8 Hours in Punta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
Our cruise dropped us in Punta Delgada, the port city of the Azores in Portugal, for 8 glorious hours. Not wanting to pay the $129 excursion fee to get to Sete Cidades, the famous caldera filled with blue and green lakes, we decided to take public transit to Sete Cidades town. Here’s how we did it.
Get Up and Off the Boat Early
You’ll have to get up early and off the boat as soon as you can. You will need to catch the 8:25 bus at the Tourist Office, otherwise, the later busses won’t get you there and back for your ship’s departure later in the day. Here’s an image of the bus schedule, and honestly, it could change at any time. Monday-Friday, there are busses from the Tourist Office to Sete Cidades at 8:25, 10:40, 3:00, 5:30 and 6:50. They return at 7:00, 9:30, 12:00, and 4:25. If you try to take the 4:25 bus back to your boat, you could easily miss your boat.
On Saturday, the buses leave at 7:50 and 3 pm and returns to Punta Delgada at 7:00, 8:55, and 4:25. Sundays, they are at 9:00 and 4:40 pm and return to Punta Delgada at 10:45 and 6:05 pm. Your best combo is to take the 8:25 to Sete Cidades and return at 12:00 on the weekdays. The weekend options cut it way too close for ships’ departures at 5 or 5:30.
Where’s the Bus Stop?
The bus stops in front of the Tourist Office at Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, 1º Andar, 9500-769 Ponta Delgada, Portugal. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the cruise dock. Sadly, it doesn’t open until 9, so you won’t be able to use its fabulous guides and information officers until when you return. If you’re looking at the office from the outside, the bus stops are just to the left on the same side of the street. You’ll catch the bus there as it continues off to the left.
The Sete Cidades Bus
The bus is a nice coach with air conditioning. It looks like a long-distance bus. It’s nice. You want bus c205. It’ll be on time. You can also ask anyone standing near the bus stop. We were very lucky talking to some teenagers who wanted to speak English. I also spoke Spanish to a few locals and they understood me enough to guide us. The bus ride takes about an hour. It costs about $3.50. Have your Euro handy. The bus driver makes change and does not take credit cards of any type, phone pay, nor anything other than Euros.
On the way, you can follow the bus route as you ride. Pull up google navigation and watch yourself transit. We like to follow along to make sure we’re going in the direction we think we’re going. You’ll get near the airport, and the bus should veer off to the right. You’ll go up through some little villages, seeing cows, churches, and views.
Get Off the Bus
Get off the bus at the last stop in Sete Cidades. It’s also the last stop of the route. Remember where the bus stop is. You’ll need to return here to catch your ride back to Punta Delgada. The latest bus that leaves from Sete Cidades is at 12:00, and it will be a bit late. If you miss it, you’ll have to use your phone to hail an Uber and shell out about $60.
The last stop is in the middle of the town of Sete Cidades. From there, you’ll continue to walk on the road where the bus drops you off. You have about a 10-minute walk to the famous bridge that crosses the lake, separating the green side of the lake from the blue side of the lake. You are in the middle of the caldera.
Hike the Caldera
If you caught the 8:25 bus, you have time to hike before taking the 12:00 bus back to Punta Delgada. From the bus stop, walk along the road until you get to the bridge that crosses the middle of the lakes. Before going over the lakes, you can walk on the trail that goes around them. The entire figure eight is about 11 miles. You probably don’t have enough time to do both lakes, so do the one on the right, which is the smaller one. The trail circumnavigates the lake, but it’s not well maintained, so proceed at your own risk. AllTrails maps it well for what it’s worth.
Catch the Bus Back
Hustle back to your bus stop after hiking. If you’re hungry and have time before catching the bus, check out O Poejo. It’s a quaint tea house with a couple of vegan options not too far from the bus stop. You’ll return the way you came; paying the bus driving the same amount in the same way. An hour later, you can get off at the Tourism Office. At this point, go inside and pick up some maps and info and greet the fabulous staff.
Eat a Traditional Portuguese Pastry
You haven’t been in Portugal unless you eat the traditional custard dessert called Pasteis de Nata. A creamy center tart cradles inside a flaky puff pastry. We found a delicious pair of them just up the street from the Tourism Office at Tabacaria Açoreana. This tiny place spilled into the street with cafe tables. In the back, books and newspapers announced the latest events, and a clean bathroom was a welcome find.
Time to Kill?
If you still have time and legs left, journey up to the large gardens, Jardim Botânico José do Canto, or simply the one near the coffee shop, Jardim Padre Sena Freitas. We found free wifi there and an ongoing theatrical performance of teenagers flirting with teenagers. It seems teenage flirting doesn’t differ much by country!
Scoot Back to the Cruise
After two bus rides, a healthy hike, a snack of traditional Portuguese treats, and a lovely time in the gardens, we scooted through the alleys and streets of Punta Delgada and made our way back to the cruise ship. Next time, we’ll do the other hike around the other like or maybe go to Cascata do Salto do Cabrito. If we make it there by public transit, we’ll be sure to share.