The Azores (Açores) are a little-known collection of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic about 1000 miles from Lisbon (2.5 hour flight). My sister and I visited São Miguel, the largest island, a few weeks ago. The weather wasn’t perfect – Hurricane Lorenzo created more clouds, wind, and grey days than we would have had otherwise – but even still, the Azores were incredibly magical and so charming. Dramatic landscapes, miles of roads perfectly lined on all sides with huge hydrangeas as big as my head, winding mountain passages with views that catch your breath as you turn a corner or drive down a steep slope and catch sight of the endless ocean past lush green, rolling hills. They are definitely a place worth adding to your list – and get in now before tourism takes over!

Top 5 Things to Do in São Miguel

Sete Cidades: Pictured above, these lakes are probably the most photographed spot in the Azores and for good reason. Check out spotazores.com before you go to make sure it’s clear and sunny or you won’t be able to see the differing colors (green & blue) of the 2 lakes from Vista do Rei.

Ilheu Vila Franca do Campo: Situated opposite the town of Vila Franca do Campo, about 1km from the coast, the more than 4000 year old tiny islet is a result of the crater of an ancient submerged volcano, creating an almost perfectly circular natural lake. Visit for an afternoon and go snorkeling.

Thermal Baths: Caldeira Velha is set against a jungle backdrop with a gorgeous waterfall that runs right into one of the pools. Ponta de Ferraria is a natural cove right on the ocean surrounded by lava rock cliffs. Ocean water is heated by an underwater geothermal spring. Poça da Dona Beija is open until late at night, offering yet another experience.

Ponta Delgada: Wander the charming cobblestone streets, eat dessert at Louvre Michaelense (best chocolate cake ever!), have a local beer in the plaza in front of the Church of São Sebastião, devour flavorful steak at A Tasca, have a rooftop drink at the Whalewatching Bar at the Azor Hotel.

Ribeira Grande: Drive through the tiny streets of Ribeira Grande, with its colorfully painted houses. Make a quick stop at Fabrica de Licores Mulher de Capote for a free tasting of locally made liquors – flavored brandy, gin, cream liquor, etc.