Day 29 & 30: Azores

Summary

We arrived at Ponta Delgada of São Miguel in the middle of the night. São Miguel was the largest and most populous island in the Azores group of islands. The group had nine volcanic islands located in the North Alantic Ocean. They were famous for their spectacular landscape sceneries.

Our flight to Ponta Delgada started from Lisbon International Airport and took about 2 hour and 20 minutes. The return flight costed €173 for two persons.

Flying Lisbon to Sao Miguel

Flying Lisbon to Sao Miguel

Our “stay” was in Ponta Delgada the biggest town on the island. It was located in the central-west part of the island. On our first day we drove west and visited several highland miradouros unfortunately we could not see the lakes below because they was fully covered by mist. We drove on to the coast where there was no mist and saw some beautiful coastal sceneries.

On the second day we drove east and visited two highland miradouros, both overlooked Lagoa do Fogo. At the first miradouro the scene was a patch of blur-white but lucky of us when we arrived at the 2nd miradouro the mist had lifted and we saw a beautiful view of Lagao do Fogo. An hour later the mist came back and the entire east side looked misty. We abandoned our plan to move further east as we felt there would be not much to see. Instead we went back to the west side, drove up the highland and had a wonderful time at several miradouros.

We had two full days to explore São Miguel. Two days would have been more than enough to cover the entire island if the weather was fine (sunny). Unfortunately we only had about one good day so we did not get to fully explore the island and enjoy all its attractions.

Mercado da graca

On the first morning we walked down from our “stay” to C. C Solmar which was the port front of Ponta Delgada. It was a short 600 m walk to the waterfront where there were many car rental services. We planned to check out Green Island (Ilha Verde) rent-a-car as we had read some pretty good comments regarding this company on the internet. If Green Island (Ilha Verde) did not work out we would walk over to Avis. We had often rented cars from Avis during our travelling and had not encountered any issues with them this far.

car rental services at Ponta Delgada

car rental services at Ponta Delgada

Just 300 m into our walk we came to a “fresh” market, Mercado da Graça. It looked like a “farmer market”! Good! Fresh fruits! Cherry! Strawberry! We just had to make a detour into the market, the car would have to wait!

Mercado da Graca

Mercado da Graca

We stepped into the market and saw only a few stores were opened and some were definitely selling fruits. It was 9.30 am and most of the stores were closed, we were not too sure if we were too early or too late. We bought some cherries and oranges, the prices were slightly more expensive than those on the mainland. We did not mind the cost as we were only too glad to have some healthy “munchies” for the days to come.

Farmer market Mercado da Graca

Farmer market Mercado da Graca

Ilha Verde rent-a-car

At Green Island (Ilha Verde) rent-a-car we met Veronica the manager. We managed to negotiate for a small car and the price was €135 for two days.  It was fantastic that we could return our car at the airport as early as 5.00 am and there was no one-way charges. This was certainly good news to us as our flight out of Sao Miguel was at 7.00 am and we needed to be at the airport at about 5.30 am!  Returning the car at the airport rather than at C. C Solmar oulet office (closed at 8 pm) allowed us to use the car as late as we needed on the last evening and saved us a taxis fare to the airport the next morning!

Green Island (Ilha Verde) rent-a-car

Green Island (Ilha Verde) rent-a-car

Just exactly like how Vernorica had explained the moment we drove past the airport building and entered the parking beside it, we saw a large Ilha Verde sign and two staff in Ilha Verde uniforms/jackets. After we handed over our car a staff did a walk round the car and signed off a document. We then proceeded into the airport building and handed over the signed document to another staff at a Ilha Verde boothe. The entire handover procedure was done in less than fifteen minutes!

Returning our car at the airport

Returning our car at the airport

Lagoa Azul & Lagoa Verde

We had been advised by Nuno our host at our Lisbon “stay” that in the morning we should look at both the East side and West side of the island and go explore the side that was clear. Unfortunately on our first day, both sides looked misty. We supposed going which ever side would not matter. So we went drove west.

There were several beautiful viewpoints/miradouros on the high ground of the west side. Sadly the weather was too misty. The higher we go the heavier was the mist. We drove passed several miradouras without leaving our car as there were no point stepping out into a “white blurry” land. We drove on till we came to the tiny strip of land that divided Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde.

Route to Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde

Route to Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde

This strip of land was at a lower attitude and the scenery was slightly clearer so we came down to take some photographs. Many others like us had also stopped their vehicles and came out to explore. We waited for a while but could not see any improvement in the “misty” situation.

Strip of land dividing Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde

Strip of land dividing Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde

Lake Azul

Lake Azul

Sete Cidade

After 30 minutes we drove forward into Sete Cidades, a village. There we found a cafe to have our coffee break. We took out our cherry to go with our coffee. Cafe “Green Love Restaurant” was sited by the lake of Lagoa Azul. It was a very relaxing and serene place to enjoy the “greenery” around.

Coffee break at Green Love Restaurant of Sete Cidade

Coffee break at Green Love Restaurant of Sete Cidade

We stayed for about an hour at “Green Love Restaurant”, all the time keeping a lookout into the lake, checking frequently to see if the weather had improved. We would love to go up to the Miradouro da Vista do Rei and Miradouro da Grota do Inferno to view the two lakes from these high viewpoints. By about 1.45 pm we gave up and left the area.

Miradouro da ponta do escalvado

From Sete Cidade we drove to the coast and reached a coastal viewpoint, Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado. It was just a short 7 km drive and in less than 15 minutes we arrived at the coast. 

route to Miradouro da Ponta da Escalvado

route to Miradouro da Ponta da Escalvado

Surprising the view at the coast was better than those on higher ground.  The mist was less dense and it remained overhead and the view was very scenic. At Miradouro da Ponta da Escalvado we had a 180° view of the coast. On the right we saw a cape and further right was a flat coastal town.

View to the right of Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

View to the right of Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

On the left was another beautiful cape with a lovely lighthouse. Though Sao Miguel was one of the nine islands of the Azores we could not see any land when looking out to the sea. They must be very far away! Sao Miguel was totally surrounded by the sea. The vast ocean all round made us felt so minute.

View to the left of Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

View to the left of Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

Pico das Camarinhas

From Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado we drove about two km southward and stopped at another scenic viewpoint, Pico das Camarinhas, Peak of Camarinhas (co-ordinates: 37.857879, -25.850465).  At the peak was a carpark and near the end of the parking there was a road that led down to the tip of a rocky beach, Ponta da Ferraria. Apparently it was a place where hot water (heated by volcanic vapors,) mixed with cold water of the sea in a small cove which served as a small natural pool. We were hoping to trek down to the beach but the road was barricaded.  From the peak we saw a “house” below it was a “Ferraria Spa Complex”.

Ponta da Ferraria

Ponta da Ferraria

Farol da Ferraria

About another km south was a road leading to the lighthouse of Ferraria, Farol da Ferraria. We parked our car at the side of the road beside a field near to the light house and walked out to explore. The light house was built in 1901 on the most western tip of Sao Miguel. It definitely looked very well maintained and was still in use. The luminous range of it headlight was 42 km.

Around the lighthouse were many fields, probably agricultural land. We thought the lighthouse looked better from far than near.

Farol da Ferraria

Farol da Ferraria

Ginete

At about 4pm when we drove into a town, Ginete, for another coffee break. But the coffee break turned into a meal break. The cafe cum restaurant was “III Arcos”. We sat down to order our usual cafe latte when the menu caught our eyes.

Cafe restaurant 3 Arcos

Cafe restaurant 3 Arcos

We decided to have a very very early dinner. So we ordered a pork plate and a fish plate and the total bill came up to €19.40. The fish plate was “sardines” which was a very popular local dish.

Early dinner at Cafe restaurant III Aroco

Early dinner at Cafe restaurant III Aroco

Miradouro do Pico

After a nice meal break we slowly made our way back to Ponta Delgada, the mist on the highland still looked very dense so there was no point driving uphill. We took the coastal road and looked out for more miradouros (viewpoints) on the google map. We arrived at Miradouro do Pico (co-ordinates: 37.804251, -25.786345) which looked like a “bbq” site with a great view. The scenery was great, the vibrant colours of the green fields, blue sea, white clouds and village houses looked fantastic.

Miradouro do Pico (co-ordinates: 37.804251, -25.786345)

Miradouro do Pico (co-ordinates: 37.804251, -25.786345)

Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras

A short drive from Miradouro do Pico was another viewpoint. Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras (co-ordinates: 37.788448, -25.771084) gave us a great view of the coastal farmland. We sat on a semi-circular ledge to enjoy the fantastic view and the cool breeze. It was a joy to see such beautiful scenery, it was a joy not to have to rush off.

 Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras

Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras

Miradouro da Fonte da Rocha

We had another final miradouro to explore before we were done with the day. It was Miradouro da Fonte da Rocha. We were not too sure what we expected to see. We parked our car by the roadside (co-ordinates: 37.752953, -25.722018 ) walked along a pathway that suppose to lead to the miradouro.

Carpark near the sign post of the Miradouro

Carpark near the sign post of the Miradouro

We did not know where exactly was the viewing deck, so we followed a dirt path that took us down hill. We walked for a long time about 1 km but still did not see any “proper viewpoint” so we took the best shot of the “black” cape and left.

near Miradouro da Fonte da Rocha

near Miradouro da Fonte da Rocha

Supermarket  Continente

The day was still young so we visited one of the many supermarkets on the island. On google map we found several supermarkets and selected one that looked big. We supermarket was a huge “Continente” outlet. In the supermarket was a cafe so we had a coffee break again. This time to go along with our coffee break we bought a box of icecream (4 sticks) and Portugese egg tart.

Supermarket Continente Modelo Arrifies

Supermarket Continente Modelo Arrifies

Lagoa da Fogo

On the second morning on the island we drove east to explore the east side. Our destinations were the miradouros that overlook Lagoa do Fogo

Route from Ponta Delgada to Lagoa do Fogo

Route from Ponta Delgada to Lagoa do Fogo

We drove for about 21km in about 30 min to reached our first viewpoint of Lagoa do Fogo. At Miradouro da Barrosa the weather was very bad. Though we did not think we could see anything “nice” we still parked our car and walked forward to the viewing point. We walked all the way to the end of the viewing deck and looked down. As expected it was a patch of “white” the lake, Lagoa do Fogo, could not be seen!

Miradouro da Barrosa

Miradouro da Barrosa

After the disappointing sight at Miradouro da Barrosa we drove forward to the next miradouro (Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo) for the view of the same lake. We did not expect much so we were surprised to be able to see the lake. This second miradouro was at a lower altitude and whenever the mist rose upward we got to see the lake clearly.

Lovely sight at Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo

Lovely sight at Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo

At Miradouro da Logoa do Fogo there was a dirt path that went all the way down to the lake. It looked like a long walk down and back so we did not went down that path. A round trip would take up too much time and left us too little time for other sectors of the island. We left the miradouro when the mist came in again

Driving to Ribeira Grande

We drove down to Ribiera Grande a town on the northern side of the island. On the way we past Miradouro Bela Vista and Monumento Natural da Caldeira Velha.

Route to Ribeira Grande

Route to Ribeira Grande

At Miradouro Bela Vista we stopped to have a look. It was an unobstructed view all the way to the coast, to the town Ribeira Grande at the coast and the sea beyond. It would have been a better view if the heavy mist was not around!

Miradouro da Bela Vista

Miradouro da Bela Vista

We drove past Monumento Natural da Caldeira Velha and saw a very long queue at its entrance. So we decided not to go there too. Our host at Lisbon, Nuno, had reminded us over and over again to visit Monumento Natural da Caldeira Velha and to soak in its spa pools. We were definitely going to disappoint him.

When we reached Ribeira Grande we found a nice spot for a coffee break.

Ribeira Grande

Ribeira Grande

Miradouro da Vista do Rei

From Ribeira Grande we drove along the northern coast to move to the west side. We reached Miradouro da Vista do Rei at about 1 pm in the afternoon and was rewarded with a beautiful view of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde. We could see the town Sete Cidade on the left sight. It was where we had our coffee break the day before. The day before the view at this exact spot was just a patch of white.

Stunning view at Miradouro da Vista do Rei

Stunning view at Miradouro da Vista do Rei

Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

Our next viewpoint was Miradouro da Grota do Inferno, our destination was to drive till the end of the road  (co-ordinate: 7.842352,-25.760825) which was near the viewpoint.  From the main road we turned left onto an unpaved road and there was a carpark just before we turned. Many cars were already parked there and we saw people walking up the unpaved road.  We decided not to park and walk but drive till the end of the unpaved road. If there was no parking at the end we would then turn back to park at the earlier carpark.

route to Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

route to Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

Luckily at the end of the unpaved road was a enlarged place for parking. Parking here saved us a 1 km walk from the start of the unpaved road. We saw a set of steps that went up so there we went, up the steps.

Parking near the Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

Parking at the end of the unpaved road

At the top of the steps there were many people on the right side crowding around a “viewpoint”?so we went right. There we saw a view of two lakes, Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Arul. Lagoa de Santiago was largely “blocked” by a slope on the left. We had seen pictures that showed the entire crater of Lagoa de Santiago and we wondered where was the location of that viewpoint. We felt that such a viewpoint needed to be on a higher ground so that the view of crater would not blocked by the slope. On the “right” where we stood, we saw a road across a valley that was on a higher ground so we thought that that could be the right location.

View at Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

View at Miradouro da Grota do Inferno

We left the parking of Miradouro da Grota do Inferno in a hurry without exploring more to get to the “road” on the right. The road was almost parallel to the unpaved road into Miradouro da Grota do Inferno. We drove as far in as we could till a steep incline. We parked our car at the bottom of the incline and trekked about 1 km up the slope.

searching for a higher viewpoint

searching for a higher viewpoint

It was pretty tiring trekking up. We met several people coming down and they told us that the view on top was lovely and that kept us going. Finally we were at the top and the view was indeed nice. We could see more of the crater lake, Lagoa de Santiago, but sadly Lake Arul was blocked by another hill mould.

View of Lagoa Santiago and Lake Arul

View of Lagoa Santiago and Lake Arul

This 2nd view of the two lakes was still not the view we were seeking for. After a while we left and was only too happy to walk downhill instead of up . Near our car we saw a path/steps on a hill across the valley and saw “tiny” people trekking up a slope/steps to “somewhere”. That seemed like going up to a place that would look directly down to both lakes without much blockage.

Looking for another nice viewpoint

Looking for another nice viewpoint

We found a trek near a lamppost that went down to the green plain and crossed the hill/valley and went up slope to where we saw the steps and “tiny” people. So here we went again, down the slope by the lamp-post, trekked over the green plain that was full of mud and cowdung, walked into the green forest of trees and found ourselves on “familiar ground”! We were back on the same unpaved road that led to Miradouro da Grota do Inferno. We were here two hours ago! We were back at the same parking area and we went up the same set of stairs! At the top of the steps we realised where we went wrong! We did not explore the path that went left at the top fo the stairs!Finally we were at the best viewpoint of the lakes.

Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Arul

Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Arul

We were glad that we did not missed this viewpoint the “true” Miradouro da Grota do Inferno. We read on the internet that on a bright sunny day we could see two distinct colored lakes. Lagoa de Santiago was green and Lagoa Arul was blue. Unfortunately we did not have nice blue sky the entire day so the colours of the lakes appeared slightly dull.

Ponta delgada

For dinner we took a walk from our hotel into C. C Solmar, the port front of Ponta Delgada. There were some restaurants/cafes along the way but we wanted to go down to the port where there would be more choices of restaurants. It was about 8 pm in the evening and as usual most restaurant kitchens were not ready to serve dinner.

We were hungry so we went into “3 Sentidos Pizzaria” and ordered pizza.  Unlike restaurant kitchens, pizzarias usually operated throughout the day.

Pizza at 3 Sentidos Pizzaria - Ponta Delgada

Pizza at 3 Sentidos Pizzaria – Ponta Delgada

We had a pizza with four favours. The meal which included tea for me and cafe latte for Yat Thong was €9.45.  After dinner we took a stroll along the marina and walked all the way to Portas da Cidade.

Portas da Cidade

Portas da Cidade

Portas da Cidade was the city gate of Ponta Delgada. This three-arched gate was built in 1783. In front of the gate was a statue of the first governor of the islands, Goncalo Velho Cabral.  A short distance through the arched gate was a beautiful church, Igreja de São Sebastião (Church of São Sebastião). This church was Ponta Delgada’s main church and was the only church with a high tower clock on the island.

Igreja de São Sebastião

Igreja de São Sebastião

Our stay

We booked three nights at Thomas Place in Ponta Delgada on booking.com. On the first night we arrived at the hotel after 12 midnight. Late arrival was fine, this we had checked with the hotel prior to booking a twin room at the hotel. From the airport we got into a taxis that brought us to the hotel which was about 5 km away.

Our twin room for three nights was €187, the room was smaller than we expected It was very basic and the televsion had very bad signal reception.

Our double room at Thomas Place

Our double room at Thomas Place

The ensuite bathroom was large and clean and it was better than our expectation.

Our bathroom in our twin room

Our bathroom in our twin room

Directly in front of Thomas Place was narrow one way road with no parking allowed on the sides. Thomas Place offered onsite parking at €4 per night. The first day after sightseeing as we were returning to Thomas Place’s carpark, just near to the hotel we found free street parking! On the road “R. Dr. Victorino Nemésio”, which was perpendicular to the road where Thomas Place was located, we found white parking lots. After parking it was just a short 80 m walk back to Thomas Place!

Free parking lots near Thomas Place

Free parking lots near Thomas Place

Our room price came with breakfast for two in the morning. Breakfast was pretty standard. Bread, cakes, buns, ham, cheese, butter, cereal, yoghurt, coffee and tea. The kitchen was on the upper level and it also provided shared microwave for guests.

Breakfast at Thomas Place

Breakfast at Thomas Place

On the third morning we left Thomas Place at about 5.30 am and drove to the airport.  We were definitely too early for the hotel’s breakfast. The evening before  we  informed the hotel receptionist about our very early departure and the hotel-people was super-nice to pre-packed our breakfast and left it in the fridge on the Kitchen level. So on the third morning we picked up our pre-packed breakfast before leaving the hotel.

After we returned our rental car at the airport we entered the departurehall, picked up two cups of coffee at a cafe and sat down to enjoyed our “packed” breakfast.

Packed breakfast for a early check out

Packed breakfast for a early check out

We liked the location of Thomas Place as it was near to C. C Solmar the central of “things” in Ponta Delgada. We found the room tight and very basic in furnishing and yet the toilet was nice, overall the room and toilet were clean. The TV was essentially not useful due to the poor signal reception. It was good that the hostel provided secured parking for a charge but better still free street parking could be found within 100 metres from the hostel. Breakfast was okay. Best of all was the staff services, one staff waited for us till past midnight on the night of our arrival and another prepared and pre-pack our breakfast to take away when we left the hotel at 5.30 am on the departure day.

accommodations in Ponta Delgada


Booking.com

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