One Time We Broke into a Lighthouse in Nordeste…

In Europe, Portugal, Travel by Katelyn3 Comments

At the very northeastern tip of the little island of Sao Miguel the quaint, charming town of Nordeste sits between the rocky coastline and the interior wooded mountains. Nordeste takes well over an hour to get from Ponta Delgada or any of the larger towns on the islands. Despite the long winding and narrow paved roads to get there, the views of the town are beautiful.

During the 5 days I was on the island of Sao Miguel, I explored Nordeste twice. Once on a road trip around the island with my Canadian friends on my first day on the island. And secondly with the Teacher and the Brown Student. Since apparently the Teacher is a vampire and can’t get out of bed before noon, we began our mini road trip around the southern coast of Sao Miguel ending in Nordeste around 2pm. We arrived in Nordeste after dark.

The purpose of our stop in Nordeste was to see the famous lighthouse. The Ponta Do Arnel Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in the Azores in 1876. The lighthouse is not your typical lighthouse design. Instead of a two-story wooden house next to the light tower like you would see on the coast of Maine, the lighthouse keeper lived in a one-story octagon stone building with the tower ascending above the center.

Nordeste Lighthouse

The lighthouse in Nordeste, Sao Miguel (Azores)

Sao Miguel has a very rocky coastline. Let’s just say you would never want to stand close to the end because it was a very far drop down to the ocean. Getting to see the Ponta Do Arnel Lighthouse up close was an adventure in itself. It is situated down a 1/2 mile steep descendent. The pitch of the narrow paved road was greater than 60%. We decided to leave our little rental car at the top to walk down the road because we weren’t sure if the car would make it back up and I certainly wasn’t going to push it up that damn mountain hill.

The walk down was a wee bit scary. I felt like I was walking on to the set of a horror movie. There were no street lights and only an old barn to the right side of the road with cow pastures and a house near the bottom on the left-hand side. The road was surrounded with large shrubs and small trees. The light salty breeze coming off the Atlantic Ocean was causing the branches of the trees to sway and the grass to rustle in the dark. As we progressed down the steep road practically sitting on our hunches to prevent us from somersaulting down to the bottom or better yet into a pile of cow shit, we started to hear loud munching noises. In the dark we could see cows staring at us like we were idiots walking down to our doom. In my head I could hear the soundtrack to Jaws starting to play waiting for the boogeyman to jump out of the brushes and grab me. At least I had the two boys with me. If an ax murder jumped out of the bushes then I totally would have pushed them in front of me and ran the other way. They had more mean of their bones than me. A much better snack I think… sorry boys!

A depiction of our descend down to the lighthouse (and yes I know my MS Paint skills are amazing!)

A depiction of our descend down to the lighthouse (and yes I know my MS Paint skills are amazing!)

After what seemed like eternity walking in the dark down a mountain, the lighthouse appeared blinding us with her bright light swirling around to warn the ships of rocky dangers that might lay ahead. We approached the lighthouse a little disappointed to see that it was locked for the night. It was only about 5:30pm, but the darkness made it seem like it was well past midnight. The road continued down past the lighthouse to a small collection of homes and docks belonging to what we assumed were fishermen. There appeared to be no living souls around other than ourselves.

As the curious souls that we are, we wanted a closer look at the lighthouse. After all we did just walked down a cliff to get here! We decided to hop the stone fence to walk around the lighthouse. Once all 3 of us were over the fence, we walked around the perimeter of the building. A few lights were on, but I don’t think anyone actually lived there any more. At one point we walked down a set of stairs and on the left was an iron bar window open to the basement. My breath quicken for a few seconds and I picked up my pace as for a fleeing second I panicked thinking that a ghost was going to grab my ankles! Yes, I have seen too many “scary” movies…

Just as quickly as we jumped the fence the first time, we hopped back over and began our long trek back up the steep hill. The climb back up was worst. As we began our slow climb up, I began to realize how out of shape I am because of my chronic hip injury. Urgh! We finally made it to the top after I silently asked the annoying question “are we there yet” five million times in my head.

The climb back up!

The climb back up!

The boys awarded themselves with a beer. They offered me one but I politely declined as I don’t think my stomach could handle another beer after the night I had the previous night where I drank more beers within a 5 hour span then I have in about 5 months. Of course, the night is still young!

Would you jump the fence for a closer look?


  1. That sounds like quite the adventure! I’m normally not one to do anything questionable in the eyes of the law, but after all you went through, I think I’d jump the fence, too. Especially when traveling – if you only have one chance to see something, might as well take it!

    (Also, I wanted to let you know I think my blog accidentally deleted your comment. =( It got caught in spam, I hit restore, but somehow it disappeared. I wanted to make sure I thanked you for the kind words!)

    1. Author

      Thanks Erin! I’m glad to see you back to blogging. And my blog sometimes deletes random things too. So annoying!

  2. Pingback: Searching for the Pot of Gold Along the South Coast of Sao Miguel (Azores) - Diaries of a Wandering Lobster

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