Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Ponta Delgada View slideshowPonta Delgada, capital of the autonomous region of the Azores and the chief town and port of the whole archipelago, is at sea level, has a population of 29,000 and lies in a wide bay on the south coast of the island of Sao Miguel. West of the town is one of the two international airports in the Azores. The pride of Ponta Delgada is its small university, opened in 1975 and boasting about a thousand graduates to date.TownscapeThe town is built on gently rising ground between green hills, and with its many churches, its trim white houses and the lush gardens on its outskirts presents an attractive spectacle to visitors arriving by sea.
The harbor, which mainly handles fruit and vegetables, is protected by a breakwater 1,544m/1,690yd long, from which there are fine views. At the landward end of the breakwater is Fort Sao Braz (1553), behind which stands a former Franciscan convent (now a hospital), with the beautifully decorated church of Sao José (15th-18th C.).
Praça de Gonçalo Velho
In the middle of town there are three linked squares. The first of these, as one comes from the harbor by way of the triple-arched Town Gate (1783), is the Praça de Gonçalo Velho, with a monument to Gonçalo Velho Cabral, discoverer and first governor of the Azores.
Praça da República
In the middle of town there are three linked squares. The second square is the Praça da República, with a statue of St Michael (Sao Miguel) in front of the Paço do Concelho (Town Hall, 17th-18th C.);
Largo da Matriz
In the middle of town there are three linked squares. The third square is the Largo da Matriz, with the church of Sao Sebastiao.
The church of Sao Sebastiao (founded 1533, in the reign of Joao III), mainly Baroque, with a tall tower which is a prominent landmark. The beautiful main doorway, on the west front, is in Manueline style. The church has a beautiful high altar of carved cedarwood (18th C.) and fine choir stalls. The adjoining museum is devoted to religious art, especially 16th C. vestments.
Museu Carlos Machado
The former convent of Santo André (16th century; chapel with azulejo decoration) now houses the interesting Museu Carlos Machado, with extensive collections illustrating the folk traditions, culture and natural history (birds, fishes) of the Azores.
Address: Rua João Moreira, 9500-075 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Igreja do Colégio
From Largo da Matriz, Rua Guilherme Poças leads to the Igreja do Colégio (1592), built for the Jesuits (who were expelled in 1759). The church has a sumptuous Baroque doorway and a magnificent Baroque altar.
On the outskirts of the town are a number of attractive gardens and parks, some of them privately owned (viewing by request), including the municipal park, formerly the Jardim António Borges (wild-life enclosure).
There are superb panoramic views from the hills around Sao Miguel: the Pico Salomao (3km/2mi north of Ponta Delgada), the Pico da Lima (6km/4mi northeast of Ponta Delgada) and the Pico do Fogo (10km/6mi northeast of Ponta Delgada).
Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres
Big festival on the island, when those who still live there and those who have left celebrate together; religious celebrations, sporting contests, lengthy festival program.
Cauldron of the Seven Cities
About 17km/11mi northwest of Ponta Delgada is the Caldeira des Sete Cidades in which, according to legend, seven towns founded by expelled Spanish bishops were sunk. This is a volcanic crater which collapsed during some mighty eruption in prehistoric times and was given its present form with a diameter of some 7km/4.5mi and a circumference of 17km/10.5mi, by another violent eruption in 1445. The caldera is occupied by three small and two large crater lakes, the latter two - the Lagoa Grande or Lagoa Verde, with clear green water, and the Lagoa Azul, with deep blue water - being separated only by a narrow strip of land. The walls of the crater, faling steeply down for some 300m/1,000ft, are surrounded by a fringe of woods, ferns and laurels.
Lake of Fire
Lake of Fire View slideshowFrom Ribeira Grande a road climbs to the southeast via Caldeira da Ribeira (6km/4mi), a small spa with hot mineral springs containing carbonic acid and hydrogen sulfide, and Lombadas (11km/7mi), which produces a mineral water esteemed throughout Portugal, to the Lagoa do Fogo, a crater lake 2km/1.25mi long by 1km/0.75mi wide, surrounded by high hills, which was formed during an eruption in 1563.It is worth climbing the Pico da Barrosa (949m/3,114ft) to enjoy the panoramic view it affords over the whole island.
Vila Franca do Campo, Sao Miguel, Portugal
About 25km/15mi east of Ponta Delgada, on the south coast, is the former capital of the Azores, Vila Franca do Campo, birthplace of the navigator Bento de Góis, which was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1522 (several 16th C. churches; potteries).
Sao Miguel, Furnas, Portugal
Sao Miguel, Povaocao, Portugal
12km/7.5mi southeast of Furnas on a beautiful road is Povoaçao (pop. 4,000), one of the oldest settlements in the Azores, situated in a wide bay on the south coast. Above the little town stands the Ermida de Santa Bárbara, the first church to be built in the archipelago.
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