Ponta Delgada is the capital city of the Azores, a string of islands in the south of Portugal. Of volcanic origin, the magnificent Azores feature plants, birdlife, crater lakes and volcanic caves that are unique in all the world.
On a Carnival cruise to Ponta Delgada, there are many fun and unique things to do that the whole family can enjoy. As with other European ports of call, Carnival offers a variety of shore excursions arranged especially for you. We make the arrangements and all you have to do is enjoy the fun!
Here’s our list of the top five things to do in Ponta Delgada, the largest island in the Azores archipelago.
1. Amble through the Capital City
First settled in the 16th century, Ponta Delgada is the major fishing and trading port for the Azores. You’ll find several historic points of interest in the city just a short walk from your cruise ship in the harbor.
Welcoming you to Ponta Delgada are the striking, three-arched gates of the city emblazoned with the royal and city coats of arms. Originally built in the 18th century next to the old quay in Ponta Delgada, the gates were moved to the Gonçalo Velho Cabral Square during the construction of Prince Henry Avenue along the sea.
Also close at hand are the Gothic-style Church of St. Sebastian and the Convent and Chapel of Our Lady of Hope, which holds a famous statue of “Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres” (Christ of Miracles).
Another must-do in the city is visiting the lively Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada’s marketplace, where you’ll find fishmongers selling all kinds of seafood and farmers selling different types of fresh grown foods.
In this market, you’ll come across produce that can’t be found anywhere else in Portugal due to the volcanic soil and mild climate, which ranges between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit all year-round.
Get a taste of yummy fruits such as annonas, a fruit similar to pawpaw or custard apples, and araçal, a guava-like strawberry.
From Ponta Delgada, you can go on to easily explore the other gorgeous sights of the mountainous São Miguel, which is also known as the “green island” due to its lush landscapes and fertile grounds.
2. Gaze at the Green and Blue Lakes
No cruise to Ponta Delgado is complete without a day in glorious Sete Cidades, or “Seven Cities,” a lusciously beautiful region set in a huge volcanic crater.
Sete Cidades has been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal, and you’ll easily see why.
The must-see attractions here are two adjacent lakes, one green and the other blue. Local legend has it, the Green and Blue Lakes were created from the tears of a princess and a shepherd who shared a forbidden love.
A great vantage point for gazing at the lakes is the Vista do Rei (King’s View) Lookout, which got its name when Portuguese King D. Carlos and Queen D. Amelia visited São Miguel back in 1901.
After taking pictures of this unique place, wander over to the picturesque village of Sete Cidades for a swim in the rivers or a delicious buffet at a local restaurant.
3. Ribeira Grande Is Grand in Its Own Way
Ribeira Grande is also a must see on your cruise to Ponta Delgada. Enjoy the oldest town on the north coast of the island, situated on a volcanic plateau.
Ribeira Grande prospered during the 18th century with flax and wool spinning mills constructed along the river.
The town’s enchanting historic center still remains. Strolling through its narrow streets, you’ll see wonderful examples of architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries, including the Town Hall, with its splendid outdoor staircase and the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Estrala, with its amazing façade.
Visit the town’s municipal garden to observe some superb specimens of the New Zealand Christmas Tree.
4. Hike and Birdwatch to Your Heart’s Content
Hiking and bird-watching are other fun things to do on your cruise to Portugal. The Regional Government of the Azores has created an extensive Networks of Walks, even classifying them by difficulty level.
Each walk in the network represents a restoration of a footpath used by earlier islanders when they weren’t resorting to boats to travel the island.
The islanders followed these pathways to herd cows to and from pastures, venture to festivities in the area, and carry fish, produce and other merchandise for trading.
The paths link almost all corners of every island, along both the coastline and upland interiors, and each goes through some exceptionally picturesque areas.
While strolling through Ribeira Grande, keep your eyes and ears alert for sights of the local birds. Or while exploring Sete Cidades’ lush forest, you’re bound to experience the thriving ecosystem of Ponta Delgada.
A bird watchers’ paradise, the Azores are home to about 30 breeding species, including the extremely rare Azores bullfinch.
5. Visit a Volcanic Cave
During the day, venture to Ponta Delgada to see Gruta do Carvão, one of the many volcanic caves in the Azores. If you’ve never seen a volcanic cave, make sure to add it to your bucket list! They’re a rather rare phenomenon.
There are two main kinds of volcanic caves: lava tubes and volcanic pits. Like other volcanic caves in the Azores, Gruta do Carvão is a lava tube, a type of volcanic cave which started as a lava drain during an eruption and left a long channel after the rock cooled.
It’s estimated that this cave was formed somewhere between 5,000 and 12,000 years ago.
Hiking tours, beautiful beaches and active volcanoes are just a few of the adventures that Ponta Delgada has to offer. When sailing with Carnival, your trip to the island can be as active or as relaxing as you desire. The hardest part of your vacation will be deciding which excursion to do first!
Whether enjoying the onboard amenities or exploring this beautiful cultural Capital City, Carnival will make your vacation to Ponta Delgada is one to remember.