Road trip in the west of the Azores island of São Miguel

Road trip in the west of the Azores island of São Miguel


Our cruise ship that P&O Ventura, makes a stop on the Azores island of São Miguel. After several days at sea, we use the time in Ponta Delgada to tour the western part of the island with a rental car. Our main destination there is the Caldeira das Sete Citades. On the way there and back we pass bizarre coasts with rugged rock formations, quiet places and tranquil hilly landscapes in the interior of the island.

Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada


The rental car is ready for us in the city center at Praça 5 de Outubro (ex Campo de São Francisco). It's a bright morning, the half-hour walk to the car rental office hardly matters. We follow the well-developed, tree-lined promenade next to Av. Infante Dom Henriquet. On our way to Praça 5 de Outubro we see representative commercial buildings and two squares named after famous Portuguese sailors, Praça de Gonçalo Velho Cabral and Praċa Vasco da Gama.

In the port of Ponta Delgada


In the port of Ponta Delgada


Ponta Delgada - 5 de Outubro Square


Ponta Delgada - 5 de Outubro Square 


Our first milestone - Farol da Ponta da Ferraria

The ride passes São Miguel's Aeroporto João Paulo II Airport. The international airport, named after Pope John Paul II, is located on the outskirts of Ponta Delgada. A little later we look from the Miradouro das Baleias to the village of Relva. The most remarkable thing about the place is the Igreja Nossa Senhora Das Neves. The church stands out visually pleasantly from the modern functional buildings surrounding it.

Sao Miguel - Relva


Sao Miguel - Relva


Sao Miguel - Farol da Ponta da Ferraria


Sao Miguel - Farol da Ponta da Ferraria 


The next stage is the Farol da Ponta da Ferraria. A large, two-story building surrounds the square lighthouse. The impressive building was put into operation 120 years earlier on the Cape of Ponta da Ferraria. This year we had the opportunity to see the lighthouse from sea on a trip to the Azores Islands. The beacon towers high above the cliffs of the island.

São Miguel - Ponta da Ferraria with the lighthouse

São Miguel - Ponta da Ferraria with the lighthouse


Caldeira das Sete Cidades

Before following the road around the north-western tip of São Miguel, we will visit our main destination, the caldera of Sete Cidades. Translated, this means "seven cities". A strange name for a caldera that we questioned. The name of the village is derived from the legendary "Seven Cities" in the Atlantic. What it's all about? It is said that seven bishops fled the Moors to the phantom island of Antilia in the eighth century. There they founded seven cities. One for every bishop.

São Miguel - View of Caldeira Seca


São Miguel - View of Caldeira Seca


Sete Cidades - Parish Church of São Nicolau


Sete Cidades - Parish Church of São Nicolau 


Sete Cidades has two meanings: They stand for the point where a volcano fell about 250 meters high and a small community with about 800 inhabitants. The village is located on a two-part crater lake. The special thing about the lake is that one part looks blue when viewed from the surrounding heights and the other part looks green. Light reflections cause this phenomenon. In one part of the lake the blue sky is reflected, the other part gets its color from the surrounding green of the vegetation. The parts are consequently called Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde. The world-famous travel guide Lonely Planet even mentions Sete Cidades in its list of the top 10 natural wonders of Portugal.

Caldeira das Sete Cidades - the crater lakeCaldeira das Sete Cidades - the crater lake


Besides, there is little to report about the town of Sete Cidades. Mostly simple houses, the parish church of São Nicolau, two chapels and a small bandstand characterize the community. Apart from that, Sete Cidades is a very popular tourist destination because of its unique location and scenic charm.

Sete Cidades - Parish Church of São Nicolau
Sete Cidades - Bandstand
Sete Cidades - Landscape on Lagoa Azul
Flowers in Sete Cidades


We strongly recommend seeing Sete Cidades from above. Over the bridge leading between Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde we drive up to the viewpoint Cerrado das Freiras. From the height we can see the two parts of the lake, the surrounding crater landscape, the sea and the north-west of the island. Another mirador is the higher Vista do Rei.

Mountain landscape at Sete Cidades

Mountain landscape at Sete Cidades


Northwest point of São Miguel

We drive back towards Mosteiros. To do this, we take the path we came again. Mosteiros is by the sea. The place name is derived from a rock in the sea that resembles a church or a monastery. The former fishing village has long been a preferred destination for mainland Portuguese and Europeans who have summer houses built on the coast. The Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado, located far above the village, grants unrestricted views of Mosteiros and the rugged coastal landscape. Boat trips for whale watching are offered in the village.

Sao Miguel - Ferraria Geothermal Spa
São Miguel - Lava crater near Ferraria
Sao Miguel - Mosteiros
São Miguel - Landscape near Mosteiros

Impressions of the northwest coast

From Mosteiros we follow the road to the Miradouro do Pico Vermelho. From the vantage point we look out over the bizarre rocky coast and a restored windmill in Bretanha. We pass Santa Bárbara and drive to Santo António, enjoy the last view from the Mirador and then drive directly back to Ponta Delgada.

Sao Miguel - Bretanha - Miradouro do Pico Vermelho


Sao Miguel - Bretanha - Miradouro do Pico Vermelho


Sao Miguel - Santo Antonio


Sao Miguel - Santo Antonio 


Shortly after entering the town are the office of the President of the Regional Government and, not far away, the Jardim António Borges. We only see a section of the President's office. In contrast, the Jardim António Borges city garden is remarkable, in which species of plants and trees from all over the world have been cultivated for around 200 years.

Ponta Delgada - seat of the regional government


Ponta Delgada - seat of the regional government


Ponta Delgada - Jardim Antonio Borges


Ponta Delgada - Jardim Antonio Borges 


There is still enough time for a tour of the historic center of Ponta Delgada. More about this under The historic center of Ponta Delgada. 

July 2021