I start the second post about our short Portugal trip with a picture of a boiling hot spring as a teezer followed by the map of our trip and places we visited marked with numbers:
Day 1 (second half a day on the island)
Right away by arrival (again in the afternoon), we went exploring the island. First destination point was Lagoa do Fogo (1) –the highest above sea level on Sao Miguel crater lake in the very heart of the island, and not so far from Arrifes where we had an Airbnb room.
Caldeira Vielha (2) is a natural park with hot springs, hot baths and a waterfall. The daily entrance fee is 2€. Of course, we have forgotten our swimsuits in the car, were too lazy to pick them up and therefore had to improvise. Chilling in warm water is one of the best things ever you can enjoy after a long day.
But swimming and bathing makes you hungry, you know… A must do on this island if you like steaks – have a dinner in “Restaurante da Associacao Agricola S.Miguel” (3), Campo Do Santana, Recinto Da Feira Rabo de Peixe, Ribeira Grande (http://www.aasm-cua.com.pt/defRest.asp). The motto of this restaurant: “The Best Meat can only give us the Best Steak”. Indeed, the island is so green and there are so many healthy happy cows that a steak simply cannot be not tasty. As a started you get homemade bread in a basket (cesta da pao) two types of local cheese – a hard queijo S.Jorge and fresh soft queijo fresco. A best quality tenderloin steak costs between 12 and 20 €, prices start from 6 € though. Besides, the service is great in this restaurant. Furthermore, be aware: the locals are eating there with the whole family, so in the evening it can be quite full. After the meal we were full too. So full that couldn’t force ourselves to go out in the evening. However, it was worth it – my steak was the best steak of my life. Local wine “Farias vineyards” was a good choice to accompany the steak.
Day 2 (full day on the island)
A very useful thing for your trip is Azores real-time webcams: http://www.visitazores.com/en/webcams. On the second day we initially planned to go to Sete Cidades, but then checked the webcam and have decided otherwise. We drove to Furnas famous for its hot springs and swimming pools with heated water. First we took a long walk along the Lagoa das Furnas lake shore and visited hot springs – Caldeiras das Furnas (4). Entrance fee is 0,50 € plus parking fee about 0,20 € for 15 minutes. Many boiling, sizzling, smoking, fountaining springs are grouped there. These hot geysers are very remarkable because several restaurants from the area are cooking their dishes in the earth.
Just for the sake of a new experience, we tried the meat prepared in boilers in the restaurant “Banhos Ferreos” (this restaurant is almost the only one open during the siesta from 15 to 19), Rua Maria Augenia 1, Furnas, Sao Miguel. Interesting – yes, tasty – not really.
For swimming we went to Terra Nostra botanical garden (5); it is open daily from 10 to 17, in summer 10 to 19, entry costs 6 €. Address: Rua Padre José Jacinto Botelho, 5, Furnas, S. Miguel (http://www.parqueterranostra.com/en-us/hotel.aspx). Nice park with a big swimming pool full with hot water (temperature is about 38-39 degrees). Relaxing there is absolutely awesome… Make sure you bikini is dark color, otherwise it will be orange after swimming in the iron-reach water.
There is another hot baths in the city. They are called Poca da Dona Beija (Paradise pools) and are open daily from 7 to 23, the entry costs 3€. There you will find transparent water (no need to think about the color of your swimsuit) that reaches 39 degrees. The address is Lomba das Barracas, Furnas, S. Miguel (www.pocadadonabeija.com)
The second half a day we decided to explore the eastern part of the island. Drop by at Ponta da Madrugada (6), an observation point with a dazzling view to the cliffs ending in the ocean and waives breaking down by the shore. By the way, they conveniently have a toilet there.
At Ponta do Arnel (7) we had an improvised downhill and then uphill hiking to the lighthouse. I liked it a lot. It is very picturesque and calm down below: small boats are moored there, colorful little houses are nestling on the steep slope, and beyond you can see the waves breaking at the cliffs. Definitely worth a visit if you on the road with a car. If you decide to go close to the water – be careful, it is extremely slippery there. My boyfriend was chasing a small crab, but it turned out this treacherous creature (I’m talking about the crab) was luring this young man into water. Fortunately, he could brake timely.
A dinner we had in “Jordao” restaurant (Rua Hintze Ribeiro 37, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel). I liked that their menu was very short, only one starter and three-four main dishes. We ordered limpets (as an entry dish) and grilled fish. Limpets were served in a frypan, fizzling and splashing after being sprinkled with lemon juice. You have to “drink” them with the butter-garlic sauce direct from the shell. I liked how they taste. White wine thereto was a good choice made.
Day 3 (full day on the island)
A great place to try Portuguese desserts, bakery products and drink good coffee is Padaria e Pastelaria “Megasabor” (8), Rua Prof. Dr. Gustavo Fraga, 1 RC Poente, Ponta Delgada (https://www.facebook.com/megasaborpadariapastelaria/), open from 7:00 till 21:00. This place is situated in the “new” part of the city, so there will be no problem with parking.
Attention: delight-alarm! Pastel de Nata is the thing you are not allowed to miss in Portugal (exception are vegans and lactose intolerant). Delicious, moderate sweet, puddingly-creamy, soft but having a crispy “shell” custard cake is melting in your mouth and you can’t stop wishing for more. My absolute favorite!
During our last day the weather was friendly enough to drive to Lagoa das Sete Cidades (9). This “twin” lake is situated in the western corner of the island and consists of two lakes having slightly different color. The landscape is amazing!
If you drive a little bit further to the Lagoa do Canario (10), you can walk along the famous red-ground path with wooden handrails to see the lakes from another viewpoint. When we were there, it was incredibly windy.
The continuation of our trip was hilarious. We were sitting in the car and chatting about the nature beauty of the islands and that we are already a bit tired of this overwhelming beauty and want some beach time or even better some adventures… Then we found a peaceful beach with fine black sand in Mosteiros (11). Big waves were rolling onto the shore, the water was clear and had intensive blue color, in some distance several stone islands were rising from the water, the sun was shining. We decided to chill a bit and to lay down on the sand. All dressed, with camera in hand. All of a sudden, a huge wave came and we were covered with water. At lightning speed we sprang to our feet, but it was already late: we were completely soaked. Laughing hysterically and not being able to believe the speed of thoughts’ fulfillment, we undressed and dried our clothes on the sun. “Self-fulfilling prophecy”, they call it. We were boring and wanted an adventure – here we are!
We had no other choice but to go home and change. The camera was slightly damaged by water as well, so we removed the battery and left her dry on the terrace. Good, that this accident has happened on our last day on the islands. Nevertheless, it’s a pity that we don’t have good-quality pictures from the tea plantations we went to in the afternoon.
A good place to have a late lunch and try “local Portuguese tapas” is “Taberna Açor” (12), Rua dos Mercadores 41, P.Delgada, Açores (https://www.facebook.com/Taberna-A%C3%A7or-636639843115341/). It is open during the day when many other restaurants are closed for a local siesta between 15:00 and 18:00-18:30. Mind this when you are planning for a late lunch. Cheese and ham fondue is delicious. Be careful with the mixed appetizers plate (seleção petiscos): we hoped for the standard olives-cheese-ham plate but get a huge four-types-of-meat assortment. As we recognized later (after tasted everything), one sort was chicken throats…
Then we went searching for Arruda pineapple plantations but couldn’t find the entrance – the point on Google maps with the address of the plantation was definitely not the place we needed. If you definitely want to go there, don’t rely on Google maps only and ask locals for more detailed description. By the way, pineapples on Azores are exceptionally delicious, you have to buy and savor one. By the way, locals peel and cut them with a bread knife only.
After the misfortune with pineapple plantation we were rewarded with a very nice time in a tea factory called “Cha Porto Formoso” (13) (Estrada regional 24, Porto Formoso, Sao Miguel). We arrived later than closing times (17:00), but that day on the tea plantation locals had a festivity when everyone wore traditional dresses and celebrated the tea time. We received a warm welcome and a short excursion in the factory finished with a tea-tasting.
Before the visit I didn’t know that the difference between green and black tea is different processing methods of the leaves (the leaves that are going to be used for black tea are completely oxidized; the leaves for green tea are dried by heat only).
On the way back we stop at at a viewpoint Baia de Santa Iria (14) to give the last glance (in this trip) at the ocean.
I can say that of two islands I liked Azores more. There is such freedom and open space… On Madeira every little piece of ground is used to grow and cultivate something (e.g. bananas) and on Azores you can see only endless green meadows and pastures… Both islands are naturally beautiful, but now it is time to switch to another type of travelling and explore a new culture in a much warmer country.