We will have spent five enjoyable days on Sao Miguel island by the time we set off for our final leg tomorrow morning. The main town of Ponta Delgada is very appealing with its distinctive Portuguese architecture, attractive squares and café life. On the harbour front it has both a marked off sea swimming area and a large salt water pool complex, so the locals are well catered for even though there are no beaches as such. The weather has been varied during our stay and though never cold, it has been wet and cloudy at times which is apparently pretty common for the Azores at this time of the year. Yesterday we hired a car to visit some of the island’s main attractions. Many of the roads in the Azores seem more like ornamental driveways with the stunning shrubs and flowers along the verges. More of the ubiquitous blue hydrangeas alternated with agapanthus and dense white lilies in places and it all looks like a well maintained park. We did see a lot of men working on the roadsides so upkeep is obviously important here. We stopped first on the north western coast to view a natural thermal swimming area created amongst the laval rocks and a popular spot on excursion trips. After that, we drove up to Sete Cidades, an enormous caldera with two large lakes, one blue, the other green and a village in the centre of the crater bottom. There are some superb walks to be had here and walking holidays are a growing business.
Back in Europe: a square in Ponta Delgada:
Manicured roadsides and the volcanic ash rim of a caldera:
The western end of the island: pools warmed by the hot springs and clouds reflected in the calm seas:
Two of the 7 caldera lakes; blue and green:
We then drove east along the island’s main expressway and up to another volcanic and hot springs area where there are more thermal baths to tempt visitors and a tradition of cooking large pots of stew directly in the hot bubbling mud. Our favourite sight however and worth a visit to the Azores on its own we thought, was a magnificent botanical garden called Parque Terra Nostra. It features a very large hot spring bathing pool coloured a deep yellow because of its high iron content and popular with the more adventurous tourists. We didn’t fancy the look of it although I did suggest it might be kill or cure for David’s various muscular aches and pains! We were blown away however, by the unbelievably lush planting, beautiful water courses and huge variety of superb trees and ferns. It really was a Garden of Eden as we overheard another visitor exclaim. We thoroughly recommend the Azores to everyone, they are a real gem and deserve more exploration than we had time for.
And so our time in the Azores comes to an end and we head off into the Atlantic again - we’re looking forward to it! Remember to keep those texts coming to the satphone.