15 activities you didn’t know you could do on Sao Miguel…
We love the Sao Miguel for its walking, kayaking, paddle boarding, whale and bird watching, and many, many more outdoor activities. However, sometimes you might like a break from its adventure playground…. because we know the islands so well, we’ll always find something for you to do whatever your interest! Here are 15 more activities you may not have known you can do on Sao Miguel :
Beginning in the east…
#01 – If you’re going to wet anyway why not spend the day in Furnas, relaxing in a hot pool ? The Azores’ most famous geothermal swimming pool is at the Parque Terra Nostra. I’m also a big fan of the outdoor spa at Poca da Dona Beija, whose infinity-style pools are geared more towards relaxation than swimming. Dona Beija is open from 7:00 to 23:00 and entry is normally 3€. You can rent a towel and locker for 1€ per person (plus a refundable deposit of 20€), and shower tokens are also 1€.
#02 – Just outside Furnas on the southern-shore of Lagoa das Furnas, is the Centro de Monitorização e Investigação – the Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre which charts the geological history of the area and the crucial environmental projects being undertaken within the caldera. The entrance fee is 3€ – guided tours begin on the hour and last around thirty-minutes.
#03 – A short drive north of Furnas wil bring you to the Gorreana Tea Plantation, Europe’s oldest producer of tea. The thirty-two acre plantation was established in 1883 and the original 19th Century production methods are still in use today:
#04 – More of the island’s agricultural history is preserved at the Museu do Trigo in Povoacao. This eastern-end of Sao Miguel was once devoted to wheat farming and the cultivation of oranges. In the mid-19th Century, Sao Miguel was the largest exporter of oranges to the UK and the rolling hills and ‘lombas’ in the east were covered in orange groves. Povoacao’s natural harbour was also the arrival point for the first settlers on the island in 1432:
#05 – It’s a short drive from Povoacao to the town of Nordeste – home to the Centro Ambiental do Priolo. The Azores bullfinch (or Priolo) is one of Europe’s most threatened bird species with an estimated population of just 400 (in 2003). The bullfinchs’ natural habitat, laurisilva forest, was lost to the intensive farming of non-native Japanese Cedar (currently used in the construction industry). The Priolo centre manages a number of projects to help protect the current bullfinch population, and to try and restore the laurisilva.
Down on the South Coast…
#06 – The Museu Municipal de Vila Franca Do Campo is a great place to learn more about the cultural history of the Azores and many of the islands’ lost handicrafts. Opening hours are 9:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 17:00 during the week, 14:00 to 17:00 at weekends; the museu is closed on Mondays:
#07 – Lagoa has two facinating science centres. The first is the OVGA Volcanological and Geothermal Observatory of the Azores where you can learn about the formation and geological history of the Azores. The second is the Expolab Centro Ciencia Viva – a science and technology centre which promotes hands-on learning. Neither centre really has regular opening hours so I’d recommend messaging them through their respective facebook pages (above) – the Expolab tends to have more events for families and children during the summer:
On the North Coast…
#08 – The latest addition to the island’s cultural scene is the Arquipelago Centro de Artes Contemporanaes in Ribeira Grande. As a building, the centre has had many uses over it’s 150-year lifespan: an alcohol distillery, a tobacco factory and a military barracks. It’s early days for the centre but their two main goals look to be promoting Azorean art and creating connections between international artists and the islands; I’m going to be visiting later this year to find out more (whether I have a rainy day on Sao Miguel or not). Opening hours are from 10:00 to 18:00 every day except Mondays – entry is 3€ and their program is available through their website:
#09 – Just along the road in the village of Rabo de Peixe, you’ll find the Observatório Astronómico de Santana – or OASA Observatory. The observatory has a Sky Night on the first Friday of each month; from 21:00 to 23:00 and entry is 1€. If the sky’s overcast, there are presentations on current space exploration in the planetarium.
#10 – One of the most underated museums on the island is the Oficina Museu in the small hamlet of Capelas. The Oficina was a labour of love for Manuel Melo – he wanted to preserve an Azorean arts and crafts workshop. His focus wasn’t so much the products themselves: Manuel was more interested in the tools, the workspaces and traditional skills that were once part of the daily life of the island. Opening hours are from 9:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:00, Monday to Saturday:
And in Ponta Delgada…
#11 – Visit the Gruta do Carvão lava tunnels on the western edge of the city. At 1.6km, Gruta do Carvao is the largest accessible tunnel on the island – it’s believed to have formed during a major eruption of the Sete Cidades caldera around 12,000 years ago. Opening hours are 10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 18:00 every day – be sure to wear grippy footwear as the floor of the caves can be slippery:
#12 –The Jose do Canto Jardim Botanico in the Santana district. The original gardens date back to the late 19th Century – 5.8 hectares of horticultural flora and non-native tree species from around the globe. The gardens are open from 9:00 to 19:00 in the Spring and Summer, closing at 17:00 in the Autumn and Winter.
#13 – Ponta Delgada has a thriving arts scene – if you’re visiting in July, look out for the fantastic Walk and Talk Festival. Away from July, you could take your own walking tour of the city’s contemporary galleries: Oficina, Galeria Miolo, the Galeria Fonseca Macedo and the Museu Carlos Machado:
#14 – Ponta Delgada’s Atlantic ten-pin bowling alley is at the Portas do Mar marina. There are just four lanes, so it’s often better to pop down for lunch and you can book a lane whilst you eat. Opening hours are midday to midnight:
#15 – And finally: for movie fans there’s the Cineplace Parque Atlantico. In Portugal, most foreign (UK and US) films are shown in English, with Portuguese subtitles added and the current line-up of films showing is available here. If you prefer live theatre, the Teatro Micaelense has a varied programme of music, dance and classic cinema all year-round. As you’d expect, their theatrical performances/plays are in Portuguese, which can be tricky if your Portuguese is as bad as mine. You can check their calendar here:
If you’re island-hopping, we also have rainy day travel tips for…
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