WHAT TO DO IN PONTA DELGADA
When arriving to São Miguel you can't miss Ponta Delgada. Here arrive all planes and cruise ships. That's why it's good to know what you can expect from the very beginning of your trip. Keep reading to find out more!
This text was created together with our Guest, Skylar. Have a look at his website "The Daily Grog" where you can learn how he experienced the Azores as well as other destinations in Europe and North America!
You’re likely to be spending a good amount of time in Ponta Delgada - this is the "capital" of the island and here you can find most of restaurants, bars and clubs worth visiting. Ponta Delgada is also a very good choice for a rainy weather regarding a range of possible activities, and since you're in the Azores, you should be prepared for everything :)
It's also worth noting that with a very good motorway and road system, Ponta Delgada is well connected with all parts of the island. This means you can easily reach most of the places within half or 1-hour drive. Many travellers use each day to explore a different section of São Miguel. Skylar was there for about five days, and each day he worked his way around São Miguel with day trips, returning each night. The island is tiny and easily navigated, so tackling it with day trips is entirely feasible. Therefore it's much comfortable to reserve a room in the same accommodation place in Ponta Delgada for your whole stay.
From the airport it’s a quick 10-minute drive down to the city center. And while we’re on the topic of driving, you’ll most definitely want to rent a car which will make your stay more flexible. Just be aware of narrow streets! And if you don't feel comfortable driving or don't have a driving license, you can join tours which are organised in Out of the Blue Hostel.
Why there? As Skylar says: "The place which I can’t recommend enough, is the Out of the Blue Hostel. Yes, yes, it’s a hostel. But staying here was honestly one of the best experiences of my life!" Here you can meet many incredible, like-minded travellers. It’s a small boutique hostel with a handful of rooms and a stunning garden. Complimentary breakfast in the morning: special (everyday a different one), pancakes, granola, yogurt, fruits and of course real coffee. At night communal dinners in the garden, including a wood-fired pizza night and fresh Portuguese octopus. He continues: "It’s the real deal! They have people from all walks of life, young and old, who were just there to travel and experience the world to its fullest."
Though it’s small, Ponta Delgada is still beautiful. As you meander down the winding cobblestone streets, the Portuguese roots are immediately noticeable; sidewalks adorned with artful tile-work and buildings lined with brilliant azulejos, it’s easy to get lost imagining the history of the city.
GRUTA DO CARVÃO
Gruta do Carvão is the largest known cave system in São Miguel island and one of the most remarkable of the entire archipelago. It was created between 5000 to 12000 years ago in a long basaltic flow which reached the sea in the western part of Ponta Delgada. It is believed that it was emitted from the Sete Cidades volcano and/or the Fogo volcano. Literally an incredible experience. Contact the place before visiting - there is a limited number of places per day.
MERCADO DA GRAÇA
The Graça Market was built in 1848 and from that time is one of the main places to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and cheese. The days where you can find most vendors are Fridays and Saturdays, however everyday, apart from Sunday, you can buy all the mentioned products. When strolling through the city centre, don't miss this spot - it's a perfect place for grocery shopping, tasting local products and buying souvenirs.
São Miguel is a home to pineapples which are... grown in greenhouses! Probably this is the only place in the world where such a technique is being used. After the orange plantations were destroyed by a disease in 1860, Augusto Arruda began growing pineapples, originally imported from Brazil. The exquisite island's conditions together with specific procedures still bring extremely sweet and tiny pineapples, so much adored by both locals and tourists! There are 3 pineapple plantations open to public and you can visit them free of charge!
The story of Ponta Delgada takes origins in a small fishing community, which after the earthquake in 1522 gained importance due to the demolition of the island’s former capital, Vila Franca do Campo. Throughout the next centuries its harbour became a busy stop-point for ships sailing from the mainland Portugal, Africa, Americas and the West Indies. Nowadays the harbour still plays an important role, mainly in supplying São Miguel island as well as as a transfer place on the way to other islands of the archipelago. When walking along the promenade Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, you can see and visit the Renaissance fortress from the 16th century, Forte de São Brás, which still is used by the Portuguese navy.
VIEWPOINT ERMIDA DA MÃE DE DEUS
And if you would like to overlook the harbour and the city, check out the viewpoint of Ermida da Mãe de Deus. Highly recommended especially for sunrises and sunsets!
Ponta Delgada is a springboard to all the adventures you can have in the Azores. It also benefits from being the largest city, so it has a little bit of everything. So, regardless if time is limited or not, Ponta Delgada is a fantastic place to explore all what the Azores have to offer.