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Visit Beautiful Lagoa do Fogo

by Valerie Vanr

Scenic Lagoa do Fogo, in central Sao Miguel Azores, is nestled within a deep, lushly-vegetated volcanic caldera. This stunning lake, the second largest on Sao Miguel, is often overlooked.

To ensure you don’t miss visiting this magnificent area, here are three different ways to experience Lagoa do Fogo, the Lake of Fire.

Lagoa do Fogo – An Azores Geosite

Lagoa do Fogo sits within the caldera of the Fogo Volcano. The caldera, shaped like an irregular bowl, is about 400 metres deep and 2.8 kilometres across. Its slopes are steep and rough, covered with natural woodlands and abundant, diverse endemic plants. The lake itself is 30 metres deep. The area covered by the caldera and the lake is classified as a nature reserve and an Azores geosite.

Person with Lagoa do Fogo background
On the west side of Lagoa do Fogo

How to Visit Lagoa do Fogo

Fogo Lake is a short drive from the major centers of Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande.  We recommend renting a car to visit, although some tourists join organized tours as well. 

Depending on how much time you have, here are three different ways to see Lagoa do Fogo.

  1. Viewpoints
    Enjoy the views of the amazing caldera and lake from miradouros along the regional road.
  2. Hike to the Beach
    Walk the short path down to the western edge of the lake from the Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoint.
  3. Half day Hike
    Take a hike up the trail on the southern side of the caldera to the southeast shore of Fogo Lake.

Lagoa do Fogo Map

Lagoa do Fogo Map - Sao Miguel Azores
Click on the photo for an interactive map of the Fogo area

Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoints

Along the main road, two viewpoints allow different views of the lake and the surrounding countryside.

Miradouro da Barrosa Viewpoint

The most southerly viewpoint is on the regional road adjacent to Pico da Barrosa. This area offers great views of the whole Serra de Água de Pau Protected Area, Fogo Lake and even the north coast of São Miguel. This is the highest point in the central part of Sao Miguel at close to 950 metres above sea level. You can walk up the service road beside the radio antennas to get closer to the peak. The regional road loops back on itself here and has parking areas along each leg.  

Person with Lagoa do Fogo background
Lagoa do Fogo from Miradouro da Barrosa
Sign at Miradouro da Barrosa Sao Miguel

Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoint

This viewpoint is the closest to the lake and the start of the trail down to the beach.  From the viewpoint look out over the Caldeira do Vulcão do Fogo and down to the lake.

Cars parked along road at Lagoa do Fogo Viewpoint
Some of the parking at Lagoa do Fogo Miradouro is along the road. There is more parking outside the view of this picture.
Sign at Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo

A bit further north on the regional road is Miradouro da Bela Vista Viewpoint. While there isn’t a view of Fogo Lake here, take a minute to visit.  This panoramic view of the north coast from Ribeira Grande all the way west to the volcanic crater of Sete Cidades is truly a lovely “bela” view.

North coast and fields from Miradouro da Bela Vista
Miradouro da Bela Vista’s panoramic view on a cloudy day.
Sign for Miradouro da Bela Vista with view behind

Lagoa do Fogo Hike to Beach

Many visitors enjoy the invigorating hike down to explore the western beach of Fogo Lake.  Its pumice beach is one of the 7 best wild beaches in Portugal.

Start your hike from the Fogo Lake Viewpoint.  There is lots of parking and the trailhead to the beach is easy to find. The area is often wet and muddy so be prepared with appropriate footwear.  Be careful on the 500-metre walk down to the pumice beach. It is quite steep. 

The path along the north shore of the lake runs for about 2.5 kilometres.  Explore as much of it as you want. Return to the viewpoint on the same path.

Beach at shore Lagoa do Fogo
Enjoy a walk along the shore of Lagoa do Fogo.

Be aware that there are no facilities at the lake (no toilets or garbage cans). Whatever you carry in, please carry back out.

Lagoa do Fogo Hiking Trail (PRC02)

If you have most of a day to explore the area, the Lagoa do Fogo trail (PRC02) is a great option.  

The trail begins in farm pastures to the south and climbs to the shore of Fogo Lake. See the ruins of a factory which produced fiber from flax plants. Cross an irrigation channel which will likely be muddy. Along the way you’ll find endemic Azorean blueberries, heather and laurel plants.

The trail enters the caldera on the south side. Explore the lake’s pumice beach. Return to your starting point by the same path enjoying the downhill journey with views of the south coast and the Islet of Vila Franca.

It is about 11 kilometres round-trip and takes 4 hours plus the time spent at the lake.

Hiker on path from Lagoa do Fogo
Hiking at Lagoa do Fogo

If you want to hike but don’t have 4+ hours, an alternative is the PRC29 SMI Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande – Salto do Cabrito.  This is a shorter option located north of Lake Fogo. It is a circular hike with several uphill sections and takes about 2.5 hours. The hike visits a dam and associated hydroelectric power plant as well as the 20-metre high Salto do Cabrito waterfall. Termas das Caldeiras, close to the trailhead, is a small commercial operation with hot springs, bathing and spa facilities.

Lagoa do Fogo Area Hikes – Summary Table

This is a summary of the details of each hike noted above.

NameType/ DifficultyLength/ Avg TimeAlt range
Lagoa do Fogo Hike to Beach (including shoreline hike)Out and back/ Medium6 km/ 2:00140 m
PRC02 SMI Lagoa do FogoOut and back/ Medium11 km/ 4:00400 m
PRC29 SMI Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande – Salto do CabritoCircular/ Medium8.5 km/ 2:30350 m

What is the weather like at Lagoa do Fogo?

Due to the humidity and altitude of the Fogo Lake area, conditions are often misty and cloudy. A look at the Lake Fogo web camera will give you an idea of the current weather in the area.

Person standing in fog at Miradouro da Barrosa
Conditions can change rapidly. At times the viewpoints are so foggy, you can’t even see Lagoa do Fogo. We hope you have a clear day to enjoy your visit.

Fogo Volcano – The Geology of Fogo Volcano

A number of volcanic events created Sao Miguel starting about 4 million years ago. Over the last 800,000 years, three stratovolcanos (Sete Cidades, Fogo and Furnas) and a series of smaller cones added land on the western edge of the original volcanic island.

Fogo Volcano, the central stratovolcano, formed in the last 300,000 years.  The volcano no longer has the familiar cone shape. About 15,000 years ago, the cone collapsed creating the depression called Caldeira do Fogo Volcano. It is the smallest and youngest caldera on the island.

Person with Lagoa do Fogo background
The caldera formed about 15,000 years ago and Lagoa do Fogo now fills much of it.

Over time, Lagoa do Fogo formed in part of the caldera. The water from the lake feeds many springs and supports the ground water supply for several local municipalities.

Fogo’s last volcanic activity occurred in 1564 on the north coast at Ribeira Seca. Geothermal energy is present at Fogo Volcano on its north flank at a depth of about 800 metres. Two geothermal power plants, Cachaco-Lombadas and Pico Vermelho, use this energy to produce electricity. This energy also heats the ground water producing the secondary volcanic features of hot springs and fumeroles enjoyed at Caldera Velha Natural Monument and Termas das Caldeiras.

Day Trip – Caldera Velha Natural Monument

After exploring Fogo Lake, it’s time to head up the road to Caldera Velha.  Relax in the hot, tranquil thermal pools at this beautiful natural area.

Visiting both Caldera Velha and Lagoa do Fogo is a great Azores day trip.

For all the details about visiting Caldera Velha, check out our article by clicking on the picture below.


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