Things to know

 
Sun milk is a MUST!
São Miguel is approximately zonal to Mount Etna in Sicily. Whenever you are out for some hours, you always should apply the highest sun protection factor available . No matter what the weather looks like, it can change in short time. The UV-index is always very high, because there is virtually no air pollution. Either cirrostratus clouds let pass that much UV radiation, that even pre-tanned skin will sunburn pretty quick. Sun milk is expensive on the Azores, so better bring it along.
Don`t always take the right lane in a roundabout - it can get expensive!
In Portugal and on the Azores, like in continental Europe, there is obligation to drive on the right hand side of the road, even if there are two or more lanes in one direction. But the traffic rules for roundabouts are different from countries that do not have two-laned roundabouts (like e.g. Germany). Common law is: priority to the car in the roundabout.
But here you are allowed to use the right (outer) lane ONLY IN CASE you want to take the next exit.
In most cases, however, you want to go »ahead«, which means: if there is a double-lane feeder to the roundabout, take the left lane as soon as it opens up and take the left/inner lane of the circle. Switch to the right just on exit, not earlier. Whoever gets caught passing by an exit on the right lane will pay a € 300.- ticket!
Weather:
The temperatures on São Miguel are between 12°C / 53° F in Winter and approx. 25°C / 77°F in the shade in summer. The difference between day and night is only a few degrees. But the felt temperature in direct sunlight can be very much higher, which means, that you can have breakfast on the terrace in spring, even if the thermometer showed 13°C / 55°F at sunrise.
The azorean weather is changeable, which does not mean that there is a lot of rain in the half-year of summer. It depends on where you are. You will see frequently, that one part of the island is sunny and another part very cloudy.
There are webcams spread all over the island, so it is easy to see »at home« what`s the weather like in different places of the island. See www.spotazores.com.
In summer, rain is commonly just a drizzle for a few minutes, even when the sun is shining. The locals don`t care about that, because »real« raindrops are rare in summer. In wintertime, intense rain is more frequent and can last for 24 hours or more without interrupt, when a depression is passing the Azores, which usually comes along with hard wind. By the way: the most western islands, Flores and Corvo, are exposed to heavy rain and storm far more often than São Miguel. Heat thunderstorms are nonexistent, but you have cloudbursts for a few minutes in wintertime.
You will always see some clouds, especially in the mountains. Dark grey clouds often stay there the whole day and dissolve above the coastline resp. set off to the sea for miles.
The sun radiation is very high. Even if the thermometer shows only 21-22°C / 70-72°F in the shade, the felt temperature is above 30°C / 86°F in the sun. Moreover, there is a very high UV index. Hiking in direct sunlight can cause deyhdration very quickly, so it is recommended to take along twice the amount of water, which you would need in temperate climate zones.
Clouds can be sometimes very low, viz. even down to sea level from time to time. Those clouds typically form on the island itself. There are some places in the mountains that are cloudy almost the whole year, which can also be quite appealing. Drifting wafts of mist and heath vegetation on a trail at the Lagoas Empadadas or the Planalto dos Graminhais remind of the Scottish highlands. Even though the sun is shining a few hundred meters / yards away. In this situation, it is recommendable to have a shirt or thin jacket over your tee, even in summer.
Outdoor jacket unnecessary:
The humidity is far too high for a typical multifunctional jacket. The summer temperatures on the Azores feel at least 5-10 degrees warmer than they really are, even when it`s cloudy. In winter only when the sky is clear, but hiking at 17°C / 62°F and 80%RH will neverteless make you take off your outdoor jacket. The best clothing for May/June through October is shorts and T-Shirt. During the rest of the year, when sky is cloudy, trousers may be long and there might be a longsleeved shirt over your tee. It it is very windy, it`s useful to dress in layers (tee, shirt, fleece and light windcheater).
On the summit ridge, e.g. at Lagoa do Fogo, it might be windy even in summer, so that a fleece jacket or cardigan in the trunk of your car is nothing wrong. A surprising shower on a trail can be faced with a folding umbrella or an unpadded (!) rain poncho.
If you forgot something to take along or it didn`t fit into your case: there`s a big, well-assorted Decathlon sports discount store in the capital Ponta Delgada..
Shoes:
Most hiking trails are a combination of paths on clayey ground, gravel and small asphalt roads. Edgy lava or naked rock parts are rare. Some loamy paths are quite demanding and may be slippery when wet (e.g. in the woods). Hiking boots can be useful for those kind of trails. For the rest, low trekking shoes with a good grip sole are sufficient, as long as you are sure of step. Of course, there are also trails of walkway character. The difficulty level can be seen »HERE«.
For bathing, you always need slippers/shoes, even on a sand beach - it`s hot!
Shopping:
There are three big supermarket chains on the island: Sol Mar, Continente and Casa Cheia, as well as Mini-markets (e.g. Spar and Poupadinha).
Sol Mar
is more expensive, but is very good assorted with »exotic« foods
Continente
is somewhat cheaper, offers a discount home brand for many products and provides a rich assortment of cheese, sausage, meat and fish.
Casa Cheia
is a discount shop with reduced assortment.
Apart from that, there are Mini-markets in almost every village. Little assortment but often reasonable prices. A list of the nearest shopping facilities can be seen »HERE«.
Groceries:
Unlike most mediterranean countries, the Azoreans like to eat sandwiches. That is why you find spreads and sliced sausage, ham and cheese. On São Miguel there are - besides dairy products industry - four meat processing companies, that provide everything »around the Chouriço«. Lots of food comes from the mainland. Moreover, there is a good assortment of pastries. Bread, like in most southern realms, consists of wheat resp. corn. Pão de mistura (mixed bread) understands as a mixture of wheat flour and cornmeal. Substantial, but tends to be dry. Dark bread is colored with wheat malt. »Healthy bread« and suchlike contain sunflower- and flaxseed etc. Sometimes you even find bread with a certain amount of rye flour (Centeio).
Sweet pastry aficionados should try Pão de Deus (god`s bread), which is always freshly made at Café A Merenda in Ribeira Grande. It is a fluffy and moist yeast dough with coconut paste topping. The name says it all.
Important note: the less expensive Chouriço Mouro is made for cooking, only. It contains rinds and sometimes gristles. If you like to have that kind of raw sausage for a picnic, you need to buy the more expensive Chouriço Carne, either hot (picante or com resp. c/ picante) or »without hot« (sem resp. s/ picante).
Restaurants:
As already mentioned, most traditional, non-touristic restaurants serve lunch, only. A typical menu for the big appetite is a starter (e.g. little fresh white cheese with sweet pepper sauce) or a soup of the day, a main course (meat or fish), a dessert (Sobremesa) and last not least a café (espresso).
Traditionally there is no green garnish (e.g. broccoli, peas etc.) or salad coming with the main course. Fish or meat comes with rice and french fries. Oven-baked meat with cooked potatoes and sweet potatoes. Stews have potatoes included. Vegetables are obviously accepted by traditional Azoreans only, when containing starch, like kidney beans (Feijão), fava beans (Favas), chickpeas (Grão), dasheen (Inhame), potato (Batata) and sweet potato (Batata doce).
Salad - if present - is more or less decoration and will never be served dressed. Vinegar and olive oil comes separately (sometimes you`ll have to ask for it - vinagre e azeite). In almost every restaurant a salad can be ordered for side dish separately, even if it is not on the menu.
Non-traditional restaurants, of course, are far more open concerning greens and salad and serve dinner as well.
Language:
Local language is Portuguese resp. the »Micelense«-idiom. Spanish most commonly hits a lack of understanding. French is rare. German, Italian or Dutch is not spoken at all. English is mainly understood at places where many tourists are around, but it isn`t odd elsewhere, that somebody is fetched for translation. Many Azoreans have been emigrated to Canada or USA and, when retired, use to spend the summertime on the island of their childhood. Those, of course, speak English (or sometimes French) fluently.

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