Azores Volcano and Lake Tour Review
We have visited the Azores twice during our TransAtlantic cruises. The Azores lie in the Atlantic Ocean about 1000 miles/1600km off the coast of Portugal. It takes a cruise ship 7 days at full speed from Miami to reach the island of Sao Miguel.
On our first visit, we took an amazing whale watching expedition. We wanted to do something different this time and opted for a tour of the eastern half of the island.
Sete Ciudades Volcano and Lakes Tour
We hired a private driver for our tour. He picked us up promptly at the docks and whisked us through Ponta Delgada and into the island. The car was clean and comfortable. Our driver hailed from a suburb of Ponta Delgada and provided a wealth of knowledge. He spoke excellent English.
The beauty of the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores takes your breath away. Everything is so green, capped and highlighted by the blue of the sky and the sea. Numerous stunning vistas of mountains, hills, volcanos, forests, valleys, cliffs, and the Atlantic await.
From atop the mountains, miradouros (viewpoints) provided views of the landscape and ocean. At some, we could view both the north and south sides of Sao Miguel. A menagerie of green shades carpet the land.
Lakes dot the eastern half of the island. Evergreens, flowering shrubs and ferns line the banks of the deep blue water, creating picturesque scenes.
We most anticipated visiting Sete Ciudades with its famous green and blue lakes. The lakes rest in the crater of a volcano with a small farming community on its banks. The views from the crater rim and from base are spectacular. You really can see the color difference with one lake appearing blue and the other green. Amazing!
The small town charms with white buildings, a cute church, colorful flowers, and a quaint park.
After leaving Sete Ciudades, we drove along the coast back toward Ponta Delgada. Turn after turn exposed breathtaking views of cliffs plunging to the deep, blue sea.
I was surprised at how much of the island is farmland. Fields of wheat and hay, cows and sheep stretch from the mountains to the sea. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see John Deere tractors all around.
Almost every tour on Sao Miguel includes a tour of a Pineapple Plantation. Pineapples do not grow naturally in the Azores. It is too cold. Special greenhouses have made cultivation possible. The visit was interesting and informational, but anticlimactic after seeing the natural beauty of the island.
The azores enjoy a mild, moist climate. Daily highs throughout the year range from 55 – 78 F/12 – 26 C. Rain can occur at any time.
The warm, wet conditions make the island a lush green. It was not always this way. When the Portuguese discovered the Azores in 1427, it looked much different. Laurel forests dominated the landscape, while some areas like Sete Ciudades were still black volcanic rock.
The Portuguese deforested much of the Azores. Only 2% of native forests remain. Wheat and grass were planted in their place.
When erosion became a problem, they imported trees from places with similar climates including New Zealand and Japan. New Forests of Japanese cryptomeria, New Zealand Christmas trees, and Norfolk Island Pines now stand.
With ferns, palms and acacia thrown in, the Azores look how I have imagined New Zealand would be.
Hydrangias are everywhere! Unfortunately, they bloom later in the season than our cruises. We only found a few rare examples.
Our Sete Ciudades Volcano and Lakes Tour with a private driver exceeded our expectations. The Azores abound with beauty.
While hiring a private driver costs a little more than bus or van tours, we believe that it is worth it. Obviously, it was much more comfortable, more flexible, and more personalized.
Our driver took us places that we could otherwise not have seen. We also negotiated the price and received a rate that was much more reasonable than what we found advertised on line or through our cruise ship
Recommendations for Tours in Sao Miguel
We have taken two tours on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores: whale watching and our tour of the eastern half of the island. Both tours were exceptional!
- The Azores are the best place in the world to view Blue Whales. If you love whale watching, do not miss this excursion.
- The Volcano and Lakes Tour of Sao Miguel highlighted an amazingly beautiful corner of the world. It is exceptional, too.
- If staying for several days, do a whale watching tour and rent a car. Sao Miguel would be easy to explore on your own.
- If on a quick stopover or a cruise, then you will not be disappointed with either of the tours.
- We strongly recommend the Volcano and Lakes Tour by private vehicle. I hope you get to take it!