The largest and greenest of the Azores islands is Sao Miguel, colloquially known as the “green island”. This stunning Portuguese island is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and traveling there takes you a world away from the worries of modern life. To experience all that “ilha verde” has to offer visitors can consider booking one of the best tours in Sao Miguel.
While it’s nice to travel independently and explore a precious paradise such as this at your own pace, booking tours along the way will help you discover a different side of Sao Miguel that you might not have come across on your own. Pairing your own traveling instincts with the local insights that a tour agency such as Azores Dream Tours offers will make for a compelling trip.
The highlight of any Sao Miguel vacation are the landscapes that roll from one volcanic peak, geothermal pool, blue and green lake, and viewpoint to the next. But venture a little deeper and you will discover intriguing history, architecture and food in the villages dotted around the island. In the small communities where locals reside, life is unapologetically relaxed.
Just picture this: every afternoon as you return from another immersion in nature, a glass of Portuguese wine will be waiting for you and so too a gorgeous sunset – because the coastline is formed in such a way that it hugs the island with uninterrupted views of the sea and sky no matter where you are. Sunset viewings are guaranteed on this Azores island.
10 Best Tours in Sao Miguel
1. Sete Cidades & Lagoa do Fogo – “The Force of Nature”
A full day tour that takes you to one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal: Sete Cidades. This name translates to “Seven Cities”, however the name is slightly misleading as there is only one town here but there are in fact two beautiful lakes: Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. One of the highlights is walking up Miradouro da Vista do Rei for beautiful views of the two lakes.
Legend has it that a princess and shepherd fell in love at Sete Cidades but the king didn’t permit the relationship. The tears that the pair cried created the two lagoons – one blue and one green to reflect the eye color of the princess and shepherd. Although this legend is debated factually and scientifically, isn’t the legend an amazing story to ponder nonetheless?
The Sete Cidades & Lagoa do Fogo tour continues as it swings by Lagoa do Fogo where you can soak in the natural beauty of a volcanic crater with shimmering turquoise waters. Other activities on the tour include a delicious lunch, a visit to the charming Church of Sao Nicolau, relaxing in natural thermal hot pools and visiting the historic center of Ribeira Grande.
2. Furnas – “Gastronomy, Spa, Caldeiras & Fumarolas”
Located 50km east of Punta Delgada is the Furnas region which boasts a massive volcanic crater in a valley. The volcanic presence here, although dormant since the 1700’s, still has a lot of natural activity seen in the hot springs, thermal pools and caldeiras. For this reason, the area is regarded as the capital of Azores tourism and it attracts thousands of visitors every year.
On the Furnas full day excursion with Azores Dream Tours, guests will get to enjoy a combination of adventures with a touch of relaxation too. The beginnings of this journey take you to a couple of picturesque beaches and viewpoints before visiting Franca do Campo – the island’s first capital. Then your guide will drive you to Vila Franca do Campo for some tasty queijadas.
Once your body has digested this treat, it will be time to climb up these beautiful white stairs to Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz with its epic views of Vila Franca and its tiny iselt situated off the coast. Afterwards, the adventures really heat up with stops at several volcanic crater lookouts and a chance to soak in the mineral goodness at Parque Terra Nostra pools.
The tour rolls on after lunch with visits to fumarolas, mineral water springs and boilers. And then to the north of Sao Miguel where guests can marvel at the views of Miradouro do Pico do Ferro and appreciate the raw power of nature. As the tour comes to an end, a much welcomed tea tasting will be offered at Gorreana Tea Factory followed by a stop in Ponta Delgada.
3. Furnas & the Northeast – “The Enchanted Green”
The Furnas and Northeast circuit is similar to the tour mentioned above but with a few differences. One added extra on “The Enchanted Green” trip is the opportunity to visit Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes with its majestic waterfall and five quaint water mills. If you are a nature and waterfall lover then this option might be better suited than the one above.
4. Northeast – “10th Azorian Florida Island”
The Northeast of Sao Miguel is considered to be the “10th Azorian island” due to its beautiful flower and bird species. Highlights of the Northeast day tour include waterfalls, viewpoints, walking tour of Vila de Nordeste, stop at Farol do Arnel army facility, tea plantation visits, thermal water tank swim and an exploration of Vila da Povoacao (first settlement of the island).
5. Round the Island – “Best of 3 Days in 1 Day”
For travelers who are short on time but still want to see all sides of Sao Miguel, the Round the Island option is the best way to go. This tour gives you three days for the price of one (so to speak). It’s an action-packed day of hiking to viewpoints such as Miradouro da Vista do Rei in Sete Cidades, crater lake stops in Furnas and hot spring soaks in Parque Terra Nostra.
You could take this tour as soon as you arrive in Sao Miguel – just to sample a taste of each destination – and then venture into each region in more depth during your remaining time. See what places you love the most and return for more adventures. The Round the Island tour is the ultimate introduction to Sao Miguel. If you can only book one tour then this is it.
6. Sete Cidades – “The Blue & Green Lagoon”
A four hour tour which showcases the unbridled beauty that is Sete Cidades. Learn local legends, snap Instagrammable photos at Miradouro da Vista do Rei and Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado, marvel at the volcanic crater inside Sete Cidades – Lagoa de Santiago – and wander around the seductive streets of Sete Cidades parish (home to only 800 inhabitants).
“The Blue & Green Lagoon” offering is the perfect tour to tick Sete Cidades off your bucket list. This tour, like all of the others above, is shared with other travelers but if you would like a private experience you can always opt for that with Azores Dream Tours and their range of Private & Exclusive Tour options. They can take you to Sete Cidades alone, or with friends and family.
7. Furnas – “East of the Island”
A condensed version of the two Furnas day tours, this Furnas half day excursion kicks off with a hotel pick-up (in either Ponta Delgada, Lagoa or Ribeira Grande) and then crosses the south coast to the northern regions to the Gorreana Tea Factory or Porto Formoso Tea Factory. The next stop – Pico de Ferro – is the best view to see the volcanic crater of Furnas.
Head down into the interiors of the volcanic crater itself, Lagoa das Furnas, to visit the boilers and fumaroles – as well as stopping at restaurants where they cook dishes in the volcanic earth. Next on the itinerary is the parish of Furnas with the option of soaking in the thermal pools of either Poca da Dona Beija or Parque Terra Nostra (which also has an amazing garden).
Once you have warmed up to the bones, the tour guide can take you back to the parish of Furnas to get a broader understanding of the volcanic history and learn the key dates when this volcano was last active (don’t worry, it was a long time ago). To cap everything off, a tasting of liqueurs will be offered at the parish of Furnas. All in all, a fun and diverse tour.
8. Lagoa do Fogo – “The Energetic Volcano”
Lagoa do Fogo is a breathtaking volcano to see in person and what better way to view it than from 900 meters of altitude at Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa. On this Lagoa do Fogo half day excursion, guests will stop off at this lookout as well as a few others. Additionally, there will be hot spring options, liqueur tastings and a tour of Ribeira Grande’s historic center.
9. Northeast – “On the Viewpoint Route”
“On the Viewpoint Route” is all in the name: amazing viewpoints full of flowers in the northeast region. This is the most flowery region of the island, also home to the rare bird species called the priolo or Azores bullfinch. Again, all the usual staples you expect on a Sao Miguel half day tour are included such as volcanic views, waterfall visits and quaint village stops.
10. Sao Miguel Private Tour – “Car or Van Tour”
The last and certainly not least option is a private tour with either a car or van. Talk to the amazing team at Azores Dream Tours about your preferences and where you want to go. These tours are personalized in a way to suit your travel style – whether you want 100% pure nature activities, seek food and cultural experiences, or just need to soak in a hot pool or two.
Key Tips for Visiting Sao Miguel
- Plan to visit Sao Miguel for at least five to seven days to fully immerse yourself in nature. Ideally, you would have 10 days or two weeks.
- Check the weather forecast before you go exploring or before you book one of the best tours of Sao Miguel mentioned above. Sunny and warm weather will make a big difference to your overall experience.
- Wear old/used swimwear in the hot pools. Some of the minerals in the pools might leave a few orange stains on your favorite bathing suit.
- Choose the cooler days or overcast days to visit the hot springs. It’s best to go when you actually want to warm up, rather than the reverse.
- Bring some hiking boots for the volcano viewpoints and the various hikes you might want to do. You will be doing a lot of walking.
- Leave no trace and always collect your rubbish when taking outdoor adventures. All travelers have a responsibility to keep Sao Miguel clean.