Yesterday (Thursday) we had a full-day jeep tour with Green Zone Azores on the island of Sao Miguel - which turned out to be a great call because a) we were both a little stiff and sore from our previous day's hike, b) the tour was amazing, and c) we lucked out with beautiful weather for it.
Our driver Daniel picked us up right outside our apartment and 9am and we climbed into our Land Rover Defender and discovered that we were the only people booked that day, so we essentially had a private tour at our own pace. Perks of travelling in shoulder season I guess!
The ultimate destination for the day - Furnas - was near the far end of the island, so the trip served as a great opportunity to get an extensive tour of the island itself. We began by driving up the southern coast, and it quickly became apparent that the Land Rover was going to provide access to some of the scenic peaks and lookouts that otherwise we would have never reached by bus or car rental. The vistas from up high were amazing.
We also climbed the steep drive to visit the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace) perched high above Vila Franco do Campo. And of course we climbed the 100 steps to the top :)
After a few other stops we arrived in the town of Furnas itself - known for its volcanic activity and fumaroles (I learned a new word too) where the heat and sulphur from below escape through the surface. While some of them are no more than quietly-bubbling pools, others are furiously boiling and releasing a steady cloud of sulphur into the air.
From here we wandered the town a bit more, and even sampled some of the naturally-carbonated mineral water (which tasted fizzy, cool, and slightly sulphur-y!).
From here we went just outside of town to the area where the restaurants use the fumaroles to cook food in big pots, which are lowered into the ground around 5-6am each morning and removed around noon. Here's our lunch coming out of the ground:
And our lunch... which was delicious but also had a subtle sulphur taste to it :)\
After lunch we visited nearby Terra Nostra Garden, where we got our swimsuits on and hopped into a huge pool where they have channelled some of the naturally heated water to effectively create a giant hot tub. There were very few tourists around and it was an incredible way to unwind and relax our sore muscles.
By the time we came out we were pretty much ready to nap for the rest of the day, but we still had the trip home to take in. On the way back we drove along the north coast of the island and made a few more stops, including visiting a local tea plantation (Azores is the only place in Europe that makes tea), as well as the scenic lookout near Ponto do Ermo where we could see the entire island from its easternmost to westernmost points. Again we were blown away by the view. I have some shots from the DSLR camera that need to be stitched into a giant panorama from here ;)
When we finally arrived back at our apartment here we had a quick break and then went out for a nice quiet dinner consisting of one of the well-known Portuguese dishes of espetada - essentially skewers of meat and fish - which were delicious.
Today will be somewhat uneventful as we're packing up and moving to a new location - Pico Island here we come! Forecast doesn't look great but we have our fingers crossed. :)