São Miguel is the main island in the Azores archipelago and Ponta Delgada is its bustling capital. Many travellers have landed here and been awed by the immense green of its forests and pastureland: Hydrangeas adding splashes of colour to the background and grazing cows in the foreground create a picture fit for a postcard.
Ponta Delgada is the largest and most visited city in the Azores. White-washed houses and buildings, 17th and 18th Century convents and churches decorate its rolling hills. Cobbled streets and small squares are found around the centre, where there is also a large boulevard, which is perfect for evening seaside walks.
Today, Ponta Delgada is the most developed city in the Azores, with fantastic historic buildings, smart restaurants and great hotels providing comfortable accommodation. It started off as a humble fishing community and gained importance from 1522, following an earthquake that destroyed the island’s former capital, Vila Franca do Campo. It was King João III that gave Ponta Delgada its city status in 1546. Throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the busy port became an obligatory stopping and supply station for ships en route from the Mediterranean, Portugal and Africa to the Americas and the West Indies.
Visit Ponta Delgada and the island of São Miguel, a fascinating part of the Azores.
Places to See
Igreja de São Sebastião (Saint Sebastian’s Church)
Founded in the 16th Century, this church has been built in the Late Gothic style with a splendid Manueline main doorway. The sacristy is decorated with beautiful blue azulejo tiles and the fine 17th Century fixtures, fittings and pews are made from Brazilian jacaranda wood.
Igreja do Colégio dos Jesuítas (Jesuit College Church)
With its dark grey basalt and whitewashed Baroque facade, this building resembles a smart aristocratic town house more than a former religious institution. This church is also known as the All Saints’ Day church as its first stone was laid on All Saints’ Day (1st November 1592). It belonged to the Order of the Jesuits until the famous Portuguese Prime Minister, Marquês de Pombal, expelled them in the mid-18th Century and plundered its once famous collection of treasures.
Museu Carlos Machado (Carlos Machado Museum)
This museum tells the story of the local agricultural and fishing communities over the centuries. It was installed in the old Mosteiro de Santo André (Saint Andrew Monastery) and its numerous exhibits include some outstanding paintings by local artist, Domingos Rebelo (1891–1975). There is also a natural history section with an impressive model of the island.
Praça 5 de Outubro (5th of October Square)
This square is dominated by a marvellous Renaissance Fortress, the Fortaleza de São Brás, which was restored in the 19th Century. Around this square is also the impressive Convento da Esperança (Hope Convent), which contains a magnificent choir decorated with azulejos dating from the 18th Century. The Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres Festival, held on the fifth Sunday after Easter, is renowned for its large procession, when a statue of Christ, dressed in a red tunic emblazoned with diamonds and gold, is carried through the crowds. The convent’s church houses this famous statue and several other religious treasures that are worth a visit.
Jardim António Borges (António Borges Gardens)
This romantic garden is one of the largest and most lush areas in Ponta Delgada. António Borges Medeiros was an avid amateur botanist in the 19th Century, interested in introducing new species to the island. His property became an extremely rich and interesting garden, providing a beautiful walk for those who enjoy being surrounded by natural and serene beauty.
Lagoa das Sete Cidades (Seven Cities Lake)
The Seven Cities Lake is formed by two large lakes that fill the massive crater of a dormant volcano. Legend tells the story of a young princess, the daughter of a strict widowed King, who fell in love with a shepherd boy and was forbidden to see him. The day the princess informed the young boy of the king’s decision, they both cried, forming two lakes: one, green, the colour of the Princess’s eyes and the other, blue, the colour of the boy’s eyes. From the Pico do Carvão one can enjoy fabulous panoramic views over the Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Vale das Furnas (Furnas Valley)
Here you will find the Caldeira das Furnas, where you can explore the hot springs or try the Furnas stew. You can also enjoy breathtaking views of a large lake and the extravagant vegetation. Head down to the Terra Nostra Park, where exotic plants and trees live next to lakes and rivers with spring water. A natural swimming pool with iron-rich water provides an unusual swim.
Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire)
This is the second largest lagoon on São Miguel island. In 1974 it was classified as a natural reserve in order to maintain its unique and wild beauty. It is located in the centre of the island and occupies an extinct volcanic crater. Take one of the pedestrian routes, which will take you to some of the best viewpoints, then head down to the white sandy beach found inside the crater, which is surrounded by lush green vegetation.