I would include myself in that second category; If you’ve ever visited our office here in the Lake District, you’ll know we live in amongst some of the most beautiful peaks and mountains in the UK. But geologically they’re old, and 400 million years of tectonic collisions and erosion have really taken their toll. Sao Miguel’s 15,000 year old volcanoes are babies by comparison and so for us, a four-hour flight to the Azores is also a trip to 399,985,000 years into the past ( just go with me on this for a second … ).
The volcanoes that formed Sao Miguel have not eroded into Lake District-style peaks and valleys – they are all still here for you to walk on and around, and in some cases inside of. Nor are they extinct: as you’ll also discover during your time with our resident guide and geologist, they’re merely dormant. One of Sao Miguel’s most famous spots, the geothermal pools at Furnas , owe their existence to the volcanic activity that’s ever-present just under your feet – and you’ll have plenty of time to relax with a swim in Furnas’ fabulous pools.
Obviously, with the mere mention of geology there’s a danger we’re conjuring up images of dull Geography lessons, nudging igneous rocks around your school desk to highlight the boredom until lunchtime. This is not an intense educational week of studying rocks. Far from it – the scenery is just extraordinary, the people are friendly and welcoming, and the food is fantastic.
Think of it as an island holiday with a ‘geological twist’, and there’s plenty of time to go whale watching, maybe kayaking or biking … as always, we’ll suggest a few of our favourite things to see and do on the island, and you can slot them in your free days.
For your first full day on the island, you’ll head to western end of Sao Miguel to explore the great crater at Sete Cidades with resident geologist……Your day begins at Vista do Rei - the ‘King’s Viewpoint’: the famous miradouro named in honour of King Don Carlos and his Queen Dona Amelia following their visit in 1901. The bird’s eye view is a great introduction to the island’s largest caldera: the Sete Cidades crater is 5km in diametre and 15km in circumference, and was formed 35,000 years ago. To visitors like you and I, it's one of the most beautiful spots in the Azores, but as you'll discover during your visit it's also one of the most volcanically active calderas……The road zigzags down the crater rim, through the Japanese Cedar forest to the base of the crater where you’ll explore the shores of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, and the village of Sete Cidades itself, (which is also a good spot for lunch)…..In the afternoon, you’ll head out of the crater and down to the south west coast of the island - to the pretty village of Mosteiros. Mosteiros is famous for the Ilhéus_dos_Mosteiros: the ‘Islets of the Monasteries’ – four sea stacks which are the eroded remains of a coastal caldera, destroyed in a hydromagmatic eruption. (Hydromagmatic eruptions are particularly destructive as large amounts of hot magma and water come into contact – Krakatoa is a famous example)…..Your day normally ends with a visit to Ferraria; where the sea is naturally heated by submarine vents - fed by the aquifers deep under the main caldera.
Monday’s normally a free day, so you can relax and explore Ponta Delgada; capital of the Azores and the main town on the island.....With its narrow cobbled streets, mosaic pavements and interesting mix of traditional and modern architecture, it's a great place to shop for local produce and souvenirs, with an excellent selection of friendly restaurants and cafe bars.
You’ll spend today exploring the Furnas caldera; the most easterly volcano on Sao Miguel and one of the areas where the island’s volcanic nature is most on display…..Your day begins with a visit to Lagoa das Furnas (Furnas Lake) – it’s lakeshore is a mish-mash of bubbling mud pools and sulphurous steam vents. You’ll also see the cozido cooking holes - cozido is a traditional stew, slow-cooked in the volcanic ground before being served in most of the restaurants in Furnas village…..Heading down into the centre of the village, you’ll come to the 180-year-old Terra Nostra botanical gardens - home to the famous geothermally-heated swimming pool. After exploring the gardens, there’s time for a dip in the pool before sitting down to cozido for lunch…..After lunch, our geologist will take you a walking tour of 'downtown' Furnas. There are over thirty springs and geysers dotted around the village - their chemical compositions and temperatures vary, from tainted-orange iron rich streams to piped examples of mineral-rich drinking water, which were once considered to have therapeutic properties.
You're free again on Wednesday...I'll normally head to sea on a whale and dolphin watching trip from the local marina in Ponta Delgada......We normally recommend a trip on a small Rigid Inflatable Boat – we find it’s a better experience as you’re close to the water (and the wildlife)......However, if you have a history of back pain or are recovering from a recent injury, (or you might simply prefer a bigger boat of course), you might be more comfortable on a larger catamaran.
On Thursday, you might like to explore the sparsely populated eastern end of the island, with a walk along the Sanguinho trail.....The Nordeste region of Sao Miguel is home to the rugged Serra da Tronqueira mountains – a rolling landscape of dense cedar and blackwood forests that’s often overlooked by visitors to the island......Sao Miguel was once the largest exporters of oranges to the UK, and the Japanese Cedar was introduced for use in the construction the crates used to transport the fruit......The walk begins and ends in the small coastal village of Faial da Terra – once a part of that bustling export industry, until a pan-European blight wiped out the entire orange crop (and most of the Azorean vineyards) in the late 1800s......The trail follows the old cobbled path from the harbour up to the deserted village of Sanguinho, via the beautiful ‘Salto do Prego’ waterfall.
For your final full day on the island, you’ll head up into the central mountains of the Serra de Água d' Pau volcano. Your day normally begins with a drive up to the summit of Pico da Barrosa (947m), one of the highest points on the island. You'll have a wonderful view of Lagoa do Fogo which sits in the youngest of Sao Miguel’s volcanoes, (formed around fifteen million years ago). It last erupted in 1563 – contemporary accounts describe a fast and fluid basaltic lava flow which passed through present-day Ribeira Seca and on to the sea. A 37m deep volcanic chimney (created during the eruption) was recently discovered by cavers in the small hamlet of Santa Barbara.
Next, you’ll visit the Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande – a collection of 19th Century buildings and natural heated pools coloured deep orange, from the high iron-oxide content drawn into the waters as they rise from a deep thermal aquifer. (It’s not a great spot for a swim but it’s an interesting geological site)......It’s also worth taking a small detour to the Faja do Redono dam - a masonry dam built in 1927 which was part of the now-deactivated Redondo Power Plant. If it’s open, you’ll also visit the new 21st Century geo-thermal power station (it’s sometimes closed to the public when the plant runs at peak production).
After a picnic lunch, you’ll take a short walk to Congro Lake – the site of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions on Sao Miguel 3900 years ago - a phreatomagmatic eruption where rising magma hit existing groundwater......Your day ends with a visit to the Gruta do Carvão lava tunnel under Ponta Delgada – the largest tunnel on the island at 1.6km (although there’s evidence to suggest the tunnel could be up to 5km in length).
Transfer to airport (10mins). Fly São Miguel to London
Price Per Person
We can create a tailor-made holiday to suit your budget.
What's included ?
Your accommodation on B&B basis in a shared twin/double room (if you'd prefer a single room, just let us know and we'll confirm the small additional cost), airport transfers, three full day tours with our resident guide (including lunch ), and return flights.
With regards to the flight price, there are a few different ways of travelling to the islands - we try to include a realistic guide price and once we've had a chat regarding your holiday, we'll send you a detailed itinerary which includes an exact price based on your preferred flight option.
What's not included ?
Other than breakfasts and the lunch during your island tours, we don't include any other meals. There are some excellent restaurants with easy walking distance of your hotels, and we'll let you know which are our favourites.
As with all our tailor-made holidays, we can include a stay at any of Ponta Delgada’s excellent hotels. Our recommendation is the Hotel Camoes – named after 16th Century poet Luis de Camoes, considered Portugal’s greatest poet. Camoes is to Portugal as Shakespeare is to us here in the UK – his epic poem 'Os Lusíadas' famously retells the journeys of explore Vasco da Gama; the first sailor to chart the route by sea from Europe to India.
The hotel was originally constructed in 19th Century as a private townhouse - it's now one of our favourite four star hotels on the island. It's just a thirty second walk away from our office if you need any advice during your stay - and the Portas do Mar marina is equally close if you'd like to include a trip to sea.
We include three full day tours of the island during your stay - although they're naturally focused on the geology of the island, our guides can't help digressing into the island's social history and ecology, (and everything's inter-connected of course). We also try to strike a nice balance between these active days, whilst still giving you plenty of time to enjoy the relaxing pace of Azorean life.
You'll spend your week on Sao Miguel, the largest and best-connected island in the Azores. There are direct weekly flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester, and you can fly most days via Lisbon from Heathrow. Edinburgh and Birmingham via Lisbon could also be options - we can talk you through all the possible routes to see which fits best.
Each Azorean island has something unique, but only Sao Miguel has it all - volcanoes and crater lakes, rugged Atlantic coastlines and the chance to bob-around in a geothermal swimming pool.
Azores Choice provided a prompt, helpful service. they found us the perfect accommodation for our needs and provided superb, expert advice on how to spend our week walking on San Miguel. I would certainly use them again.
Joan from Durham
Recommended small travel company!
Great little company with friendly staff. Organisation of flights & accommodation very efficient. When problems arise they are helpful and very reasonable in their efforts to resolve them. We would definitely use them again for a return trip.
Really great! Would use again!
Very efficient, friendly, helpful. Excellent local knowledge. Everything ran very smoothly, from supplying the tickets to airport pick ups and hotel bookings. Lovely accommodation selected. No complaints!
A wonderful break in a beautiful environment!
Everything was excellent. The information and organisation, the hotel and the island itself all exceeded our expectations. Whale watching and other trips out, fantastic. We will book again!
Great honeymoon package and experience!
They provided a great package at a good price. We found them to be helpful and a quality service was provided.
Nicola and Christopher – Winchester
Top notch service. Highly recommended!
Excellent service throughout. Very informative, with lots of literature, maps and the like. Attended their offices in Ponta Delgada – very impressed with Olivia, friendly and helpful. Paul was first class.
Lynne in Welton-by-Lincoln
Great company for first time Azores visit!
Really great company, will be recommending them. We had never visited the Azores before but this company helped us decided which islands to visit.
Brilliant holiday organised by an excellent company!
Friendly, helpful, professional and completely geared to us as individuals.
John and Janice
Very helpful staff, and the trips they organised for us were excellent with knowledgeable guides.
A really wonderful holiday!
We normally travel independently, but I am go glad that we used Archipelago Choice – their insider knowledge was really helpful in making the most of our time.
Valerie – Brighton
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