São Miguel is Portugal’s secret garden…
By Helen Wright
If you’re looking for a secret hideaway with tranquil beauty, head to São Miguel. This gorgeously green island is the largest of the nine small volcanic islands east of Portugal, known as The Azores. The island is only 300 miles square, so you could drive around it completely in one day – but it takes much longer once you’ve stopped to enjoy (and Instagram) the spectacular scenery of mountains, forests, brilliant blue lakes and emerald ocean views.
It’s the perfect setting for romance-seekers. Despite having 150,000 inhabitants, the sprawling forest makes you feel as though you’ve discovered a secluded spot on your own island. You’re guaranteed quiet and calm for the ultimate relaxation but there’s a quirky nightlife for those who want to party.
Adventures all round
Adrenalin junkies will be spoilt for choice with adventure specialists Picos de Aventura. Try a guided hike around Sete Cidades, a beauty spot which looks over the enormous lake which lies in the crater of a volcano. Incredible views of the lake and surrounding forest are worth breaking a sweat for (Prices start at £40) Biking, rock climbing, and canoeing are also on offer. Fancy a more sedate break? Go wine tasting at vineyard, Quinta da Jardinette, north of the island (Tours are £6, and include tasting of three delicious wines as well as local cheese and crackers. quintadajardinete.com) or soak in one of the many natural hot tubs – heated by volcanic gas – in the Caldeira Velha forest that covers most of Sao Miguel. The water is a ‘TOWIE’ brown colour but it is pure and said to have healing properties!
A taste for the town
For a tasty feast, head to Ponta Delgada, the islands’ main city, complete with fancy marina with pretty fishing boats and million pound yachts. To feel like a proper local, pull up a chair at Tasca, a traditional Azorean Portuguese eatery where the menu changes daily depending on the local catch. Seaseme-crusted Tuna and garlic clams are chef favourites. The Convés restaurant’s terrace overlooks the harbour with an all-you-can-eat salad bar and tasty Petiscos (fancy tapas) like peppered octopus, from £4 per dish.
Sunset view: free.
Toast your trip
Travessa dos Artistas is a fashionably retro bar with live music in the centre of Ponta Delgada and is a great place to sip the traditional Portuguese drink Licor de Beirao, a fruity liqour served over ice. Sip slowly – it’s pretty lethal (approx £5) The best place to dance off later is the Colegio 27 Jazz Club. This modern bar is set within the ancient stone walls of an old stable house, keeping you cool while you get hot on the dancefloor. Be sure to check out the sexy cocktails and even sexier locals. Open until the early hours (or when the last reveller falls asleep)
Jot this down…
You can fly from London Gatwick to Ponta Delgada in 4 hours. Prices from £339 return on Sata International. Taxi to the main town and port is around £5.
Venture into the forest town of Furnas, east of the main city for a romantic hideaway complete with naturally-heated volcanic lake on your doorstep at boutique 4*spa hotel, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. Built in the 1930s, it has an old Hollywood feel to it with stunning views over the Terra Nostra Botanical Park. Big brekkie of filling fry up or healthy fruit and pastry selection included. (Doubles from £115 per night)
Time: GMT +1
Find out more than we can tell you at: visit visitazores.com.