Caldeira das Sete Cidades

Azores, Sao Miguel, Portugal

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 or a result of over-vivid filters is hard to tell.

We 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.

We are heading west along the rim for 5km or so, round to a road which crosses the rim from the northwest. The viewpoint is crowded, the first time we have met crowds in the Azores. We assume we will escape them as we get onto one track, but it is pretty populous for some distance.

This is outstandingly exciting walking, as the rim-top is narrow. Behind the earth bank to the right, you peer between the hydrangeas down sheer but forested cliffs to the green crater floor, which is an astonishing mixture of vivid green alpine meadows separated by rough little sub-craters, with the famous lakes and comfortable-looking looking village at its heart. To the left, the fields and voluptuous little craters of the old volcano's outer slopes fall to the changeable sea 600 metres below.

You can walk the entire rim in something like 6 hours. Another time. We turn down the road for a way, then turn off on a cinder track to descend through beautiful fields, in one of which we enjoy a leisurely picnic above an absurdly lovely view, and drop on down to the crater floor by the northern Azure Lake.

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 walked across the causeway between the lakes, and trudged up the road as it made the long but steady climb up to the high ridge above the bright green Lagoa de Santiago crater lake. Despite the traffic and hot sun, this was not unpleasant, with lovely vegetation and ever-expanding views to enjoy. This then enabled us 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. We emerge to a road in positively alpine meadows, which soon gets you back to your car on the high caldera ridge.

An amazing 4+ hours.

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