Ponta Delgada is a city on the island of Sao Miguel, right at the heart of the Azores Archipelago. Long considered the commerce and culture capital of the entire region, Ponta Delgada is not the kind of port where you're going to be finding the usual line-up of tourist magnets and souvenir shopping. If you were looking for a low-key city break that won't have you jostling with the crowds, this is undoubtedly the place.
If you've travelled across Europe, you've no doubt seen countless historical districts and old towns, some which can inspire a bit of déjà vu. If you want to explore an historical township with a tantalising difference, Ponta Delgada offers rare architecture and colonial influences, all within the gorgeous surroundings of an island paradise.
The Volcanic Lakes
The entire Azores Archipelago is famed for its volcanic activity, with an eruption transforming the geology of the island as recently as 1957. The result is a landscape rugged and enchanting, dotted with volcanic craters overgrown by the flora and fauna. From the centre of Ponta Delgada, a short drive can take you to Pico de Barrosa, from which you can get an incomparable view of Fire Lake and the crater rim of Vista Do Rei. The volcanic soil at these sites creates a patchwork of colours stretching to the horizon, so make sure to bring your camera.
Convento de Esperanza and Igreja de Santo Cristo
The Convent of Esperanca and the Church of Santo Cristo are located in town centre, just a street or two away from Fort Sao Bras. The interior of the church is magnificent to look at, but of particular note is the public chapel which is just to the right of the entrance. An arched ceiling adorned with glittering gold inlays and detailed columns welcomes visitors into the main foyer, and it only becomes more spectacular from there. Make sure to dedicate a full afternoon to soaking up the atmosphere.
Carlos Machado Museum
Founded in 1876 by Carlos Maria Gomes Machado, this intriguing museum is housed within a former convent, giving its galleries an auspicious air of history before you've even seen the exhibits. Originally a place in which to bring together prized examples of Azorean Natural History, the museum now has exhibitions which include regional cave painting, ancient sculptures, and even a whole gallery to the primitive tools and weaponry of the island's first settlers.
Shopping in Ponta Delgada
The islands produce a brilliant range of wines and cheeses, but the key thing is to look for the local favourites throughout the sprawl of vendors and stalls within the centre of town. The city itself is also home to many locals making handmade crafts in the boutiques and markets.
Eating out in Ponta Delgada
O Corisco Restuarante is a wonderful place to sample the local delicacies, such as grilled mussels, swordfish, and even mussels, clams and shrimp. The lunchtime and evening menus are equally exquisite, so drop in any time of day to be guaranteed a delectable meal.