Vila Franca do Campo is located on the south coast of São Miguel island and was once in time its capital. Located about 25 kilometers away from Ponta Delgada, this small municipality has a rich landscape, lots of history and incredible beaches.
The municipality of Vila Franca do Campo was the first capital of the São Miguel since it was considered the most important settlement on the island. However, in October 1522, it suffered a violent earthquake called the “subversion of Vila Franca” which led to a large part of the town being buried and thousands of people losing their lives. After this tragedy, the survivors moved to the Ponta Delgada area, which led to the city’s growth to the point of becoming the capital of the island of São Miguel.
This municipality in Azores has countless natural and other man-made attractions that are worth a visit. With regard to the center of Vila Franca do Campo I will highlight: the marina of Vila, the islet, the viewpoint plus the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz and last but not least, the famous Morgado’s Cheesecakes. A little further from the center we have the Água d’Alto beach and the Miradouro do Castelo Branco which has a very beautiful view of Lagoa das Furnas.
1 – Marina da Vila
With a capacity for 120 boats, Marina da Vila was opened in 2001 and has constantly improved its facilities and the services it offers. It’s operated by the Naval Club of Vila Franca do Campo and is the place from where the boats leave for the Vila Franca do Campo islet and for the observation of whales and dolphins . This marina only receives foreign vessels after they have been approved by the competent authorities at the Marina of Ponta Delgada (the main marina in São Miguel).
2 – Vila Franca do Campo islet
The Vila Franca do Campo islet is a small paradise full of fauna and flora that is located 500 meters from the south coast of the island of São Miguel. It has volcanic origin and had emerged with the fall of the volcano’s crater. It has an area of about 5 acres and is one of the main tourist attractions in Azores for its natural beauty and little human intervention as it’s a Natural Reserve. An important point to keep in mind is that the islet is only open from June to October, that is, in the warmer months.
Check here this post where you can read all the history, relevant information of dates and prices and my experience when I visited the Vila Franca do Campo islet in August 2020.
3 – Viewpoint and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz
The Miradouro and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz is located on the top of the mount of Nossa Senhora da Paz at an altitude of 215 meters, and has a privileged view of Vila Franca do Campo, its surroundings and the islet. The landscape is marked mainly by the white of the hermitage, the blue of the tiles that had on some walls and the green of the lands that are located around.
The construction of the original Nossa Senhora da Paz Chapel dates back to 1522 but it was rebuilt in 1764 and has been frequently restored over the years. According to the tradition, this chapel was built on the spot where a pastor found an image of Our Lady inside a cave when he entered there to shelter from bad weather. The staircase has 100 steps and 10 levels, with the levels representing the Our Father’s prayer and the steps refer to Grandmother-Mary, in a total of two thirds of the rosary.
I confess that we were with a lot of laziness when we arrived at the viewpoint and we let ourselves be carried away by fatigue, not risking going up the entire staircase to reach the top of the Chapel. However, the view from the viewpoint is beautiful and allows you to see the area of Vila Franca do Campo from the top and the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon.
4 – Cheesecake Factory in Vila do Morgado
When passing through Vila Franca you will soon be mouth watering with the typical cheesecakes. The famous “Queijadas of Vila do Morgado” are already considered one of the best conventual sweets in the region, bringing an experience of unparalleled flavour and texture. It consists of an old recipe with decades of tradition but which continues to attract tourists and residents to its factory. The factory environment was recently remodeled in order to allow a better visualization of the cheesecakes production.
5 – Água d’Alto beach
Água d’Alto beach is a small beach surrounded by mountains with an extension of about 560 meters that is located in a bay with a beautiful green land. It’s considered one of the best beaches on the São Miguel island as it has attributes such as crystal clear water (although a little agitated), good infrastructure with bathrooms, showers and a bar and a wide sandy beach made up of fine sand.
It’s a beach guarded during the bathing season and its visitors understand why. Although I have read on several websites and blogs that this beach had very calm water, this wasn’t the case at least on the day I was there because the waves were very high and strong . Because of this, along all the beach there were about 5/6 lifeguards who were always on the lookout for those in the water.
6 – Castelo Branco viewpoint
A little further from the center of Vila Franca do Campo, almost at the limit of the municipality of Povoação where the Lagoa das Furnas is located, is the Castelo Branco viewpoint. It consists of a small medieval-looking tower that was built on a private basis with the aim of controlling the land around it (land that is green meadows with cows ). It’s currently used as a viewpoint and the tower gives a 360 degree perspective and offers a privileged view of Lagoa das Furnas on one side and the center of Vila Franca do Campo on the other.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help when I went to visit the Castelo Branco viewpoint as it was quite foggy , not giving a clear view to either side of the tower. I think the tower isn’t always open, but when we went we were lucky in that sense and we were able to climb. Another important information for those who visit this viewpoint is that the path there isn’t great since it’s a dirt road with several holes.
These six places were the main ones I visited in the municipality of Vila Franca do Campo 💚. I hope I have given you some relevant information and good tips to add to your itineraries when you visit São Miguel. I visited these attractions on three different days because it made more sense in my itinerary but keep following the posts about Azores and follow me on instagram to be the first to know about the new publications.
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