Azores road trip, discover Sao Miguel in 3 days (incl. itinerary)

The Azores are all about nature with their volcanoes, crater lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. These paradise islands are one of the most impressive and beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are still unspoiled, not (yet) packed with tourists and probably the greenest islands you’ll ever encounter in your life. They are a true paradise on earth and they’re not called the Hawaii of Europe for nothing. Oh, and a fun fact; there are more cows than humans.

The most visited and best known island is the biggest one; Sao Miguel. Here most flights land from Europe and the USA. Even though it isn’t that big, it’s worth to spend a few days here, because there’s tons to do! Road tripping is the best (and I even dare to say the only) way to explore the entire island. So I advise to book a rental car in advance, like I did. That way there’s no waiting in line and you are sure there’s a car waiting for you, ready to explore! I rented a car via Ilha Verde for all three islands I visited. I chose to stay at Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel’s capital, so all my day trips started from there.

Warning: after reading this you’ll want to pack your bags and leave for a Sao Miguel Azores road trip immediately!

Sao Miguel, Azores road trip itinerary

Azores road trip Sao Miguel

Day 1: Sete Cidades – Ribeira Grande – Salto do Cabrito – Caldeira Velha

Azores road trip Sao Miguel itinerary 01

Total driving time: about 2,5 hours
Total kilometers to drive: 96 km
Activities: hiking, hot spring & waterfall swimming, town exploration
What to bring: rain jacket, hiking shoes, swim wear, towel, wet wipes to clean your feet, plastic bag to put wet swim wear in

Azores road trip Sao Miguel

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno & Sete Cidades (30 minute drive)

The first thing I wanted to do was the short hike near Lago do Canario with a breathtaking view on the lakes of Sete Cidades. It’s a pleasant drive upwards passing the greenest meadows. At the Lagoa do Canario, you turn right through the gate and follow the dirt road until the parking lot at the end. There’s a short hiking path taking you all the way up to the viewpoint, where you’ll have one of the most amazing views of Sao Miguel. After admiring the view and the short hike back, you can drive to the Sete Cidades viewpoint, the Miradouro da Vista do Rei.
From there you can drive to Ribeira Grande. (or drive down to Sete Cidades, continue to Mosteiros where there is an amazing black rock beach, and then drive to Ribeira Grande).

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Ribeira Grande

Ribeira Grande (50 minutes drive)

I arrived in Ribeira Grande at noon, because I got lost on my way, so I first took lunch there and explored the town a little. At the Rua Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao you can find a few stores and cafes. At the end there’s a nice church and a park area.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Salto do Cabrito

Hike to Salto do Cabrito (10 minutes drive)

The next stop was quite a challenge to find. I made screenshots from Google Street View so I knew how to drive. Just look up Bar Restaurant Caldeiras in Google Maps, that’s where you will park your car to start the hike to the Salto do Cabrito (PRC29SMI). The hike takes about 2 hours and a half. You’ll walk through the forest and over pipelines to a waterfall. If you’re lazy you can also drive to the waterfall, but you’ll miss the adventure.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Caldeirao Verde

Caldeira Velha (13 minute drive)

After your hike it’s time to relax. Enjoy the lush vegetation on your way to Caldeira Velha and take a swim at the waterfall and hotsprings of the Fogo volcano for only 2€! You can change in the wooden cabins of the park. My personal tip? Take wet wipes with you to clean your feet. You’ll be walking on rocks and soil.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Lagoa do Fogo

Lagoa do Fogo (8 minute drive)

On your way back to Ponta Delgada you’ll pass the Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint which offers (again) an amazing view of yet another crater lake. A little further is another viewpoint you can’t miss. Take into account that in case of bad weather this drive can be a little scary. It is steep and there are a lot of hairpin turns. You’ll drive through the clouds so be careful.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada (30 minutes drive)

Return to Ponta Delgada and enjoy your evening by eating in one of the tiny local restaurants in the old town center, where they serve your food at the table as if you’re eating at someone’s house. It’s fresh, simple but delicious food.

Day 2: Tea plantations – Ribeira dos Caldeiroes – Nordeste – Salto do Prego

Azores road trip Sao Miguel itinerary 02

Total driving time: about 3 hours
Total kilometers to drive: 152 km
Activities: tea plantation visit, waterfall spotting, hiking
What to bring: rain jacket, hiking shoes

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Cha Gorreana

Cha Porto Formoso & Cha Gorreana (26 minutes drive)

Sao Miguel is home to the only two tea plantations in Europe; Cha Porto Formoso and Cha Gorreana,  which you both can find on the main road between Ribeira Grande and Lomba da Maia near Sao Bras. Cha Porto Formoso is easy to recognize by the large tea pot hanging at the entrance. There’s a museum you can visit about its history and you can taste the tea, but I just enjoyed the view at both plantations and saw a few men working at the plantation.

(Salto do Farinha (20 minuters drive) )

I include this between brackets because I found the place to spot the Salto do Farinha (near the coast above Salga) after a rather difficult drive and when I arrived I found out it dried up. There was no waterfall to see.  So I hope if you go there you’re more Lucky than I am!

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Ribeira dos Caldeiroes

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes (14 minutes drive)

Continue your way from the tea planatations to Ribeira dos Caldeiroes. This is a tropical park you can easily find, because its main attraction is a waterfall by the road. Here are amazing flowers and plants to spot and a few waterfalls. You can easily cross the river to the main waterfall to make some cool pictures with it. I also climbed on top of it and then I got disappointed finding out that it isn’t a natural waterfall. It’s actually water coming out from a pipe…

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Faial da Terra

Via Nordeste to Faial da Terra (51 minutes drive)

The way from Ribeira dos Caldeiroes to Faial da Terra has a lot of miradouros from where you can enjoy fantastic views. I remember that it was a very rainy day when I did this trip so I continued driving to Furnas to have lunch there and continue my day from there, but on a sunnier day I advise to find lunch on your way to Faial da Terra or in this little town and then start your hike to the Salto do Prego.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Salto do Prego

Hike to Salto do Prego

The hike to the Salto do Prego and the “ghost town” Sanguinho (PRC9SMI) starts at Faial da Terra. You just need to go upstream and follow the river Ribeira do Faial da Terra. This hike has some steep climbs but it’s a great walk if you like to step through the jungle passing rivers and gorgeous flowers. At the end you’ll be rewarded with the sight of the Salto do Prego. I sat there for an hour, not only to recover from the hike, but also to admire the power of the waterfall and all the tiny flows dripping off the moss on the rocks.

From there you have 2 options depending on the time left. You can continue the hike to another waterfall called Salto do Cagarrão or you can start returning via Sanguinho. This little town can’t be reached by car and the only living soul I encountered there was a cat. After leaving the town, a very steep descend on a cobblestone path follows with a view on Faial da Terra.

Ponta Delgada (1 hour 20 minutes drive)

After the hike you can return back to Ponta Delgada via Furnas, which you will explore the next day. There are a few good restaurants with delicious fish plates and cheap cocktails in the port area. I loved the parrotfish at 100 Espinhas.

Day 3: Vila Franca do Campo – Furnas – Ponta Delgada

Total driving time: about 2 hours & 15 minutes
Total kilometers to drive: 110km
Activities: little church visit, hot spring swimming, geysers
What to bring: rain jacket, hiking shoes, swim wear, towel, wet wipes to clean your feet, plastic bag to put wet swim wear in

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Nossa Senhora da Paz

Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz (25 minutes drive)

On your way from Ponta Delgada to Vila Franca do Campo you’ll pass again a lot of miradouros. Don’t hesitate to stop at each one of them. Arriving in Vila Franca do Campo look out for the signals to the little church Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz. It’s quite a steep route but the view of the church surrounded by hundreds of hydrangeas is incredible. Climb up the massive stairs and from above you’ll get to see the funny shaped island Ilheu da Vila. After this it’s time to continue to the Furnas valley which is located in a volcano crater.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Lagoa das Furnas

Lagoa das Furnas (21 minutes drive)

First you’ll drive to the dreamy Furnas lake. Arriving at the lake you’ll immediately see a parking lot at your right side. Park your car and walk up to the little church next to the lake. From the parking lot it’s also worth walking next to the lake following the road until you see a little quay. It’s a cute place to take photos.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Pico do Ferro

Miradouro do Pico do Ferro (16 minutes drive)

You can drive further to the other side of the lake to watch the geisers where they cook meals in. But I continued to a view point called Miradouro do Pico do Ferro. From there you can see the complete Furnas lake with its funny shape.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Parque Terra Nostra

Parque Terra Nostra (11 minutes drive)

After visiting the miradouro it’s time to relax at the botanical garden Parque Terra Nostra near Furnas. Here you’ll find a super pretty park with hot springs and innumerable species of plants and trees. I swam at the thermal water pool which has a weird yellow brownish color due to the minerals it contains. It’s told that these minerals will energize you. After your swim make sure to rinse off as much of the thermal water as you can. Also try to wash out your swim wear, because the yellow/brown tends to stay.

Azores road trip Sao Miguel Furnas

Furnas town (4 minutes drive)

After your swim you can have lunch at Furnas town and explore the geysers. The smell is awful (rotten eggs) but it’s fascinating to see all the bowling water and steam coming out from deep underground. The locals even cook cork in it!

Ponta Delgada (49 minutes drive)

Back to Ponta Delgada to explore the town and its typical Portuguese architecture. It has some little gems such as the city gate, the Igreja Matriz De São Sebastião with the square next to it and you can climb the spiral stairway of the Camara Municipal’s tower.

Depending on the time I also suggest to do a whale/dolphin spotting tour. According to the tour operators of the islands you have a 97% chance to encounter these fantastic creatures. They are spotted by people who are at a lookout on the coast, using powerful binoculars, and inform the boats.

If you rather like shopping; there’s a big shopping center called Parque Atlantico at the northwest side of the town.

You can read more about Sao Miguel here: The ultimate quick guide to Sao Miguel
Other useful information about traveling to the Azores can be found here: Need to know before visiting the Azores

Azores Road Trip Sao Miguel

Azores Road Trip Sao Miguel

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5 thoughts on “Azores road trip, discover Sao Miguel in 3 days (incl. itinerary)

  1. Hej Joëlle

    Heb jij de mountain Pico beklommen? Zoja, aanrader?
    Trip naar de Azoren net geboekt! Keibenieuwd na het lezen van je blog!


  2. Hi Joelle,
    I’m Gemma from Spain. I travel to Azores on August. Your blog is the most complet I have found. Thank you for all the information you have written. I will use it to plan my trip.
    I have some questions, I’ve read that there are flights that are cancelled because of the weather. It also happen with the ferrys? I’ve found there are cheap journeys for young people with Atlanticoline (for 7,5€ for travel), but I’m afraid of booking hotels on the islands because of the cancellation of ferrys. What do you recomend me?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Gemma!
      Thanks for your nice feedback! I’m glad you found my information useful!
      I have no experience with the ferries. I don’t think ferries are a big problem if you travel between islands of the same group (like Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira), but to travel from Faial to Flores or from Faial to Sao Miguel I would never take the ferry simply because it will take way too long to get there.
      I got stuck on Flores due to bad weather for a day because the plane couldn’t land because of the storm. But in the end it’s not that bad if you plan enough days for each island.
      I wish you a lot of great travels!

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