The Huffington Post says the hike to Lagoa do Fogo should be on every hiker’s bucket list, and we couldn’t agree more. This is not an optional extra. The hike in and out of Lagoa do Fogo is absolutely spectacular and will most likely be the piece d’resistance of your Sao Miguel itinerary. There are a couple of shorter options to reach the edge of the lake, but you are short changing yourself if you don’t take the extended version, which is approximately an 11 kilometre journey showcasing what a natural phenomenon Sao Miguel is.
For this hike, we recommend activewear and at the very least, trainers with grip. Feel free to wear proper hiking boots if you need the support, but they aren’t necessary. Due to the rainfall in the Azores, the track is prone to getting a little muddy, so perhaps consider taking an older pair of shoes. It goes without saying you need plenty of food and water as well.
To make sure you waste no time mucking about, we’ve made this one easy for you, with step-by-step directions and trail notes.
How to Get to the Trailhead
As always, this is the hard part! If you haven’t already, download the App, WalkMe Azores. You can also find the website version of the App here. Go to All Trails. You’ll see the Praia – Lagoa do Fogo (PRC2SMI) Trail. This is the bad boy you’re looking for. Jump into the map of the trail while you have wi-fi and ensure it’s downloaded so you can access it offline. By doing this, if at any point when walking you go off-track, you’ll be able to see it.
Next up, jump into ‘More’, where you’ll be able to see where the hike begins and ends. From here, you can download the co-ordinates in Google Maps while you have wi-fi, then jump into the car and head there. You should also have the App HERE WeGo downloaded and the Portugal map downloaded so you can access it when offline. Unfortunately the road, R. Caminho da Ribeira da Praia, cannot be located in Google Maps or using HERE WeGo, so you need to have a reasonable idea of where you’re heading before you set out. which is clearly marked with a sign for the trail and an area for parked cars. We’ve mapped the route from Ponta Delgada in Google Maps for you here.
We found using the co-ordinates available in the WalkMe Azores App were most helpful in getting us to the hike’s starting point.
Lagoa do Fogo: At the Starting Point
Check out the trail signage (we always take a quick pic). One very important thing to note: there’s a mistake in the first couple of lines in the English translation – the sign tells you to turn left at the water tank (which you reach within the first five – ten minutes). You actually need to turn right! After this slight confusion, the track is quite well signed with red and yellow markers – two straight lines showing the correct way and a cross marking the incorrect way.
The first couple of kilometres or so are quite steep, but you’ll be surprised how distracting the scenery is.
Regardless, the trail flattens out completely in the second half of the walk into the lake. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of water We’d also recommend getting in and starting this hike early to avoid hitting the hills in the hot part of the day. More on this later!
You’ll soon reach a water channel under canopy of a thick forest. Enjoy the coolness and watch your step – the ground’s a little muddier and more slippery here.
After this, your perspective of exactly where you are in relation to the climb becomes much clearer – it’s obvious you’re nearing the lake. The wide, comfortable walking path appears to be carved through what was once the crater wall of an extinct volcano.
All of a sudden, Lagoa do Fogo is in front of you, with a small pebbly beach that sadly is not quite ideal for swimming. To both your left and right you will see tracks that allow you to explore more of the lake’s shore. The closest beach is to your left (Billy the drone went and checked it out for us), or if you feel like being social and it’s a warm day bring your togs, towels and lunch and walk around to the beach directly opposite where this hike deposits you. Quite a few people head to this beach from various viewpoints above the lake throughout the day so you won’t be short of company. Just keep in mind at some point you have to walk back to the starting point, so don’t leave it too late (or have too many beers in the sun).
And that’s it! Once you’re on the track, it’s beautifully maintained and so long as you keep an eye out, very well signed.
Hiking to Lagoa do Fogo: INSIDER TIPS
Start early, especially if you don’t like sharing – 8.00 am was great for us! By the time we started to head home around 10.30 am, there were certainly a few people staring to come through and the further we got to the end, the more and more people we encountered. Whilst it was by no means busy or overcrowded, there’s nothing better when on a hike than feeling like it’s just you and nature, and no-one else. Plus the hard part will be over before the heat and humidity of midday in the Azores – tick!
As always, carry water and food – none is available along the way. This is the kind of hike you want to take at an enjoyable pace. In addition, Lagoa do Fogo is so stunning you’ll also want to spend some time taking it all in. You’ll feel cheated if you don’t bring enough water and/or food and you have to head home for this reason. Personally, we’d recommend you schedule in a picnic so you can relax and take it easy.
Hiking-wise, this is quite an easy trail. Nil climbing or scrambling is involved. However, you will require fairly good fitness due to the long steep hills at the beginning and proper running/hiking shoes with some grip.
This hike is approximately three – four hours at a leisurely pace, but could stretch out all day if you’d rather!
Pssst! Want to see find out more about Sao Miguel? Check out our three-day travel diary.