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 history 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 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 capital of the island. 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”; 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 of the peak where the 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) in front of it. This small eco islet, hosts a small amount 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; an historical old white castle where you have sweeping views of the Furnas Valley below. The beach of Praia do 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 official nature reserves in the Azores, with the 2nd largest lake in Sao Miguel. It is a very difficult terrain to drive up to so it is wise to have a guide take you. 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 regions of the Azores raising cattle for dairy farming is an important aspect to the unique significance of the region. Here you can see just as many cows and people which is very special. The government in recent years 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. The government required all the business to modernize according to European Union standards which required hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment and loans and then slowly the government continued lowering the price per liter of milk putting a boot on the necks of many ranchers and dairy farmers. It is important to ensure while visiting the region that you buy local and look for the Marca Acores label to ensure your helping support the same place you choose to visit.