São Miguel Car Hire
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Sao Miguel is the largest of the Azores islands, an autonomous region which are officially part of Portugal and are an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. The islands are generally characterized by the dramatic volcanic landscapes, idyllic little fishing villages, green pastures and multicolored hydrangeas. The island is located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean about 1,400 km from Portugal. Sao Miguel is about 62.1 km in length and 15.8 km at its maximum width and hosts the capital of the Azores: Ponta Degalda. The island has a population of 50,000 people, most of which are portugese and has its own university.
Renting a car is highly recommended to explore this highly rural island, where tourism is not yet fully developed. There is a little public transport, and the public transport that exists is not only irregular but also only connects the main towns on the island. Having a rental car will give you the freedom to go whenever you want but also allow you to discover all the hidden gems that are tucked away in the depths of the wilderness. Booking your car in advance with Enjoy not only guarantees you low prices but it is also key as availability on the island is limited. We work with a wide range of suppliers ranging from international companies, such as Guerin, Hertz, Europcar and Enterprise to the local suppliers such as Micauto which come highly praised. The easiest pick-up location is the airport in Ponta Delgada but there is also availability to pick up downtown in Ponta Delgada. The price of renting a car from Ponta Delgada can be anything from about £4/ day in off-peak or £20/ day in peak season.
Guide to Sao Miguel
Sao Miguel is a magical place where you will be able to witness the wilderness doing things you may have never seen, including bubbling geysers, dormant volcanoes, waterfalls and natural thermal pools. The island is relatively small which means you can stay in one place and set out on day trips to explore the island by car and discover what the island has to offer. The island has not yet been spoilt by mass tourism, which makes it all the more special, as you feel as though you are truly at one with nature instead of being surrounded by hundreds of people trying to see the same things as you. The island’s climate is similar to British summers all year round, which means the island is full of luscious greenery in contrast with volcanic landscapes. This alongside the beautiful coastline makes for the most aesthetically pleasing views, as well as an incredible variety of wildlife on the island as well as in the ocean that surrounds it.
There is plenty to do on this island from hiking, to cycling to diving and boat trips including kayaking. But most importantly just explore and see all the beautiful landscapes!
The island was first discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1427, when it was made up purely of wild land. There was no native population living on the island, there were not even any living mammals. The first settlement was created shortly after in 1444 when Prince Henry the Navigator ordered for cattle to be placed on the island. However, for a hundred years after its discovery, the island simply served as a stop for sailors and explorers to refuel and collect supplies on the way to the Americas. However, the island’s tactical location, as well as the fertile ground meant that it was destined for rapid economic expansion. This was mainly thanks to the trade of wheat, sugar cane, dye-yielding plants, wine, dairy and later sweet potatoes, maize, flax and oranges. The island was attacked numerous times by the French, the English and the English throughout the 16th and 17the centuries but it was not until 1582 that it was occupied by the Spanish. Sao Miguel regained their independence in 1640 and then recovered its economic position, developing new trade links with Portugal.
What to do in Sao Miguel
The island is renowned for the incredible views, landscapes and natural features. The best way to discover the island is by renting a car and driving around the island and then hiking up to see all the magnificent viewpoints. We have compiled a short list of the top things to see and have tried to divide them into 4 sections: North, East, South and West.
It is most likely that you will choose to stay in Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, as it is where you will find most of the restaurants, bars and shops. The city is aesthetically pleasing being a combination of elegant black and white architecture, as well as Portugese mosaic streets. Although the city does not have many specific cultural visits, it worth strolling around the area of Matriz Church, as well as the Mercado da Graça, where you will find souvenirs and local delicacies. Other tourist attractions include the pineapple plantation, as well as it being the pick up point for the whale watching tours, where you will be able to see whales, dolphins and even turtles.
Sete Cidades is the most famous tourist destination of all the islands and is almost definitely the image you will see on any advertisement for the islands. The views are absolutely breathtaking but good weather conditions are required otherwise you risk not being able to see them. The province itself is located at the centre of a massive, 3 mile wide volcanic crater and in the middle there are two lakes: a green on and a blue one. The legend says that the lakes were formed when a green-eyed princess met a blue-eyed shepherd and their love was forbidden by society. It is believed that the last time they met their tears formed the different coloured lakes. There are several excellent viewpoints to admire the fantastic views, including the Miradouro da Vista Do Rei (Viewpoint Of The King), Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth Viewpoint). At the bottom of Boca de Inferno, you will also find the spectacular Canario Lake, a turquoise lake surrounded by pine trees. If you head towards the quaint little village of Sete Cidades, which not only is home to the lovely village Church of Saint Nicholas (Igreja de São Nicolau), but you will also find many hire shops where you can rent bikes or kayaks to fully explore the beautiful surroundings.
To the west of Sete Cidades, you will find the natural geothermal spring that sits at the base of a giant lava rock cliff: Ponta da Ferraria. The spring opens up into the ocean which creates the extraordinary mix of hot water and cold water, which creates a hot tub environment in the wild. Access into the pool has been made easier by a ladder and the rocks allow you to navigate around to test the different temperatures without bashing your legs on the rocks. Also to the west of the island, you will find Mosteiros which was one of the first settlements on the island around 1480, which gets its name from the portugese word for monastery.
On the South of the island, you will find the Furnas Valley which sits in a volcanic crater which has been dormant since 1630 but is home to thermal springs and also the geysers! In Caldeiras das Furnas there are hundreds of hot springs and paths which will lead you around the holes boiling geysers. It is also worth stopping for lunch there, where they prepare the famous local stew, Cozido das Furnas, a meat and vegetable stew which is cooked for hours in the ground, heated by the volcanic energy.
While you are in the southern part of the island, it is worth paying a visit to Terra Nostra Park, home to 2000 species of trees, endless beautiful promenades and ponds that are covered with lilypads. However the focus point is most definitely the huge orange thermal pool, enriched by iron and heated to about 40 degrees celsius by thermal springs. Just down the road, you will also find Caldeira Velha: a stunning waterfall with a hot spring. If you are seeking waterfalls, Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park is a network of flowing streams and three large cascading waterfalls.
In the same area of the island is Europe’s only remaining tea plantation, Gorreana. It is a family owned tea plantation which has been in operation since 1883 and produces about 33 tons of black and green tea. It is worth visiting mainly for the stunning scenery with the backdrop of the ocean, but there is also a museum which teaches you about the harvesting process.
The key stop to make on the east of the island is Vila Franca do Campo at Nossa Senhora da Paz, a church which sits on a hilltop and has some of the best views on the island. The climb up lots of steps to reach the church is rewarding for the views of the town you will get. Less than a mile away by boat you will be able to reach the Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo, a miniature island which is formed from an ancient submerged volcano, which is home to a plethora of birdlife and the waters are home to stunning vegetation.
Eating out in the Sao Miguel
The food on the island is completely unique and unlike any other food but also completely delicious. The diet consists of a lot of seafood, delicious beef (explained by the hundreds of cows roaming round the island) and a lot of exotic fruit and vegetables. Drinks are often accompanied by Petiscos, which is the Portugese equivalent to tapas. Here are a few of the island’s top restaurants:
Tony’s restaurant in Furnas is one of the best places to try the renowned Cozido das Furnas, which is the meat and vegetable stew which is cooked in the ground, buried in the hot springs for about four or five hours. There are also many other restaurants that do the same thing around Furnas.
Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel (AASM) is the best place to try the delicious Azorean steak, a speciality on the island due to all the free range cows munching on the luscious green grass. The steak is accompanied by local sauces and chips. The restaurant is rather popular so it is worth booking.
Supléxio in Ponta Degalda is in a tiny little cobblestoned backstreet and itself rather small only serving about 20 people at a time. They serve the most delicious burgers made with fresh local beef with many innovative local twists such as local pineapple chutney and cheese. There is also a fantastic drinks menu, offering a wide range of beers and cocktails. Right next door, you will find the island’s much loved vegetarian restaurant, Rotas da Ilha Verde which takes advantage of the exotic local fruit and vegetables to produce the most delicious dishes.A Tasca in Ponta Delgada serves primarily fish all freshly and locally caught but is incredibly popular and is definitely one of the favorites.
Ponta Delgada also has a great bar and music scene. Despite there not being any nightclubs as such, there are lots of venues which are great for drinking and listening to live music. Arco 8 is a trendy bar, as well as an art gallery, which serves killer mojitos. Colégio 27 is a slightly more expensive wine bar which specialises in live jazz.
Sao Miguel Transport
The airport on the island is situated in Ponta Delgada and is also known as João Paulo II. Flights from the UK are incredibly limited, with about one flight per week from Manchester and one from London Stansted. During peak season there is also a flight from Gatwick. The flight is about 4 hours. There are also fairly regular flights from Portugal and from the US. A flight from the east coast of the US only takes 5 hours.
Public buses are infrequent and are mostly used by the locals to commute between the main towns and do not reach the remote tourist attractions and stunning viewpoints.
Renting a car is kind of required to give you the freedom to explore the island and there are not really any other alternatives, as public transport is not really a thing. Taxis are incredibly overpriced as they know there is a lack of other alternatives.
Driving around the island is fairly easy as the roads are relatively new and there is a highway connecting the airport and the main towns. The drivers on the island tend to be relaxed as opposed to aggressive. However, do drive carefully as the roads tend to be rather bendy and herds of cows sometimes stand in the middle of the road.
Top Tips when hiring a car in São Miguel
• São Miguel Car Hire: When searching for car hire options on São Miguel, consider using the terms "São Miguel car hire," "rental car," or "car rental" to find great deals.
• Cheap Car Hire: To get the best price on your São Miguel car rental, book in advance and compare prices from different car hire companies. Deals can vary, so it pays to shop around.
• João Paulo II Airport: If you're arriving at Joao Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada, you'll find several car rental agencies right at the airport. This convenience can save you time and make your transition to the island smoother.
• Exploring the Island: São Miguel is known for its natural beauty, and a hire car allows you to explore the island's stunning landscapes, including Terra Nostra Park, its most popular tourist hotspot.
• Island Highlights: Make the most of your São Miguel car by visiting iconic spots like Ponta Delgada, Ilha Verde, and other charming cities and towns.
• Summer Months: São Miguel is a popular summer destination. If you plan to visit during the summer months, it's wise to book your car rental well in advance to secure great price and availability.
• Local Knowledge: Get familiar with São Miguel's road network, including the main highways and smaller, scenic routes. GPS or a good map can be handy for navigation.
• Car Rentals for All Needs: São Miguel car hire companies offer a variety of vehicle options to suit your needs, whether you need a compact car for city driving or a larger vehicle for exploring the island's interior.
• Look for special offers and discounts. Some car rental companies on São Miguel may provide promotions that offer visitors the best price for their rental.
• Safety: Before driving off, inspect your rental car for any existing damage and report it to the rental company. Also, make sure you're aware of local traffic rules and regulations.
• Enjoy the Trip: With the freedom of a rental car, you can explore São Miguel at your own pace, discovering hidden gems and taking in the island's breathtaking scenery.