

I also recommend heading to the very foot of the hills where the ASMR of rustling leaves and rolling hills could make you want to stay here forever, or at least until the next volcanic eruption:

 

 

If you snoop hard enough there’s a manmade tunnel that drains the lake into the sea when it gets too full. On off days you can walk the entirety of its 800m length. As they always say, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

Then on our way to lunch back at Ponta Delgada, we stopped at Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado located by the town of Varzea:

 

 

After lunch we made a second attempt for a view over Fogo Lake (Lagoa do Fogo), for which we bailed yesterday due to some heavy mist and fog. I guess we lucked out today:

 

 

Then we returned to Ponta Delgada to the local city marketplace Mercado da Graça, where we bought and immediately feasted on local pineapple, passion fruit, canteloupe, 2 year old cheese from St. George, and tangerine liqueur.

 

 

An impromptu picnic ensued:

 

 

The highlight here is their local pineapple, which takes 2 years to grow and is currently the juiciest I’ve ever had.

 

 

After 2 full days with Bruno, we said our goodbyes and headed onwards to our flight to Madeira:

 

 

FYI, the lounge here as listed on Priority Pass at the time of posting…

 

 

…is another casualty of the COVID-19 era:

 

 

If you want to venture to the other islands of the Azores, you can take a flight out to Faial Island, also known for its massive caldera in the center:

 

 

A ferry ride away from Faial Island, Pico Island is known for its 2351m high mountain, the tallest in Portgual, which takes about 2-3 hours to climb for the very fit:

 

 

Finally, Terceira Island is famous for being the “Happiest Island” with its charming Angra do Heroismo:

 

 

- At time of posting in Ponta Delgada, it was 21 °C - Humidity: 76% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: misty, cloudy, RAINBOWS