Sete Cidades is a giant volcanic massif in the west of the island of São Miguel. It is here that the island’s most scenic vantage point and unique naturally heated pools are located.
We start our coverage of the Azores with a thick pipe, that is, with the most beautiful views on the island ;-) We will show you what we think is the most interesting caldera in the Azores, along with some of the most beautiful viewpoints.
It is a (mega!) unique place, because there are two large lakes in sight: one with blue water(Lagoa Azul) and the other with green(Lagoa Verde), separated by a narrow strip of land. Nearby is another, but slightly less spectacular lake, Lagoa de Santiago. In this area you can also jump in a bathing suit and swim in the hot ocean. Yes, you read correctly – the ocean can be very hot in places :)
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Viewpoints on Sete Cidades
The road to the volcano’s crater from Ribeira Grande takes about 40 minutes (by car, of course). We drove along a scenic road from the north, which for a long stretch led among trees and beautiful blooming hydrangeas.
All the time we were accompanied by the ubiquitous, intense, juicy greenery, decorated with numerous wildflowers. As we drove uphill on narrow, empty roads, a more and more beautiful view of the coastline left behind appeared to our eyes.
And a panorama from this wonderful place :)Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
Unfortunately, clouds began to appear over the same coastline, so we hurried to get to the viewpoint we cared about most – Miradouro da Boca do Inferno– as quickly as possible. We arrived by car at Lagoa do Canário, where there is a gate on the right and a parking lot on the left.
We left the car here, although, as it turned out later, you can drive the car much closer, but this way we saw the aforementioned lake (Lagoa do Canário).
Much of the route follows a wide, car-passable road to the parking lot at the end of the road.
Further on, the stairs begin (literally), which can be slippery in bad weather, so it is worth being vigilant and cautious. We were in a hurry because we saw clouds coming, which happen very often in the crater. You could say that it is a big luck to enjoy the view from this point without clouds :)
And there is something to admire: the point itself is reached by a path along the crest of the hill, with wooden handrails, which is already spectacular in itself. Anyway, see for yourself:
At the end of the route, at Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, you can admire 3 (!) lakes: the aforementioned blue and green, plus you can see the even smaller Lagoa de Santiago.
We managed to see the lakes still from the route with the stairs, but when we reached the vantage point only milk was visible. We spent about 30 minutes here begging the clouds to clear at least a little, but it didn’t help. It is important that we saw the view before ;)
Fortunately, there are still several vantage points from which the visibility was definitely better and made up for our earlier inconvenience. We particularly recommend Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras, located on the road to Sete Cidades, just off the road (take the same road all the way, the viewpoint will be on the right). You will see it without any problem, because there are always a lot of cars parked here.
And a little panorama :)Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
By car around the volcano’s crater?
Interestingly, the route along the crater rim can be driven by car! This is an unpaved road, but vehicular traffic is allowed here, and there are even signs leading to viewpoints (!!!). Completely unthinkable in any other tourist destination in Europe.
We tried to drive, but after a short stretch we turned back – it would have been definitely more fun to take this route on foot, although we have to admit that once again the views were excellent, despite the short stretch.
And more panoramas. Wonderful views, aren’t they? :)Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
The entire route is 16 kilometers, and you need about 6 hours to walk (no, drive ;)) it. We also met barely one car on the route itself.
While in the area, you can drive down to the village of Sete Cidades for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant…. Lagoa Azul;) Why exactly here? This is a popular place where, paying once, you can eat to your heart’s content – a classic buffet. The selection is obviously smaller than at a typical Chinese buffet, but we were still surprised by the amount of food. The buffet costs 12 euros, and the price includes two drinks. Despite the sizable number of seats, it is difficult to find one during peak hours.
Natural ocean basins
As we mentioned in an earlier post about the Azores, the island we were on is very poor in sandy beaches. However, that didn’t stop us from bringing our swimsuit and bathing suits with us in the car, because we knew that the island of São Miguel had other water activities to offer.
An example of this would be the natural pools that are located in the western part of the island, near the village of Mosteiros (although these are not the only water attractions on the island).
What is so special about these pools? First of all, the name of the pool is used here heavily over the top. These are actually small bodies of water near the shore, separated from the open ocean by rocks and stone walls, but not necessarily fully developed. For those splashing in the water, there is an infrastructure: changing rooms, toilets, ladders for descending, and ropes (yes, ropes ;-)) that you have to hold on to.
The pool we were in was unique in one more respect – it was hot! Where is the hot water in the Atlantic coming from? It is naturally heated by active volcanic areas. In practice, it looks like cold water flows into the pool, but as it bounces off the rocks, it is heated up and returns much warmer (reportedly, the water temperature can reach up to 60 degrees Celsius!).
The place we are describing is Ponta da Ferraria – the access itself is quite a challenge, as the descent down a sharp slope is fraught with serpentine roads without any protection in the form of barriers. Once you get down there, you can leave your car in the free parking lot and either go to the commercial pool or go to the aforementioned natural pool. About halfway to the latter are showers, toilets and changing rooms.
Once we got down to the water level, we found ourselves on flat rocks on which tozł, with great care, because, however, these rocks are sharp, dangerous and heated. The bottom itself is also rocky once you get down to the water, plus strong waves can make it easy to hit sharp rocks on the bottom. You have to be really careful. Do you already know what the ropes are for? :)
It is a fully free attraction, but that doesn’t mean you can go in and enjoy the benefits of nature at any time. We recommend you to take a look at the tourist information desk for a detailed breakdown of the tides :)
Since we were already in the area, we decided to finally drive up to the village of Mosteiros located in the northwestern part of the island. This tiny town gets its name from the rock formations just off the shore – one of which, when seen from a distance, resembles a monastery (port. mosteiro).
Apart from the black beach, there are no other places of interest in the city. We drove through quiet, peaceful streets, where a few tourists appeared from time to time. There were far fewer of them than in Ribeira Grande. Although it is not a typical tourist destination, it is noteworthy for its very interestingly arranged coastline and beach.
Is it worth it?
We recommend you as much as possible to go to the places we described, but be sure to check the weather forecast and tides beforehand. In the Azores on a single day you can have several seasons, so if there is hope for sunny weather there is nothing to wait for, just head for the scenic viewpoints :)
The view of Sete Cidades is a definite must see of the Azores!
We also recommend you see more photos in the gallery: