Sete Cidades Lake is one of the most beautiful and photographed places in the Azores. A visit to this crater lake is a Sao Miguel Island “must-do”.
We provide many places to visit to experience this incredible landscape. Find the viewpoints, hikes and more to make this your favourite Azores destination.
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Sete Cidades Road Trip Itinerary
The most flexible way to visit Sete Cidades is a self-drive road trip. This itinerary makes a great day trip from Ponta Delgada.
- On the drive to Sete Cidades, visit Empadadas Lake, Canary Lake and the Aqueduct Ruins.
- See beautiful Sete Cidades Lake from one of the many viewpoints including the stunning Boca do Inferno viewpoint.
- The abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, an intriguing Sete Cidades stop, is beside the Vista do Rei viewpoint.
- Make time for a Sete Cidades crater hike.
- Visit Sete Cidades Village.
- Explore Sao Miguel’s west coast including Mosteiros. End your day relaxing in the Ponta da Ferraria Thermal Tide Pool before returning to Ponta Delgada.
Sete Cidades Road Trip Map
Lagoa das Sete Cidades
Sete Cidades Lake is located in a volcanic crater. It is about 4 kilometres long by 2 kilometres wide with a depth of 30 metres. The lake is one of the seven Natural Wonders of Portugal and the largest natural fresh water reservoir in the Azores.
The lake is actually two lagoons, called Green Lake (Lagoa Verde) and Blue Lake (Lagoa Azul), linked by a shallow channel. Their colour differences are due to differences in the way light reflects off each. Legend says that the two lakes were formed from the tears of a blue-eyed shepherd and a green-eyed princess who shared a forbidden love. The main road crosses the channel on a low bridge.
The lakes and the whole crater can be seen from a number of viewpoints on the crater’s rim.
Sete Cidades Map
Sete Cidades Viewpoints
The viewpoints around the crater rim provide stunning views of the lakes. The rim is lined by colourful hydrangeas from June to the end of September with peak colour in July and August.
Boca do Inferno Azores
About 1000 metres above sea level, the Boca do Inferno viewpoint is one of the famous viewpoints of the Azores. Look down into the Sete Cidades Crater to Sete Cidades Lake, Rasa Lake, Santiago Lake and the village. The viewpoint, also known as Miradouro da Grota do Inferno, has one of the best views on the entire island.
Vista do Rei Miradouro
The Vista do Rei Miradouro viewpoint provides one of the best known panoramic views of Sete Cidades Lake. It is one of the easiest viewpoints to get to. This viewpoint, also known as King’s Lookout is named in honour of the King and Queen of Portugal’s 1901 visit.
The Vista do Rei (PR3 SMI) walking trail starts west of the viewpoint. The easy walk to the lakeside is about 7 kilometres.
Sete Cidades Parking: There are a number of parking lots close by the viewpoint.
Grab a bite to eat at the food vans which typically operate in the viewpoint’s parking lots. The abandoned Monte Palace Hotel is located beside this viewpoint.
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras Viewpoint
Drive down into the crater toward the lake. From this viewpoint, on the south side of the crater, get a better view of the size difference between the Green and Blue Lakes.
Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago Viewpoint
This viewpoint is the best spot for a great view of the deep green Santiago Lake. The lake fills a small volcanic crater within the larger Sete Cidades Crater. It is surrounded by lush cryptomeria woods. Cryptomeria are conifers of the cypress family, typical of forests in Macaronesia.
Miradouro das Cumeeiras Viewpoint
The viewpoint on the north side of the crater overlooks Blue Lake. Green Lake and Sete Cidades village appear small in the distance. Turn around for great views of the northwestern side of the island. This viewpoint is on the Mata do Canário (PR4 SMI) walking trail.
Monte Palace Hotel – The Sete Cidades Abandoned Hotel
The Hotel Monte Palace has one of the best views of Sete Cidades. The only problem? It’s abandoned.
The story of Monte Palace is fascinating. The hotel opened in 1989, but closed in less than two years due to a lack of visitors. The hotel was ultimately abandoned. Today it is in ruins.
The Monte Palace Hotel is considered an ‘unofficial’ tourist attraction. While the hotel site is technically off limits, many visitors still find their way inside. It’s an intriguing place. A climb to its rooftop rewards you with one of the best views of Sete Cidades.
For a more detailed look inside the hotel ruins, check out our article Hotel Monte Palace – Azores Abandoned Hotel.
Sete Cidades Village
The village in the centre of the Sete Cidades crater is home to under 1,000 people but grows during tourist season. The village is part of the parish of Sete Cidades which lies completely within the crater. The parish includes the village and the beautiful green pastures and gardens around the shores of the Sete Cidades Lake.
The bridge separating the two lagoons of Sete Cidades Lake is the perfect spot to get a close up view of these calm lakes. Rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards at the nearby outfitters to enjoy the lake.
Learn about Sete Cidades and the rest of Sao Miguel’s protected areas at the visitor centre on the shore of Blue Lake. Information about tourist attractions, walking trails, geology, plants and animals and much more is available.
The clarity and general health of the water of Sete Cidades Lake has changed over the years. Learn about the efforts underway to improve the water quality and preserve this fresh water habitat.
North of the village, the entrance to the Tunnel of Sete Cidades is close to the end of the road. This discharge tunnel opened in 1937 to guard against any possible issues with flooding in the village. Walk through the unlit tunnel to the main road on the outside of the crater. It’s about a kilometre of dark, damp walking so torches and waterproof shoes are a smart idea.
The Saint Nicholas Church with its central bell tower, makes a very pretty photo. The single-nave Igreja de São Nicolau opened in 1852.
On the Way to Sete Cidades
These are several interesting places to visit on the way to Sete Cidades from Ponta Delgada.
The aqueducts were built during the 17th and 18th centuries. They carried water from the area around Canary Lake to Ponta Delgada. There are several visible sections in the area.
The Coal Aqueduct can be seen on clear days from the main road. It’s about ½ kilometre west of the Pico do Carva viewpoint.
Travel about a kilometre further west to where road M280 meets the main road. A section of aqueduct parallels the M280 for about 300 metres ending at a two-storey section called the Wall of Nine Windows.
The lake is opposite the Coal Aqueduct, about ½ kilometre down a narrow dirt lane surrounded by dense cryptomeria woodlands. The tricky drive is worth it. Lagoa das Empadadas fills two small volcanic craters. There are manicured gardens of azaleas and other shrubs between the two ponds.
Like Empadadas, Canary Lake is hidden behind dense forest on all sides. Watch for the signs and parking lot on the left about ¾ kilometre down the main road from the intersection with the M280.
Lagoa do Canario is a very peaceful, quiet place just off the path to the Boca do Inferno Viewpoint.
West Coast Sao Miguel
Enjoy a first view of the west coast and the village of Mosteiros to the northwest with its four small islets from Miradouro da Lomba do Vasco Viewpoint. The viewpoint is on the main road, on the west side of the crater, above the Sete Cidades village. It’s a great place to stop and get oriented.
Mosteiros Sao Miguel
The Mosteiros lava delta formed from lava flows of Pico de Mafra, a small volcanic cone to the west of Sete Cidades. While the Caneiros Natural Tidal Pools on Mosteiros Point offer bathing options, the black sand beach and 4 islets just offshore are the star attractions.
This lovely, long, black sand beach is a great place to enjoy the waves and watch the sun hit the Islets of Mosteiros. These large rocks are pieces of an imposing volcanic crater which, over centuries, has been destroyed by wave action.
For a great look at the whole western coast, from Mosteiros to the tip of Ponta da Ferraria, visit the Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado Viewpoint southwest of Mosteiros.
Ponta da Ferraria
Ferraria Point is a lava delta created during an eruption of Pico das Camarinhas nine centuries ago. Visit Ponta da Ferraria Thermal Tide Pool at the south end of the point. It’s a natural thermal pool in a sheltered inlet. Water from an underwater thermal spring, with temperatures above 50C degrees, mixes with ocean water. Climb over basalt rocks to swim at low tide (check for local tide times). The spa at the top of the hill uses the thermal waters for its pools.
The viewpoint Miradouro da Ilha Sabrina overlooks the area where an 1811 underwater volcanic eruption created a small island. Sabrina Island, no longer visible, is about 1.5 kilometres offshore. From the viewpoint, also known as Ponta da Ferraria Viewpoint, see the Ferraria Lighthouse and whole delta.
The early 20th-century lighthouse stands on a cliff about 90 metres above the ocean. The tower of the 2-storey lighthouse is 18 metres high. Its lamp was electrified in 1957. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Driving back to Ponta Delgada, another lovely sunset spot is the Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras Viewpoint.
Sete Cidades Hiking
With more than one day for the Sete Cidades area, explore several of the hiking opportunities in the western part of Sao Miguel island.
Two superb linear hikes explore the Sete Cidades crater. They are generally downhill and considered easy to moderate.
PR3 Vista do Rei starts at the Vista do Rei viewpoint. Walk north along the western slope of Sete Cidades crater rim and down the path on the west side. The walk ends in the village. Enjoy great views of the crater’s interior and its lakes.
PR4 Mata do Canario begins at the parking lot by the M280. Walk north by the Wall of Nine Windows Aqueduct. The path follows the Sete Cidades crater rim from east to west along its north side for a different perspective of the crater interior. Once on the west side, the trail goes down the crater and ends in the village.
There are also two circular hikes on the western side of the island.
PRC5 Serra Devassa climbs to Mares Peak which towers over the area. See Mares, Rasa and Empadadas Lakes which fill small volcanic craters.
PRC33 Atalho dos Vermelhos circles Pico de Mafra to the east of Mosteiros. See beautiful vistas of the northwest of the island and the towns of Mosteiros and Bretanho.
Sete Cidades Hikes – Summary Table
Here is a summary of the details of each hike above.
|Length/ Avg Time
|PR3 SMI Vista do Rei
|7.7 km/ 2:00
|PR4 SMI Mata do Canario
|11.8 km/ 3:00
|PRC5 SMI Serra Devassa
|4.9 km/ 2:00
|PRC33 SMI Atalho dos Vermelhos
|5.4 km/ 2:00
Caldeira das Sete Cidades – The Geology of Sete Cidades
The Sete Cidades volcano formed about 36,000 years ago. The crater is roughly 5 kilometres across, 12 kilometres around and has fairly steep walls about 630 metres high.
The Blue and Green Lakes and a number of small secondary volcanic cones are within the crater. Several are very obvious from the crater rim. On the west side, see the cones of Caldeira do Alferes and the Caldeira Seca. Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Rasa are small lagoons within their own volcanic craters on the south side.
The latest eruption to occur within the Sete Cidades Caldera was in 1439 creating Caldeira Seca.
Due to its geodiversity, scientific, educational and tourism activities, the caldera is a geosite of the Azores Geopark. Home to many endemic flora and fauna species, it is also on the migration path of many species of birds.
There are a number of small volcanic cones to the east of the Sete Cidades Crater generally in a northwest to southeast line. This group, known as the Serra Devassa, is also an Azores geosite. Many of these small craters contain lakes such as Lagoa do Carvao, Empadadas, Eguas, Caldeirao Grande and Canary.
Sete Cidades Weather
The weather can be very unpredictable at Sete Cidades, often foggy. For those making a day trip from Ponta Delgada, check the weather before departing. To help, view this live Sete Cidades web camera.
Be sure to check out our article, Things To Do in Sao Miguel Azores, for more places and great destinations to visit on the island.
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