In my last post, I shared a bit about getting to, getting around, and where to stay on São Miguel Island in the Azores. But really, we all know you’re here for the good stuff – the hiking.
Back when I was trying to figure out where to go this year, I only had one thing in mind: I wanted to be outside as much as possible. I started searching aimlessly for “great hiking vacations” and that evolved into “great international hiking vacations”. After being totally and utterly discouraged by airfare costs, I searched “inexpensive international flights” and suddenly hike after hike in the Azores was filling my screen. Woah! We had to go and I’m so glad we did.
However, if there’s one lesson I’ve learnt about hiking in the Azores, it’s that trailheads are seriously hard to find. I live in New England and we love our trailhead markers SO much here that after a while you find yourself tuning out the neat yellow and brown signs dotting the region. It couldn’t have been more opposite on our trip! We had a feeling that might be the case since finding addresses, coordinates, or even vague descriptions of starting points was hard enough. So, to make your life easier I’ve compiled our favorites complete with locations, links, and helpful information. Enjoy!
Salto do Cabrito
We kicked off our hiking spree by visiting Salto do Cabrito. Salto do Cabrito is an impressive waterfall that powers a nearby hyrdoelectric power station. For those looking for short and easy hikes, this one might fit the bill. The waterfall is easily accessible from the parking lot at the bottom of the access road (a little tough to find – sign for it is around here). For those looking for a bit more, you can venture to the top of the waterfall using the catwalks (caution: slippery!) or even make a 7.5km loop out of the whole thing as explained here.
Lagoa do Fogo
We had grand plans of completing this hike during our vacation, but the weather just didn’t cooperate at all as this specific area is overcast quite often. Instead, we explored the area from a bit higher up and got the scoop on all the hike details which can be found here (from the south) and here (from the north). The entire area in general is stunning and you’ll quickly get confused as to exactly what country you’re in. Portugal? Scotland? Ireland?
Looking back, I think it was a picture of Sete Cidades that probably caught my attention and with good reason. You’ve never seen anything else like it. A gigantic volcanic crater filled with two lakes – one very much blue (Lagoa Azul) and the other distinctly green (Lagoa Verde) – with soaring cliff walls brimming with vegetation and flowers. I could barely take a single picture that captured what I saw.
As for hikes, there are lots and lots of ways to take in the beauty. We chose to hike a few miles of the main trail that goes around the top, but you can hike all the way in, drive up, or explore however you wish. Just be forewarned that a big car rally takes place up there every year in early June. We ended up hiking in between stages of racing (which was incredibly cool to watch).
Ribeira dos Caldeirões Park
Of all the hikes, this one was the least planned (and my second favorite). We knew there was a waterfall and some type of museum – and that was it. I’ve searched around a bunch since then, and I still can’t figure out the extent of the trail network here! In essence, it’s a lot of waterfall chasing. From the parking lot you’ll see a big waterfall. Upon investigating the source, you hear another waterfall, and then another – and next thing you know you’re hiking up hills, crossing rivers, and taking in incredible views of rushing water, thick rain forest like vegetation, and all sorts of waterfalls. It was beyond cool and not to be missed.
Fortunately, getting here (link to Google Maps) is easy and I was appreciative to see a nice little tourist post here with restroom, café, and gift shop. We totally earned an ice cold Coca Cola and a Magnum ice cream bar after all that hiking. 😉
Faial da Terra
Rob and I have agreed that of all the hikes, this one is the best. This hike takes you through a variety of views, terrain, history, and more. You’ll hike up steep cobblestone, through a very old little village called Sanguinho, through woods, very old rock walls, down into valleys, and finally to an impressive waterfall called Salto do Prego. I think it’s fair to say it was the most powerful waterfall we saw – and of course Rob decided to swim into it!
We ended up making this hike into a reverse loop (mostly to avoid the steep cobblestone at the beginning which is very slick in the rain) and it was perfect. You can find all the details and some helpful maps here.
Despite spending 10 days on the island, we barely touched on all the incredible hiking this island has to offer. We cannot wait to go back! If you happen to make it there before we do, here’s some great resources to make planning your hikes a bit easier:
This website was perfect for helping us figure out where some of the more established hikes were. It certainly doesn’t cover all of them, but it was a great start complete with trail maps, photographs, and descriptions.
I have to admit I was shocked to find a hiking app for the Azores and I was even more surprised when it ended up being incredibly helpful over and over. WalkMe has a handful of hikes complete with an integrated open source map (which shows your location if you have GPS enabled on your phone), coordinates, and other great features.
As much as I love technology, I know better than to go hiking anywhere without a map and compass. It wasn’t easy finding a good map for the Azores, but we eventually found a huge and highly detailed map that was easy to fit in my backpack or purse. It was sheer luck that this one detailed roads and hikes equally well, and even gave us some ideas on where to go check out.
Up next… sightseeing!