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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Best hikes in São Miguel, in the Azores Islands - between volcanoes, forests and waterfalls

The Azores, called Açores in Portuguese (from the archaic Portuguese term azures: blue), are a real paradise in the far west of Europe, a pristine and wild archipelago that makes it the ideal destination for those looking for an active holiday in the name of nature and for all trekking lovers. What characterizes the 9 islands of the archipelago - São Miguel, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Corvo and Santa Maria - is nature that reigns supreme. The islands are all volcanic with thick subtropical vegetation, white, blue and pink ortensia everywhere you look, as well as beautiful lakes and breathtaking waterfalls. The weather is very unpredictable, it changes from part to part of the island and can vary in a few hours, but in general its position guarantees a mild and pleasant climate all year round. If you love nature and trekking, in the Azores Islands you will find bread for your teeth, and I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed.


Hiking in São Miguel

As a hiking lover, I can tell you that what I appreciated the most about São Miguel is the vast choice of routes: there are of all levels and lengths, which makes this destination an ideal destination for any walking lover, from the most sporty and experienced, to beginners. On Wikiloc you can find the route that best suits your needs, wherever you are on the island. Anyway, let me tell you about the ones I've done myself, and which I want to recommend!


Chà Gorreana: inside the tea factory and plantation

Chi Gorreana, piantagioni di tè a São Miguel, isole Azzorre

If you are following this trip to São Miguel, in the Azores Islands, you will surely have already heard about the splendid Chà Gorreana tea plantation - READ ALSO: São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary Located on the north coast of the island, the Gorreana tea plantation is the oldest and currently the only existing tea plantation in Europe. The plantation is immense: it covers 38 hectares and has been producing both black and green tea in various blends and variations for generations. As already mentioned, the visit to the plantation is free, both as regards the tour inside the factory and the exploration of the plantation itself, and this is where our trekking route takes place. The tour that I propose is the one we did and that I personally recorded on Wikiloc - click here to open the path.

Trekking a Chi Gorreana, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre

This trail is a loop, and is rather short (3.58km) and not particularly demanding: it is also well suited to beginners and those with little training, as it is an easy difficulty. The route begins in the large parking lot outside the factory, where you can park your car, and takes place across the road from the building, in the middle of the plantations, before returning to the factory. I recommend that you start with the trek and keep the factory tour for later, so that you can rest while enjoying a cup of tea in the indoor café, which offers a beautiful view of the plantations and the ocean. As already mentioned, the ring is quite simple, the climb isn't much (165m) and the paths are well made and signposted. Count around 1.5 hours total time, including various breaks to take pictures and admire the scenery. Despite the ease of the route, I would like to point out a few tips:

  • wear comfortable shoes, suitable for a good walk: you don't need hiking boots, but I don't recommend doing it even with sandals or flip flops ;

  • bring a nice hat and some water: we did this route in the middle of the morning under the scorching sun and it was quite hot;

  • don't underestimate the clothing: the ride is short and easy but in any case, as for the shoes, I recommend something comfortable and sporty.

After this beautiful trek, don't forget to pop into the café inside the factory to enjoy a well-deserved cup of tea with a splendid view of the plantations.


Lagoa das Furnas

As you may remember, Lagoa das Furnas is the beautiful lake located near the village of Furnas, also famous for its thermal springs (Poca do Dona Beija and Parque Terra Nostra) - if you missed the post dedicated to one-week itinerary in São Miguel READ ALSO: São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary

We did our trekking at the Lagoa in the first part of the day, in order to relax at the natural spas in the afternoon: I suggest you to do the same. Stepping into those boiling waters will be doubly more rewarding after a beautiful morning walking on the lake. The tour that I propose is the one we did and that I personally recorded on Wikiloc - click here to open the route - and it is made up of 2 parts:

  • A first part of ascent to the summit of Lagoa das Furnas to arrive at the Miradouro do Pico do Ferro and enjoy a breathtaking view of the lake;

  • The second part it's a ring around the lake.

Vista dal Miradouro do Pico do Ferro, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre

The first part of the climb to Miradouro is decidedly shorter than the second but also much more demanding: it is about 3.5km in total, including uphill and downhill. The outward journey is all uphill and the difference in altitude is about 300 meters, quite doable thanks to the rocky path similar to steps. The route is totally immersed in the greenery of the forest, the nature is luxuriant and tropical, a real feast for the eyes. You can also get to the Miradouro by car, but if you are a bit trained, I suggest you do it on foot: it's amazing! Once you get to the top then, the incredible view of the lake is truly rewarding, it will be worth every effort to get to the top.

The second part, on the other hand, is a lot easier and everyone can do it: the loop is about 8 km long and totally flat.. the path is beaten and well maintained and will allow you to admire the various attractions of the lake, such as the Caldeiras or the Mata-Jardim José do Canto - to find out more please READ ALSO: São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary

The trail you can take is therefore very variable based on your training and the time you have available: you can choose to do just one piece, or both:

  • Go around the lake, avoiding the climb to Miradouro do Pico do Ferro;

  • Reach the Miradouro do Pico do Ferro and go back;

  • Arrive at the Miradouro, go back and go around the lake - this last option is the one I did and therefore the one you will find on Wikiloc.

If you prefer to choose one of the first two possibilities, don't worry, you can always use my track but following the piece you prefer most. The entire route is about 13 km and it took us about 3 hours and 45 minutes to do it, including breaks and snacks. After this long trek you can recharge your batteries by eating a nice Cozido das Furnas, perhaps at Tony's - READ ALSO: What and where to eat in São Miguel, the green island of the Azores


Lagoa do Fogo

Lagoa do Fogo is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes we saw in São Miguel: very blue, surrounded by vegetation, and the uniqueness that to get to its waters you must necessarily go on a splendid trek. As we have already seen here - São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary - to admire the Lagoa do Fogo you will have to reach the Miradouro do Lagoa do Fogo, from where you can enjoy an incredible view of this spectacular lake.

Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre

To reach the waters of the lake, the only way is to take the downhill path that starts right from the Miradouro up to the lake beach. I strongly suggest you not just stop for a brief look from above, and to go down to the base, and then possibly continue along a short stretch along the lake.

The complete circular route around the lake is unusable: I read that the waters have covered part of the route, so it is currently possible to walk on the left bank of the lake, reaching about halfway around its circumference, and then retrace your steps.

Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre

The challenging part is obviously the first descent and then also the last ascent on the same path: the slope is about 200 meters in altitude totally in the open, but I guarantee you that it is worth it. Once you arrive on the lake, the blue of its clear waters will enrapture you, as well as the wonderful vegetation and the hordes of seagulls that will always keep you company along the way.

If you wish, if you happen to be on a beautiful sunny day (and I suggest you do this excursion on a day with little cloud in order to enjoy the beauty of this place - click here for my advice on how to monitor the weather) you can also rest on the beach of the lake and sunbathe as if you were at the beach! Just remember that there is a ban on bathing! We didn't get halfway around the lake: at one point the landscape had become quite repetitive and not very exciting, so we preferred to go back.


The trail I am proposing you is the one we did and which I personally recorded on Wikiloc - click here to open the route - if you want to lengthen it as much as possible, just continue along the lake and go back when it is difficult to go on. Our route is a total of about 5km including a round trip which we did in just under two hours, also considering a few stops on the splendid pier or on the beach. As far as the level of difficulty, I would say medium, just because of the descent/ascent from the Miradouro and also some rather impervious passages in some points where the beach becomes a cliff. Here too, I give you the same advice that I gave you for the trek to Lagoa das Furnas: walk in the morning, and then go and recharge your batteries at the natural springs. In this case, after doing the route, stop at the nearby Caldeira Velha and you won't regret it!

Trekking a Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel - isole Azzorre

Lagoas Empadadas - Lagoa Rasa - Lagoa das Éguas

Lagoas Empadadas, Lagoa Rada and Lagoa das Éguas are all lakes that are located a short distance from each other, on the way to reach Sete Cidades. This area is stunning and definitely worth a stop to explore each of these bodies of water hidden in the greenery.

READ ALSO: São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary Unfortunately I didn't record the trail, but I can assure you that it is quite simple to follow and it's impossible to get lost: the paths are well marked with signs indicating the direction of each of the lakes, and you can also follo the others trekkers.

Lagoa das Eguas, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre
Lagoa das Eguas, São Miguel

Once you parked your car on the road, follow the sign for Lagoas Empadadas and you will find yourself in the middle of splendid lakes immersed in the greenery of spectacular forests. Then keep going through the beautiful forest with thick vegetation that will take you to Lagoa Rasa and then continue on the path to reach the Lagoa das Éguas which, although the climb to get there is quite demanding, is worth all the effort.

It is a small lake surrounded by a truly breathtaking walkable mountain ridge. The whole thing will take you 1 hour and a half, no more: the route is quite easy, nothing too demanding. If you want to lengthen it, you can walk through the crater of Lagoa das Éguas or walk towards Sete Cidades.


These are the hikes we did during our week in São Miguel, but the island is full of many other beautiful trails, as well as the other islets of the Azores archipelago. If you love walking, you will surely find many of them, just keep looking on Wikiloc. In general however, the altitudes are not excessive, so the walks are all suitable at a moderate-easy level. As for the equipment, I recommend:

  • a comfortable backpack, with straps that fasten at the waist and chest: I always feel great with the North Face Borealis Classic, it's perfect both for hiking and for walking normally;

  • good sneakers: I saw a lot of people wearing hiking boots, but they are quite bulky and the routes are all quite feasible, I managed well even with my usual running shoes. If I went back perhaps I would bring a pair of trekking shoes, like the Solomon X Ultra, to have more grip on the ground and less slipping.

  • if you haven't already done it, don't forget to download the Wikiloc app: it's very useful for searching for routes wherever you are and selecting the ones that best suit you.

I would say that this is everything from trekking in São Miguel.. but please, if you have already been there and have done other trails let me know, I definitely plan to go back! If you are planning to go to São Miguel, follow me on Wikiloc and then let me know what you did and how it went!

Have a good trip - Boa Viagem!

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