Sete Cidades

Playground Earth | Sete Cidades View

During our four months of traveling throughout the UK, France and Spain we managed to see and experience many towns, villages, and hikes, mostly on foot with an occasional bus or train taking us to our various excursions.

On the other hand, arriving on the island of Sao Miguel, off the mainland of Portugal, would require a car to fully explore. It only took us three days to learn why. We read in the reviews that our hotel in Sao Miguel was 10 kilometers walking distance from the town center. This was not a problem for us. However, all the hikes and lakes were in remote areas of the island and the bus system was not created for tourists.

After breakfast on our second day we left the hotel and did a self-guided walking tour of Ponta Delgada, the capital of Sao Miguel. While Ponta Delgada is certainly a beautiful town we were ready to find the hikes and get closer to nature.

Armed with maps for the must-visit hikes and viewpoints, as well as the bus schedules, we selected a well-known hike near Sete Cidades as our first island excursion.

However, the local bus schedule presented us with a challenge as the first departure interfered with breakfast at our hotel and the subsequent departures were too late to make a full day of it. The solution was to take a cab for 25 Euros (ouch!) and then return via the 4:00pm bus.

The taxi picked us up at the hotel which was nice. It was also nice to chat with the driver and get a feel for the local life. After a 45 minute ride from our hotel, the driver dropped us at the Vista del Rei viewpoint and wished us a good hike. And good it was.

The hike runs along the rim of the crater, with expansive views of the main lake on one side and two lakes on the other. Several miles later, the trail connected with the main road that led to the village of Sete Cidades. Once we reached the town plaza we continued to the edge of the lake. It was impressive to look around and see the lush, tree-filled walls all around us and to realize that we were inside an ancient crater. We walked along the shore until the path took us to the other lake.

Due to having ecologically different water on either side of the bridge that divides the town’s famous lake, it appears as though there are two lakes. The larger lake is blue (Lagoa Azul) and the smaller of the two is green (Lagoa Verde).

Many different scientific theories have attempted to explain this phenomenon, but the locals have been handing down their own sweet legend of love lost for multiple generations which, they claim, explains this distinction. We’ll defer to the locals on their version!

Walking along the shore of the green lake was a surreal experience of contrasting colors. From the deep blue skies, the green water of the lake along with the lushness of the surrounding trees and vegetation to the intense pink azaleas punctuating the landscape. All this beauty contained inside impressively steep volcanic crater walls.

The clock was fast approaching 3:30pm so we headed back to the main plaza to catch the bus. On our way, we found a property at the edge of the village that appeared to be a charming hotel. Indeed it was! Right in the middle of the crater. We walked in to find that this converted, family-owned farm offered small service apartments with complementary breakfast and full restaurant service all day.

The only thing that it was missing was…us!

We rode the bus back to Sao Miguel in love with this beautiful and magical side of the island vowing to rent a car to further explore it. What better way to do so than to return and spend a week or more inside this magnificent volcanic crater.