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Free Things To Do in The Azores
- #2View all Photos#2 in The AzoresNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, Hiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, Hiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Sete Cidades provides the best introduction to the Azores' breathtaking landscapes. Conveniently located on São Miguel, Sete Cidades is an area found northwest of Ponta Delgada that is composed of a blue lake and a green lake that are picturesquely placed in the middle of a 3-mile-wide caldera. The area is filled with gorgeous vantage points and hiking trails as well as a little town, which is located at the bottom of the caldera at the base of the lakes. You can hit all of these viewpoints and more if you follow the EN9-1A road that takes you directly to Sete Cidades.
For stunning vistas overlooking the entirety of Sete Cidades, visit Miradouro da Vista do Rei, the caldera's highest point, or Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras. From Miradouro da Vista do Rei, you can take a trail that snakes along the western side of the caldera and down to the small village that lies within it. There's also the longer Mata do Canário trail, which starts at the stunning Miradouro da Boca do Inferno viewpoint. Like the west side trail, the Mata do Canário trail snakes along the east side of the caldera and takes hikers down to the village.
- #3View all Photos#3 in The AzoresNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
In addition to Sete Cidades, another stunning crater lake to see on São Miguel is Lagoa do Fogo. Located in the middle of São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo is more isolated than Sete Cidades and as such, the perfect place to disconnect if you're hiking. Otherwise, expect to rub elbows with visitors at viewpoints, such as Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa, where there is no parking lot (you have to park on the side of the road).
If you are interested in getting close to Lagoa do Fogo, you have a couple of options. From Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo (just steps away from Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa), you can descend down to the lake, which according to recent visitors, takes about 30 minutes. For a longer hike, venture down the stunning Praia – Lagoa do Fogo trail. This nearly 13-mile round-trip hike passes through a variety of landscapes, including farmlands, wooded areas, evergreen valleys and down to the rocky shores of the lake, where, considering the length of the hike, you'll likely run into no one. Do keep in mind that the Azorean government does not allow swimming in the lake.
- #5View all Photos#5 in The AzoresNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
If you want to see the Azores' volcanic activity for yourself, there is no better place than the Furnas Valley. The area of Furnas is basically one giant dormant volcano. As such, the area is full of hot springs, fumaroles, mud springs and geysers. Locals have come to use these geological offerings in a variety of ways, from bathing to cooking. Here, you can take a bath in mineral-filled waters, eat food that has been cooked in steam vents (such as cozido das Furnas stew) and drink tea that has been steeped with water from a volcano (found at Chalet da tia Mercês).
Start your Furnas journey to Caldeiras das Furnas, the best place to see the area's volcanic activity. Here, you can walk through the fumaroles, bubbling mud springs and geysers. Plus, this is where cozido das Furnas is cooked and if you are lucky, you'll see cooks taking the food out of the vents to the nearby restaurants in Furnas. If you're up for a mineral bath, there are a couple options within Furnas. Terra Nostra Park features a large thermal swimming pool, which is always heated between 95 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There's also Poça da Dona Beija, which features smaller pools in a more intimate setting. Both pools are rich in iron and are surrounded by striking, tropical foliage. If you choose to bathe in the former, be sure to also explore the ground's incredible gardens, which feature more than 2,000 different types of trees, including Japanese red cedars, tulip trees, palm trees and more.
- #6View all PhotosfreeAzores Beaches#6 in The AzoresBeaches, Natural Wonders, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
You can't visit this island paradise without getting an eyeful of its incredible shorelines. The beaches here are unique in that, like many other natural attractions in the Azores, they feature characteristics that are a result of the islands' volcanic history. You won't find many long, wide expansive beaches here, but rather smaller spots that are flanked by towering cliffs and filled with rocky dark or black sands.
São Miguel boasts a hearty number of beautiful beaches. Praia dos Mosteiros provides a great introduction to the beaches typical of this island chain. The beach is small, but features black sands and is flanked by lush cliffs that stretch for as far as the eye can see. Plus, you'll see some striking volcanic rock formations jutting out from the sea as you gaze at the blue waters of the Atlantic. Praia de Santa Bárbara boasts similar geographic features, but provides beachgoers more room in the sand. The conditions here are known to be rough, making it a popular place for surfers. Like Santa Bárbara , Praia do Fogo is one of the island's bigger shorelines and is particularly breathtaking thanks to the towering, forested cliffs that border the beach. The most unique beach of all on São Miguel is the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. Located off the central southern coast of São Miguel, the islet is a partially submerged volcanic crater that has turned into one large swimming hole in the middle of the Atlantic. You can reach it via ferry or kayak. Reviewers applaud the islet's beauty, but complain of crowds and a disorganized ferry operation.
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