I must admit that the first thing I did when I reached San Miguel was to find a “pastei de nata,” or a custard cream pastry. Then I accidentally came across the ‘queijadas da vila’ a delicious dessert from Vila Franca do Campo, a small settlement on the island. This sort of cake with cream is delicious and can be found all over the island.
I took a walk to help digest it and took a short stroll around the impressive Antonio Borges garden, an old pineapple grove from the nineteenth century that is currently home to all sorts of exotic species. Highly recommended, just like the stroll from Plaza de la República -with its three commemorative arches- to the port.
To cover the rest of the wild terrain, your best bet is to rent a car. If you do not have a license, I am sorry to let you down, but the public transportation network is rather inefficient, so you have two options: Trick a friend or join organized tours.
San Miguel is famous for its colourful ponds and that of the Seven Cities is one of the most visited spots on the island, and undoubtedly the most instagrammed. Natural! When have you ever seen a bicolour lake? Blue and intense green, to be precise. All along the access road, you will find a series of lookout points. It is worth stopping the car, getting out, and enjoying the views! There is one that is particularly interesting where you can make out Lake Santiago in the distance.
Another must-see lake is Lagoa do Fogo and, of course, Lagoa del Canario. It is a little more concealed and smaller, but just as beautiful.
If you have never been to a natural hot spring, this is your chance. Technically we are talking about a lodestone hot water cascade. This open-air hot spring is located on the slope of Sierra de Agua de Pau. It was inaugurated in 2013, after a renovation, and now splashing around “Jurassic Park-style” can be done by anyone. Winter or summer, pack your bikini!
Did you know that San Miguel is home to the only tea plantation in Europe? Cha Gorreana is a factory located on the south-eastern coast. The plantation’s horizon is quite suggestive: the countryside arranged in horizontal terraces with the sea in the background, as if it were a land art instillation. There are guided tours through both the plantation and the factory. And the product is delicious.
Another must on the island is the traditional Portuguese ‘cozido’ (with a z), or stew. The most typical version of this dish is called ‘das Furnas.’ You must call at least one day in advance to have it made for you. It is cooked by using the volcanic heat in the region and it is as filling as the Spanish one. If you follow my advice and you decide to go to this spot to try it, take a stroll afterwards around the surrounding area and discover the natural geysers. You can get a sense for them in this video:
Another autochthonous delicacy you must try is cracas, a species similar to the barnacle and is only found in the Azores: Exquisite!
Finally, if you have space in your suitcase, take home some natural jams home. The most popular one is the pineapple jam, which is paired to make the most interesting of blends: I have even seen it blended with blood sausage. And dairy products are also not to be missed: The cheese here is out of this world.