Four and one-half hours after leaving Boston on a full and bumpy flight we descended in darkness and touched down on a small speck of land in the Atlantic 2,625 km from North America and 1,815 km from mainland Europe (Portugal). São Miguel Island, also referred to locally as “The Green Island”, is the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago (9) of the Azores. Jet-lagged, from losing one night of sleep, we set off to explore the famed Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire) one of the beautiful crater lakes.
We also visited Monumenta da Caldeira Velha, natural thermal pools set in the mountainside with waterfalls of warm water and one pool with water bubbling through the surface at 160 C. We weren’t prepared to take a dip ourselves, but will likely return – it looks like a great way to spend an hour or so.
The island is small enough that at a central high point, one can see the northern and southern coastlines (approximately 12 km across). It reminds of a cross between western Ireland, Hawaii, and New Zealand. Every untouched surface is covered in green – either moss or ferns – and Camelias, hydrangeas, lilies, Azalias, agapanthus, and much, much more grow abundantly alongside the roads and lanes. Healthy looking cattle graze lazily in paddocks and fields with never a worry that their food supply will end. It is said that cattle outnumber humans on the island!
We ate dinner at Cafe Conto do Cais, a fabulous cafe in an old building, in Capelas.
After spending only 12 hours on this island, I have to say that never in my life have I met such genuinely welcoming and friendly people.