Home EuropeAzores Visiting Sete Cidades – The Azores Most Beautiful Place

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”.

We provide many places to visit to experience this incredible landscape. Find the viewpoints, hikes and more to make this your favourite Azores destination.

Sete Cidades Itinerary

Discover all of the best things to do in Sete Cidades.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades

Sete Cidades Lake, located in a volcanic crater, 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 Azores Viewpoints map
Click on the above map of Sete Cidades for an interactive version.

Sete Cidades Viewpoints

The viewpoints (miradouros) 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.

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
Andy is taking the well worn path to Boca do Inferno Viewpoint.

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, King’s Lookout, was 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. It’s an easy, 7-kilometre walk to the lakeside.

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

Vista do Rei Parking: There are a number of parking lots close to 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.

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

Drive down into the crater toward the lake. This viewpoint, on the south side of the crater, gives 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

This viewpoint is the best spot for a great view of 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

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.

Multi-storey vandalized building shell

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. Learn about the efforts underway to improve the water quality and preserve this fresh water habitat.

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

Can you swim in Sete Cidades Lake? Yes, you can swim here, but look for designated zones where you are allowed to enter. Note that at times the water can be murky with high levels of algae. A better option for enjoying the lake is renting a kayak or paddleboard in town.

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.

Saint Nicholas Church Sete Cidades
The beautiful Saint Nicholas Church

Sete Cidades Road Trip

The most flexible way to visit the Sete Cidades area is on a self-drive road trip. It’s a great day trip from Ponta Delgada. On the drive to Sete Cidades, visit Empadadas Lake, Canary Lake and the Aqueduct Ruins. Once you’ve explored Sete Cidades return to Ponta Delgada via Sao Miguel’s west coast. Stop in Mosteiros and see its 4 tiny islets and black sand beach. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the Ponta da Ferraria Thermal Tide Pool and watch the sun set at Ferraria Lighthouse.

Sete Cidades Road Trip Map

Our map below shows a road trip route from Ponta Delgada through the Sete Cidades area and back to Ponta Delgada. To reach the first stop at the Coal Aqueduct, enjoy the 15-kilometre (20-minute) drive along highways EN1-1A and EN9-1A.

Sete Cidades Azores Points of Interest map
Click on the map for an interactive version.

On the Way to Sete Cidades

There are several interesting places to visit on the way to Sete Cidades from Ponta Delgada.

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 a half-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
Andy is standing on top of the Coal Aqueduct.

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.

West Coast Sao Miguel

Enjoy a view of Sao Miguel’s west coast and the village of Mosteiros 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 from Lomba do Vasco viewpoint
The whole parish of Mosteiros is visible from the Lomba do Vasco Viewpoint.

Mosteiros Sao Miguel

The Mosteiros lava delta, or faja in Portuguese, formed from lava flows of Pico de Mafra, a small volcanic cone to the west of Sete Cidades. The black sand beach and 4 islets just offshore are the area’s star attractions, with the Caneiros Natural Tidal Pools on Mosteiros Point offer bathing options.

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

Ferraria Point is another 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 waves coming in can be quite strong, but there are ropes strung across the inlet for visitors to hang on to. It’s a lot of fun.

If the sea is too rough, you can always enjoy the spa at the top of the hill for a nominal fee. It 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 Trails

Explore these hiking opportunities in the western part of Sao Miguel island.

NameType/ DifficultyLength/ Avg TimeAlt range
PR3 SMI Vista do ReiLinear/ Easy7.7 km/ 2:00550 m
PR4 SMI Mata do CanarioLinear/ Easy11.8 km/ 3:00600 m
PRC5 SMI Serra DevassaCircular/ Medium4.9 km/ 2:00100 m
PRC33 SMI Atalho dos VermelhosCircular/ Medium5.4 km/ 2:00150 m

These two superb hikes explore the Sete Cidades crater. They are generally downhill and among the Best Sao Miguel Hikes.

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.

Standing on Mata do Canario trail Sete Cidades
I am on the Mata do Canario Walking Trail. Generally, the trails along the crater rim are downhill with small ups and downs.
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 and, likely, cows.

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.

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.

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, 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.

Ocean shoreline green hills

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