Caldeira das Sete Cidades
Key information: Caldeira das Sete Cidades
- Vast caldera formed by massive volcanic eruptions and collapses. Outstanding scenery: two large lakes, one bright blue, and one green, with steep, lushly vegetated caldera walls holding lesser lakes inside subsidiary craters.
- Walk along the rim, or down by the lakesides, or a combination.
- Walkopedia rating93
- Natural interest17
- Human interest10
- Negative points0
- Total rating93
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: Around 840m
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This phenomenal dormant caldera some 5km across holds two large lakes, surrounded by lushly vegetated cliffs up to 500m high, and smaller lakes within subsidiary craters. The scenery is truly outstanding here, and your first sight of Sete Cidades is a shock: it is way more beautiful than the photos, although the colour difference between the conjoined greener and bluer lakes is less than in many photos. Whether this was just the conditions when we were there or a result of over-vivid filters is hard to tell.
While it was formed by vast eruptions and collapses in pre-history, eruptions as late as the 15th century gave the caldera its current topography. Domes and lava flows bear witness to continuing volcanic activity.
Inside the ring of cliffs is an astonishing hidden world of vivid green meadows, some with a distinctly Alpine feel, separated by rough little sub-craters with woods clothing their flanks, with the famous lakes and comfortable-looking looking village at its heart. It is a magical place.
This is not exactly wild country, but it is ravishingly pretty, and the speed with which forest and farmland have established themselves within this once (and possibly future–) cauldron of death is intriguing.
There are many ways to walk the caldera, varied enough for you to find route that suits you best: along the cliffs, with their superb views, or by the lakes within the crater itself, among blooming hydrangeas, visiting the historic village.
The classic: along the western rim and into the Caldera The 'classic' circuit starts from the Vista do Rei viewpoint high on the southern rim of the caldera, looking up the length of the two lovely lakes far below. You actually have to park a kilometre east of the start, but the walk back along the road is full of visual wonder so is no hardship.
You head west along the rim for 5km or so, round to a road which crosses the rim from the northwest. The viewpoint is crowded, rare in the Azores, and the track pretty populous for some distance. The narrow rim-top is outstandingly exciting walking. Behind the earth bank to the right, you peer between the hydrangeas down sheer but forested cliffs to the gorgeous crater floor. To the left, the fields and voluptuous little craters of the old volcano's outer slopes fall to the changeable sea 600 metres below.
Turn down the road for a way, then turn off left on a cinder track to descend through beautiful fields (picnic time?), to the crater floor. The lakeside is pretty in a manicured sort of way. The village is pleasant if unthrilling. You can walk through town and climb steadily west of the Green Lake, then slog back up the cliffs to the Vista do Rei. We suggest you cross the causeway between the lakes, and trudge up the road as it made the steady climb up to the high ridge above the bright green Lagoa de Santiago crater lake. Despite the traffic and hot sun, this is not unpleasant, with lovely vegetation and ever-expanding views. This then enables you to turn at the final hairpin on to a good track which climbs steadily up the contours, with magnificent views back across the caldera to savour. You emerge to a road in positively alpine meadows, which soon gets you back to your car on the high caldera ridge.
Eastern rim: Mata do Canario to the village: the other half of the rim is another classic and thrilling walk, a bit longer than the western counterpart at 11.8 km, around 3hrs, to the village. Plus another 5ish km (including a long stretch of busy road) if you want to make a circuit of it. Take in a side walk to the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno viewpoint (see below). See more at https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-miguel/mata-do-canario-sete-cidades
Around the whole rim
This would be THE greatest walk here, combining the two halves above, but for the tedious road walk in the far east to link the two halves. If you can arrange transport, you can walk between Mata do Canario and Vista do Rei.
The short walk to the Miradouro da Boca Do Inferno, out at the end of a narrow ridge at the south-eastern end of the caldera, has perhaps the finest views of, back across the full glory of the caldera.
Lakeside wanders to suit your taste.
Your thoughts are welcome! Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!
See our Azores page for more walks and general information.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
I have wanted to come here since I discovered it while researching for Walkopedia in maybe 2006. A good moment.
There are many ways to walk the caldera, but we are walking the 'classic' circuit, starting from the Vista do Rei viewpoint high on the southern rim of the caldera, looking up the length of the two lovely lakes far below. Your first sight of Sete Cidades in the flesh is a shock: it is way more beautiful than the photos, although the colour difference between the conjoined greener and bluer lakes is less than in many photos. Whether this is just today's conditions.....READ MORE
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