São Miguel is an island that was made for road tripping. Away from the major cities (of which there is one – its capital city, Ponta Delgada), the tarmac roads are largely traffic-free, save for the odd herd or two of cows, and the only obstacle you’ll encounter is deciding which of the island’s countless miradouros (viewpoints) you should stop at.
To make this decision a little easier, I’ve created a list of my favourites, along with their approximate locations, what you can expect to find there and the kind of views they afford. Of course there are many more that – for me at least – remain undiscovered, so if you know of any others I should be adding to this list, please let me know!
#1 Miradouro da Vista do Rei
One of the easiest viewpoints to find for some of the best views of the lakes of Sete Cidades, Miradouro da Vista do Rei is located right on the main EN9-1A highway from Ponta Delgada to Sete Cidades. Keep an eye out for the abandoned hotel, Monte Palace (a large grey concrete structure), which is directly opposite the viewpoint.
#2 Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado
On the far western edge of the island, Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado is located almost at the half way point between Mosteiros and Ferraria, and will afford you some fantastic views of the village of Mosteiros, and of the islets that earned it its name.
There’s nowhere nearby to park your rental car, so you’ll just have to pull up as close to the side of the road as you can manage, climb up on to the wall to take your shots and jump back in again!
#3 Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa
We drove around the entire circumference (well, almost!) of Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire), and stopped off at several viewpoints, but Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa afforded the best views of the lake.
If you arrive at the viewpoint to find your view of the lake obscured by cloud, don’t despair; the weather can and does change quickly on São Miguel. And it did for us. We arrived to a disappointing view (but a view all the same), and left, 10 minutes later, having captured this shot.
#4 Miradouro da Nossa Senhora Da Paz
This was one of the most difficult viewpoints to find (we could see it, but due to a new road being built after our sat nav was updated, we couldn’t get to it at first), but Miradouro da Nossa Senhora da Paz was definitely one of our favourite viewpoints.
As you turn off the EN1-1A, a narrow road climbs steeply, winding its way up the hillside high above Vila Franco do Campo. Come up here just before dusk and you’ll catch the church of the same name drenched in beautiful golden light. The views down on to Vila Franco do Campo and out to sea are also pretty special.
#5 Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos
On the far eastern edge of São Miguel, in the lesser-visited Nordeste region, is Farol do Arnel (Arnel Point lighthouse), and just south of this, along the coat road, you’ll find Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos. As the name suggests, from here you can get a good view of the boats by the harbour, along with the steep, narrow winding road that heads down past the lighthouse and towards the sea.
#6 Miradouro de Santa Iria
Our guidebook hailed this as “one of the loveliest viewpoints along the north coast” and it truly is. Just east of Ribeirinha, Miradouro De Santa Iria offers incredible views along São Miguel’s entire northern stretch of coastline. It’s wild, rugged, and dramatic, and – when the last few rays of sun light up the tops of the cliffs – utterly beautiful.
#7 Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
Midway along the western coast of São Miguel, Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego is set amidst some verdant, well-manicured mountainside gardens and offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Whilst you’ll find cats at almost every one of the island’s viewpoints (word has spread that tourists migrate to miradouros, and they bring food), there seemed to be a larger number of furry felines here to befriend.
#8 Miradouro da Ilha Sabrina
On the western coast of the island, just south of Mosteiros, are the thermal baths and natural swimming pools of Ferraria. Unfortunately we rocked up on a Monday when the baths are closed, so there wasn’t a soul around apart from a few crabs clinging to the sides of the rocks as the waves tried their best to wash them out to sea.
However we loved the rugged volcanic landscapes here, and you’ll get the best views from the Miradouro da Ilha Sabrina. There are a few picnic benches up here but it’s a very exposed location so you’ll need to hold on to your sandwiches!
#9 Miradouro do Castelo Branco
Unlike the coastal miradouros, Miradouro da Castelo Branco is not one that you’re going to stumble upon as you drive past, but like Miradouro da Nossa Senhora Da Paz, it’s definitely one that’s worth putting in the effort to find.
This viewpoint didn’t appear in our guidebook either. I initially saw a photograph of it while searching for inspiration for my trip on Trover, but it was only as a result of a conversation with our host at The Nook Hostel in Ponta Delgada that we actually found out the name of it and where to find it. The location is shown on the map at the bottom of this post. It’s not far from Lagoa das Furnas and a climb to the top of the watchtower here will give you a stunning view of the lake.
#10 Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
The miradouro we desperately wanted to find – and the one which affords the best views of Sete Cidades’ two lakes – is the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. However, unless you visit São Miguel in summer it’s very unlikely you’ll actually be able to see anything from here. Cloud seemed to build more readily around this part of the island, and brought with it heavy wind and rain.
However, if you’re unlucky like we were, all is not lost; you’ll actually get a pretty amazing view of both lakes from the Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras, which is just off the main EN9-1A highway as you approach the town of Sete Cidades.
If you’ve visited São Miguel, and you have any more incredible viewpoints to add to my list, please let me know in the comments below, or tag me in a photo on Instagram or Twitter.
Alternatively, if you haven’t yet made it to São Miguel, which of my 10 viewpoints are you most excited about visiting?
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