25 Best things to do in Sao Miguel, Azores

São Miguel is an outstanding tourist destination. It has attractions and natural monuments that cannot be found anywhere else in Portugal. Here, we can find hikes, waterfalls, natural pools, black-sand beaches, viewpoints, and much more.

We also have very beautiful cities, towns, and villages set in fabulous natural settings. And then there are all the volcanic attractions, such as thermal waters, fumaroles, calderas, lagoons, etc.

Therefore, this is a destination that everyone loves—from the most active to the most sedentary traveler. This article will explore what to do in São Miguel, Azores, explaining how to go there, what to expect, and why you should not miss them.

There is a lot to see and visit on the island, but these are our favorite 25 attractions in Sao Miguel!

Best Things to do in Sao Miguel, Azores

Visit the city gates and explore the center of Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada is the capital and largest city in the Azores. It is impossible to understand the Azores without exploring a little of Ponta Delgada. Still, despite this, the city is sometimes overlooked due to the quantity and quality of other destinations in São Miguel.

Be that as it may, the center of Ponta Delgada has monumental value in itself. That’s why we advise you to at least take a few hours to walk through its streets and learn a little more about its history, culture, and old buildings.

The city gates are probably the best-known monument in Ponta Delgada and the city’s visiting card. This architectural landmark comprises three round arches, the middle one having the city’s coat of arms and coat of arms.

The main church of São Sebastião is very close to the arches, and it is also worth spending some time to see the elaborate facade of this 16th-century church. The wooden carvings inside and the clock tower are other striking features of this monument.

Other places to visit in the center of Ponta Delgada include:

  • São Brás Fort and the Azores military museum that is located inside it;
  • Ponta Delgada boardwalk – great for walking;
  • Graça Market – Main Market on the island, but unfortunately, it has been under construction for some time (2024);
  • José do Canto Botanical Garden – Private garden created by José do Canto that functions as a green oasis with species from all over the world.
The city gates and the main church of São Sebastião in Ponta Delgada at night, are some of the main attractions in S. Miguel
City gates and the main church of São Sebastião in Ponta Delgada

Discover pineapple plantations

The Azorean pineapple is one of São Miguel’s best-known products. With almost 200 years of history, it is a fruit with a protected denomination and is produced exclusively on the island. Climate, soil, and special cultivation techniques contribute to its exceptional quality and notoriety.

The first pineapple arrived in the Azores in 1832, and the first export was to England in 1964. Currently, there are around 230 producers and 1500 greenhouses in São Miguel, with an annual production between 700 and 1000 tons.

Some of the pineapple plantations are in Ponta Delgada, relatively close to the center, and it is possible to visit them. We visited the Ananás da Boa Fruta plantation on Rua das Laranjeiras, and we think it is worth the visit as it allows us to see the various stages of pineapple production, enter the greenhouses, and see the entire process.

The visit is free, but it is not guided. It has written information and via QR code. At the end, there is also a little bar where you can consume the “best pineapple in the world” and various related products such as pineapple liqueur, pineapple jam, etc.

Pineapple plantation of Boa Fruta in S. Miguel Azores
Boa Fruta company’s pineapple greenhouses in São Miguel, where you can take a free visit

Go down to the Carvão cave (coal cave)

Still in Ponta Delgada, we have another incredible attraction: the Carvão cave. This cave is part of the largest cave system on the island, which spans 1912 meters and is divided into three sections.

Visiting the cave can only be done with a guided tour, with two types of visits, short and long. It is important to book in advance as time slots are few and limited.

The short visit is quite easy and accessible to anyone without mobility problems. The walks are very short, and we are accompanied by a guide who explains everything we see, the history of the cave, and any questions we may have.

We didn’t take the long cave, but from what we were told, it is an adventure that involves climbing obstacles, crawling through very tight parts, and walking a lot more to explore a good portion of the cave system. It is an activity for adventurers who are not afraid of dark and tight spaces. Definitely not for everyone!

Inside the Carvão Cave in São Miguel Azores
Inside the Carvão cave, one of the most exciting attractions in São Miguel

Whale watching

Seeing Whales (and dolphins) is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in São Miguel—in fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Portugal! Going to São Miguel and not partaking in one of these tours is a missed opportunity to see these magnificent animals.

The Azores are known as one of the best places in the world to see whales, and there are whales all year round, even in winter. However, it is much more likely to see whales in spring and summer, as more species are around.

Dozens of species of whales and dolphins have been seen in the Azores, but in winter, the sperm whale is the only resident whale species. Dolphins are almost impossible to miss on any tour. It is so unlikely that the best operators will offer your money back if you fail to spot whales or dolphins.

Note that despite this, it is impossible to guarantee the sighting of animals as they are wild and not fed. When we tried the cetaceans-watching tours in São Miguel, we only saw common dolphins (several times). It was a shame, but it was still worth it. It is undoubtedly an activity worth repeating, as the Azores are a unique opportunity to see cetaceans.

There are lots of tour operators to see cetaceans. Even though we didn’t see the whales, our experience with Futurismo was excellent, and we recommend it. If you want to take a tour to see whales, you must book in advance. This was the tour we took. Alternatively, Picos de Aventura also has a very good reputation.

common dolphins off the coast of São Miguel island
The common dolphins that we managed to spot on the cetacean tour with Futurismo

Explore Terra Nostra Park, Furnas

The most famous part of Terra Nostra Park is undoubtedly its unique thermal water pool. Originally built in the 18th century, this ex-libris of the Azores was only expanded to its current size in 1935.

The thermal pool is fed by mineral-rich water springs that flow at temperatures between 35 and 40ºC. The temperature, minerals, and surroundings provide a feeling of rest and relaxation, like in a few other places in the world.

In addition to the famous yellow warm-water pool, Terra Nostra Park is also a fabulous botanical garden. There, you can stroll among exotic and rare plant species. For example, it has one of the most notable camellia collections in the world.

In our opinion, you should have at least a few hours, if possible a full morning or afternoon, to visit the Terra Nostra Park and pool as it is quite large and it is worth enjoying everything.

thermal water pool surrounded by trees at Parque Terra Nostra in Furnas on the island of São Miguel
The thermal water pool at Parque Terra Nostra in Furnas in São Miguel is one of the must-see attractions in São Miguel

Go to Lagoa das Furnas

Located in the parish of Furnas, municipality of Povoação, Lagoa das Furnas is one of the largest lagoons in São Miguel and, without a doubt, one of its main tourist attractions. This lagoon is located within the Furnas caldera at an altitude of 600 meters and is surrounded by abundant Macaronesian vegetation.

On the Furnas Lagoon banks, you can also see plenty of volcanic manifestations, such as fumaroles, solfataras, and boiling water calderas. The famous Furnas stew is also made on the banks of the Furnas lagoon.

On the lagoon’s shore is also the well-known Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, built between 1877 and 1888 in neo-Gothic style. Its interior and architecture are unmistakable on the island, and it is surrounded by the José do Canto garden forest.

It is possible to walk all the way around the Furnas lagoon using the PRC6SMI trail, but as the lagoon is quite large, it is a relatively long walk of 9.5km.

Lagoa das Furnas and Fumaroles seen from Miradouro do Ferro - what to do in São Miguel
Lagoa das Furnas seen from the Pico do Ferro Viewpoint in São Miguel

See the fumaroles and Furnas

The fumaroles and other volcanic manifestations of Furnas are another of the main attractions of the Furnas valley. There are fumaroles right next to the Furnas lagoon, where the Furnas stew is made.

In the village of Furnas, there is also a set of fumaroles and boilers. In both, water boils in several calderas, as well as in some streams and hot water springs.

São Miguel truly is a beautiful, magical world of volcanic activity. It can even be a little scary to see the amount of activity that exists beneath our feet.

Furnas stew is buried in boilers and cooked for hours, these are found near the Furnas lagoon in São Miguel
Fumaroles and Furnas boilers where the Furnas stew is made

Eating the famous Furnas stew

For the world’s foodies, Furnas’s main attraction is its famous Portuguese stew, which is cooked slowly (6 to 8 hours) underground using the volcanic heat present on the lagoon’s banks. It contains various types of meat, sausages, cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and even yams.

Although anyone can cook their own stew (which is a unique adventure in itself), the easiest way is to go to one of the restaurants in the region and try this local delicacy.

The most famous of the stew restaurants is Tonys, however, in our article on where to eat in São Miguel we suggest the Banhos Férreos restaurant. It was the restaurant we went to, on the advice of a resident of Furnas, and we didn’t regret it as it was delicious.

If, in addition to eating the stew from the Furnas, you also want to see the removal of the stew from the land by local restaurants, this starts at 11 am and continues until 1 pm.

Furnas stew with different types of beef and pork, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and cabbage, one of the typical dishes of São Miguel
Cozido das Furnas, a traditional dish you have to try in São Miguel

Soak in the Dona Beija Pools, Furnas

Poças de Dona Beija (Dona Beija pools) is the other thermal bath in Furnas, but they are completely different from Parque Terra Nostra. Here, you will find several small pools with thermal water running from the springs around the river.

This is a mystical place of leisure and relaxation in the hot thermal waters. It is especially pleasant on cool days and at night. We went on a rainy day, and it was a unique experience. Taking refuge in the natural thermal waters while it is raining and windy outside is enjoyable and captivating.

In the past, Dona Beija’s waterholes were completely natural, and there were no reservations or time limits, but currently, you need to buy a ticket. This ticket is timed, and you can only stay in the venue for around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The experience is different and less natural, but no worse, as it allows everyone (or at least more people) to enjoy this small volcanic wonder of São Miguel. However, as it is easy to understand, it is also extremely popular, so we suggest booking a ticket as far in advance as possible in the high season. This is the official website.

Bathing in the Poças da Dona Beija is one of the mandatory activities in São Miguel
Thermal baths in Poças da Dona Beija on a rainy day in São Miguel in the Azores

Sete Cidades Lagoon

Sete Cidades Lagoon is one of the icons of the Azores and Portugal. Everyone knows the pictures of the Sete Cidades caldera, with its vast lake divided by a narrow bridge, where the water is blue on one side and green on the other.

The Sete Cidades lagoon is the largest water reservoir in the Azores, measuring around 4.2 km long, 2 km wide, and 33 meters deep at its maximum depth.

This unique landscape with a double-colored lagoon surrounded by a huge green caldera is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. To see the lagoon in all its splendor, we suggest you visit Miradouro do Rei, one of the best-known in São Miguel. Still, there are many others around the lagoon, such as Miradouro da Vista da Rainha and Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras.

The small village of Sete Cidades is also located on the banks of the Sete Cidades Lagoon. In summer, visitors can bathe in the lagoon’s waters and participate in various water activities, such as SUP and Kayaking.

green and blue lagoon of Sete Cidades lagoon seen from Miradouro do Rei - What to do in São Miguel
The most iconic lagoon in São Miguel – Lagoa das Sete Cidades, seen from the King’s lookout (Miradouro do Rei)

Monte Palace – the abandoned hotel

Next to Miradouro do Rei, there is another well-known tourist attraction, the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel. Built in the 1980s, this hotel opened its doors in 1984 but only lasted 18 months.

After decades of abandonment, only the concrete, walls, and ceiling remain. Still, its location, views, and environment make it one of the favorite places to explore for those who love abandoned buildings.

We must note that the hotel is privately owned and has several signs indicating that entry is prohibited. That’s why we leave it up to everyone’s discretion whether or not to explore it.

Abandoned hotel that exists near Miradouro do Rei, although it is possible to visit, is prohibited
The abandoned Monte Palace Hotel at Miradouro do Rei in São Miguel in the Azores

Go to the Grota do Inferno/Boca do Inferno Viewpoint

The Grota do Inferno Viewpoint is probably the second most popular viewpoint in the Sete Cidades area. From there, you can’t see the double color of the lagoon’s waters as the green lagoon is almost completely covered, but we have an unbelievable view of the rest of the caldera.

Located at a high altitude (around 1000 meters), this viewpoint offers one of the most amazing landscapes of São Miguel Island. From here, you can see a large portion of the circular caldera of the seven cities and several other lagoons, such as Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Rasa.

To get to Boca do Inferno, we have to leave the car next to the Lagoa do Canário car park and head towards the forest with the same name. From there, we have to walk about 2 km (always flat) to the edge of the Caldeira. Once there, we have a small but very steep climb to the viewpoint.

If you are considering going to Boca do Inferno, take the opportunity to also go to the Canário lagoon on the way there or back. Despite being small, it is quite beautiful and is located in a beautiful forest.

From the Grota do Inferno viewpoint you can see Lagoa de Santiago and part of the lagoon of the seven cities in São Miguel
Part of Lagoa das Sete Cidades and Lagoa de Santiago seen from the Miradouro da Grota do Inferno.

Take the Serra Devassa trail

The Serra Devassa trail begins in the same place where you go to Boca do Inferno. It is one of our favorite trails in the Azores and Portugal.

This trail takes us through glorious landscapes, walking along volcanic cones and small lagoons. It also passes by the well-known Lagoas Empadadas, and it is possible to take a short detour to the viewpoint

It is a mountain trail, where you walk between 700 and 900 meters of altitude. However, it is not too hard. Our article about the Serra Devassa trail provides all the information you need before taking this hike.

Viewpoint on the Serra Devassa trail overlooking Lagoas Empadadas in São Miguel Azores
One of the most beautiful trails in São Miguel – the Serra Devassa trail

Walk the Sanguinho and Salto do Prego trail – Faial da Terra

The Sanguinho and Salto do Prego trail is another of our favorites in São Miguel. This circular route takes us to the famous ghost village of Sanguinho and Salto do Prego through a beautiful walk through a forested region.

Sanguinho is an old village abandoned during the 20th century and has recently been revived with some local accommodations. The only access is on foot or by 4×4. It’s a great place to escape the world and relax.

Salto do Prego is a beautiful waterfall 10 to 15 meters high with a lot of water in winter. It is considered one of the most beautiful in São Miguel and worth visiting anytime. It is also possible to take a detour to see Salto do Cagarrão, another beautiful waterfall in the region.

We liked the Sanguinho trail so much that we made a specific article explaining everything you need to know to do this walk.

What to do in São Miguel - Salto do Cagarrão Waterfall on the Sanguinho and Salto do Prego trail
Salto do Cagarrão waterfall on the Sanguinho, and Salto do Prego trail

Caldeira Velha

The Caldeira Velha natural monument is one of the most visited attractions in São Miguel. Located on the northern slope of Serra de Água de Pau, close to Lagoa do Fogo, this is another area of strong volcanic activity. Therefore, it is possible to enjoy four thermal pools.

A fumarole heats the water in these thermal pools. The relaxing thermal baths reach temperatures of around 38 °C. However, the highlight and best known of Caldeira Velha is undoubtedly its hot thermal water waterfall. This natural waterfall is located in an area of rugged relief and fed by an iron thermal spring that springs from a fracture at temperatures around 32 °C.

How many places in the world will you find a natural hot water waterfall? Very few, and even fewer, will allow you the opportunity to dive into the small lake formed by a dam, where the water reaches temperatures of 25°C to 28°C.

Note that it is essential to buy a ticket in advance, as the place is very popular during the high season. This is the official website where you can do it. At the very least, it has to be the day before, as the site doesn’t allow same-day bookings, but we advise you to do it as far in advance as possible during high season.

hot thermal water waterfall in the Caldeira Velha park in São Miguel Azores
Cascata da Caldeira Velha is a waterfall of hot thermal water and is a place not to be missed in S. Miguel

Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lagoon)

Located in the municipality of Ribeira Grande, right in the island’s center, Lagoa do Fogo is the second largest in São Miguel. It has an area of 1,360 hectares and a maximum depth of up to 30 meters.

This lagoon is located at an altitude of 575 meters and is surrounded by volcanic walls full of green vegetation that contrasts with the blue of its waters. For all this, it is one of the most beautiful places in the Azores and one of the destinations not to be missed in São Miguel.

The best places to see Lagoa do Fogo are the Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and the Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo. In both cases, the altitude and natural conditions make it often foggy, and it takes some luck to catch clear weather and see the lagoon in all its splendor.

From Pico da Barrosa, we are at around 950 meters above sea level, which gives us a fabulous view over the entire lagoon and surrounding area, while from the Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint, we are much closer, but it is equally beautiful.

It is important to note that in summer, access to Lagoa do Fogo is only via shuttle (2023).

Lagoa do Fogo surrounded by hills and forest is a volcanic caldera in São Miguel
One of the most beautiful lagoons in São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo, seen from the Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa

Go to Lagoa do Fogo beach

On the banks of Lagoa do Fogo, there is a beautiful beach where you can relax and dive into the water. Please note that the weather in the lagoon is quite unstable, so we advise you to be cautious when thinking about going down to the beach.

The Praia-Lagoa do Fogo trail (PRC02SMI) allows access to the lagoon’s banks and the beach. This is a round-trip trail, around 11 km long, and normally takes around 4 hours in total to complete.

During the 7 Wonders – Beaches of Portugal competition, Lagoa do Fogo Beach was voted the best wild beach in Portugal. On the beach, you will find pumice stone, the famous volcanic stone that is extremely light. It is without a doubt a unique beach in Portugal.

From Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo, an unofficial trail descends to Lagoa do Fogo beach. We read that it is quite steep, but we never took the route.

Go to Ponta da Ferraria and Camarinhas Peak

Created by the meeting of hot lava with seawater, Ponta da Ferraria is a lava fajã on the island’s west coast. It consists of a promontory originating from primordial volcanic eruptions in the island’s geological formation.

Access to Ponta da Ferraria is via a very steep road, but there is plenty of space to park next to the thermal spa (more about it below). Before going down, there is a beautiful viewpoint and an access trail to the Camarinhas peak.

The hike to Camarinhas Peak is short, but it is worth it due to the fabulous views of much of the island’s east coast, especially the Ponta da Ferraria and the Ferraria lighthouse.

This entire area is lovely and worth visiting at any time of year, but the biggest attractions are the thermal complex and the natural pools.

walk the Pico das Camrinhas trail, from the top you can see the tip of the blacksmith shop - what to do in São Miguel
Ponta da Ferraria seen from Pico das Camarinhas in São Miguel

Experience the thermal pools of Ferraria

As we mentioned, the entire Ponta da Ferraria region has a high level of scenic interest. Still, the big reason for its enormous popularity is the natural pool, where swimming in the sea with hot water of volcanic origin is possible.

When the tides and waves allow, a natural pool is formed where it is possible to dip into the water. In the natural pool, the water is heated by the fumaroles that exist on the shore and under the rocks, thus creating warm, natural seawater. It is one of the only places in the world where this phenomenon happens.

The natural pool area has ropes for bathers to hold on to so they don’t hit the rocks and a ladder to descend into the water. Be especially careful if there are any waves, as the rocks can make it dangerous.

In addition to this authentic and natural Atlantic Spa, there are also the Termas da Ferraria, which include two hot saltwater pools, one indoor and one outdoor. The entrance ticket is quite cheap and is an excellent alternative when sea conditions do not allow you to go to the natural pool. Visiting in rainy and cold weather is also very pleasant as the water is very warm.

thermal pools in the sea where there is a combination of hot and cold water in Ponta da Ferraria
Ferraria’s tidal thermal pools can only be accessed when the sea is calm

Go to Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park, Northeast

The Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park is one of the most beautiful and sought-after places in the Northeast region of São Miguel.

The extensive garden with several water mills and the impressive waterfall are the main attractions, but the entire park is beautiful and captivating. Inside the park is an artificial waterfall, while outside is a quite large natural one. Both are worth the visit.

One of the old mills was transformed into an ethnographic museum, while one of the millers’ houses is now a craft and local products store. It’s a good place to buy some souvenirs.

Reconstructed mills in the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park, Northeast in São Miguel
Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park, Northeast – One of the attractions to visit in São Miguel

Sossego and Madrugada viewpoints, Northeast

Situated on the east coast of the island of São Miguel, the Sossego and Madrugada viewpoints are two of the most popular lookouts on the island of São Miguel, and it’s easy to see why. The views are fabulous, both of the immensity of the sea and much of the East Coast of São Miguel.

Both places are more than just beautiful landscapes; they are also gardens with exotic plants and are considered the best places on São Miguel Island to watch the sunrise.

There are also barbecue areas ready for use, as well as picnic and leisure areas, which are great for spending a few hours relaxing and enjoying the surrounding beauty.

The two viewpoints have similar landscapes, but they are worth visiting because they are on the same road and very close to each other.

What to do in São Miguel- see the view from the Sossego viewpoint
View from Miradouro do Sossego, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in São Miguel

Fogo Beach, Ribeira Quente

São Miguel is not your typical beach destination, but it does have some notable beaches and pools. In addition to the natural pools/thermal hot springs at Ferraria, we also have to mention Praia do Fogo (or Fire Beach) in the village of Ribeira Quente, in the municipality of Povoação.

This small village and fishing port has an incredible beach with a beautiful stretch of fine black sand. The existence of underwater hydrothermal springs means that the seawater on this beach is a little warmer than usual, and it is also due to these hot springs, the beach is named Praia do Fogo.

This beach is different from all the others on the island, but despite the underwater hot springs, don’t expect SPA-like seawater temperatures. The water is generally a little warmer, and near the springs, you can feel a warm current.

Praia do Fogo in Ribeira Quente has a small bay with black sand
Praia do Fogo, Ribeira Quente, a beach that you have to visit on the island of São Miguel

Go to the Vila Franca do Campo Islet

The islet of Vila Franca is one of the most famous images of São Miguel and the Azores. It is often used to advertise the island, the archipelago, and even the country. It is no coincidence that we consider it one of Portugal’s 25 most beautiful places.

Aerial images of the islet are surreal due to its almost perfectly round circular natural pool with only a small opening to the open sea. The water is crystal clear and has beautiful shades of blue, making it possible to dive and swim. Therefore, it is perhaps the most Instagrammable place in the Azores. And considering the competition of Sete Cidades and Terra Nostra Park, that says a lot about this place!

It is only possible to visit the islet during the bathing season from June to October. To get there, go to Cais de Tagarete in Vila Franca do Campo and catch one of the many boats that make the route. The trip is short and pleasant.

Vila Franca do Campo Islet seen from a boat on the high seas in
Vila Franca do Campo Islet in São Miguel is an icon of the archipelago

Visit the Gorreana Tea Factory

São Miguel is one of the few places in Europe where tea is produced. The Gorreana tea factory is considered the oldest still in operation in Europe, and it has been cultivating this wonderful product since 1883.

Located on the north coast of the island, in Maia, the Gorreana tea factory can be visited. The factory’s small café serves its famous tea, and there are also some other local products to try.

Gorreana’s plantations occupy an area of 32 hectares that produce around 40 tons per year. Naturally, a large part of the production is exported, and the quality of this product is increasingly recognized internationally.

But even more interesting is being allowed to walk around part of the factory, seeing how the tea is produced, and even seeing a trail marked by the plantation. The visit to the factory is quite interesting as it allows you to watch the entire tea process, from picking to packaging.

However, the plantation stands out the most as it creates a very beautiful landscape and offers the opportunity to take some beautiful photos. Both the visit to the factory and the visit to the plantation are free.

Freshly pruned Gorreana tea fields at the Gorreana tea factory
The Gorreana tea fields are an exciting attraction in São Miguel, they also allow you to try and buy tea

Savor some of the typical dishes of São Miguel

In addition to all the activities and experiences, São Miguel offers the opportunity to taste the best of Azorean cuisine, from fantastic fresh ingredients to delicious dishes.

We already discussed the most famous dish in São Miguel, the Furnas stew and the pineapple. Still, the Azores are also known for their milk, cheese, beef, local pepper, and seafood, among many other regional products.

Among the traditional dishes, we recommend you try:

  • Grilled fish
  • Barnacles, limpets and mussels
  • Regional steak
  • Octopus Stew
  • Bolo lêvedos Cakes
  • Queijadas

Check out our article, which details these and other typical Azorean dishes.

What to do in São Miguel in the Azores- eat regional steak, a steak with a fried egg, French fries and a sauce made with ground pepper
Bife à Associação or regional steak, a dish you have to eat in São Miguel

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Things to do in São Miguel Azores

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