The Azores are easy to get to by using Ryanair flights to Ponta Delgada. The return tickets sometimes are available as low as £38. The most expensive aspect would be the transport probably, as on the island, the prices are pretty low, in many cases they are actually lower than in other parts of Portugal. Fruits, vegetables come well-priced, and you don’t have to spend much in restaurants. Moreover, there is a great choice of accommodations. I was surprised to see that entry tickets were not overpriced either.
SÃO MIGUEL – PONTA DELGADA
At 11pm, we picked up our rented car and left for Furnas, where our AirBnB accommodation was. Though it was also on Booking.com, if you booked it from AirBnB it was way cheaper. We arrived at the place very late, so we couldn’t actually meet with our host, but he hid the keys behind the water meter, so we could get in. The accommodation was very spacious, it had 4 bedrooms and it was only the 3 of us. The next morning, we started with some quick breakfast shopping. As soon as I stepped outside, I smelled sulphur. The Terra Nostra Garden was 300 meters away, which was a hot thermal bath, and it made whole Furnas smell like sulphur and it reminded me for rotten eggs. It was a few days before Easter, so in the shop we could get local traditional loaf: big, braided loaf, with 1 or 2 eggs in the middle, with their shell on. In the morning it was rainy, later it got foggy, but by the time we left our accommodation, it was sunny. The weather forecasters should be happy here: every day it rains, and we can also be sure that at some parts of the island it is sunny. Most of the time, the sun is only a few minutes away from the rain. The climate is great in the island: the temperature never goes below 14-15 Celsius, or above 25-26 Celsius, which makes it ideal for many kinds of animals and plants to live in the island.
LAGOA DO FOGO
We first headed to the Lagoa do Fogo lake, which is the highest lake on the island. The volcanic crater is surrounded by greens from all directions. It may be the most beautiful natural view we’ve ever seen. Just perfect it was. There is good quality road around the lake, a bit of serpentine but is totally worth it: wherever we looked, astonishing view we saw.
Not far from Fogo lakes, with 15 minutes’ drive, we found another natural wonder, the Caldeira Velha. It’s not easy to find on the map, so I marked the GPS coordinates. After paying the 2-euro entry tickets, we felt like we just entered the Jurassic Park. Breath-taking nature with wilderness full of plants en route to the artificial balcony with thermal water. Ferns, palm trees, banana trees, mosses everywhere. Next to the sulphur-smelled boiling water there have been many signs warning us: 60-100 Celsius degree water was below which could cause injuries. A small transition tunnel was built for the purpose of cooling this water off, so when it hit the pool, it was just fine. By this time, it got a bit cold, so it felt really good diving into the hot water. We checked out the other pool 50 meters upwards, which was a bit cooler. This pool was fed by warm water-fall, but by the time it collects all the water, it gets colder. If we stand below the fall, we can feel both the warm water from above and cold water from below.The park itself was well-equipped, you get a small clothes-storing basket, shower and toilet facilities all with the 2 euro entry ticket.
Back on our way to Furnas, we stopped at the sole tea-plantation and factory of Europe. The institution comes with free entry. There’s only 1 kind of exhibition, which presents the technical development of tea processing, starting from the early original machines to the novel mechanisms. You can taste the continent’s only tea for free, and you can also purchase it on the spot. Prices start from 1.5€ per packet. Through the panorama window you can admire the green gentle slopes of plantation sites with the ocean in the background. So calming!
TERRA NOSTRA PARK
Our accommodation which we booked through AirBnB was located a few meters away from the Terra Nostra Park. We headed to the botanic garden and thermal bath on our second day. The previously mentioned sulphur smell was getting stronger as we were coming closer to the artificially made, yellowish coloured water pool. We went back to change, and then quickly got into the hot pool. By the taps, the water was so boiling we couldn’t go near them. The visibility in the pool was about 2 cm, this dense thermal water left its mark on our bathing suits and skin. Still, it was a great feeling being in the water in the middle of the park. As the outside temperature was dropping, and the shower only had lukewarm water, we wanted to go home quickly and do the showering there. However, in the meantime the main gates were closed as it got dark. So, in our bathing suits with yellowish skin and shivering, we were trying to find our way out, when we noticed a hotel through which we could exit and then drove home quickly.
According to the locals, the best restaurant in Furnas is the Tony’s restaurant on the corner, so we chose to visit. One of the local specialties of the islands is the Cocido das Furnas, which is basically a dish consisting of cooked meats and vegetables. In Furnas, at many places the ground is incredibly hot, so if you put the dish into a hole in the ground, it would be cooked within a few hours. These geysers are unique to Europe, only Iceland’s got similar phenomenon. In the pot, they put beef, pork, chicken, sausage, black pudding, carrot, cabbage, kohlrabi, and other vegetables, and then they leave it for about 6-8 hours to be fully cooked, soft and flavours let out. This is served as main dish. 2 of us tried to eat a dish for one but was unsuccessful as being too filling. They also served beef steak and other breaded goods as well. Our first full day has passed, the only thing left was a good night sleep.