The West Side
The western part of São Miguel island has, arguably, some of the island’s most picturesque scenes. Of course, almost every part of the Azores is beautiful, but if you have seen photos of the Azores, there is a good chance they were taken on the western part of the island.
Here is a suggested itinerary for a day on the west side.
9:00am: Abandoned Monte Palace hotel / Vista Do Rei
Once an operational hotel, the Monte Palace has been abandoned for over 30 years and is now an eerie, surreal tourist spot. There are 20 minute parking spots right around the hotel, but if you plan to stay for longer you will have to park past the hotel about half a mile away. Entrance to the hotel is free. You do jump over some small wall barriers in order to get in, which certainly adds to the whole experience.
Spend some time wondering around empty rooms with moldy carpets while jumping over puddles filled with water and rusted cables. The appeal is hard to describe, but it is one site not to miss.
At the front entrance of the hotel, take in the splendid view of the Sete Cidades lake below. From this spot, it is easy to see why some companies are considering taking over the abandoned hotel and reconstructing it. Feel free to walk to the Vista Do Rei viewpoint for a more encompassing look at the lake, but the view from the abandoned hotel is enough to induce Instagram envy.
Return to the parking lot grab a bite to eat at the Komaki Burger Truck, if you are feeling peckish.
10:15am: Sete Cidades
Continue taking in the amazing views of Lagoa das Sete Cidades as you descend into the volcanic crater to explore the small town of Sete Cidades. Spend sometime outdoors swimming, kayaking, biking, or hiking. If you decide to hike, you can start from the village and complete part of the Sete Cidades loop trail. Utilizing the AllTrails app is highly recommended as the trail is not well marked.
After your daily dose of vitamin D, head to lunch at Lagoa Azul, which has an all-you-can-eat buffet for about 12 Euros per person, excluding drinks. Make sure you don’t arrive too late as they do stop making food after 1:30pm or so. Save some room for dessert, which also costs extra, but that pineapple cake is so worth it.
2:30pm: Ponta da Ferraria
Hop back in the car and drive 20 minutes to Ponta da Ferraria for an open water hot springs experience. The views are breathtaking, but jump in to feel an exhilarating mix of cold ocean water with geothermal heat! Be sure to check the tides on a daily basis though - you will want to go in the middle of low and high tide for good temperatures. If you go during low tide, the water can be hot enough to cause burns!
One important consideration - if you do not feel comfortable swimming, you will not want to be in the water. At times, the surf can get pretty rough and toss you around. The nearby spa houses an outdoor geothermal pool, so you can still get a taste of volcanic water in a safer environment.
7:30pm: Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel
Head home to freshen up before heading out for some of the best Azorean steak. While the restaurant is located on the central northern part of the island, it is included in this western guide as you may want a heartier meal at the end of your active day.
The steakhouse is located within the Department of Agriculture, and is one of the nicer places to eat on São Miguel island. Dressy casual attire recommended. Locals seem to frequent this spot regardless of what day of the week it is, so there may a little wait to get a table.
There are all sorts of steak preparations available, but the Azorean style steak topped with a fried egg is a popular option. If you are very hungry, the T-bone steak will give you the most bang for your buck. In truth, it can easily feed two or more people. The Azoreans enjoy their steaks either rare, medium, or well-done, so you will have to make a tough decision if you like your meat cooked medium-rare.
Don’t forget to order a bottle of wine with your meal. There are wines native to the Azorean islands, but most bottles on the wine list come from mainland Portugal. Wines from the Alentejo region and the Duoro valley are both good choices. After dinner, an espresso and some Azorean style cheesecake may be the perfect nightcap to the day.
Stay tuned for an itinerary on the central part of São Miguel island!