Azores is a group of volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that provides amazing landscapes with lagoons created by volcanic craters, beautiful green hills and awesome shorelines with cliffs that have nearly vertical drop to the ocean. I had the pleasure to visit São Miguel Island, which is the biggest of them all, and take some great landscape photos during one week stay.
The weather can be unpredictable in Azores and if you have bad luck of clouds you cannot really see anything in the mountains, where all the lagoons are. If you see a cloudy day it's best to go and check out the places on the coastal areas where it's guaranteed you'll have a beautiful scenery. It's also possible that it's sunny on one part of the island and cloudy on the other side. My advice is to see as much as possible of the lagoons in one sunny day because you don't know what's the weather like the rest of your holiday.
To get around São Miguel Island it's best to rent a car. All the viewpoints in Portugal in general are well connected with good roads, so you can actually drive to almost all the viewpoints around São Miguel.
Here are the best places to photograph around São Miguel Island!
1. Cete Cidades
1.1 Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno is probably the most famous spot on São Miguel Island and with good reason! Beautiful blue lagoons and lakes are all around this place and the view is just amazing, however there are no signs on the road for this one, so you can easily miss it! To get to Miradouro da Boca do Inferno check for a gravel entrance towards Canary's Lagoon and then continue on the gravel road until the end. If you're lucky you get a parking place right next to the path that leads to the viewpoint. Unfortunately you cannot access this place at all times, so you should check the time when the gates are open. The gates typically open at 8 o'clock in the morning, however during weekdays they might be closed already at 15:00, so plan ahead when you are going to visit. The earlier the better, since this place is quite popular!
1.2 Lagoa do Canário
While visiting Miradouro da Boca do Inferno you should also stop and check the Canary's lagoon.
1.3 Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras is a place where you have the best view towards the two lakes of Cete Cidades (Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde) and the bridge that divides them.
1.4 Miradouro da Vista do Rei
Another great place towards the two lagoons of Cete Cidades is at Miradouro da Vista do Rei. There is also an abandoned hotel at this point, which was open to public before, however now it's closed due to poor condition.
1.5 Walking around Lagoa Verde
I definitely recommend walking around Lagoa Verde. There are many birds around the area, it's peace and quiet and there are really stunning views of the nature around the lagoon.
2. Lagoa das Empadadas, Lagoa Rasa, Miradouro do Pico do Paul, Lagoa das Éguas
Towards your way to Cete Cidades there are some really nice small lagoons and hiking places you can go to. I really loved the hike around Lagoa das Éguas, with some great views towards the island and towards the small lagoons from above.
At some point the scenery resembled a lot Finnish Lapland during autumn time, but the different kind of vegetation reminded me that I am in Azores.
Mosteiros has a really nice, windy coast that is great for moody landscape pictures!
One of my favourite places on Sao Miguel Island is Ponta do Castelo in Mosteiros.
4. Lagoa do Fogo
My favourite place on Sao Miguel Island must be Lagoa do Fogo and there are several different places here that you absolutely must see!
4.1 Miradouro da Barrosa
I spent my first sunrise here taking a one hour time-lapse and little did I know at the time that my first morning on the island will be also the most spectacular! It was really really windy and kind of cold, but it was all worth it: this was the only morning when I could see the sunrise towards Lagoa do Fogo. I went there almost every morning after this and it was all covered in clouds.
4.2 Estação emissora do Pico da Barrosa and TNAC Headquarters
After Miradouro da Barrosa drive for 2 minutes, park your car and then walk up on the hill towards the antennas. From here you'll get the BEST view of Lagoa do Fogo! While you are there, walk the path towards the end of the mountain. When you get to the end of the path you'll find the most peaceful place on this whole island. No people, no wind, no car noises! Just you and the beautiful scenery of Sao Miguel Island!
4.3 Miradouro sobre a Lagoa do Fogo (View over the Lagoa do Fogo)
4.4 Praia - Lagoa do Fogo and hiking inside the crater
The hike towards the center of the crater was probably the best time I have spend on Sao Miguel Island. It starts a bit difficult, but after you reach the bottom it gets easier. The path starts from Miradouro sobre a Lagoa do Fogo and it will probably take you a few hours to get to the beach and back, depending on how many stops you'll take. The landscape is absolutely stunning, so I am pretty sure you'll stop almost every 5 minutes! I feel like the pictures below are not enough to truly imagine the beauty of this place, but hopefully it will give you a good idea of it.
5. Lagoa do Congro (Congro Lagoon)
To get to the Congro Lagoon you need to go through a beautiful path with lush vegetation, that leads down the mountain towards the lagoon. The lagoon is surrounded by trees and it has a beautiful vivid green colour.
6.1 Miradouro do Pico do Ferro
Miradouro do Pico do Ferro is a really awesome place with one view towards the Furnas Lagoon and another view towards Furnas village. I spent a really beautiful morning here and I was really impressed by the rays of sun shining over the valley.
Beware of cuteness at this place! You might encounter the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen!
6.2 Caldeiras das Furnas (Caldeiras Vulcânicas)
The hot springs are located in the heart of the Furnas village and they are a big attraction. Here you can truly see that the volcanic activity of the Azores Islands has not stopped. By the way, the smell of sulphur around this place is kind of strong.
6.3 Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias and Garden of Lagoa das Furnas
This side of the island has a lot of gardens and flowers and they start with the most beautiful road I have seen so far, which leads to the Garden of Lagoa das Furnas.
7. Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego
On the east coast of the Sao Miguel Island there are many gardens that have views towards the high coastal area. Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego is one of the most beautiful spots from this side of the island.
8. Miradouro de Santa Iria
One morning, after discovering that Lagoa do Fogo is covered by clouds, I went and tried my luck at Miradouro de Santa Iria.
9. Miradouro do Cintrão
Close by Santa Iria, there is Miradouro do Cintrão with very impressive cliffs and a near vertical drop towards the ocean. The interesting part is that you cannot see the vertical drop until you just reach the edge, so don't walk too fast while going towards the ocean.
10. Vila Franca do Campo
10.1 Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
About 700 m from Vila Franca do Campo shoreline there is Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, which is a small volcanic crater lagoon and it's very popular among the drone photographers. In the summer time there are excursions to the island, which happens to also be a natural reserve.
10.2 Miradouro da Nossa Senhora da Paz
Just to demonstrate how it looks like in the center of the island when it's cloudy I uploaded a picture from Lagoa de São Brás, where we visited in such weather on our last day on São Miguel Island. This is why it's important to see as much as possible in the higher lands when it's sunny :)
This blog post is more focused on landscape photography and viewpoints around São Miguel Island, however this island has a lot more to offer! If you are looking for a more active holiday you might want to read The Best Waterfalls and Nature Trails for Hiking on São Miguel Island, Azores