sao miguel island

Pass The Mic: Local Perspectives on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores

In the North Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 kilometers west and less than a three hour flight from Lisbon, you’ll find the Azores archipelago. This autonomous Portuguese region consists of nine volcanic islands, each with its own colorful and uniquely jaw-dropping landscapes.

In 2015, air-space liberalization in the Azores began and low cost flights with carriers like EasyJet and RyanAir began operating to and from the archipelago.

Since then, the number of tourists travelling to the Azores has spiked significantly, particularly in São Miguel, the largest of the islands.

This has been great for the local economy and job creation, however, it also poses a serious threat to the very thing the island is known for - its pristine, natural beauty.

Though there are many positive impacts of tourism in the Azores, even local tourism companies agree that they don’t want to see the islands become a mass tour destination.

While visiting the Azores, I connected with three São Miguel natives - all currently studying or working in the tourism industry. I asked each of them for their personal perspectives on the increase of tourism in their home. Here’s what they had to say.

Read more: What to Do In São Miguel

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Joana Damião Melo

Joana was our AirBnb host in Ponta Delgada. Born in São Miguel, she lived on the island for 18 years before moving to Lisbon to study Hotel Management at Estoril Tourism University.

After her studies, she moved to Madrid where she began working in a hotel as an intern, a receptionist, a guest relations agent, and finally a sales executive at the company’s global sales office. Joana says this hotel was her real school.

Four years later, she moved back to Portugal where she worked on several major hotel renovations and property openings, including a position at the Ritz-Carlton in Sintra as the Director of Sales and Marketing. While here, Joana won the price for the Best Director of Sales and Marketing in Europe and the Middle East.

In 2015, she decided to return to São Miguel to relax and have her baby, and, after her son was born, she realized that there is no better place to raise a child.

Joana now has her hands quite full. She runs the beautiful Mirante Loft AirBnb and works for several villas on the island, including the Santa Bárbara Eco-Beach Resort where she works as a Sales Consultant.

She is also currently working on her own hotel project - Senhora da Rosa, Tradition & Nature Hotel which we should open at the end of this year or early next year.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

The Azores are one of the most beautiful destinations in the world for me! I've traveled several places and there is nothing like the Azores!

Every time I visit, even the most touristy sites, such as Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Furnas, or Lagoa do Fogo, I always feel passionate about my land!

I do not tire of this beauty, which is unique!!

I feel blessed to have been born here and to have returned to my land, and I want to contribute to its sustainable development as a tourist destination.

Could you tell me more about your property’s history and the upcoming hotel’s nature and tradition concept?

My parents built the property in 1994, but tourism was not like it is today. Flying over was extremely expensive and infrastructure in terms of hotels restaurants, and other activities was very poor. 

With great service and food, it was considered one of the best hotels in the Azores, but there was no focus on sales, promotion, or revenue management. Debts started to raise, bankruptcy was declared, and in 2011 the bank took over the property.

Many potential investors visited, but none of them bought it. All the while, I was looking for solutions to re-buy the property.

The whole property, including my house, the Airbnb unit where you stayed, my parents house, my uncle’s house, and all the gardens and plantations around us have been a part of my family for more than 200 years. It’s a place with a lot of history.

Read more about our stay at Joana’s AirBnb: Unique AirBnb in Ponta Delgada

In the 18th century, we started producing oranges. We built the tower where the Airbnb apartment is to see the ships entering the port of Ponta Delgada and to send the oranges there to be exported. 

After the plague, we had to switch to pineapple production.

My project is to renovate the existing building. It will have 33 rooms including two Suites, a restaurant, bar, two event rooms, and a rooftop bar. We will also create two new wooden houses in the middle of the banana trees. These small units will recreate the old "Cafuões" (small wooden houses where we used to store cereals) which were very common in the region.

We will keep all the gardens, reactivate the pineapple plantations, introduce a small hot tub inside one of them, and have a small spa using only natural products made from raw materials from the farm.

The concept of the new Senhora da Rosa is all about tradition and nature. We want to involve guests and invite them to explore the surrounding green area.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

What are your thoughts on rising tourism in the Azores? Is it positive, negative… or a bit of both? 

It is positive but we are in a critical moment when the entities involved must ensure that our greatest heritage - Nature - is maintained and protected.

The Azores is a destination that should limit visitors in a natural way - by positioning and selling the destination to the right markets.

Have you personally seen changes in the island since tourism began to increase? 

Yes, of course. We see tourist all year round, which is great. Between May and September in particular, we have many more people visiting than before.

On one side, this is great and very good for the economy. On the other side, we locals feel that it´s too crowed - (but it´s really not)! :)

What is being done to protect and preserve the land?

The local government has been doing a lot to protect and preserve and but there is always more to do.

After the tourism boom in 2015 and 2016, the local Government put in place several restrictions to the opening of new hotels and Airbnb as well.

They are in the process of certifying the Azores as one of the World’s Sustainable Tourism Destinations.

What do you think the overall local perspective is on tourism?

We need to grow on quality and not on quantity 

What should tourists know before visiting? 

That they can get 4 seasons in one day :)  


Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Jorge Valério

My second interviewee is Jorge. Jorge has lived on the São Miguel island all his life, and has been working in tourism since age 14. He received a tourism degree from Azores University in Tourism Management and a Masters in Volcanology and Geological Risk.

Whether it’s as a skipper driving a boat or tour guide in a van, Jorge says his passion is connecting with people and helping their inner being feel in contact with nature.

This is why he and his partner Lisa started their company Holistika.

Launched in 2014, Holistika is a sustainably operated company that specializes in wellness tourism in the Azores. The company’s slogan “Meet Your Own Nature” alligns directly with their overall goal - to create real connections between their guests and nature.

Jorge knows his stuff about the Azores. He loves his home island and is committed to showing guests the REAL São Miguel.

I never got the chance to do one of Holistika’s activities, (though it’s at the top of my list for next time), but Jorge was still kind enough to give me his take on the Azores’ tourism boom.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

The water and the air! It's simply amazing, and super important to have a healthy life.

Though you show people the REAL Sao Miguel, do you still keep some secrets for yourself?

That's a fun question - but, yes! I have places that nobody will find!

What are your thoughts on the rise of tourism in the Azores?

Tourism is good for the economy and local evolution (in the mind and the way we see our world), however, rising tourism in the Azores can also be negative.

I think evolution is important, but we should be careful and not commit the same mistakes that other destinations have made before like building big hotels, having too many cars on the road, or simply losing our real identity!

Have you seen changes in the island since tourism began to increase?

Yes! Especially the number of cars around the island!

In a way, I think local tourism and low-cost flights are amazing, but it also brings a lot of pressure to our environment.

I believe that, soon, local people will lose the capacity to afford normal life the we always have. The houses and rent will be more expensive, and being in our nature without having people everywhere will be more difficult.

I feel that tourists are responsible with our nature, but I think the numbers are high enough.

If we keep having more people here, I don't feel it will be a good thing.

What is being done to protect and preserve the land?

Our government has created protected areas and laws that control construction and limit the number of licenses to do whale watching.

There are some projects that should not go on, like building big hotels and other structures.

I think that money moves money but we should not sell our nature with the objective only produce more money.

We don't have massive tourism now, and I hope we never do.


What should tourists know before visiting?

The Internet exposes a lot our places, which will lead to even more people travelling to the Azores. I advise people to come in the winter!

They should come with no expectations and just simply enjoy what this island offers… And please stop with the phones! - Relax, breathe and look through your eyes, not on Instagram.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Miriam Vasconcelos

Last, (but most certainly not least), I spoke with Miriam.

Also a São Miguel native, she is currently living in London and finishing an International Tourism Degree with majors in travel and marketing. A traveller herself, Miriam says, “It is my passion to promote destinations and explore them as well.”

Once she has completed her studies, she hopes to pursue a career in travel and marketing. Her dream job is to be the Manager of a major Destination Management Organization, such as VisitBritain or VisitPortugal.

In the midst of her finals, Miriam was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions about the increase of tourism in her home islands. (THANK YOU, MIRIAM)!

Her comprehensive and thoughtful responses illuminate a young professional’s perspective on both the positive and negative impacts of tourism (particularly in São Miguel), and what can be done to avoid the latter.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

My absolute favorite thing about the Azores is the colors and the smells… (even when it smells like cow poo). I love to see the green from the mountains meeting the blue from the sea.

I also love that nature is mostly untouched, or has been changed minimally by humans.

What are your thoughts on rising tourism in the Azores? positive, negative, or a bit of both?

The Azores have been in the spotlight for some time now, but I only recently started to notice new articles about it. I have seen it called the “Hawaii of Europe” or a “Better Iceland,” and who wouldn’t love to go to any of these places and pay £0.60 for a coffee?

Portugal is relatively cheap… but the islands are ridiculously cheap. You can find a good Airbnb for around £40p/night for a 2/3 bedroom place (and this is on São Miguel, the main island).

Due to the rise of tourism, especially in São Miguel, locals have started to be charged for things that belong to the land and that used to always be free, (for example, Poca da Dona beija, Furnas, Ferraria, and others). Other services and products have become more expensive (e.g. Whale watching, renting a car, boat trips, scuba diving, and hotels).

The rise in tourism has had positive impacts as well.

The Azores are rural islands. We live from selling milk from cows, growing fruit, and not much more. The tourism industry provides new, quicker opportunities to contribute to the archipelago’s GDP. We need it. The Azores are too small to just export - We need people coming and buying the milk from our cows, the mini pineapples that we grow, our fish, and so on. We need tourists.

Despite these positive economic impacts, it is vital to consider ways in which the islands can suffer from tourism.

It is known that our attitudes as tourists differ from our behaviours when at home in our day-to-day life. When we are on holiday we don’t care as much for things. We are relaxed. Extinguishing a cigarette on the floor is normal. Ice cream papers get dropped on the beach. This is a little thing, but when everyone does it, it is a big problem, and on a small island, it is ten times more visible than in a big city.

Another issue is transportation and pollution. More people equals more connectivity of flights, more air transport, buses running more frequently, and more pollution. The airport will probably have to be expanded and more airports created in other islands… All this to accommodate more tourists.

Pollution will impact the happiness of the locals, which will affect the satisfaction of the tourists. All tourists want to feel welcome in a destination. If the locals don’t want you there, would you come back? Would rate it? Would you suggest it? You would probably not even visit other places in the country.

What is being done (or should be done) to protect and preserve the islands?

Although, it is possible to manage this ascending issue, we must do so by studying and practicing sustainable tourism and bearing in mind every single party that is involved in the destination… including Nature.

I believe this should start with marketing.

Marketing to islands like the Azores should take into consideration more than the immediate outcome – Money. It is beneficial to have a lot now, but if the reason for the money is also the cause of the island’s destruction, then we are losing in the long run, right?

The Azores currently have several projects to balance the sustainability of Nature with tourism and the modern days. For instance, they have granted part of the green project, and they have an ecological school where you are taught how to grow vegetables, how to take care of the island, and so on.

Another strategy that the government has implemented is renewed energy houses, so, solar panels are used a lot nowadays

I hope you enjoy reading my little thoughts about my island. Please note that this is my opinion with a bit of background of marketing and tourism but it is not linked with any literature I studied. This is purely my thoughts about what I have been experiencing with my islands.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Why is Sustainable Tourism Important?

Joana, Jorge, and Miriam each have unique perspectives regarding tourism in the Azores, but one common idea stands out - Tourism in the Azores must be developed sustainably.

Sustainable Tourism is important because SUSTAINABILITY is important.

In recent years, we have seen once pristine beaches become covered in plastic and several animal species now face the threat of extinction. These drastic consequences have (finally) made us more conscious and aware of the crisis facing our planet - what we have done to contribute to it and how we need to do better.

Now is the time to make policy changes which will protect and preserve our environment and the species in it, particularly within the tourism sector.

People in the Azores have recognized the potential negative impacts of rising tourism and are responding by making responsible and sustainable decisions in this developing sector.

The last thing locals want is for their home to turn into the next tourist hotspot like Iceland, or worse, like Thailand’s Maya Bay - (Made famous by the film The Beach, Maya Bay received over 5,000 visitors per day at the peak of its popularity. This inevitably resulted in the destruction of 80% of the reefs surrounding the bay, and its indefinite closure last October).

The government has made steps in the right direction by creating protected areas and placing a cap on the number of hotels that can be constructed across the nine islands.

Local business owners such as Joana and Jorge are also playing their part by creating innovative, sustainable alternatives to traditional hotels and tour companies. Still, like Joana said above, there is always more that can be done.

São Miguel is easily one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever been, and it is a place that all nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy. That being said, tourists visiting the island should be conscious and respectful (of the land and the locals), and do their part to practice and support sustainable tourism, too.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

What are your thoughts on over-tourism?

Let me know in the comments below!

A Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island

São Miguel is the largest of 9 volcanic islands in the Azores Archipelago. This autonomous region of Portugal is located in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,500km off the coast of Lisbon and 3,900km from the east coast of North America.

The Azores aren’t the most accessible holiday destination, however this has changed in recent years. In 2015, low cost, direct flights to the islands were introduced, and for better or for worse, this has led to a rise in tourism. More on this later.

We were in São Miguel for about a week, and, even though we did a lot, I know we barely scratched the surface of this pretty, (and unbelievably green) little island. Seriously… it’s the greenest and most beautiful place I’ve ever been… even over Ireland.

To prove it, I haven’t edited any of the photos in this article… yes, it’s REALLY that green!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

When to Visit

Peak season in São Miguel is from July to August… so (as you might expect) this is the one time I would NOT suggest for you to go. Sure, the weather is nice, but you’ll also be experiencing the island at its busiest.

Keep in mind that the word “busy” is pretty relative here. Peak season in the Azores is still far more calm than “peak season” in other unbearably busy travel hotspots.

We visited in early April and experienced some pretty hectic weather conditions. It was sunny one second and blazing hot… then we’d get a torrential downpour and the temperature dropped.

We also had a whole lot of peace and quiet. In most cases, we were the only ones at the view points, lakes, and other places we visited.

According to locals, it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a day here. No matter when you visit, the weather will be unpredictable, so pack accordingly!


What to Do

Visit Sete Cidades

The lakes themselves are obviously the highlight in this district… but lots of people who “visit them” make the mistake of only experiencing them from the viewpoints. If you come all this way, be sure to head down to explore the trails and villages surrounding the lakes, too.

Weather permitting, you can do lots of activities here.

Our plan was to spend a day kayaking, SUP boarding, and biking, but mother nature had other plans. It was insanely windy, so we were only able to bike… which is probably a good thing given that it was also pretty cold and water activities might have led to pneumonia.

We spent a full three hours biking and taking in epic, moody views of the lake.

There are also lots of hiking and walking trials around the lakes, but, even with a mountain bike, you can only get so far. Ditch your bike and explore a bit!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Attempt a water activity (or Explore Ponta Delgada)

Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores. The city’s main harbor is located here, and so are lots of companies offering water sports rentals and other water activities.

We were planning to go swimming with dolphins… and were willing to brave the freezing water to do so… but (once again) mother nature said, “NOT TODAY, FELICIA!”

We were put on a whale watching tour instead, but, sadly, this didn’t pan out either…

We boarded our boat, had a quick safety briefing, and then, while attempting to leave the harbor, were informed that one of the boat’s engines wasn’t working properly… which is why we had been driving in circles since leaving the dock.

We didn’t see any whales that day, but we did get a nice 360 view of the harbor as the boat captains fought against the faulty engines to get us back to land.

It was a big bummer that we weren’t able to experience the abundance of wildlife the Azores are known for, but it was also the first of many lessons in going with the flow on this trip.

Instead of freezing our butts off on/in the water, we spent the day walking around Ponta Delgada, along the coast, and enjoying the surprisingly sunny weather.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Visit the Gorreana Tea Factory

Family owned and operated since 1883, the Gorreana Tea Factory is the oldest in Europe and, currently, the only remaining tea plantation on the continent. Located on the northern coast of the island, it covers an impressive 32 acres and produces about 33 tons of tea each year.

It was really cool to see workers in the fields processing the tea, (which, according to the guys, looked like they were “just trimming the hedges”).

There is also an on-site museum you can walk through to learn more about the tea making process, to have a cup of tea, or buy some souvenirs to take home! I unintentionally bought a box of Gorreana’s green tea at one of the supermarkets before visiting the plantation, and can confirm that it is in fact really good.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Take a hike

…and I mean this in the nicest way possible!

On nice days, this particular viewpoint boasts unbeatable panoramic views of the island and crater lakes below. I know this because it was a photo of this hike in particular that immediately sold us on coming here.

Unfortunately, we had no such luck when visiting Miradouro da Boca do Inferno…

…As a matter of fact, it was a real instagram versus reality situation - (and if you don’t believe me, just google what it looks like on a clear day to see for yourself).

As you can see, we couldn’t really see much of anything… but it was cool having our heads up in the clouds for a bit!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Take a detour through the Valley of Lombadas

The drive through the valley was incredible!

The best part - we didn’t pass a single car or see another person the entire time.

Once you reach the bottom, you’ll see some walking trails and an abandoned crumbling building which we all eventually climbed up on - Lindsey, Laura and I to snap some photos… and Andrew to perform his rendition of Cher’s smash hit, “Believe.”

Said a performance will now live on ‘til the end of time in (shaky because I was laughing so hard) GIPH form. You’re welcome.

If you make the drive to the valley WEAR GOOD (OLD) SHOES so you can explore.

Also, keep an eye out for the waterfall along the way!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

take a dip in furnas’ Hot springs

We visited Poça da Dona Beija, and it was one of the only places we went on the island where we saw more than half a dozen other people.

Though it was a bit busy (and raining) we still really enjoyed it. The rain was actually quite refreshing while sitting in the steaming pools.

There are also natural hot springs at the Caldeira Velha Nature Reserve.

I totally did not even know this was a thing due to poor planning (and an overall lack of research) beforehand… which was a pretty common theme throughout the whole trip.

I can’t confirm whether it’s actually a good spot to go, but it looks cool enough to tempt me back in to a second visit… as if I really need tempting…

Pro tip: Most of the hot springs charge guests a small entrance fee (and an additional fee for extras like lockers and towels). Save some money and bring your own towel if you can!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

GET LOST

Again… I mean this in the nicest way possible.

It’s an island, so, it’s kind of impossible to really get lost… but you can try.

Get off the main roads. Get off your bike.

Take the path less travelled and go until the path runs out.

Perhaps you’ll find nothing… you’ll definitely find some graving cows… or you might just find another incredible view.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Unique Eats + Drinks

eat Cozida Das Furnas

While visiting Furnas, make sure to try Cozida das Furnas, or volcanic stew. This traditional stew is cooked underground with volcanic heat… and tastes super delicious!

Lots of restaurants in the area serve up this unique dish, but if you want to actually see it being taken out of the ground, you’ll have to get here early.

Around noon, workers head to the “cooking holes” locally known as Fumarolas to remove the cooking pots from the ground and transport them to the restaurants around the region.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

drink Purple tea

While visiting Furnas, head to the Chalet da Tia Mercês for a quirky cup of tea. Water from the nearby mineral rich hot springs causes this green tea to turn purple!

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of leaving this stop til our last day on the island.

Turns out, the tea house was closing early for a private event, when we arrived they told us they had just served their last customer for the day! I considered begging and pleading and telling them it was our last day, but decided I’d suck it up, take the high road and plan a purple tea return trip instead!

No purple tea shots this time around, but here’s a cool photo from their outdoor patio overlooking some steaming geothermal holes… (and it was then that I truly realized we were on holiday on an active volcano)… no big deal!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Getting Around

So, this was the one tricky part about our trip to São Miguel…

Andrew and I arrived a couple of days ahead of our friends, so we just got around Ponta Delgada on foot. I don’t know that I’d recommend this, especially after dark… because the cars drove extremely fast and the sidewalks were just about non-existent.

Walking/hitch-hiking can for sure be done… but it isn’t necessarily the safest option.

Buses and taxis are also an option for getting around the island, but they can both be a bit expensive depending on where you’re going. Plus, the buses aren’t the most convenient choice as they run pretty infrequently throughout the day.

If you plan on exploring a lot of the island, your best bet is to rent a car.

I would recommend this if you are travelling as a group and can split the cost, though, even if you’re travelling solo and doing a lot of bouncing around, it would likely work out cheaper to just pay the daily fee for a rental car.

For example, a taxi from Ponta Delgada to Furnas would have cost us anywhere from 40-50Euros…and that’s just one way. It’s much more cost efficient to just rent a car. Plus, this will give you the added convenience of exploring the island at your leisure.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Where We Stayed

Ponta Delgada

When Andrew and I arrived in São Miguel, we spent two nights in Ponta Delgada.

This was a good starting point for us because of its proximity to the airport (and to the harbor where we were supposed to meet for the dolphin swimming excursion the following morning), but it is farther from’s the islands other hot spots like Sete Cidades and the hot springs in Furnas (no pun intended).

We were tired from our journey, so it was nice to have only have a short cab ride between the airport and our cozy home away from home.

Both places we stayed were nice, but we hit the AirBnb jackpot with this first property.

The beautiful glass loft was covered in greenery on the outside and tastefully decorated on the inside. We had a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, an outdoor patio, plus, an amazing panoramic view of the ocean, mountains, and the pineapple farm next door.

View the listing: Mirante Loft

The host Joana will also be reopening an eco-hotel on the property next year.

Read more: Unique AirBnb in Ponta Delgada

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Vila Franca Do Campo

Our second AirBnb in Vila Franca Do Campo was a bit more centrally located.

The three bedroom house was right by the ocean and had all of the amenities we needed!

View the listing: Three Bedroom House with Ocean View

From here, we could get just about anywhere on the island within 30-40 minutes by car (with obvious photo pit stops along the way). It was a lot quieter than Ponta Delgada, (which was nice and peaceful), but also meant we had a lot fewer options for dining out.

We took advantage of the fully equipped kitchen, and saved money on food by cooking most of our meals at home.

Overall, both AirBnbs were incredible with very helpful and responsive hosts.

New to Airbnb? Click here to sign up and get a discount on your first booking!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Know Before You Go

First and foremost, this is not a party destination.

Sure, the wine is cheap… but you won’t find a buzzing “nightlife scene” here. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re better off going elsewhere.

Secondly, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Azores have become an increasingly popular destination among tourists in recent years. Since São Miguel is the easiest to reach, the rise in the number of tourists visiting each year has been more drastic here.

This is great for the economy, but, for obvious reasons, also poses a serious negative threat to the very thing the islands are famous for - their raw and natural beauty.

Sustainable tourism is a hot topic everywhere, and the Azores are no exception.

If you’re planning a trip here, BE MINDFUL. Respect the locals, the land, and leave each place as beautiful as you find it.

Thirdly… (is this a word? third of all? idk?)…

…if you’ve been considering a trip to these beautiful islands, NOW is the time.

Map

Need some help getting around? I’ve pinned all of the places we visited, (and the spots that are on my list for next time) in the interactive map below!


Planning a trip to São Miguel?

PIN THIS POST TO SAVE IT FOR LATER!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores

I never imagined I’d be visiting a volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean…

…In fact, I didn’t even know such a place existed until a few months ago when a friend and I began toying around with the idea of a little Portugal vacation.

Basically, the whole thing started when my friend Lindsey posted an instagram story saying something along the lines of “Portugal in April? Anyone want to meet me there?” To which I of course said, “Abso-freakin-lutley. Don’t tempt me with a good time.”

She sent me a photo of a hike in the Azores - One photo... Anddd that was all it took to turn my “Abso-freakin-lutely” into a “Take my money, Skyscanner.”

Plans were made, our group grew from 2 people to 5, and, in early April, we all travelled from our current homes (Malmo, Abu Dhabi, and Bangkok) to São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands in the Azores Archipelago.

It was the start of a what was an epic Portugal vacation.

If you browse photos of São Miguel Island online, you may find yourself seriously questioning the saturation levels of each shot… because there’s NO WAY a place could possibly be that green, right? Wrong. São Miguel is hands down THE GREENEST, most beautiful place I have ever been - (yes, even over Ireland).

I started to edit some of my photos from the trip, and then thought to myself… “This is pretty pointless. These photos don’t need editing at all.”

In honor of today being Earth Day, (and me proving to you just how naturally beautiful (and insanely green) this island really is), I wanted to share some of my favorite, unedited, straight off the camera shots with you.

If you’re anything like me, go ahead and get SkyScanner, Kiwi, or whatever flight search engine you use ready. It only took one picture to convince me to visit the Azores, and these 45 photos are definitely about to have you planning a trip there, too.

Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorldPhoto Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

ANNDDD #45

…(as if you need any more convincing after all the hiking, biking, waterfalls, cows, lakes, beaches, tea fields, and green, green, green landscapes in the previous 44 photos)…

Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

No, your eyes do not deceive you! Those are in fact bottles of wine… for less. than. 2. Euros.

So, go ahead then - Book that flight… Cash in those airline miles.

Go get a big dose of nature therapy (and your fill of cheap wine). You know you want to ;)


Planning a trip to Portugal?

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Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Interested in learning more about getting around São Miguel, where we stayed, what we did, or hearing the local take on the rise of tourism in the Azores?

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