Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel, is the main city in the Azores archipelago and a popular stop for cruise ships repositioning between the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Its attractive seafront presents a skyline of impressive fortifications, church spires, and handsome commercial buildings with white facades trimmed with brownish-black stone. From most docking berths, it's a short walk into town along the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, where you might linger for a couple of hours and then head into the lovely countryside on a coach tour or by rental car. Traffic is light, and the winding roads are in good condition.
What We Love
Town Squares: Beyond the triple-arched gates trimmed in black volcanic stone, you'll come across the Praca do Municipio and the handsome town hall, customs office, and National Guard headquarters. Off another landscaped square is the Convent of Esperanca and the Church of Santo Cristo, where the nave is decorated with soft blue and off-white mosaics, and a chapel is framed by engaged columns under a gilded ceiling.
Seafood: All of the local culinary delights seem to center around catches of the sea: grilled tuna, swordfish, sea bream, rockfish, and arroz de marisco — a potted rice dish with mussels, clams, and shrimp.
Best Known For
Scenic Drives: Rent a car or book an excursion that runs along the route that stops at 3-mile-wide Sete Cidades Crater Lake and the viewpoints Vista do Rei and Santiago Land, which overlook Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) and Lagoa Verde (Green Lake), and a pretty village nestled in between. Alternative: Drive up to the rim of Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake), and from Miradouro da Serra da Barrosa, gaze across a lovely, verdant nature reserve.
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Who It's Best For
Souvenir Shoppers: Many tourists looking for authentic handicrafts are drawn to the attractive pottery and tiles for which the island is known. Choosing the colors is part of the fun — or stick with the traditional blue and white. Embroidered items like place mats, tablecloths, and napkins also make lovely gifts and are easy to pack into your suitcase.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Weather Can Spoil the Scenery: Before you set out on a sightseeing drive, be sure to get an accurate weather forecast. In the spring especially, fog and low-drifting clouds can completely obscure views from the crater rim.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.