Key information: Sao Miguel
- The Azores’ largest island has a chest full of walking treasures, including famous calderas, ridges and riotously vegetated valleys.
- Walkopedia rating93
- Natural interest17
- Human interest10
- Negative points0
- Total rating93
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: 1,102m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Sao Miguel is the largest of the Azores islands, some 64km long and slender with it. It is essentially a long series of eroded volcanoes, most of them extinct (not necessarily that long ago – there and thought to have been 19 eruptions in the last 3,000 years and the island first appeared some 4 million years ago) but some showing occasional signs of life, with many bubbling boiling-hot springs. There is a series of fabulous calderas where they have collapsed, including famous Sete Cidades, Fogo and Furnas. Sao Miguel is more developed that the other islands, with more good hotels and more consistent food – but sprawling coastal towns and more tourists at the top sites. Its landscape is gorgeous but, save for its special places, perhaps not quite as thrilling as some of the other islands.
There is endless walking on Sao Miguel, both high and challenging and low and easy, but it is always beautiful and interesting. Given the changeable weather, even ambitious walkers will need to spend some time on the lower routes, but they won’t be disappointed.
Approximately west to east, great walks include:
Sete Cidades: this wonderful huge caldera is the Azores’ most famous walk. We can’t overstate its beauty and interest, and it is one of the handful of walks that propels the Azores so high up our Top 100 list. Lots of varied walking opportunities, but time wandering along the rim is a must. See more here
Smaller lakes: a contorted area of small craters which must have been extraordinarily active at one point. Among and in them are sprinkled a number of tarns and small lakes. Time well spent.
Rota da Agua and Janela do Inferno: meander between Remedios and Agua do Pau east of Ponta Delgada on old tracks used for water transport, encountering old bridges, aqueducts, levadas (watercourses) and tunnels. The high point is the Janela do inferno, a rather amazing, intense jungly ravine replete with levadas, tunnels and at beautiful spout of water sallying forth from a cliff face.
Lake Fogo: the walk in to beautiful Lake Fogo, some would argue the loveliest crater lake in the entire archipelago, is wonderfully varied and interesting. This is a place to loiter and take in the atmosphere.
Pico da Barrosa Ridge: a short walk from the road that reaches the western caldera rim above Lake Fogo. A short walk gets you to this 947m summit, which has huge views over the surrounding area, from lake to sea. A steady ridge leads south from here, which makes for easy but inspiring walking. A 4km-ish round trip, so not wildly challenging, but well worth having up your sleeve if time is short. You can also climb the peak from above Ribera Cha to the south, a much more challenging prospect.
Pico da Vela: if Walko had had time, we would definitely have made the superb ridge walk from the Monte Escuro roadhead to the north-east of Lake Fogo to 881m Cumieria and down and up to this 862m summit on the high ridge around the Lagoa do Fogo caldera, for exciting views across the deep bowl with its lovely lake.
Cha Gorreana tea plantation: If you haven’t walked in tea plantations, do explore these. While they aren’t as dramatic as some of their counterparts in the East (India, Indonesia, China), there is both beauty and interest in their sculpted slopes. On the north coast near Sao Bras. A short walk.
Furnas Lake: This is easy and rather suburban walking around the crater lake of Sao Miguel’s active volcano, yet with lots of interest lovely lake views and attractive plants and trees. A 9+ km/approaching 3 hr circuit.
North-east coast: Padrao das Alminhas to Salto da Farinha: a particularly beautiful and historically interesting walk above the north-east coat between Achadinha and Salga. 4.9 km, around 3 hrs, moderate. More at https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-miguel/padrao-das-alminhas-salto-da-farinha
South-east coast: Agriao to Sao Miguel (PR12SMI) This attractive and interesting old route above the coast connects Povoacao to Ribeira Quente, via Lomba do Cavaleiro. 7.6 km, 2.5-3hrs, moderate. More at https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-miguel/agriao
Eastern High Ridge and Pico da Vara: this long high ridge from above Fornas to 1,105m Pico da Vara, the highest point on the island, takes in several summits on the way and commands regular knock-out views south over a series of bowls and valleys to the sea far below, and down the more forested northern slopes. Wonderful. Walko really regrets not making it here.
Sanguinho Valley: this thickly wooded valley in the far south-east above Faial da Terra takes you to a beautiful waterfall, returning via the characterful old village of Sanguinho and back down the old cobbled track to it. 4.2km, less than 2hrs, so not a challenge. See more at: https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-miguel/sanguinho
Walkopedia met many of the above walks through recommendations from the excellent Inntravel, who organised our expedition.
The excellent https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/S%C3%A3o-miguel has other good walks, including shorter routes.
The routes generally follow red-marked trails on the Kompass Azores map 2.
This can be demanding walking in high mountains with unpredictable ocean weather. Come prepared.
Find relevant books on Amazon
We would love to give more. Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!
For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Azores walk page.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more