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Visiting Sete Cidades – The Azores Most Beautiful Place

by Valerie Vanr

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”.

Here we show you the many places you can visit to experience this incredible landscape. Find the viewpoints, hikes and more to make this your favourite Azores destination.

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.

Sete Cidades Lake and village Azores
The colour difference between the Green and Blue Lakes is more obvious on sunny days.

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 give visitors 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 Miradouro da Grota do Inferno, has one of the best views on the entire island.

Santiago Lake, Blue Lake, Sete Cidades village
Boca do Inferno Viewpoint is a great place to see Santiago Lake and the village of Sete Cidades
Person on path to Boca do Inferno Viewpoint
The well-worn path to Boca do Inferno Viewpoint

Vista do Rei Miradouro

This viewpoint provides one of the best known panoramic views of Sete Cidades Lake. It is one of the easiest viewpoints to get to with lots of parking close by. King’s Lookout is named in honour of the King and Queen of Portugal’s 1901 visit.

Sete Cidades Lake and village
The view of Sete Cidades Lake and village is spectacular from Vista do Rei viewpoint.

The Vista do Rei (PR03 SMI) walking trail starts west of the viewpoint. The walk to the lakeside is about 7 km.

You can grab a bite to eat as food vans typically operate in the viewpoint’s parking lots. The abandoned Monte Palace Hotel is located beside this viewpoint.

King's Viewpoint and parking lot
Vista do Rei Viewpoint and parking lot. There is more parking down the road to the left.

Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras Viewpoint

From the south side of the crater, closer to the channel separating the lakes, you’ll have a better view of the size difference between the Green and Blue Lakes.

Sete Cidades Lake Cerrado das Freiras Viewpoint
The main road crosses the channel separating the two lagoons of Sete Cidades Lake.

Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago Viewpoint

Get a close up view of deep green Santiago Lake from this viewpoint. 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 (PR04 SMI) walking trail. 

Blue Overlooking Lake Cumeeiras Viewpoint Sete Cidades
Blue Lake dominates the view from Cumeeiras Viewpoint with Green Lake and the village in the background

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.

Monte Palace Azores entrance abandoned hotel

Sete Cidades Village

The village in the center 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 kayaks and paddleboards at the nearby outfitters to enjoy the lake.

Kayakers Sete Cidades Lake
Outfitters on the lake rent paddleboards and kayaks, perfect activities for these very still waters.

Learn about Sete Cidades and the rest of Sao Miguel’s protected areas at the visitor centre on the shore of Blue Lake. Find information about tourist attractions, walking trails, geology, plants and animals and much more.

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 central bell tower over the entrance doorway makes the Saint Nicholas Church very photogenic.  The single-nave, rectangular Igreja de São Nicolau opened in 1852.

Saint Nicholas Church Sete Cidades
The beautiful Saint Nicholas Church

Sete Cidades Road Trip

A visit to Sete Cidades is also a chance to explore the rest of the western part of the island. The most flexible way to this is a self-drive road trip. Drive from Ponta Delgada to Sete Cidades, on to Mosteiros and back to Ponta Delgada along the southwest coast.

Sete Cidades Road Trip Map

Sete Cidades Road Trip Points of Interest

These are several interesting places as you travel west from Ponta Delgada on the way to Sete Cidades.

Aqueduct Ruins

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.

Closeup Coal Aqueduct Sete Cidades
Plants growing on the Coal Aqueduct add a splash of orange in the lush green area.
Standing on Coal Aqueduct Sete Cidades
The Coal Aqueduct stretches into the distance

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.

Gate hydrangeas and aqueduct in distance
This piece of aqueduct connects to the Wall of Nine Windows to the left of this point

Empadadas Lake

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.

Azealea bushes by Empadadas Lake Sete Cidades
The pretty gardens at Empadadas Lake separate the two small lagoons.

Canary Lake

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.

Hydrangeas path Canary Lake Sete Cidades
Hydrangea and coniferous trees are beautiful around Canary Lake.

Once you’ve visited the attractions at Sete Cidades Lake, leave Sete Cidades village on the main road up the west side of the crater. Miradouro da Lomba do Vasco Viewpoint is a great place to stop and get your bearings. Enjoy your first view of the west coast and the village of Mosteiros to the northwest with its four small islets.

Mosteiros from Lomba do Vasco viewpoint
You can see the whole parish of Mosteiros from the Lomba do Vasco Viewpoint.

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 here.

Mosteiros Azores village
Aerial view of the village of Mosteiros

Mosteiros Beach

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.

Mosteiros Azores black beach and islets
The 4 islets just offshore are all that remains of a volcanic crater.
Mosteiros Azores black sand beach
Mosteiros is known for its black sand beach.

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.

Person seacliffs Ponta do Escalvado Viewpoint
Mosteiros and its 4 islets from Ponta do Escalvado Viewpoint

Ponta da Ferraria

The land of 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.

People swimming Ponta da Ferraria Thermal Tide Pool
Enjoy the naturally heated waters of the tide pool.

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.

Ferraria Lighthouse

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.

Ponta da Ferraria Azores Lighthouse
See panoramic views of the ocean from the grounds of this classic two-storey lighthouse.

Driving back to Ponta Delgada, another lovely sunset spot is the Miradouro da Vigia das Baleias das Feteiras Viewpoint.

Sete Cidades Hiking

If you have more than one day, there are many hiking opportunities in the western part of Sao Miguel island.

Standing on Mata do Canario trail Sete Cidades
Overall the trails along the crater rim are downhill but there are small ups and downs.

Two superb linear hikes explore the Sete Cidades crater. Considered easy to moderate in difficulty, they are generally downhill.

PR03 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.

PR04 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.

Hikers on Mata do Canario trail Sete Cidades
On the Mata do Canario hike see the crater’s sheer interior wall and the green, sloped pasturelands on its outer walls. You’ll likely see cows.

There are also three circular hikes on this side of Sao Miguel.

PRC05 Serra Devassa climbs to Mares Peak which towers over the area. See Mares, Rasa and Empadadas Lakes which fill small volcanic craters.

PRC33 Atalhos 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.

PRC43 Pico das Camarinhas – Ponta da Ferraria visits volcanic cones and structures carved by the sea. Enjoy a swim, at low tide, in the naturally created and heated Ponta da Ferraria Thermal Tide Pool.

Sete Cidades Hikes – Summary Table

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

NameType/ DifficultyLength/ Avg TimeAlt range
PR03 SMI Vista do ReiLinear/ Easy7.7 km/ 2:00550 m
PR04 SMI Meta do CanarioLinear/ Medium11.8 km/ 3:00600 m
PRC05 SMI Serra DevassaCircular/ Medium4.9 km/ 2:00100 m
PRC33 SMI Atalhos VermelhosCircular/ Medium5.4 km/ 2:00150 m
PRC43 SMI Pico das Camarinhas – Ponta Da FerrariaCircular/ Easy4.9 km/ 2:30200 m

Caldeira das Sete Cidades – The Geology of Sete Cidades

The Sete Cidades volcano formed about 36,000 years ago. The crater is about 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.

Santiago Lake foreground Blue Lake background
Beautiful Santiago Lake in its volcanic crater dominates the view from Boca do Inferno Viewpoint

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.  For those making a day trip from Ponta Delgada, you may want to check the weather before you go.  To help you decide, view this live Sete Cidades web camera.

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Sete Cidades Azores – Points of Interest Map


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