Nestled inside a lush forest in the middle of São Miguel, Lagoa do Congro is not as famous as the other lakes on the island. Even though the access is harder, it is totally worth the trip!
Once you arrive at the lake, you are immersed in an all-green scenery, entering a real-life fairy tale. The peaceful silence and the pure nature gives Lagoa do Congro a unique beauty.
In this post, discover everything about Lagoa do Congro from its history to the best travel tips. We will see how to get to this wonderful place with great landscapes for photography enthusiasts.
What is Lagoa do Congro
The hidden gem of Lagoa do Congro is one of the most beautiful lakes on São Miguel island. Almost perfectly round and with a perimeter of 1.25 kilometers, the lake goes up to 16 meters deep.
Despite Lagoa do Congro not being on the typical tourist route, this special place provides a true connection with nature.
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The origin of Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro is located in the volcanic massif of Achada das Furnas, part of the Fogo and Furnas volcanoes. It actually is one of the most active seismic areas of the Azores.
The lake is in a crater of Maar type, which is a broad and low-relief volcanic crater resulting from a Phreatomagmatic eruption. This type of eruption means that the magma interacted with water, producing big explosions. It is believed that the lake was formed about 3.900 years ago.
Lagoa do Congro is quite different from the other lakes of São Miguel. Most of them are at the top of a volcanic cone, while Lagoa do Congro is in a relatively flat area, inside a hole and surrounded by a lot of vegetation.
The name comes from a tribute to the old owner of the lake, André Gonçalves Sampaio, also called ‘O Congro’. Congro – in English the European Conger – is a fish that lives in deep waters. When this former owner passed away, two more families owned the lake. They significantly changed the landscape, importing many exotic plants. This explains why most of the vegetation is not endemic.
Also note that the lakes of this area are get their water with torrential streams and three springs.
Fauna and flora of Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro is an area rich in biodiversity. About its flora, a lush forest surrounds the lake hiding the walls of the volcanic crater. Among the dense vegetation, you can mostly see Kahili ginger, Sweet pittosporum, Eucalyptus, Azalea, Cryptomeria, and hydrangeas blooming in the summertime. But you can also spot some plants from the Azores like the Chain fern, the Royal fern, the Lysimachia azorica, the Azores juniper and the Azores laurel.
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Thanks to this abundant vegetation, there is also a lot of wildlife near Lagoa do Congro. First, birds:
- São Miguel goldcrests,
- Common buzzards,
- Grey wagtails,
- and Azores wood pigeons.
Also in the water, you can see lots of fish jumping. The different species of fish present in Lagoa do Congro evolved through time. In 1890, carps were introduced in the lake. Then, in 1941, it was the turn of Rainbow trout. And in 1986, the presence of goldfish was registered. But today, two species live in Lagoa do Congro: the carp (Cyprinus sp.) and the perch (Perca fluviatilis).
What to do at Lagoa do Congro
The good thing about Lagoa do Congro is that there are not so many things to do at the lake. It is a great choice if you only have a couple of hours to spare in São Miguel. As it is in the central part of the island, it is practical to go to other places after visiting the lake.
Lagoa do Congro hike
Once you arrive at the parking lot, there is still a short but steep hike through the forest, in order to arrive at the lake shore. The path is about 700 meters long but totally worth the walk.
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The access is not so easy as it is in the middle of almost untouched nature, it can also be very muddy depending on the weather conditions. You will go down for about 15 minutes, and then it is the same way back up. There is only one trail. On the way, you will find some fallen trees but it is overall a clear trail. Count one hour in total for the hike down, enjoying the views on the lake, taking pictures and why not taking a swim, and then hiking up back to the car.
There are several other trails around the area but most of them are not clear and with harder access. You can also walk a bit around Lagoa do Congro’s shore but the trail doesn’t have good indications.
Go to the smaller Lagoa dos Nenúfares
DID YOU KNOW... Near Lagoa do Congro, there is a smaller, lesser-known lake called Lagoa dos Nenúfares (Water lilies lake).
The access is harder and you can easily get lost or stuck in the mud if you don’t know the area. We advise always following the main trail and not going alone.
It is a beautiful lake with water lilies, but the vegetation is quite wild so it looks more like a swamp. Most visitors of Lagoa do Congro will not even know that there is another lake close to it and very few people walk this path.
Best time to visit Lagoa do Congro
Short answer: Lagoa do Congro is a good place to visit at any time of the year and any time of the day. But let’s see the differences between the seasons and the hours.
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Best season of the year
Summer is the season when you have more chances of a sunny day, so if you don’t like the rain, this is your best bet to get better weather. Also, in June, hydrangeas start to bloom, adding shades of blue to the green landscapes.
However, during the summertime, the islands get filled with visitors. Parking lots get full and the touristic spots can be crowded. Luckily, Lagoa do Congro is not a typical tourist place. But even so, if you want the lake for yourself, you might want to come in the wintertime.
Our winter in the Azores is not like winter on the mainland. Temperatures are always positive and there is not a big temperature difference between the summer and wintertime.
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Best time of the day
If you are coming during the summertime, you might want to get there early in the morning, or in the late afternoon to enjoy the place with few people. Otherwise, you can also opt for staying longer at the lake and having a picnic there. It is such a great place to have a break and listen to the sounds of nature.
For photography lovers, the morning lights are very special at Lagoa do Congro. Golden hour is when the sun shines on the lake creating a unique atmosphere with the deep green landscape.
Plan your visit to Lagoa do Congro
Now let’s see how to get to Lagoa do Congro and the best tips from a local point of view to enjoy a great time at one of the most beautiful lakes of São Miguel island.
How to get to Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro is located in the county of Vila Franca do Campo, on the south of São Miguel island. It is only a few kilometers away from the city of Vila Franca. From this town, follow the road towards Furnas and the signs to Lagoa do Congro.
Then, you will find a dirt road on your left. You will drive for about 1 kilometer until the parking lot area, where you will stop before walking down to the lake. The starting point of the hike is indicated with a sign.
The trail down is about 700m long and it takes about 15 minutes to arrive at the lake through the enchanted forest.
The best way to go to Lagoa do Congro is by car, as there is no public transportation taking you there. You can also take a taxi from Ponta Delgada. Check here the GPS point for the entrance of the dirt road to Lagoa do Congro’s parking lot.
In order to preserve nature, please respect the marked trail and stay on the main path. This way, you won’t destroy the vegetation.
It is recommended to bring proper hiking shoes with a good grip because if it rained on the previous days before your visit, the path can be full of mud and very slippery.
Last but not least, as the lake is surrounded by lush vegetation, there is few light. So we recommend going before the night falls for your own safety on the trail back up.
What to do around Lagoa do Congro
Lagoa do Congro being located right in the middle of São Miguel island, there are many spots of interest around. Let’s see some of the best options to spend a great day on the Green island.
Relax on the beach of Ilhéu de Vila Franca
The islet of Vila Franca do Campo is probably the best beach you can go to on São Miguel island. It is an old submarine volcano with crystal-clear waters in its crater, where you can swim and snorkel. This wonder of nature is open only from June to October, for preservation purposes.
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See the views from Castelo Branco
Castelo Branco is a small white tower that nowadays serves as a great viewpoint over the south coast of São Miguel island with Ilhéu de Vila Franca and the Atlantic Ocean, but also over the valley of Furnas and its lake.
You can go inside the tower and climb onto the rooftop for an amazing view. It is a mandatory stop when you are going to the geothermal paradise of Furnas.
Enjoy Furnas’s hot springs
Your best option if the weather is not so hot, or if it is raining, is to go to Furnas – where two idyllic hot springs are located.
Terra Nostra Park is one of the most dreamy hot springs. Situated inside a botanical garden, it offers a giant orange pool and two other smaller ones surrounded by vegetation.
Poça da Dona Beija is great at night, to relax in the hot waters naturally provided by our active volcanic activity. Make sure to take a dark swimsuit because the orange waters can stain clear fabrics.
Useful Tools & Apps
In order to check the weather forecast for the next few days, use windy or windguru, they are the most accurate sites. However, here in the Azores, you will learn that the weather changes very quickly.
If you want to check the live weather, you can use spotazores. This site allows you to see the real-time weather in many locations around the islands. A good way to decide which way to go.
So, as you can see in this post, Lagoa do Congro is a detour that is worth it. Despite not being on the typical tourist to-do list in São Miguel island, the lake and its singular beauty is the perfect place for the ones looking for a different experience on the island, where few visitors go.
Because its access is more difficult than the other touristy places, the nature around Lagoa do Congro is well-preserved and even inaccessible for some secondary trails.
It is a quick escape from the city, providing a peaceful moment surrounded by beautiful nature. This is the ideal place to go for people with a stopover in Ponta Delgada.