The Azores are a group of beautiful green Portuguese volcanic islands in the mid-Atlantic ocean. They are also being called “Europe’s Hawaii” and are a nature lover and photographers dream to visit! In this blog post you will read all the best things to do on Sao Miguel island combined with the best photography locations. The dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, waterfalls, hotsprings, green pastures, beautiful flowers and possibilities for whale watching, surfing and hiking makes the Azores one of the most diverse islands to visit in Europe. The Azores are a dream for nature lovers, landscape photographers, hikers and adventurers! Watch the video below which we made during our adventure on Sao Miguel island.
Sao Miguel island weather
What is the best time to visit Azores? The best months to visit the Azores and to make the best photos are April, May, September and October. Also known as the ‘shoulder season’. The weather is fair and the islands are not too busy. The summer months, June, July and August are the warmest but also the busiest months with tourists.
During spring season all the flowers on the island are blooming and if you love whale watching and capturing them on camera, you can see a lot of different species in these months. If you’re lucky you can even spot orcas in March, April or May.
September and October still have warm temperatures but can vary more. Use the website Spot Azores to check the weather on every part of the island.
As you never have to pay entrance to any of these recommended places, we left out the entrance fee subject in this blog.
How to get around on Sao Miguel island
Make sure you hire a car. The public transport is unreliable and you can get a lot easier around the island with your own transport. Also you can combine all the best photography locations much easier this way. We hired a car at Luso and were very happy with their service. With internet access, you can get anywhere with your best friend Google maps 🙂
How to get to the Azores islands
By plane is the only option to get to the Azores. You can travel with a boat between the islands, but your trip has to start from the airport. You can fly with different airlines to the Azores. Check skyscanner.com for the cheapest flights.
Tea Plantation Cha Gorreana
Europe’s oldest and currently only remaining Tea plantation. The endless fields with tea will remind some travelers of the Asian rice fields because of the layers of green. A photographers dream and for sure one of the best photography spots in the Azores! Especially when you have a drone. We made a short documentation video about the process (the first documentation we ever made!) Watch the video here.
Getting there: With your rental car, you can easily reach the tea fields as they are along the main road.
Entrance fee: Free, also the tour through the tea factory is free of charge. But don’t forget to drink a cup of tea in the restaurant, it’s delicious!
Best time to go for photos: Sunrise or sunset for the soft, orange tones above the tea fields. It’s also less crowded with tourists walking through the fields around that time.
Photo tip: If you have a drone, use it to photograph the beautiful layers of green. With your hand camera, you can walk to the top of the tea fields and take a shot sideways so you’ll see the depth of layers as well.
Vista Do Rei
This natural viewpoint gives you the best clear angle over the crater lake of the “Sete Cidades”, one of Portugal’s 7 natural wonders, also known as one of the most beautiful landscapes of Sao Miguel island. It is also close to an abandoned hotel which you can enter easily. So if you’re into that, enjoy! 😉
Getting there: Located at the west part of the island, the Vista do Rei viewpoint over Sete Cidades can be easily reached by car. There are enough parking spots for your car or scooter.
Best time for photos: Sunset. Because this viewpoint is located on the west side of the island you will have beautiful soft sunset tones, if it’s not too cloudy of course.
Photo tip: Try to avoid the middle of the day because the light is too harsh and there are just too many tourists at that moment. Also, try to be creative with your framing though flowers for example.
Boca do Inferno
This is one of the, if not THE, most famous viewpoint of the Azores. Therefore it is also one of the best photography spots of the Azores, and in particular on Sao Miguel island. A picture perfect trail with stunning views on the several crater lakes around the Sete Cidades will give you the “Europe’s Hawaii” perfect picture.
Getting there: The Boca do Inferno viewpoint requires a short hike from the dirt parking lot (no fee). There are two possibilities, one parking area is located on the side of the main road where the trail begins, but you also might have the chance that the iron gate with a sign for Lagoa do Canario is open. Drive through the gate all the way to the end of the dirt road. Parking there is also free and the hike to the viewpoint will be even shorter.
Best time for photos: Sunset because the viewpoint is located on the west side of the island you’ll have stunning soft light shining into the crater lake.
Photo tip: Besides coming with sunset, try several angles to challenge yourself to be more creative, and when you have a drone you’ll get the beautiful bird’s eye view of the crater lakes. Some clouds may pass by, take advantage of this by taking some moody photo’s or even shoot a time lapse of the clouds passing
We made a short video of this beautiful place. Watch it HERE!
Waterfalls Sao Miguel island
Salto do Cabrito waterfall
This waterfall is part of a geothermal power plant station. You will find the waterfall immediately if you walk along the building of the power plant station which is located at the parking area. But you can also follow the trail of PRC29SMI towards the waterfall through the lush mountains along the pipes of the geothermal power plant station. Notice that if you go by car you need to walk the same way back to your starting point.
Getting there: There are two possibilities, or you follow the signs from the main road to the dirt road where you can park the car close to the waterfall, or you follow hike PRC29SMI over the pipelines of the Hydroelectric Power Plant until you arrive at the waterfall.
Best time for photos: In the morning for the nice sun flare.
Photo tip: Make a long exposure to soften the water, and if you get there around 11 AM the sun will shine through the cove above the waterfall which can give you a nice sun flare if you love that in your pictures.
Salta da Farinha waterfall
Lesser known and therefore a more hidden gem. We didn’t hear about this place until we went to Poco Azul and saw the signs Salta da Farinha waterfall. We followed the signs and drove down with the car in the direction of the sea. There we saw the signs at the start of a short, beautiful trail to the waterfall. It was very quiet there, we had the place all for ourselves which was not the case with the other waterfalls.
Getting there: Follow the signs of Salta da Farinha and combine it with a visit to Poco Azul.
Best time for photos: In the rainy season there will be 2 streams of water, so it’s a bit more impressive for your photos. Of course, morning light or around sunset will do the best for soft lighting in your picture.
Photo tip: Make a long exposure or when you have a drone try to find another perspective of this waterfall! Also, try to make some photos close to the ground so you play a bit with the perspective of the waterfalls hight.
Ribeira dos Caldeiros waterfall
Located right next to the main road, and part of the nature park called “Ribeira dos Caldeiros” you can’t miss this waterfall. You don’t have to hike towards it, just park your car, take the shot and admire the beauty of the nature park! The waterfall creates beautiful shapes when it flows down the rocks, great for photos!
Getting there: Very easy to find when you tell Google maps to go to Ribeira dos Caldeiros nature park.
Best time to go for photos: Morning because it’s less crowded with people and again the best light.
Photo tip: Try to get a nice framing with other flowers or leaves, or try to make a long exposure which will do very well at this place!
Salto do Prego waterfall
You have to do something to get rewarded with this beautiful waterfall. It takes 2 kilometers hiking through the beautiful lush mountains to get to this place. After the pretty steep hike, you can take a dip in the cool refreshing waters. You can continue the hike to another waterfall if you have time and energy left!
Getting there: Located on the east side of the island you can easily combine it with a trip to Furnas. Again Google maps will show you the way to the parking lot, and the last two kilometers must be done by walking.
Best time for photos: This waterfall is more popular, so if you want the place for yourself, go early in the morning or just have some luck.
Photo tip: The sun can shine a bit through the trees which makes the light on the waterfall a bit blown out by the sun, being another reason to come in the morning or afternoon! Try to be creative with your angle at this waterfall, there is enough space!
The Azores are also being named as “Europe’s Hawaii”. Do you already understand why? 😉
Whale watching Sao Miguel island
One of the best things to do during your holidays in the Azores is whale watching, or only dolphin watching if you are a bit unlucky. There are 24 species of dolphins and whales that you can see around the islands of the Azores. If you want to go whale watching, you can book a whale watching tour at all the islands of the Azores. We went with Moby Dick on Sao Miguel island and it was a beautiful experience!
Of course it depends on the season if you are lucky enough to see whales. The best time to spot whales is around spring and summer (April, May, June and July). Four species swim in the waters around the Azores all year long. The common-dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the Riso’s dolphin and the sperm whale. Orcas, humpbacks, Fin whale and the Blue whale can also be seen here, but the chances are very small and you need to visit in April, May to have the biggest chance. Read everything about whale watching in the Azores in this blog post.
Getting there: Go to the pier with your own transport where you will board the boat for the whale watching experience.
Best time for photos: The morning light will give a subtile and soft glow to your photos. Also the morning might be the best option to spot whales because they are active in search of food.
Price: Between $35 en $55 depending on the company you book with.
Photo tip: It is very important to shoot with a fast shutter speed. The whales and dolphins may move pretty quick, and you don’t want blurry pictures right? Also a telelens will be your best friend during this activity as the whales or dolphins might be a bit far away.
It’s in the name… Very often you will see a lot of fog at Fogo lake because it is located 575 meter above sea level. The fog can make your pictures interesting, however sometimes the lake isn’t even visible, so keep an eye on the Spot Azores website for the weather forecast. The lake is surrounded with beautiful pine trees and has an interesting shape. Take advantage of that for your pictures!
Getting there: The lake is very easy to reach because it is located right next to the road. You can choose to take a walk towards the water, or just stay at the viewpoint and make your shots.
Best time for photos: This really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the soft tones you have to go for sunrise or sunset, but always keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable in the Azores.
Photo tip: If it’s cloudy or foggy, take advantage of it! Make a time-lapse of the fog or clouds rolling over the lake. Or just create a moody shot of the grey sky. There are several viewpoints where you can hike to for a different perspective of the lake. Also if you have a drone you will love the view from above!
Poco Azul emerald lake
Crystal clear blue water and jungle vibes after a 20-30 min hike to this little lake. Worth it to spend some time and taking a few shots. You can even take a dip in the water if you’re feeling overheated of the hike.
Getting there: Google maps will bring you to the parking lot, and after that, you need to walk for 20-30 min. Notice that the way towards the lake is going down, so ensure you have enough energy for the hike back up!
Best time for photos: You might see some people at this place, so again in the morning you’ll have the best chance of being alone at this spot and take all your time to make your perfect shot. There won’t be too much daylight here shining through the trees, so you don’t have to worry too much about harsh sunlight.
Photo tip: Play with the space you have, try different perspectives and angles, be creative!
We hope you are inspired to go to the Azores after reading this blog post about Sao Miguel island! If you have more questions about the Azores or Sao Miguel island in particular, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments!
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