São Miguel Island, Azores (and Lisbon and Sintra)

A visit to a vibrant city as well as one of the greenest, scenic places we’ve ever been.


We began our adventure in Lisbon, Portugal where we:

  • wandered the city taking in the sights and sounds,
  • enjoyed beers at Duque Brewery,
  • took a bus to view the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém,
  • visited multiple miradourous to enjoy views of the city,
  • had an absolutely fantastic tapas dinner at Travesteria (recommended by our Airbnb host).
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We also took a day trip (one return train ticket costs ~€9.80 and the journey is about 40 minutes) to the city of Sintra. The entire city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cultural Landscape of Sintra, due to the number of 19th century Romantic architectural monuments.

TIP: We spent only one day in Sintra and wish we had longer. We’d highly recommend an overnight or two. If you only do a day trip then consider taking transportation between the sites. We walked and it ended up taking many precious hours.

In Sintra we:

  • Visited Sintra National Palace located in downtown Sintra (look for the huge dual chimneys). The entrance fee is steep at €10 per person and inside you can do a self-guided walking tour.
  • Wandered the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira. The compound consists of a palace, chapel, and many gardens with grottos. Tourists love this place because of the tunnels and passageways; it is indeed fun to stroll but we spent too much of our one day here.
  • Climbed the mountain, via a fairly steep pedestrian pathway through the park, to Pena Palace. It was too late in the day to purchase a ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus that circles the park stopping at various viewpoints and point of interest so we simply purchased tickets for the grounds. Note that a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket is different than a transfer bus ticket that takes you up the hill to the palace entrance. The ticket agent suggested that unless one was interested in period furniture just a grounds ticket would be enough to satisfy most. This palace is simply a super magical colorful fairytale castle with intricate carvings and tilework.
  • We had views of the Moorish Castle from Pena Palace but unfortunately the it was closed by the time we reached the ticket counter.
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São Miguel island, Azores

Our next stop, after a quick flight, was the island of São Miguel in the Azores. The Azores is an archipelago comprised of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1600 km west of Lisbon.

We loosely planned our time in São Miguel based on the fantastic itineraries suggested here and here. Instead of basing ourselves centrally in Ponta Delgada, we stayed in three different locations on the island: the first few days in Ponta Delgada to explore the west and central portions of the island, the second few days in Furnas to explore the eastern side of the island, and our last night back in Ponta Delgada for the convenience of being closer to the airport for a very early morning flight. We think this worked out better than staying in Ponta Delgada for the entirety as we saved lots of driving time and were able to enjoy more time at the hot springs in the Furnas region.

TIP: Our car rental was via Ilha Verde. Pros: cheapest rates on the island; large reputable company. Cons: large deposit held upfront (but we had no problem with it being refunded at the end).

Rather than rehashing our itinerary use the well-designed posts above and enjoy our photographs and captioned commentary to pick up on any differences.

TIP: Although we planned our travel independently and used points to pay for most of the airfare and accommodation, Azores Getaways looks to have some fabulous itineraries at great prices if you’re traveling from the United States. They are well reviewed but we have no personal experience. If you chose to go this route, let us know your experience!

Lisbon (again)

Before ending our time in Portugal, we returned to Lisbon for one more night. We visited the São Jorge Castle up on the hill and walked the neighborhood of Alfama before retiring for our last evening to our fantastic apartment in Chiado.

We would highly recommend spending some time in the Azores and we look forward to returning to explore the remainder of the islands in the archipelago.

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TIP: We use Airbnb for unique accommodation as well as the opportunity to stay in local neighborhoods around the globe. Use this link to get a $20 credit towards your first booking!

TIP: The Chiado Dream Apartments were fantastic. If we had a re-do we would have forgone the first Airbnb for this apartment.

TIP:  We use World Nomads for travel insurance when we travel internationally long-term. We believe they offer the best coverage for the money and they are super easy to work with! You can get a quote using the widget on our Resources page.

April 12 – 24, 2017

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