During my recent trip to the Canary Islands, I had a short layover in Ponta Delgada, which is the capital city of the Azores and located on São Miguel Island, one of nine islands situated in the Portuguese archipelago.
Little did I know that I would be visiting Ponta Delgada for much longer than I had anticipated due to extremely horrible weather and insane turbulence, which caused my flight to Gran Canaria to turn back around to Ponta Delgada and stay grounded until the next day.
I knew right there and then that I could literally not do a damn thing to prevent the situation from happening, so I just took a deep breath, grabbed my new ticket for the next day and waited for the airline to sort me out. The customer service at Sata Airlines was amazing. They gave everyone on the flight a hotel, food and taxi vouchers for the trouble, which was definitely helpful in easing my mind as to where I would sleep that night. Once given all of my documents, I walked out of the airport, hopped into a taxi and headed for the hotel.
Read more: You Missed Your Flight…Now What?
The weather in Ponta Delgada was absolutely horrible when I arrived to my hotel and I was worried that I would have to spend the entire day inside a hotel and bored out of my mind. I suppose the weather Gods were on my side because shortly after an early lunch and a quick beer break, the clouds started to disappear and the sun started to peak out. I made sure to make the most of being stuck in a new city and hit the ground running to see as much as I could before dinner.
Not knowing much about Ponta Delgada and the surrounding area, I stuck to exploring the old town and began to learn more about this charming port city in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as I wandered my way around its narrow cobblestone streets. The more I walked around and the more I saw, the more I fell in love with Ponta Delgada and was secretly planning a return (intentional) trip. 😉
Read more: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me
Here are a few things I got up to during my long layover in the sleepy and stunning Azores’ capital city.
Explore The Streets
Aimlessly wandering around what were the most narrow cobblestone streets I’ve ever walked on, strolling through Ponta Delgada was my favourite way to explore what the city had to offer. Colourful buildings, incredible stonework designs in the streets and pops of vibrant tiles made the streets a piece of art in themselves and a treat to photograph. The architecture of Ponta Delgada’s buildings of significance, was unlike any I’ve seen before. Stark white and outlined with black basalt made the architecture stand out from the other buildings surrounding them. I didn’t know where I was going, or what I was looking at until I Googled it, but I was ultimately having the best time exploring a new city in a new country, which I wouldn’t have got to see otherwise.
Avenida Infante Dom Henrique
Most commonly known to locals just as the Avenida, this extensive promenade decked out in beautiful stonework, is a mecca for joggers, cyclists, or couples lazily strolling along hand in hand. The marina boasts hundreds of boats bobbing in the water and a plethora of street vendors enticing people passing by with the scent of freshly cooked churros filling the air. A casual walk before dinner is the perfect activity to work up your appetite, or if you want to take a boating excursion to go dolphin and whale watching, most tours take off from this area as well.
Enjoy The Street Art
Ponta Delgada’s streets are surprisingly filled with tasteful and high quality graffiti, which add an eclectic vibe to the old town streets. Every year, the city of Ponta Delgada holds a street art festival, which brings artists from all over the world to decorate the city walls with their works of art. Every style of artwork can be seen on display. Everything from whales, colourful abstract pieces and even some semi-political art adorns the walls of Ponta Delgada and should not be missed by visitors.
Portas Da Cidade (City Gates)
The ornate and impressive three arches of the 18th-century City Gates of Ponta Delgada, are an iconic symbol of the city. They form the entrance to the city from the port and harbour onto the Praca de Republica (Republic Square) and are adorned with the royal crown and coat of arms of Ponta Delgada. Before the harbourfront was extended, the City Gates were close to the water’s edge therefore making the gates the port of entry to Ponta Delgada for all ships arriving from the water.
Paços do Concelho de Ponta Delgada (City Hall)
The Ponta Delgada City Hall is not to be missed. Situated at Praça do Município, this beautiful 17th-century whitewashed building with black basalt trim is surrounded by Ponta Delgada’s signature stonework on the streets and has a pretty fountain and water feature directly out in front of it. If you have a chance, head up to the bell tower for excellent views of the city below. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I could enter the building at the time of my visit, but I made notes for the next time I’m there. 😉
Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião (Church Of St. Sebastian)
The Church of St. Sebastian, located at Largo da Matriz, is the main church in Ponta Delgada and was built between the years of 1531 to 1547. The 16th-century place of worship boasts an elaborate exterior complete with Ponta Delgada’s signature white and black basalt design, as well as a stunning clock tower, which can be seen from almost all points of the city. The starry cobblestone pedestrian area surrounding the church is also a beautiful highlight of the area.
Tuck Into A Local Café
After a day of exploring, head into one of the many old Azorean cafés scattered throughout the city centre. Treat yourself to an ice cold beer outside of Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião at Café Central and people watch, or head to Louvre Michaelense (a coffee lover’s dream and my personal favourite) located at R. António José D’Almeida 8 and grab a delicious Portuguese milk tart and cappuccino while cozying up in the dark wooden interior. It’s the perfect way to end a long day of walking and to relax.
The more I discovered about Ponta Delgada and the exotic Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, the more I wanted to return and fully explore all that São Miguel Island had to offer. The chain of islands that makes up the Azores is home to so much natural beauty, such as hot springs, bright blue and green lakes, an abundance of hiking trails, waterfalls and vast greenery. I wish I had a car and more time, so that I could fully appreciate this somewhat secret European gem. This layover situation was truly an unexpected chain of events that ended up working out beautifully!
Looks like I’ll need to make a return trip one day, right? 😉
Have any of you guys been to The Azores? If you have, what islands did you visit and if you visited São Miguel Island, what was your favourite part of the island? Let me know in the comments below! xo
Thank you to the staff at Sata Airlines for their quick response time and professional help when dealing with my flight’s unexpected layover in Ponta Delgada that day. Without them, I would have never had a chance to explore the city, or enjoyed being “stuck” there as much as I did.