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 played an essential role in Azorean history and culture. Considered one of the most eye-catching regions in the Azores, this small town has preserved its rich history and steady growth due to all the naturally breathtaking landscapes surrounding it. In 1974 the beautiful Lagoa do Fogo and the rare exotic plants surrounding it were given the official “Nature Reserve ” status, protecting this environmental oasis for future generations to enjoy and founded by Goncalo Vaz Botelho, son of Pero Botelho; a Knight of the royal house and chief commander of Portugal’s “Order of the Christ” at the time. Goncalo Vaz Botelho was a large figure in society and made it his life’s work to settle and establish Vila Franca as the island’s capital. It was here that the first boats from Portugal arrived and discovered the island. The city has many pirates’ stories coming off the coasts of Africa and raiding the city while attempting to take the islanders as slaves. Since great wealth was accumulated from the discoveries in the “New World,”; with the islands being a strategic trans-Atlantic stopover point meant 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 of the peak where the beautiful church is located. After walking the stairs to the top, the church has a unique 360-degree view of the city and the little island of Vila Franca (same name as the city) in front of it. This small eco islet hosts a small number of tourists daily who explore the sunken crater and small bay and relax in the sun during the summer. This is a perfect spot to take a picture of the island with sweeping views from the small islet. The city has many points of interest to explore, such as the view from Castelo Branco, a historical old white castle where you have sweeping views of the Furnas Valley below. Praia’s beach does Degredo 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 beautiful spots in the county is the Lagoa do Fogo, one of the Azores’ official nature reserves, with the 2nd largest lake in Sao Miguel. It is a challenging terrain to drive up to, so it is wise to have a guide take you. You are 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 in the right direction, which takes about 15 minutes from Ribeira Grande and 25 minutes from Ponta Delgada—like all of the Azores regions, raising cattle for dairy farming is an essential aspect of the unique significance of the area. Here you can see just as many cows and people, which is very special. In recent years, the government has decided to alter the natural balance that exists by dictating the price per liter of milk so low that it is causing many small dairy farmers to go bankrupt. According to European Union standards, the government required all the businesses to modernize, which required hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment and loans. Then slowly, the government lowered the price per liter of milk, putting a boot on many ranchers and dairy farmers’ necks. It is essential to ensure while visiting the region that you buy local and look for the Marca Acores label to help support the same place you choose to visit.