Visiting Sete Cidades in the Azores and wondering what to expect and how to plan your time? In this guide, you can learn about the best things to do in Sete Cidades, including the nicest viewpoints, best hikes, and other activities. In addition, we share a map of the best places to see and some practical tips for your visit. Find out!
Sete Cidades is a protected natural area in Sao Miguel, the Azores (Portugal). The literal translation of Sete Cidades means ‘Seven Cities’, but there’s actually just one small town here and the name is used to describe the entire area. Sete Cidades is best known for its Green and Blue Lakes (Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul) that are located inside a huge volcanic crater. The two lakes together are also often referred to as Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
According to a legend, the lakes were formed when two lovers, a princess of the Kingdom of the Seven Cities, and a shepherd, cried their eyes out because they weren’t allowed to be together. The blue lake was formed from the tears of the princess, and the green one – from the shepherd boy.
But it’s not just the legend that is beautiful. Sete Cidades is one of the most picturesque places in the Azores and the jaw-dropping scenery here will take your breath away! In addition to the two biggest lakes, there are also several other smaller lakes in the area, wonderful hiking trails, and spectacular vistas everywhere you go…
So it will come as no surprise that Sete Cidades is the most visited natural landmark in the Azores. Also because it’s located on the main island of the archipelago, Sao Miguel, and is easy to get to by car or with a tour. But while most first-time visitors just stop at one or two famous viewpoints and move on, there is so much more to this beautiful area than that!
So if you want to see the best of Sete Cidades, but also explore a bit deeper, read on for our best tips on what there’s to see and do here!
How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.
How to use this guide. While not always easy to do, we sorted this list starting with the ‘best’, must-see places and activities at Sete Cidades first, not taking into account where they are located or how much time it takes. So it’s possible that several places that are just next to each other are listed further apart, and that a longer hike is listed before a shorter one.
The reason for this is to give you a better idea of what is worth your time the most. You can then use the map above to see which places are located close to each other and plan your visit accordingly.
For example, there are quite a few viewpoints that are maybe not as impressive as the main ones, but they are definitely worth a visit because you’ll pass them anyway and it only takes a few minutes. And – in addition to the best places not to miss in Sete Cidades – you can also learn about a nice area with geothermal pools. It’s an excellent addition to any day trip to the Sete Cidades area and will make your visit even more special.
Good to know. Please also note that all the natural sights at Sete Cidades can be visited FREE of charge. At the moment of our last visit, there was no parking fee anywhere either. At the bottom of this guide, you can find more practical tips and info for your visit. Read on!
These are the best things to do in Sete Cidades:
1. Miradouro da Vista do Rei
Time needed: 10-20 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy and accessible to everyone.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei (King’s View) is the main and best-known viewpoint of Sete Cidades. From here, you have an amazing view of the two lakes and the surrounding caldera. Arguably, this is the best view of Lagoa das Sete Cidades, and it’s very easy to visit. There’s a big car parking right next to it, and the viewpoint is accessible to everyone.
What’s in the name. Vista do Rei (King’s View) got its name after the King and the Queen of Portugal paid a visit to Sete Cidades in 1901. (At that time, Portugal was still a monarchy.) And indeed, the view is worthy of a King and it will be a highlight of any trip to Sao Miguel!
At Vista do Rei, you’ll also see an old abandoned building, the former Monte Palace Hotel. Some people like to go inside for a higher angle of the amazing view of Lagoa das Sete Cidades or some cool pictures of the graffiti. Please note, however, that it’s in principle forbidden to go inside, and it can also be dangerous. Furthermore, the hotel has been acquired by new owners, so hopefully, soon there will be an amazing new hotel at this spectacular location.
Good to know. If there’s one place that everybody visits at Sete Cidades, it’s Vista do Rei. So it’s always busy at this viewpoint, especially late in the morning to noon, when most tours and day-trippers arrive from Ponta Delgada. The good thing is that the car parking at the viewpoint now has a time limit of 20 minutes, which keeps people moving. So parking shouldn’t be an issue, even if visiting at peak times.
TIP: If you want to spend more time at Vista do Rei, visit the abandoned Monte Palace hotel, or do any hiking in the area, you should use a long-term parking area located 900 m (0,55 miles) east from the viewpoint (see also our map for the exact location).
2. Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Time needed: 40-50 minutes.
Difficulty level: Moderate – the first part of the walk is easy, the last (short) section is a bit steep.
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno or Miradouro da Grotta do Inferno is another amazing viewpoint and a must-do in Sete Cidades. The views here are quite different than at Vista do Rei because you are looking at two different lakes and from a different angle.
What’s in the name. The literal translation of Miradouro da Boca do Inferno means ‘Hell’s Mouth Viewpoint’. Standing here looking into the crater below you, it’s easy to imagine that during the volcanic eruption, the area below must have looked like an entrance to hell…
While just as impressive (if not more) as Vista do Rei, Miradouro da Boca do Inferno requires a bit more effort to visit. You’ll have to leave your car at the Lagoa do Canário parking lot by the main road, from where it’s about 15 minutes walk to the caldera. Once at the caldera, you’ll have to take a short but quite steep mud path in order to get to the viewpoint itself.
Good to know: In the past, it was possible to drive almost all the way to the caldera, but nowadays the access gate is normally closed. I’m not sure if it’s always the case or only in the high season, but you have to be prepared to walk for about half an hour in total (15 minutes each way) if you are planning to visit this viewpoint. And while the longest part of the walk is easy and follows a wide gravel road, the last section is muddy and steep, so it’s advisable to wear good walking shoes. Flip-flops or high heels are really not the best idea!
TIP: Visit early in the morning or in the evening, before sunset! This viewpoint is crazy busy during the day and by 10 AM, it’s difficult to find a parking spot. And while most visitors spend just 40-50 minutes visiting the viewpoint, the same parking area is also used for one of the longer hikes, so many cars are parked here for half a day. And second, if you are here for Instagram, it’s practically impossible to take really nice pictures without other people during the day.
3. Sete Cidades Crater Hike
Time needed: 3-4 hours.
Difficulty level: Moderate.
Distance: 12 km (7.5 mi).
Mata do Canário – Sete Cidades hike (Azores trail PR4SMI) is probably the most beautiful hike you can do in Sao Miguel. We recently spent two weeks on the island and hiked almost every day, and this was by far the most beautiful hike of them all. The trail follows the crater of Sete Cidades offering amazing views of the lakes and the area.
Sete Cidades crater hike is not very difficult, but there’s a very steep section at the very beginning and also at the end, just before you reach Sete Cidades town. Once at the top of the caldera, you follow a wide gravel path for the majority of the hike. The same road is used by bikes and we even saw two or three cars driving this route. I’m not sure if it’s even allowed (or how you’d have to pass another car at the narrowest sections), but I wouldn’t recommend doing this in a small rental car anyway…
TIP: If you want to explore this trail the easy way, you can rent an electric mountain bike in Sete Cidades. Some rental options also include a self-guided GPS trail with directions. It allows you to explore all the best views of the area (so not just this trail) in about half a day.
Good to know. The Sete Cidades crater hike starts at the small car parking area at Muro das Nove Janelas aqueduct and ends in Sete Cidades town. So you’ll have to arrange transportation in between the two places. We left our car at the aqueduct and then took a taxi back from Sete Cidades. It’s also possible to make a loop hike, continuing to Vista do Rei, and from there to the starting point. However, in that case, the hike is about 20-22 km (13 mi) in total, and you’ll have to walk the last 4.5 km (3 mi) next to a busy road.
TIP. For the best experience, do this hike on a sunny day. Good hiking shoes are advisable and sun protection is a must. Hiking poles can be really helpful at the steep parts.
4. Scenic Drive from Vista do Rei to Sete Cidades Town
Time needed: 15 minutes not including the stops.
Difficulty level: Easy – drive by car.
There are many beautiful roads in the Azores, and even more so in summer when all the hydrangeas are in full bloom. But as far as the highlights of Sete Cidades go, the road from Vista do Rei to Sete Cidades town is really not to be missed. And ideally, you do it in this direction and drive from top to bottom – so that you have the best views in front of you.
There are several viewpoints along this drive – Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras and Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago (more about them below). But even if you don’t stop at these viewpoints, the road itself is so scenic that it’s well worth your time.
5. Serra Devassa Hike
Time needed: 2 hours.
Difficulty level: Moderate.
Distance: 5 km (3 mi).
Serra Devassa hike (Azores trail PRC05SMI) is another really nice hike in the Sete Cidades area. It’s a rewarding circular hike that takes just about 2-2.5 hours, and is, therefore, one of the most popular hiking trails in Sao Miguel.
The hike starts at Lagoa do Canário parking lot, which is the same car parking as for Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (see #2 above). This allows you to easily combine the two hikes and see some of the very best scenery of Sao Miguel island.
The views from the Serra Devassa hike are very different than anything else described up to now. This trail goes to the other side of the mountains from where you’ll see many smaller lakes that you can’t see from any other viewpoints – Lagoa Pau Pique, Lagoa das Empadadas, and Lagoa Rasa. You also have some amazing 360° views of both coasts.
Good to know. This hike takes you to some of the highest peaks of this part of Sao Miguel island, including Pico das Éguas at 873 m (2,865 ft). And while this might not seem that high, parts of the trail can get very windy and there are also often clouds hanging at the highest peak. Ideally, you do this hike on a very clear day when there are no clouds at all because even if there’s just one cloud nearby, it will likely be stuck at the top of the mountain obscuring the views.
TIP. You need good hiking shoes for this hike. Even if it’s a warm day, pack a sweater or a light rain jacket! Sun protection is also a must! Hiking poles are advisable, especially if it’s been raining before.
6. Muro das Nove Janelas & Aqueduto do Carvão
Time needed: 15-20 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Muro das Nove Janelas (Nine Windows Wall) is part of an old stone aqueduct Aqueduto do Carvão (Coal Aqueduct) located close to Mata do Canário (Canary Forest).
This aqueduct was built in the 17th-18th centuries in order to supply water from several lakes of the Sete Cidades area to the city of Ponta Delgada. It’s not been in use for a long time anymore, but it’s nicely preserved and is considered an important heritage site of the Azores.
Nine Windows Wall gets its name from the nine arches ‘windows’ – four at the bottom and five at the top of the aqueduct.
You can see the aqueduct from the road, but the best way to appreciate this historic structure is by taking a short walk next to it. You can leave your car at the Mata do Canário parking lot (the same parking as for the PR4SMI hike – see #3 above). It doesn’t require much time to visit, but it’s truly one of the more special places to see at Sete Cidades. So check it out!
7. Sete Cidades Town
Time needed: 10-15 minutes for the church. The rest depends on what you choose to do.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Sete Cidades is a small town at the western side of Lagoa Azul. While everyone visiting Sao Miguel visits the Sete Cidades area, most people don’t seem to stop in town. And while it’s not the most exciting place, it’s well worth a quick visit if you have half an hour to spare. There are also some cafés and restaurants here, so it could be a good place for lunch. Or you can also have a picnic by the lake.
The most interesting landmark worth your time the most here is Igreja de São Nicolau – the main church of Sete Cidades. Built in 1857 in traditional Azorean style, the interior of the church is rather simple, but the little garden surrounding it and the pathway leading to the church are very picturesque.
Another place that might be worth your time is the Hydraulic Tunnel of Sete Cidades. From the village, walk along the lake to the far northwestern side, where you’ll find this interesting structure that was built in order to drain the water from Sete Cidades lakes when the water levels get too high.
It’s possible to walk through this underground tunnel of about 1.2 km (0.75 mi) to the other side of the mountain. It takes about 15-20 minutes one way (plus the same to get back). Keep in mind that it’s dark and can also be very wet inside. You’ll need a pocket light (or you can use the flashlight on your phone) if you decide to walk through the tunnel. Or you can just take a look inside and turn around.
8. Lagoa do Canário
Time needed: 5-10 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Lagoa do Canário is a small lake, located right next to the road and at Lagoa do Canário parking lot, which is where you also start the short hike to Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (see #2 above) and the longer Serra Devassa hike (see #5 above).
The lake is hidden out of sight, so you can’t see it from the road, but it’s literally just a few minutes walk to the shore. You can access the lake via two different paths on the eastern side, but once at the lake itself, it’s actually quite muddy and not easy to walk around it. Because of this, Lagoa do Canario is just a quick photo stop that doesn’t take much time.
The lake is nice, although not nearly as special as the views you’ll see from the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno viewpoint. But since you’ll likely come here anyway, it’s worth checking out this small lake as well.
9. Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago
Time needed: max 5 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago is one of the viewpoints located along the road between Vista do Rei and Sete Cidades town. It’s the best place to see the dark-green lake of Santiago from close by.
This crater lake is surrounded by steep caldera and forests and so it’s probably not the best idea to try to get closer to it (although there seems to be some kind of a path – we didn’t try it). But the viewpoint is nice and just a very short stop when exploring the Sete Cidades area, so worth a few minutes since you are passing here anyway.
10. Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
Time needed: max 5 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras is another nice viewpoint along the road from Vista do Rei to Sete Cidades. It offers an excellent view of the two lakes of Sete Cidades Lagoon from yet another angle.
And while you’d think it’s just another viewpoint, this one is definitely worth a quick photo stop!
There’s a small car parking at Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras and it’s just a very short walk to the viewpoint, so don’t drive by.
11. Vista do Rei – Sete Cidades Hike
Time needed: 2 hours.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Distance: 7.7 km (4.8 mi).
If you are looking to do even more hiking at Sete Cidades, then you may want to also consider the Vista do Rei – Sete Cidades Hike (Azores trail PR3SMI) as well. It’s another nice and quite easy downhill walk with great views of the Green and the Blue lakes of Sete Cidades.
The hike starts at Vista do Rei viewpoint (#1 above) and ends in Sete Cidades village. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to leave your car at Vista do Rei for the duration of the hike and so you’ll have to either leave your car in Sete Cidades and take a taxi to the starting point or leave your car at the long-term parking about 0.9 km from Vista do Rei viewpoint, walk to the viewpoint, then do the hike, and then take a taxi back to the starting point. In any case, you’ll likely need at least 3-3.5 hours for this.
The trail follows a gravel road most of the time and is not the most exciting hike, but the views make up for it. On the other hand, the very best view is at Vista do Rei viewpoint itself, and so I’d only do this hike if you have a lot of time to spare. Also here, ideally, you do this hike in good weather or you won’t see much.
As already mentioned before, you can also do this hike (PR3SMI) in combination with Mata do Canário – Sete Cidades hike (PR4SMI), in which case you can combine the two hikes and make a loop. So you’d start at Mata do Canario and end at Vista do Rei, from where you would have to walk the last 4.5 km (3 mi) next to a very busy road to get back to the starting point. In that case, the entire loop is over 20 km (12.5 mi) (and even more if you also walk to Sete Cidades village) and requires a good part of the day.
12. Miradouro das Cumeeiras
Time/difficulty/ distance: Depends whether you walk, bike, or drive.
Miradouro das Cumeeiras (Viewpoint of the Ridge) is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the entire Sete Cidades area. It’s also the least touristy, because of its more remote location on the far northern side of the crater around Lagoa Azul. The reason why we didn’t list it higher is because it’s not that easy to get to.
The best way to visit here is by taking the Mata do Canário – Sete Cidades hike PR4SMI (see #3), or you could also hike just to this point from Sete Cidades. You can also easily get here by e-mountain bike.
It’s also possible to drive here by car (ideally a 4WD) and we also saw a small car slowly driving up to this viewpoint. However, the gravel road from Sete Cidades to Miradouro das Cumeeiras is very steep and very narrow, so it would be very difficult to pass another car. Once on top, you can turn around since the area is quite wide. However, just to be clear, we don’t recommend taking a car here, but if you are prepared to hike or bike, you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing views.
13. Miradouro do Pico do Carvão
Time needed: max 5 minutes.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Miradouro do Pico do Carvão (Coal Peak Viewpoint) is another nice viewpoint in the Sete Cidades area. When the weather is nice, you can see a big part of the northeastern coast of Sao Miguel from here.
This viewpoint is located along the road between Sete Cidades and Covoada, one of the roads leading to the Sete Cidades area from Ponta Delgada. So you’ll likely drive past this viewpoint anyway. In that case, it’s worth a quick stop, but I wouldn’t go out of my way just to get here if it’s not along your route.
14. Fun Outdoor Activities: Kayaking, E-biking & More
If you have more time at Sete Cidades, you can also opt for some outdoor activities. As already mentioned, you can go kayaking on the Sete Cidades lakes, rent an e-bike, or join a quad tour.
Unless you have lots of time and are very flexible, it’s best to research and book any activities or tours in advance. Here you can find some quad tours that visit the Sete Cidades area. Here you can find bike and e-bike rental options for the area. Kayaking and stand-up paddling on the lakes is also available.
14+. Natural Hot Pools at Ponta da Ferraria
While technically not part of the Sete Cidades area, I feel that this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the most special places that you can easily visit near Sete Cidades – Ponta da Ferraria.
Located just about 10-15 minutes drive from Sete Cidades town, Ponta da Ferraria is a beautiful coastline with a few swimming possibilities. It’s a great place to end your day of exploring the Sete Cidades area. And even if you are not interested in swimming, it’s well worth visiting here for the stunning coastal scenery.
Ponta da Ferraria has a heated swimming pool called Termas da Ferraria (Ferraria Geothermal SPA) and there is also a protected swimming area in the ocean with a natural hot spring. There are facilities like changing rooms and even showers just before you reach the natural pool, and – when we visited – there were also lifeguards on duty. The natural pools are free of charge, whereas the geothermal SPA has a small entrance fee. There’s also a restaurant at the SPA.
Sao Miguel Island has lots of geothermal pools, natural swimming pools at the coast, beaches, and also communal pools, but Ponta da Ferraria is one of the best warm-water options near Sete Cidades.
Good to know: The road down to Ponta da Ferraria is very steep and winding, but doable in any regular car. There’s a big car parking down below, right next to the Ferraria Geothermal SPA. The hot pool in the ocean is just a short walk south from the car parking.
Best Sete Cidades Tours
While the best way to explore Sao Miguel is by renting a car (and definitely if you are staying on the island for a longer time), there are also many amazing tours that can bring you to Sete Cidades. Most tours depart from Ponta Delgada, the biggest city of the Azores.
Here you can find an overview of all available tours that visit this area, and below is our hand-picked selection of the best-rated Sete Cidades tours:
- Full-day Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo tour (with hot springs!). This is the best-rated full-day tour.
- Half-day Sete Cidades tour (with pineapple plantation visit and the highlights of Sete Cidades area). This is the most popular half-day tour to the area.
- Half-day Sete Cidades ATV Quad tour. This is a more adventurous option that gets a bit off the beaten path and explores the Sete Cidades area a bit deeper than the standard tours.
Here are some practical tips for your visit to Sete Cidades:
- If you are flexible, choose the day with the best weather forecast for this area. If it’s foggy and rainy, you won’t be able to see much. Keep in mind that the weather in Sete Cidades can be different than at the coast, so check the local forecast.
- Visit the most popular viewpoints (such as Miradouro da Boca do Inferno or Vista do Rei) early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Always pack layers of clothing, even if the weather forecast looks very good. It can be very windy at some places at Sete Cidades. To give you an idea of how different the weather here can be – one day when we visited Sete Cidades, it was 27°C (80° F) and sunny at the coast, but only 15°C (59° F), cloudy, and very windy in the mountains.
- If you are planning to go hiking at Sete Cidades, be sure to pack enough water and sun protection. For longer hikes, take a picnic as well. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes. Hiking poles are also helpful at times, especially if doing the Serra Devassa hike.
So, this is our guide to visiting Sete Cidades in the Azores. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and inspires you to spend more time exploring Sete Cidades than just visiting a few of the most popular viewpoints.
On the other hand, even if you only have a few hours for this beautiful area, Sete Cidades is still very much worth a visit. This is one of the absolute best places in the Azores and the scenery is truly breathtaking!
TIP: For more tips and information for your visit to Sao Miguel Island, take a look at our other guides as well. They’re all filled with our experience-based tips and suggestions that will help you make the most of your trip to the Azores. Check it out!
- Best Things to Do in Sao Miguel
- Best Things to Do in Ponta Delgada
- Best Things to Do in Furnas
- Where to Stay in Sao Miguel
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