AT THE END of my first day on Sao Miguel, after racing to glimpse half a dozen of the island’s spectacular mountains, lakes, and beaches before a helmet of fog settled down over them, I came across an arresting sight. In Mosteiros, a small village of red-roofed, whitewashed houses on the island’s northwestern corner, the mauve sunset collided with the blue ocean to frame a set of rock formations standing sentinel just offshore. It looked a bit like a Stonehenge of the sea. In every guidebook for the Azores — a string of nine volcanic islands sitting in the wide-open Atlantic between New England and Western Europe — there is a checklist of not-to-miss sights. It’s a testament to the bounty of Azorean beauty that on the lists I had consulted, this gorgeous scene in Mosteiros was nowhere to be found.
Before I became too enamored, Pedro Pavao, the 36-year-old native who was showing my wife and me around, offered some perspective. “Wait until you see Furnas tomorrow,” he said.