Panoramic tour to Lagoa do Fogo and to Ribeira Grande

Panoramic tour to Lagoa do Fogo and to Ribeira Grande


We will visit in spring 2021 with the expedition ship WORLD VOYAGER Coming from Santa Cruz de Tenerife eight of the nine Azores islands. The first stop on our trip is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. With an area of ​​747 square kilometers, the island is the largest and best developed for tourism in the entire archipelago.

Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada


We know the western part of the island and Ponta Delgada from a previous stay. We are not familiar with the center of the island with Lagoa do Fogo and Ribeira Grande, the second largest city on the island. We see both and more during a panoramic tour with the omnibus. Individual excursions, as we prefer, are not permitted in the Azores in the Corona summer 2021.

Lagoon of Fire

The drive to Lagoa do Fogo leads east first to São Roque and then to the district town of Lagoa. Its main attraction is a bathing complex on the Atlantic with natural and artificial swimming pools.

In the distance - Lagoa

In the distance - Lagoa


Behind Lagoa the road climbs steadily. Farmhouses lie between gently rolling hills; Cattle graze on sloping meadows. When we stop at the top of the pass at more than 800 meters above sea level, a sensitive cool wind blows around our noses. Far away and deep below us are the cities of Lagoa and Ponta Delgada as well as the crater lake Lagoa do Fogo, our second stop.

São Miguel - in the highlands
A bird's eye view of Lagoa and Ponta Delgada
Green land behind Lagoa
São Miguel - grazing cattle

In 1563 the Pico da Sapateira exploded in the center of São Miguel in a volcanic eruption. The mountain no longer exists, instead a caldeira formed with the lake called Lagoa do Fogo. The name means something like "fire lagoon". With an area of ​​almost 1,4 square kilometers, it is the third largest lake on the island. It is located in a mountain basin at an altitude of 575 meters. From a vantage point above the lake, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, some of which are covered with laurel forests. This miradouro is one of the most popular excursion destinations on the island. At normal times, dozens of buses and minibuses are parked in the visitor car park; Not to mention cars. This time the number of visitors is manageable.

Lagoon of Fire


Lagoon of Fire


Lagoon of Fire


Lagoon of Fire 


Caldeira Velha

After a further six kilometers, the bus reaches the nature reserve of Caldeira Velha, our next stage destination. The small, delimited nature reserve with lush vegetation and an attached environmental center is a popular excursion destination with residents and tourists alike. Hot springs, natural showers and natural bathing pools located in depressions are a magnet for visitors. A meticulously tended path, lush rainforest with subtropical plants and tall ferns, fumaroles and bubbling mud pools add to the attractiveness of the area.

Caldeira Velha's lush vegetation
Caldeira Velha - bubbling mud pools
Caldeira Velha - natural bathing pool
Caldeira Velha - natural shower

Ribeira Grande

The final destination of the bus tour is Ribeira Grande. The district town, divided by the river of the same name and counting 32.800 inhabitants, is one of the oldest communities in the Azores. Already in 1507 it received city rights. The first settlers and the following generations grew grain on the fertile soils. Fourteen watermills built on the river processed the grain on the spot. In addition, wool and linen were produced. Ribeira Grande developed into one of the largest communities on the north coast. The prosperity did not last long; in 1563, Ribeira Grande was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. As a result, the residents rebuilt their city. Ribeira Grande is currently a well-frequented tourist destination.

Ribeira Grande - Chapel Passo de Procissao

Ribeira Grande - Chapel Passo de Procissao


Our first impression: The city, like all other cities in the Azores, looks clear and tidy. Clean streets and some prestigious buildings erected in the 18th century immediately win us over to Ribeira Grande.

Main church and town hall

One of the main attractions is the three-aisled church Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Estrela. The name of the church comes from the star wreath that adorns the Madonna figure on the main altar. In the square below the church there is a statue of the priest and historian Gaspar Fructuoso. He lived in the 16th century and reported in a six-volume work on the history and geography of the Azores, Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. The square, adorned by a small bandstand, was named after the priest.

Ribeira Grande - Nossa Senhora da Estrela main church
Ribeira Grande - Monumento Gaspar Fructuoso
Ribeira Grande - Bandstand
Ribeira Grande - City Hall bell tower

We also like the town hall near the church. It is one of the oldest town halls in the Azores. The stately building has a wide flight of stairs, an arch connecting two parts of the building and a bell tower.   

Ribeira Grande - Town Hall

Ribeira Grande - Town Hall


On Largo 5 de Outubro, the tree-shaded square in front of the town hall, there are mighty, red-flowering Australian ironwood trees (Metrosideros).

Ribeira Grande - Australian ironwood tree at Largo 5 de Outubro

Ribeira Grande - Australian ironwood tree at Largo 5 de Outubro


The city garden and the historic bridge

Next to the town hall is a small city garden divided by the river. Behind it rises the stone bridge Ponte dos Oito Arcos, built at the end of the 19th century. The name gives it away: the bridge has eight arches.

Municipal Garden of Ribeira Grande


Municipal Garden of Ribeira Grande


Ribeira Grande - Ponte dos Oito Arcos stone bridge


Ribeira Grande - Ponte dos Oito Arcos stone bridge 


Ribeira Grande's cultural offer

Two other notable buildings are the theater, built in 1922, and the Arquipélago - Centro de Artes Contemporâneas. The museum for contemporary art was set up in the rooms of an abandoned liqueur and tobacco factory. The creators of the exhibition area skillfully mixed the historical structures made of basalt stones with ultra-modern concrete construction. In addition to a permanent exhibition, the Arquipélago presents a variety of exhibitions by contemporary Portuguese artists and performances.

Ribeira Grande - Ribeiragrandense Theater

Ribeira Grande - Ribeiragrandense Theater


There is more to see on São Miguel

Our panoramic tour ends in Ribeira Grande, the bus takes us back to the ship. After leaving the city, we pass the former island airport with its simple grass runway in the south.

We don't get to see anything from the two tea plantations to the east. How good that we got to know at least the Chá Gorreana plantation on a follow-up visit.

Plantações de Chá Gorreana
Plantações de Chá Gorreana - Fields with tea bushes
Plantações de Chá Gorreana - Permanent assistant
Plantações de Chá Gorreana - Delicacies in the shop

Even further east, Lake Furnas would have been worth a visit with its hot sulfur springs and mud pools on the north shore. Not to mention the burial chapel Ermida da Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, built in the style of European cathedrals on the southern shore of the lake.

São Miguel - Furnas sulfur springs


São Miguel - Furnas sulfur springs


Sao Miguel - Nossa Senhora das Vitórias


Sao Miguel - Nossa Senhora das Vitórias 


São Miguel is full of surprises.

August 2023