PONTA DELGADA (São Miguel Island)
Providing a gorgeous green welcome to sailors venturing on the long journey across the Atlantic, Ponta Delgada’s shoreline is a reassuring sight, as it emerges into view. Sat on São Miguel Island, the largest of Portugal’s Azores islands - which wait on an outpost of western Europe, some 1,100 miles from the mainland. Ponta Delgada is the island’s largest city, and a place of spectacular volcanic vistas, steaming hot springs and impressive landscaped gardens.
The city’s signature trio of arches welcomes you to Ponta Delgada, and its island of verdant volcanic contrasts. Wander between monochrome churches like the Gothic Church of St. Sebastian, and up to the Convent and Chapel of Our Lady of Hope – which houses the revered icon of Christ that is paraded through the streets annually, and believed to have miraculous powers by locals. Or, head for beaches offering sanctuary on charcoal-coloured sands, or the tropical António Borges Botanical Gardens, where tropical plants add extra shades to the Green Island's scenery.
Now extinct, the mighty Caldeira das Sete Cidades is a truly awe-inspiring sight - and the colossal collapsed volcanic caldera blooms with lush greenery and scattered wildflowers. The vast crater has been taken over by a glowing, picturesque lake, which reflects the blue sky above. A full three miles wide - and with a circumference of eight miles - it’s a vast panorama to take in. The Lagoa de Fogo – or Lake of Fire – is another of the island’s calderas – rise up to see the crumpled scenery encasing a beautiful lake. São Miguel Island’s geothermal activity has practical uses too, and you can harness the powers to unwind any tired muscles after a long day, by sinking into the hot springs of Poca Da Dona.