Most visitors to the Azores start their trip in Ponta Delgada, the capitol of the archipelago, and with good reason. It's not just home to the island chain's largest airport; it's also the site of a great many wonderful attractions. Let's take a look at some of the best things to see and do in Ponta Delgada.
Visit Igreja do Santo Cristo - Visitors to this chapel have plenty of good things to say, while some even claim it's the most beautiful church they've ever seen. There's something in the air here that's hard to explain, a feeling of being on sacred ground that touches the reverent and non-religious, alike.
Experience the Night Life in Ponta Delgada - Most travelers come to the Azores to escape the hectic pace of daily life, but sometimes you just want to kick up your heels and let the music move you. For nights like these, Ponta Delgada has a lot to offer. At Colegio 27, revelers party in style, sipping trendy cocktails to the sound of live jazz. XF is vibrant and urban, a wonderful place to dance to modern fusion while you enjoy a drink with your travel-mates. Peter Café Sport is world-famous for its Gin & Tonics, and is also a hotspot for boaters and tourists.
Spelunk Gruta Do Carvao - This lava tunnel is one of the region's longest, and on the Azores, that's saying something. It extends from the subterranean world beneath the city all the way to the coastline, and features impressive stalactites, boldly colored mineral deposits, and strange flora and fauna.
Hike at Lagoa das Empadadas - There isn't a bad view on the trail that ascends the mountains to this secluded lake. You could literally stop anywhere and take a breathtaking photograph. Of course, the trip to the lake is only half the fun. Once you're there, you'll forget all about the daily grind, as you find yourself enthralled by the pristine surroundings. It's only a short hike from here to Lagoa Rasa. But if you're not much for hiking, don't worry; you can get here in your rental car just as easily.
Take a Stroll in Jardim Antonio Borges - Tucked away in the very center of Ponta Delgada is a picture-perfect garden full of towering ficus trees, silent caves, duck ponds, and a massive stand of bamboo. Admission is free, and it is the perfect place to read a book or to sit in quiet contemplation.
See the Portas da Cicade in Ponta Delgada - Back when most travelers to the island of Sao Miguel arrived by sea, these three 17th-century arches were the first sight they saw. They may no longer be the city of Ponta Delgada's main entry point, but they're interesting and well-maintained landmarks, not to mention a great photo opportunity. Plus, they're within walking distance of some of the city's best museums.
Visit Museu Militar dos Acores - At one time, this museum was the local cannon foundry and armory. These days, it houses an impressive collection of historical military relics, including armaments, uniforms, maps, and vehicles. The view from the top of the fort alone is worth the price of admission.
Cool Off at Atlantico Splash - This water park in Vila Franca do Campo is a wonderful place to escape the heat. Here, you'll find world-class waterslides, a wave pool, a kiddie pool, and more, to help you enjoy the heat on your trip abroad.
Things to Do in Ponta Delgada
In addition to being the capital city of the Azores archipelago, Ponta Delgada has much to recommend it. In fact, many visitors enjoying a trip to Ponta Delgada claim it's one of the best-kept secrets in international travel. Here, we'll take a look at some of the finest tours and attractions this historic yet cosmopolitan city has to offer.
Nature Hikes in Ponta Delgada, Portugal - Whether you're a seasoned hiker or someone who prefers the movie theater to the great outdoors, you really owe it to yourself to experience parts of Ponta Delgada, and the surrounding island of Sao Miguel, on foot. When walking, you'll see the sights up close and personal, and you'll have plenty of time to stop and smell the hydrangeas (which this region is famous for).
Day Trip to Furnas - The village of Furnas is one of the most popular attractions on the island of Sao Miguel, and it's only a short trip from Sao Miguel. On the way there, you'll see striking evidence of this quiet island's volcanic origins, such as mineral pools, lava walls, and geysers. Once you've arrived, you can pamper yourself with a warm, relaxing mud bath, or sample the local cuisine. One favorite is cozido, a stew of veggies and meat, which is slow-cooked in ovens that are heated by the warm ground.
Go Whale Watching in Ponta Delgada - Whale watching tours typically embark from the main marina in Ponta Delgada. The Azores archipelago is very rich in sea life, making it prime hunting grounds for these majestic creatures. The best time of the year to catch whales in action is the summer, but tours are available year-round. More than twenty different types of whales have been seen near the islands, from blue whales to orcas.
Take a Bike Tour Around Ponta Delgada - The narrow streets of historic Ponta Delgada make it a great place to experience by bicycle; you won't need to look for parking, and you won't have to worry about breaking your rental car's side-view mirror on a road sign. Of course, bike travel isn't limited to the city. Bicycle tours are available just about everywhere on the island. You can pedal your way along the coast, or test your fitness by riding up steep volcanoes.
Swim With the Dolphins - In addition to being a haven for whales, the Azores islands are home to several species of dolphins. Dolphins are intelligent, playful, and intriguing creatures, and no nature documentary can prepare you for the feeling of swimming alongside them in the clear, blue waters off the coast of Sao Miguel. Look for excursions in the Ponta Delgada Harbor when you're there.
Go Deep-Sea Fishing - The same ample supply of marine life that makes the Azores ideal hunting grounds for whales also makes them a wonderful place to go sport fishing. Several deep-sea fishing guides operate out of the port of Ponta Delgada, and the experienced guides know all the best spots for catching tuna, marlin, and mackerel.
What to Expect from the Weather in Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada is the largest community in the Azores, Portugal, and it is where many visitors start their explorations of the archipelago. If you're planning a visit to the Azores and wondering when to book your ticket to Joao Paulo II airport, have a look at our guide to Ponta Delgada weather and climate first, where you'll find tips as to the best time of year to visit Portugal based on seasonal changes.
Ponta Delgada, Portugal Temperatures
One of the nicest things about the weather in Ponta Delgada is that the winters really aren't that much colder than the summers. The coldest month on average is February, when daily highs hover in the mid-60s, and nightly lows dip down to the low 50s Fahrenheit ? not exactly beach weather, but still plenty warm for some lovely sightseeing and outdoor adventures.
August is the warmest month, with daily highs averaging out at about 76 degrees, and lows just shy of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to spend most of your time in the Azores in a swimsuit, then August is a prime time to take your trip.
Really, average temperatures are just about perfect in Ponta Delgado from June through October.
Ponta Delgada Precipitation
Being surrounded by the Atlantic means that Ponta Delgada gets its fair share of rainfall. It's hard to resent the rain when you consider the lush forests and crystalline lakes that it feeds. Still, if you're looking to maximize your time in the sunshine, then you'll probably want to plan your trip for June, July, or August, when the average number of rainy days is 10-12 per month.
The rainiest month is typically January, when you're likely to see rainfall on about 60% of your days in Ponta Delgada. One thing to remember about Ponta Delgada: if you don't like the weather, just wait a little while. Rainstorms tend to pass rather quickly here, and you may be able to escape them by simply hopping into your rental car, and driving to the other side of Sao Miguel.
Wind in Ponta Delgada
As a far-flung island in the Atlantic, Sao Miguel can be a bit windy at times. Wind is wonderful for sailing, windsurfing, and flying kites, but it's less than ideal for a relaxing day at the beach. The months with the lowest average wind speeds are May-August.
Ponta Delgada's Water Temperature
The warm, coastal waters are an undeniable part of the allure of a trip to the Azores. If swimming, snorkeling, and frolicking with the dolphins are on your travel itinerary, then you'll want to visit between June and October, when the water temperature rarely falls below 65 degrees.
March is the coldest month for swimming, with average temperatures around 58 degrees Fahrenheit; that's still not bad, but not quite as nice as the 70-degree-plus swimming you'll experience around late August.