Loving Sao Miguel, Portugal for Solo Travel

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The Azores is made up of nine major island in the Atlantic Ocean—and has been on my list since I first heard about them in high school. Despite my anticipation, I only had three nights so there was no way I was going to try to explore more than one island. I spent three amazing nights on Sao Miguel and would go back in a heartbeat. What’s to love?

Hot springs, hot springs, hot springs. You stumble across them everywhere: in town, at the beach, in the hotels. Whether relaxing in a thermal pool is your thing, or checking out your dinner being cooked is more your pace, there’s something for everyone. My favorite was the local tradition of cooking Cozido das Furnas (Furnas stew) underground using the natural heat – seriously, how cool is that?! And delicious.

The people are uber friendy; the food is fantastic. The vibe of Sao Miguel is both chill and friendly. Locals know they’ve got a good thing going and seem proud to share it (this openness is in contrast to the anti-tourist graffiti you’ll undoubtedly come across in Lisbon). Food is locally sourced and affordable. If meat is not your thing, you’ll be missing out – but seafood definitely abounds!

It’s easy to get around. You need a car. Period. I couldn’t quite get a straight answer on this before heading out, so I didn’t reserve one before I left. If hiking is your jam, reserve a rental car. It’s not that big of an island, so you can’t get too lost (I have a terrible sense of direction) and driving there is pretty chill. It’s not just lore: you need to watch out for cows on the road. This is like something I’ve never seen. So. Many. Cows.

It’s affordable. I stayed in Furnas and ‘splurged’ for a spa hotel that had multiple thermal pools. It was on the more expensive end of my hotels for this particular trip, but it was still less than $150/night.

It’s easy to get to. I happened to fly from Lisbon since I’d been staying there a week, but there’s a nonstop flight from Boston. If you live on the east coast and are looking to have a completely different experience for a long weekend, you’ll land in just about 4 ½ hours.

The trails are well marked. This may not make it to the top of other people’s list, but I have a terrible sense of direction and this is an important one to me! Not only are the trail intersections well signed, but trees are marked along the way (two white horizontal lines, showing you the correct direction and two crossed out lines showing you the way to avoid).

Best time to go? It depends on what you’re after. I wanted quiet (no crowds), so May was a good choice for me. It’s definitely likely to rain in May—that’s why I splurged for the fancier hotel—but I still hiked all four days and had an amazing time. July-August will undoubtedly be warmer/dryer, but also more crowded—and how hot do you really want it for hiking?

What is your favorite island in the Azores?

 

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