Author: Amelia Hesson
Date of Trip: September 2015
Sao Miguel, Azores
We visited Sao Miguel, Azores in September 2015 off the Royal Princess and had a fantastic day. The weather was spectacular, quite a contrast to the last times I was there when it was cloudy and rainy and hard to see much. We hired Eleuterio Valida who came highly recommended by my dear friends the Freedmans, who live 3 months a year in Ponta Delgada, Azores.
We paid 45 Euros pp for a full day of touring not including lunch and entrance fees which were nominal, and our van could have seated up to 8 but we decided to keep this tour smaller and roomier with just 4 of us. Had we invited more people, the price would have gone down. Prior to the excursion, Eleuterio had contacted me via facebook and email and we decided to let the weather determine what we would do, this seemed like the most logical way to go since weather impacts everything on the island including visibility. Lucky for us we had perfect weather with only a few clouds in the sky, and as the day went on the weather got better and better.
Sao Miguel is a beautiful island; it is Volcanic in nature and has many lakes and Volcanoes/Calderas surrounding the area. Everything is green, it is an exquisite place filled with many tropical plants, Hydrangea’s everywhere, and lots of fields of Vegetables, Fruits including vines, berries, and lots of Passion fruit which is my favorite fruit and difficult to find on the US Mainland.
Eleuterio took us to a spectacular lookout point that was above the site where all the other tours stopped. We had 360-degree views of the island from our lookout; it was incredible with no clouds in the sky. After this we headed down to the crowded lookout for some quick pictures—Eleuterio took many pictures of us and the places we were visiting which was so cool because we got to spend our time being in the experience rather than photographing the experience which really takes away from my experience! Eleuterio sent our pictures to us after we got home and it was lovely to see things through his eyes and camera lens, he is a great photographer.
Next we visited Lagoa do Fogo (lake of fire) which was so beautiful and scenic, I did not notice any Big buses there, so no crowds at all. Lagoa do Fogo is surrounded by majestic mountains covered with lush vegetation all making a perfect backdrop for this extinct blue Crater Lake. All around the lake are hiking paths, perfect for those who love day hikes. The most prolific flowers that I saw were Hydrangeas and they were growing everywhere.
I had been to this location before but the weather was lousy and we were not able to see the things we saw on this day, what a treat. I was thrilled with our guide Eleuterio who was a warm, educated local with a passion for his home island!
From Lagoa do Fogo we visited several beautiful viewpoints all around the lake and the ancient Caldera called Valha, which means old. Eleuterio explained that at least 50% of the energy used on this island is “green” energy, due to its volcanic nature. Volcanoes surround the Island and some are active and generate lots of geothermal energy. The island get a lot of rain and this rainwater is heated using geothermal heat for swimming pools among other uses. Much of the flora and fauna are imported from locations around the world. There is an abundance of Eucalyptus trees from Australia, Criptomerea trees from Japan, and huge forests with Hydrangeas that originated in China.
Next we head for Caldeiras (hot Springs) and Furnas lake located in the Furnas Valley. This is now a national park, and it’s an easy hike to several hot springs, which lots of people were enjoying. There is an information room as well as changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms that are clean and well supplied. We continued hiking on up for a short while to find a lovely waterfall, and more natural hot springs. The smell of sulphur was abundant but it really did not bother me. I wished I had brought a swimming suit so I could have taken a dip into the pools. Next time I will.
Our next stop was Salto do Cabrito, which is a large waterfall that is easily accessible from the road. We follow the road down a steep incline and at the bottom we find a power plant and several waterfalls. We walk around, take photos, and enjoy being the only people here, well at least for a few minutes! Eleuterio shows us a nice hike up to the top of the falls, but not for today since we have a lot of territory to cover.
Next we head for the beach, a lovely spot where we can see a natural bridge (arch) in the distance, as well as several surfers riding some small waves. There was a casual beach bar and restaurant and would have been a lovely place to stop for lunch but we were headed to a Cooperative for a special lunch of local meats and cheeses. The Coop is called Restaurant DA Associacao Argicola, and it was an ideal place to eat and chat and enjoy the local dishes. I had a Beef filet with passion fruit and it was delicious. I also got to try the local cheese, which was fantastic. Finally, I had to have the Passion Fruit tart, and that was a perfect way to complete my meal. Yummy!
After lunch we visited The 7 cities lakes area, called Lagoa do Canario, and got to see several of the lakes from different lookouts. The more adventurous (and in good shape) climbed to the top of the lookout and saw all of the lakes while I made it halfway up and got to ponder to beauty of this place.
Finally we headed back to the port and the main city on this island, which is Ponta Delgada. Our ship ported in the downtown area making it easy to just walk off the ship and explore the town on your own if you should find that appealing. 60,000 people live in this city, and it is said that for every person there is a cow living on the Island! We did see a lot of cows as we headed back to town.
In town we went to the new (old) Synagogue that my friends were instrumental in helping re-open in the last few years. This temple was amazing, my cousin and I both went in and we were immediately taken by the feel and vibration of this ancient place. We both started to cry as we went upstairs and visited the actual temple with its original benches and lamps. What a beautiful feeling we got being connected to this Temple, it is so beautiful and I highly recommend a visit.
As our departure time grew closer, Eleuterio dropped us off across from the ship and we were able to get in a little bit of shopping in before getting on the ship. I found Passion fruit jam and bought a few jars for friends, and myself! We all said goodbye to Eleuterio and thanked him for such a spectacular experience, certainly one of the highlights of the cruise. We were all thrilled with the Island and especially Eleuterio who really brought his Island alive for us. Eleuterio can be contacted my email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.wazores.com