The Vila Franca do Campo islet, also known as the “Princess ring” due to its shape, is located on the south coast of São Miguel island about 500 meters from the coast and has a maximum height of 62 meters. This small island has volcanic origins and is one of the main tourist attractions in Azores, especially since it hosted one of the stages of the world championship on cliff diving, the Red Bull Cliff Diving.
This islet has been classified as a Nature Reserve due to its diversity of fauna and flora since 1983 and, because of that, requires extreme care from all its visitors. This place is the result of an underwater volcanic eruption of an ancient submerged volcano where its crater fell, creating an almost perfect circle with a small opening to the sea. The walls of the islet are covered with blocks of basilic rock and endemic vegetation. Inside there is a natural pool with about 150 meters in diameter that has a small opening in the north. This opening, facing the coast of the island, prevents sea waves from entering and keeps the water warmer than outside. The only inhabitants of the islet are seabirds, mainly shearwaters, various types of fish and crabs .
Regarding the infrastructure of the Vila Franca do Campo islet, there is only one area that has bathrooms, next to the place where the lifeguards are and some paved areas that greatly facilitate the movement of visitors. As it’s a nature reserve, there is a great concern to preserve the place as well as to control its accesses. Because of this, human intervention is practically none and a large part of the ground is irregular and requires attention.
When to visit and prices
The Vila Franca do Campo islet attracts a high number of tourists each season. It’s only possible to visit the islet in the period between June and October (more precisely, 1 June and end on 14 October – but please confirm that since it can change depending on the year) as it’s a nature reserve and its area is protected for the management of habitats and species. The boats to the islet leave the Tagarete pier at Vila Franca marina and the entry is limited to just 400 people per day. Departures are made hourly from 10am to 6pm and the journey lasts no more less than 10 minutes. The ticket price is 8 € for non-residents and 6 € for residents and the ticket can be purchased on the official website and at the ticket office located at Vila Franca do Campo Marina.
As I told you here, I visited Azores in August 2020 and I was completely in love with all the charms of São Miguel . The Vila Franca do Campo islet was no exception and I believe that the photographs do not live up to the beauty of the place. It’s one of those places that we only realize how incredible it is by seeing it with our own eyes.
We arrived very early at the port of Vila Franca do Campo and left the car in the port’s parking lot super easily . My boyfriend’s parents had visited the Azores in the previous year and warned us to go early to guarantee tickets for the first boat because the queue used to be huge. Perhaps because we were at the COVID-19 season this didn’t happen and the queue had few people. It was so quiet that when we arrived, we were the first in line! As it approached 9.45h, opening hours at the ticket office, the queue started to appear, but we noticed that people were buying tickets for other times than the first boat. The trip from the marina to the islet went smoothly and the use of a mask is mandatory. The boat was not full, it had about 30 people, a large part of which were lifeguards and island employees.
When we disembarked we were automatically delighted with the place and tried to find a place to lay out the towels and put our bags. Take care not to forget anything because the islet doesn’t have a bar so it is advisable to bring water and snacks.
We stayed at the islet for about 3 hours and I would say it is enough. I was able to relax and take a dip. I confess that I didn’t swim much because I don’t like to swim on waters where I can see the fish around me . A funny thing is that the water depth is reduced and it’s possible to be in the middle of the islet on your feet.
We left the islet at 13.10h but we went to the boarding area around 12.40h and it was the best we did! The influx of people wanting to leave at that time was very high because of the approaching lunch time so the queue had a lot more people than the boat capacity. When we arrived at the marina in Vila Franca do Campo, we were just thinking of finding some place to have lunch and and then eat Morgado’s cheesecake (a traditional desert), probably the best sweet thing I ate in Azores. If you are close by, be sure to try that or you will regret it!
If you visit Azores between June and October, be sure to book half a day on your travel itinerary to visit the islet of Vila Franca do Campo . It is truly a unique place with a distinct beauty. To continue to follow this series of posts about Azores, don’t forget to follow the instagram of the blog where I notice all the new publications in addition to tips and curiosities about travel.
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