If there’s one thing that World Words writers and editors enjoy doing even more than travelling, it’s writing about travelling. Lucky, really, considering that’s our job. But for every trip that’s undertaken for a commission – whether it’s an article or blog post, a travel itinerary, or a client’s website content – there are also the moments we decide to down tools and head out on the open road for our own personal pleasure. That’s where Our Travels comes in.
This blog series allows our team to share some of their recent, personal travel adventures. In the past, they have written about everywhere from Corsica to Canada, Crete to the Cayman Islands, and this time it’s the turn of our intrepid editor-in-chef Joe and his recent Christmas trip to São Miguel in the Azores. Scroll down to read about it…
Why I went to São Miguel
After a big family gathering at Christmas last year, and with everybody else having made their own plans this time, my wife and I decided to spend Christmas Day somewhere a little different this year. We chose to visit the Azores because we had a lovely winter escape in Madeira a couple of years ago (here’s an Our Travels blog about it) and fancied a return to Portuguese island life. We opted for the largest Azores island of São Miguel, as it combined gorgeous green landscapes (ideal for hiking) with cultural and culinary highlights in the capital Ponta Delgada.
My highlight of the trip
During the week we spent on São Miguel, we hiked all over the island, from craggy coastal paths to dense forest trails. But the undoubted highlights were two hikes around crater lakes. As a volcanic island, São Miguel is dotted with massive, ancient craters, many filled with lakes. We spent an amazing day hiking around Sete Cidades, a three-mile-wide volcanic crater home to a twin lake – one blue, one green (there’s an interesting legend about this) – and another walking around the rim of Lagoa do Fogo, an impossibly picturesque lake in a lush caldera.
What else I love about São Miguel
Another wonderful feature of this volcanic island are the thermal springs. Natural geothermal springs shoot up all across the island, from high in the mountains to down by the coast, and some of these have been incorporated into full spa experiences, complete with towel rental, changing rooms and gift shops. Our pick of the bunch was the jungle-like Caldeira Velha, where you can bathe in the warm pools or take a shower under a naturally-heated waterfall while surrounded by thick vegetation. It was the perfect place to watch the sun set on Christmas Day.
As well as natural highlights, we also enjoyed strolling around some of the island’s interesting towns. We based ourselves in the capital Ponta Delgada, a historic city with narrow winding streets, and visited other towns like picturesque Ribeira Grande and steamy Furnas (where we ate a meal cooked by steam from the hot springs).
Why you should go
São Miguel is only the start of the Azores story: this is an archipelago that stretches out across more than 350 miles and encompasses nine major islands. While I would wholeheartedly recommend a trip to São Miguel for its gorgeous landscapes and steamy thermal springs, I’d also suggest adding on time to explore even more of the beautiful volcanic islands that make this remote Portuguese archipelago so unique. We certainly intend to, and are already planning another trip next Christmas to explore the smaller Azorean islands of Terceira and Pico.
How you can visit
There are regular flights to São Miguel from the Portuguese mainland with TAP Air Portugal, as well as seasonal flights with budget airline Ryanair. In addition, there are longer-distance flights (including to and from Boston and Toronto) with Azores Airlines. The latter also has regular flights connecting the islands. Getting around São Miguel is possible by bus, but you will need a car to explore the more remote craters, thermal springs and hiking trails.
For more travel content on Portugal (including autonomous regions like Madeira and the Azores), check out our projects page. And remember to follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest travel news.