Paradise is what would best describe Caldeira Velha. Picture this: you are walking inside a lush jungle with exotic plants all around, the birds are singing and you hear some water flowing. Getting deeper inside the vegetation are perfectly-tempered waters inviting you for a swim.
The warm waters hidden inside the lush forest of Serra da Água de Pau, make the scenery look like Jurassic Park in real life. It displays a beautiful waterfall and several pools of thermal water with different temperatures.
In order to enjoy this relaxing experience, we will tell you everything you need to know about Caldeira Velha, a must-do on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.
What is the natural monument of Caldeira Velha
Nestled at about 628m above sea level, Caldeira Velha was classified as part of the biosphere reserve in 2008. It is of great importance for the fauna and flora from the laurissilva forest.
Caldeira Velha was created by the volcanic complex of Lagoa do Fogo.
Thanks to the present volcanic activity, the oldest waterfall of iron-rich water is about 25ºC, and the most recent one is heated with fumaroles and goes up to 35-38ºC.
What to do at Caldeira Velha
There are five different hot springs in São Miguel island: Terra Nostra, Poça da Dona Beija, Ferraria, Caldeira da Ribeira Grande and Caldeira Velha. Each one is unique, and Caldeira Velha is no exception. The main difference with the other one is the lush forest scenery and the hot waterfall, so instagrammable! Also, the interpretation center is very informative if you are curious about the volcanic islands of the Azores.
Relax in the hot springs
At Caldeira Velha, there are 4 pools with temperatures ranging between 25 and 38ºC depending on the pool. The main attraction is undoubtedly the waterfall at the end of the park, which creates an amazing scenery for photos. However, the pool for this waterfall is not as warm as the other ones. But it makes a perfect massage for your back to be under the cascade.
Simply enjoy the warm waters of Caldeira Velha. The pools are not too deep so you can stand or even sit. It is truly a romantic experience in heaven. Every hot spring is different from one another.
The thermal water is known for its therapeutic and medicinal characteristics. The brownish and orange shades that you can see in the water are caused naturally, because of the iron present in the springs. Take some residue of the iron that you can find on the walls for instance, and put it on your skin.
Visit the Environmental Interpretation Center
In the central building lays a permanent exhibition to learn more about Caldeira Velha. At the interpretation center, find out all about the formation of São Miguel island, the volcanic origins of the Azores, but also biodiversity, geodiversity, and much more.
In addition to providing an educational experience, you can also shop for souvenirs to bring back home.
Walk around the lush jungle
The whole park is about 13.16 hectares, so there is quite a lot to explore! There is actually an easy and short walk called Trilho da Nascente Termal. This 300m path is great to discover at the end the thermal spring where water comes out from the fractures of the trachytic rocky outcrops. The flowing water is about 32ºC, due to the geothermal reservoir of the Fogo Volcano.
Inside the park, you can see boiling water with signs to prevent from entering the water that is way too hot for a swim. Also, you can see some fumaroles just like in Furnas.
Moreover, take some time to have a look at the diverse exotic vegetation like tree ferns, acacias, bamboos, and many more tree species. If you are lucky, you might even see the smallest bird of Europe in Caldeira Velha: the goldcrest. Due to the great climate of Serra d’Água de Pau, this endemic subspecies of São Miguel island can be found at the hot springs.
Best season to visit Caldeira Velha
In order to fully enjoy the warm waters, we highly recommend visiting during fall, winter or spring. However, during summer it is also possible to go take a warming swim at Caldeira Velha, mostly when it rains as the cold rain mixed with the thermal waters feels really good.
Differences between seasons
In fact, Caldeira Velha is an amazing place to go all year round, but if you want to have this great feeling of pleasure when you enter the hot waters, then choose a day when temperatures are colder with the wind blowing or the rain pouring. During summer, Caldeira Velha is easily crowded and the line to get in gets bigger.
In the springtime, you can truly appreciate the lush vegetation of Caldeira Velha and spot some flowers around the park to bring some color to the scenery.
Winter is when hot springs are the most wanted among locals. However, there are not so many tourists at this time of the year so you can have the place less crowded. Fall is also a great season to visit the hot springs when the vegetation slowly turns more orange and brown.
Best time of the day
The best time of the day to visit Caldeira Velha is definitely the early morning. As soon as the hot springs open, you should go there to avoid having too many people around and wait a long time.
Also during the lunchtime in the early afternoon, it is quite empty as people are eating. In the late afternoon, it gets more crowded and it can be less enjoyable to have too many people in the pools.
Plan your visit to Caldeira Velha
We have got your back to know everything about Caldeira Velha before going. Keep reading for all the tips and details about the hot springs on the mountain.
How to get to Caldeira Velha
Caldeira Velha is located on the road EN5 2A, Estrada Regional Lagoa do Fogo, Ribeira Grande on São Miguel island in the Azores.
The easiest way to get to Caldeira Velha is by car as there is no public transportation.
You can also opt for a taxi, or for one of our amazing tours that let you discover the hot springs. Our friendly guides will take you there for a half-day or full-day tour exploring this beautiful part of the island and much more.
Pro Tips for a good time at Caldeira Velha
The first thing to know if you want to swim in the hot springs of Caldeira Velha, or any other hot springs on the island, is to not bring a white or clear color swimsuit. Indeed, the iron can stain them orange. Also, the hot water can make the fabric lose elasticity so it is better to take with you an old swimsuit, and not a brand new one or you could get disappointed.
Besides, take your rings, necklaces, and any other jewelry off before entering the hot waters. The iron can turn them into different colors. Last but not least, because iron is good for your skin doesn’t mean it is good for your hair. In fact, it can make them dryer, so avoid putting your hair in the water, especially dyed hair, as they can change color. There are showers, toilets and changing rooms inside the park as well as some benches for your comfort.
There is a time limit of 2 hours to be inside Caldeira Velha to avoid big crowds. Despite this restriction, it is enough time to explore it all and relax in the hot springs. Also, only 125 visitors are allowed to go in the park at a time, and 50 people in the thermal pools.
Recently they built a new and bigger parking lot so you have plenty of space to park the car. It is necessary to walk about 2 minutes to reach the entrance of the park. Caldeira Velha is accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Price and Opening Hours
Since 2018, residents of the Azores do not pay to enter Caldeira Velha.
Proof of residency will be asked at the entrance. Travelers need to pay 3 euros to access the site, or 8 euros if they want to swim in the hot springs.
Here is the complete price list for 2022:
Entrance with hot springs:
- Child 0-6 years old – free
- Junior 7-14 years old – 4 euros
- Adult 15-64 years old – 8 euros
- Senior 65+ years old – 4 euros
Only park and interpretation center entrance:
- Child 0-6 years old – free
- Junior 7-14 years old – 1.5 euros
- Adult 15-64 years old – 3 euros
- Senior 65+ years old – 1.5 euros
About the opening hours in 2022, Caldeira Velha is open everyday. But they can close when it rains a lot due to the water levels so it is better to contact them (see contact information below).
- November 1 to June 30 – 9:30am to 5:30pm
- July 1 to September 30 – 9am to 9pm
- October 1 to October 31 – 8am to 8pm
For more information, we recommend visiting the official website, or contact +351 296 704 669 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that it is now possible to book online. On this site, you can see the availability in real-time. This way, you don’t need to wait in line to enter and you make sure you can go at the time you want.
What to do after Caldeira Velha
Caldeira Velha is located within a beautiful area of São Miguel island, where there are plenty of things to see. So once you are relaxed by the warm waters, go explore this natural playground.
For instance, the unmissable Lagoa do Fogo is at the top of the mountain. You can simply observe it from several viewpoints, or if you feel more adventurous, hike down to the lake beach. It is quite a simple hike of about 30 minutes one way, but the descent and then ascent are pretty sharp.
Also on the same peak is Salto do Cabrito waterfall. It is worth going down and see this wonder of nature. Some people swim around in the fresh waters, while adrenaline lovers will go down with ropes while on a canyoning tour. There is also a hike if you take the stairs to walk along the river.
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Another idea is to go down to Santa Barbara black sand beach and enjoy the waves to surf on this famous spot. Or simply lay down and get some vitamins from the sun.
Useful Tools & Apps
Spotazores is your best bet in order to guarantee the best views around the islands, especially in altitude. It shows the views in real time so it is a great tool to see in order to check the weather right before heading somewhere.
Now you are ready to go to Caldeira Velha! Enjoy the warm waters in the lush jungle and explore the wonderful mountain. Reach out to us if you want a professional guide to take you there safely and share extensive knowledge about the island.
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