Vila Franca on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, is the former capital of the island. From its initial discovery until the great earthquake of the 16th century, Villa Franca has always played an important role in Azorean histroy and culture. Considered one of the most eye catching regions in the Azores, this small town has been able to preserve its rich history and steady growth, due to all the natural breathtaking landscapes that surround it. In 1974 the beautiful Lagoa do Fogo and the exotic rare plants surrounding it were given the official “Nature Reserve ” status; protecting this environmental oasis for future generations to enjoy.Founded by Goncalo Vaz Bothelo son of Pero Bothelo; a Knight of the royal house and chief commander of Portugal’s “Order of the Christ” at the time. Goncalo Vaz Bothelo was a large figure in society and made it his life’s work to settle and establish Vila Franca as the capital of the island; as it was here that the first boats from Portugal arrived and discovered the island. The city has many stories of pirates coming off the coasts of Africa and raiding the city, while attempting to take the islanders as slaves. Due to the fact that great wealth was accumulated from the discoveries in the “New World” at the time of exploration, with the islands being a strategic trans Atlantic stopover point ment that the waters were always prey for Pirates. The church of Nossa Senhora da Paz is a beautiful church with rare Portuguese tiles that lead up a steep hill to the top, where a beautiful church is located. After walking the stairs to the top, the church has an amazing 360 degree view of the city and the little island of Vila Franca (same name as the city) infront of it, which hosts many tourists daily who explore the sunken crater. This is a perfect spot to take a picture of the island with sweeping views.The city has many points of interest to explore such as the View from Castelo Branco, the old white castle where you have sweeping views of the Furnas Valley below. The beach of Praia do Degrado is a favorite in the area to sunbathe in the spring and summer months, with the waves being less rough than on the other side of the island in Santa Barbara beach in Ribeira Grande. One of the most visited spots in the county is the Lagoa do Fogo, one of the official nature reserves in the Azores, with the 2nd largest lake in Sao Miguel. Known in English as the “Lake of fire” the 15,000 year old sunken volcanic crater has a pristine blue lake and is surrounded by hibiscus, ginger lilies and hydrangea flowers, that make this a perfect spot to have a picnic or take a break and enjoy the walking and hiking trails surrounding it. The Lake is easy to find, with many signs all over the highways leading you they’re taking about 15 minutes from Ribeira Grande and 25 minutes from Ponta Delgada; the island’s capital.