We’ve prepared this special tour to discover the luxuriant nature of the volcanic island of São Miguel and its gardens and parks, created following the romantic ideals of landscape transformation. You will explore authentic botanical sanctuaries, gathering several species from all around the world, which have thrived here thanks to the island’s climate and its volcanic soil. You will also get the chance to visit private gardens, which are normally closed to the public. All around you, a dreamlike atmosphere awaits: ponds are formed in volcanic craters, geysers and thermal waters unleash the underground forces. And the palette of greens with the woods, the pastured and tea plantations is only interrupted by the leafy Hydrangeas, in blue or rose, the floral ex libris of the archipelagos.
This tour is truly special during the flowering period of the camellia from January to April.
Upon your arrival at São Miguel, Ponta Delgada, you will be welcomed by our local guide who will take you to the Lagoa do Fogo, where you will have your first contact with the fascinating volcanic landscape of the island: this is a pond of crystalline waters filling a volcano’s crater, surrounded by almost virgin, abundant vegetation. Next, we head to the village of Ribeira Grande, famous for its basalt constructions.
After lunch, you will visit the striking tea plantations, where the local tea, Gorreana, grows. Here it is possible to take a stroll amidst the bushes of Camellia sinensis and admire all the beauty of the surroundings, as the bright green of the plantations meets the blue of the ocean. Before leaving, tea time, as we taste the Gorreana at its birthplace: at the oldest tea factory in Europe and the only one still in production.
Later, we will have dinner and stay for the night at the Terra Nostra, a charming, recently refurbished boutique hotel located at the heart of the park with the same name.
You wake up in a comfortable room inside the park, and our day starts with a guided visit to the Terra Nostra Park, the most important and arguably, the most beautiful garden of Azores. The Terra Nostra is one of the 5 Portuguese gardens featured in Phaidon’s new book The Gardeners’ Gardens.
In 1770 Thomas Hickling (1745-1834), vice consul of the United States, is struck by the beauty of the Vale das Furnas and sets the construction of his summer residence. The original project of the park is enriched and enlarged by the new owners, the Condes da Praia, who added grottoes, drains to the ponds and canals, and planted several trees of different species. The garden, which was restored in 1930 and again in 1990, is spread over 12 ha and offers visitors a truly special atmosphere, with its serpentine stream, waterlillies and moss-covered paths. This prodigious park has 2000 trees, a huge collection of Cycadaceae (55 species), a blooming garden with flowers, camellia and tree ferns, the rows of Palm trees and the notable paths sided by Ginkgo biloba.
After this, we move on to the Lagoa das Furnas to observe the outstanding spectacle of surprising geyser. We pause for lunch, to try the typical meat cooked with volcanic vapors.
The afternoon is dedicated to some of the most interesting private gardens in the islands conceived by José do Canto. On the second half of the 20th century, he starts to create a stunning woodland garden at the Vale das Furnas, by introducing multiple botanical species and scenic effects, after a project by French landscape architects Borillet-Dechamps and George Aumont. The tree heritage is an extremely rich one: Araucarias, Redwoods, Malaleucas, Lime trees, Podocarpus, Maples, Rhododendrons and Tree ferns. Our visit includes a stop at the Nordic style chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias.
Today you take the road that runs along the coastline and head to Ponta Delgada. On your way, you will make a few stops to admire the views at Vila Franca and at Lagoa and you will take a look at the gorgeous Metrosideros and Pittosporum at the gardens of Convento dos Frades, an icon of the “Atlantic Baroque”.
In the afternoon, you will visit to of the most extraordinary gardens in Ponta Delgada: the António Borges garden, an example of botanical garden with recreational purposes, designed according to the romantic taste of the picturesque garden. The garden wonderfully adapts to the uneven topography of the land creating remarkable scenic effects, which are enhanced by the grottoes and tunnels in red volcanic stone, creating intricate patterns. Most of the flora was brought from from Australia and New Zealand, gathered in a very typical 19th century collection, which includes the rub tree (Ficus elasticaa) and the wondrous Jacaranda (Jacaranda sp), as well as a fabulous collection of palm trees and ferns.
Your next stop is the legendary Garden of Santana, at the Palace which today houses the Government of the Autonomous Region of Azores. It is a typically 19th century garden, designed at the golden age of orange production. It was commissioned by José Jâcome Correa (1816-1886) reflecting the period’s innovative language in garden design, with brightly colored parterre, with the exotic botanical species planted according to the principles of the true collectors’ botanical garden. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Ponta Delgada.
Today you will head to the famous Lagoa das Sete Cidades, a volcanic crater where two twin lakes – one blue, the other green – have formed. This is without a doubt an incredible place that inspires the contemplation of nature. And its transformation! In 1850 Antonio Borges, a rich landowner, brought several plants from his journeys around Europe (pines, beech-trees, alders, Japanese cedars, poplars and sycamores, among others) and planted them on the slopes around the lake, thus starting an incredible landscape transformation. Today, the Lagoa surrounded by abundant trees. You can also make a stop at António Borges former house, with its picturesque private garden, a geometric design where the azalea and the camellia constantly surprise you as you stroll around. From here, you head to Mosteiros to admire another splendorous landscape.
After lunch, you will visit the José do Canto garden, a one-of-a-kind botanical sanctuary designed by English architect David Mocatta. The original project was huge, with more than 6000 different species, but even today the garden is the home to many notable species such as the rubber tree, the kauri or the Pohutukawa, and the notable exotic specimens of t the collection, the Malaleucas, Podocarpus, Arbutus, Bamboos, Araucarias, Acacias.
This special tour to discover the Nature and Gardens of Azores can be taken as an extension of the Gardens of Lisbon and/or Porto tours, for a blooming experience of some of the best gardens in Portugal. Also you might enhance your experience in the Azores and be interested in our suggestions: