Ten Volcanoes Trail, Faial

Azores, Portugal

William Mackesy’s account of this walk

The caldera was in cloud when Walkopedia was there, as it often is, so we missed out on huge views of the lower slopes with their fields and woodlands and little cones, and of the central archipelago laid out on the Atlantic; but the walk around the rim was atmospheric in a slightly ghostly way, swirls of mist  breaking to reveal tantalising glimpses of so-blue sea one way and the lush crater floor with its little lakes and marshes some 400m below on the other. On a good day it is a pedestrian marvel...

Half way round, you drop off the high ridge and join a cinder track which drops steadily (finally out of the clouds when Walko was there) through vegetation zones into surprisingly interesting Japanese cedar forest, enlivened by tree ferns and hydrangeas, a few still showing their blue mop-heads when we were there in mid September.

An hour+ in, you join a levada, a little irrigation channel which winds delightfully along the hillside, between mature Japanese cedars and interesting little pastures. There is a water tank to take a quick dip in, with Azorean bats flitting around in full daylight when Walko was there. Further on is an area of smashed trees where the brunt of a hurricane must have been suffered.

Where are the 10 volcanoes? By lunchtime, we had knowingly passed two, although one (the high caldera) is huge. Including a deep vent-cave and cones you walk quite near you do get to 10, but without necessarily realising it.

You then drop into remarkably pretty little fields among the scrubby outcrops, and wend your way along paths and lanes to climb the steep Cabeco do Fogo, which has an area of lovely heather mixed with a low grey moss-relation to create something visually rather exceptional. Walkopedia took lunch here. The bottom of the cloud base obscured what would clearly have been a remarkable view.

You then drop steeply to head off on tracks through the undergrowth to the sleepy village of Capelo and on to climb the high flank of the Cabeco Verde to inspect a 150m deep “bad cave”, an empty vent, and swing round a spectacular sheer-walled, lushly vegetated crater. One more steep climb, agony at this time of day, gets you over a final crater to drop to the Badlands, the final tip of the island still devastated by the 1950s eruption. It is a remarkable area to meet after the lush greenery so far, as you end your walk on loose ash slopes and looking over into the heart of the recent volcano. How the lighthouse is still standing, just beside the furnace, is a testament to something.

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