Sete Cidades is a parish in Sao Miguel. In this area, you will find many of Sao Miguel’s most notable attractions. Perhaps the most famous is Vista Do Rei – the classic Azores view of two lakes – the Lagoa Sete Cidades. The lakes visible from the viewpoint are different colors (green and blue) and are connected by a thin strait. You can observe them from the easy to access Miradouro da Vista Do Rei. Alternatively, you can hike down to the lakes on the full day Mata Do Canario trail. Other things to do in Sete Cidades include a visit to the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel or the pretty Sete Cidades village. In addition, the famous (and notoriously difficult to access) Miradouro da Boca do Inferno is also located in Sete Cidades.
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The Lagoa das Sete Cidades – the Geology
Why do the two lakes appear so different? Legend says a princess and a shepherd cried the lakes into existence. In love, but unable to share a life, the two lovers cried endlessly until their tears formed two lakes. The green lake created by the tears from Princess’s green eyes, and the blue for the Shepherds blue eyes. Like the lovers, the lakes are forever next to each other, but never together.
Romantic as the story is, there is another, more scientific explanation for the phenomenon. The two small, ecologically different lakes are both situated in the caldera of an ancient volcano. The two lakes are actually the same body of water because they are connected by a thin strait. So why do they look different? Simple. Different depth means the reflections of the sun produce different colors. The green lake is shallower and produces a lighter color – green. On the other hand, the blue lake is deeper and produces a darker hue – blue. The difference is most pronounced on a clear, sunny day.
Vista Do Rei – The Views at Sete Cidades
Conveniently situated just steps from Monte Palace Hotel, Vista Do Rei is perhaps the easiest Sao Miguel attraction to access. Generally speaking, it is an ideal viewpoint for those with limited mobility. You can drive right up to Vista do Rei.
However, parking can be hard to find. My best travel tip for visiting Vista Do Rei is to show up early. When I came here the first time, around 9 am, I had no trouble finding a spot to park. By the time I left around 11.30, I found it hard to even drive away. Having run out of parking, people dumped their vehicles on the side of the narrow mountain road.
Another issue is that sometimes Vista Do Rei can get cloudy – although less often than Miradour Do Boca Inferno. The first time I got here, the views were beautiful. The next time – cloudy. Check the cameras before you head out.
Mata Do Canario Trail – The Hike
If observing the lakes from above is not enough for you, consider doing the day-long Mata Do Canario Trail. This hike will take you to the bottom of the Sete Cidades lakes and offers spectacular views along the way. This relatively easy trail is well marked and easy to access.
First, start near the Parkplatz parking lot (download my map for the location). Next, ascent a few hundred meters. After the short ascent, the hike evens out and stretches a flat (ish) nine kilometers. It is on this flat portion of the hike that you will see the best views. Before you, lakes extend on one side and the ocean on the other. And finally, at the end of the trail, you’ll face a steep descent on gravel. Your journey ends in the pretty village of Sete Cidadas.
On the other hand, you can do most of this trail in a four-wheel vehicle and some tours do go here. You can hike this trail in almost any weather, although of course the clearer it is, the better the views.
Explore the lovely village of Sete Cidadas
The sleepy village of Sete Cidadas looks like something right out of a storybook. Perhaps the most famous feature in town is the central church. Situated at the end of a tree-lined path, this classical Azores black and the white church is rarely busy.
In fact, even when large crowds are visiting the Vista Do Rei, Sete Cidadas is almost empty. Off the beaten path, the only people who seem to visit are the Mata Do Canario hikers. However, the village is easy to access by car. Stop here after viewing Vista Do Rei or on your way to Ponta Da Ferraria.
Miradouro Da Boca Do Inferno
In addition to Vista Do Rei, another famous viewpoint called Miradouro Da Boca Do Inferno is located in Sete Cidadas. This viewpoint is both beautiful and notorious. Even when the rest of the area is clear and sunny, Boca Do Inferno can be covered in thick clouds. Before you go to Miradouro Da Boca Do Inferno, be sure to check the cameras. On a clear day, the views from here are stunning – and many think they are even better than the views from Vista Do Rei.
Hotel Monte Palace – Sete Cidadas
Another notable attraction is located just next to Vista Do Rei – the abandoned Hotel Monte Palace. If you are into urban exploring, this hotel is definitely a must-visit. However, the hotel was recently purchased by a developer group and may soon be remodeled. Visit while it’s still unique and wild. Check out my complete Hotel Monte Palace article for lots more information.