Vila Franca do Campo

Ribeira Seca

One of the largest towns on the island, Vila Franca do Campo, lies on the south coast and is one of the very popular attractions but places to stay.

The settlement, built in the 15th century, was for a time the largest and capital city of the island, but after the great earthquake of 1522 all offices were moved to Ponta Delgada.

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Vila Franca do Campo offers interesting sights, a nice historical centre, as well as natural beauty on land and in the sea. The surrounding area is decorated with pineapple and orange plantations.

Near the harbour at the eastern end of the town, you can swim and relax on the beautiful Praia Vinha D'Areia beach with its black volcanic sand.

The pilgrimage site of Nossa Senhora da Paz

One of the most famous sights in the whole of the Azores is the Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz, the chapel of Our Lady of Peace. It stands on a hill above the town and offers a magnificent view of the entire coastline.

The chapel, with its iconic white staircase decorated with typical 'azulejos', images made of blue tiles, was built in 1764 on the site where a shepherd is said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary during the 16th century.

Entrance to the staircase and the chapel is free, but the interior is often closed and only opened for religious ceremonies.

The chapel can be reached by car along a signposted cobbled street leading from the town centre and the motorway.

The islet of Ilhéu de Vila Franca

Less than 400 metres off the coast, the remnants of a former volcanic caldera rise above the sea in the form of a small, ring-shaped islet. However, the northern edge of the caldera is broken, allowing boats to enter the interior of the former crater.

The shallow and very calm waters of the caldera are inviting for swimming and snorkelling. Thanks to the almost completely closed crater, into which the seawater flows only through a narrow opening, it has the warmest water of the whole island of São Miguel, not counting the thermal springs.

If you have at least half a day to spare, we definitely recommend a visit and a swim. It is definitely one of the most beautiful bathing spots on São Miguel.

As the island is a protected nature reserve, access is limited to 400 visitors per day (the maximum at any one time is 200 people) and can only be visited from mid-June to mid-October.

Official ferries leave the island from the central dock of Vila Franca once an hour from 10:00 to 17:00 (last return from the island at 18:10).

The return ticket for the boat costs 11,20 eur and also due to the limited number of visitors, we definitely recommend booking at least a few days in advance through the official website:

Accommodation at Villa Franca

There is quite a range to choose from in town, from small family-run guesthouses with prices around 70 eur per night to more luxurious hotels from 140 eur per night upwards.

Among the most popular budget accommodation is the Pousada da Vila apartment right in the centre of town, while mainstream hotels include a nice Vinha da Areia Beach Hotel *** right on the beach or in a more luxurious resort Pestana Bahia Praia Nature & Beach Resort ****.

Very stylish accommodation can be found at the hotel Convento de São Francisco in the former convent of St Francis in the centre of town.

How to get to Vila Franca?

The town is perfectly accessible by car on the highway from Ponta Delgada, from where it takes 25 km and just under half an hour to get here.

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However, the size of the town also makes Vila Franca a good destination if you don't want to rent a car. You can get here by a fairly frequent bus service from Ponta Delgada, about 12 times a day on weekdays and 6-8 times a day on weekends. The official timetable was last updated in 2013, so you'll need to check locally for details.

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