I recently returned from the island of São Miguel in the Azores archipelago. The largest of nine islands, it offers a great diversity of experiences and landscapes that you can easily explore in just a few days. We spent four nights on the island but I was left wishing I could extend the stay by at least a week.
Here are the things that struck me the most about the Azores – the nature is stunningly clean and unpolluted (just a deep breath of the fresh air and you know you’re someplace special), the food is mouthwatering (great quality meat and fresh seafood), and the landscapes otherworldly. Everyone we met has gone out of their way to help us feel at home. The people were truly touching.
We stayed in two unique places – an actual converted windmill, Moinho da Bibi, in the village of Candelaria on the western coast of the island and a lakeside mansion, Casa dos Barcos, on Lagoa das Furnas in the interior. We visited two tea plantations, apparently the only ones in the whole of Europe (although it’s somehow hard for me to see the Azores as Europe; it’s an island chain smack in the middle of the Atlantic!) – Porto Formosa and Gorreana. The teas were delicious and the sloping fields beautiful. The scenic drive around the area of Nordeste, with its waterfalls and coastal miradouros (viewpoints) was also spectacular. Other highlights were eating the delicious cozido in the town of Furnas – meat and vegetables slowly cooked (for about six hours!) in the hot springs nearby, giving the dish a truly special flavor. There were lots of other great experiences but these are the most vivid highlights. I’d love to go back and explore the other islands of the Azores. I am longing for more of that pure beauty!