In the crater of a dormant volcano that formed about 15,000 years ago, Lagoa do Fogo offers high natural beauty with breathtaking landscapes to die for.
From the central part of São Miguel island was born the Serra da Água de Pau Volcanic Massif, where Lagoa do Fogo is nested. It is of great value in terms of landscapes and untouched, pure nature.
Located between Ribeira Grande and the city of Lagoa, this volcanic lake looks like a postcard from paradise.
The green of the volcanic walls filled with lush vegetation contrasts with the clear blue water of the lake, making it one of the most beautiful places in the Azores undoubtedly.
This is one of the main touristic highlights of São Miguel, but still has some secrets inside to be unveiled in this post. Follow this complete guide of all you need to know about Lagoa do Fogo.
What is Lagoa do Fogo
Literally translated as the ‘Lake of Fire’, Lagoa do Fogo is the second biggest lake in São Miguel being 3km long (2 miles) and 2.5km wide (1.5 miles). It is also the highest on the island with 949m of altitude (3.113 feet) for the highest point of the caldera and 575m high (1.886 feet) for the lake.
In total, the area of Lagoa do Fogo is 1.360 hectares and the lake goes as deep as 30 meters (98 feet).
The volcanic crater is the youngest on São Miguel island as it formed around 15,000 years ago. The current configuration is a result of the last collapse around 5,000 years ago and the last eruption in 1563.
With 2 green peninsulas making their way into the lake and wonderful pristine waters, Lagoa do Fogo officially turned into a nature reserve in 1974. It is also part of the Natura 2000 network as it was approved as a special area for conservation by the European Commission in 2001.
The green walls of the crater, reminding of Hawaii, reach heights of 300 meters (984 feet). Lagoa do Fogo is surrounded by luxuriant endemic flora and displays crystal clear waters, offering a singular beauty. Between the vegetation, you can find Azores Juniper, Laurel, Heather, and Frangula azorica.
Among the fauna, you can mostly see birds of all sizes. If you look up, you will find Azores wood pigeons, kites, buzzards, grey wagtails, but also seagulls and terns.
What to do at Lagoa do Fogo
From viewpoints up there to hikes down and around, Lagoa do Fogo offers many opportunities for visitors to spend a unique day surrounded by nature. Check out the various options below.
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Lagoa do Fogo Hiking trails
There are different hiking routes if you want to hike in Lagoa do Fogo, but we will develop the 2 main options:
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- The hike down the lake,
- and the hike from the South coast.
You can also walk around the crater for a bit, offering different views of the lake and you can even spot Ilhéu de Vila Franca and Santa Maria island if you pay close attention.
There is also a trail from Lagoa do Fogo to Lombadas, one of the most untouched parts of the island.
Descent to Lagoa do Fogo
This is the shorter and easier option, which takes about 20 minutes to go down to the lake shore from the viewpoint of Lagoa do Fogo. Please note that this is not an official trail, but many people use it every day, that is why the path is very clear. Also, try to walk on the path to not destroy the vegetation around.
On rainy days, there can be some mud on the trail so be careful and take good hiking shoes. Note that the trail is quite steep. You will begin to go down, which can be slippery, and up, which is a bit tiring.
If the water levels are low, it is easy to explore a bit more around the lake. You can even circle the whole lake if you don’t mind having wet feet and have plenty of time. You will see different beaches, views of the lakes, some caves and dense vegetation.
Lagoa do Fogo from Água d’Alto beach
The longer and more difficult way to get to the Lagoa do Fogo, but also the most beautiful for sure, is to begin at Água d’Alto beach, near Pestana Bahia hotel. From there, follow the marks indicating Quatro Fábricas da Luz. This relatively short trail displays old geothermal factory ruins that once used to provide energy to many locals. Also, you will pass by the beautiful waterfall Cascata do Segredo and a pond where you can go swimming.
An easier way is to begin at Praia, where the trail Quatro Fábricas da Luz ends. This way, you save about 1 hour of ascent, 2 hours for the round trip. From Praia, the circular trail that goes to Lagoa do Fogo and back to the starting point takes about 4 hours total.
The starting point of Praia is on a secondary road surrounded by farming lands. It takes about 30 minutes to drive from Ponta Delgada. The trail takes you to the other side of Lagoa do Fogo, not accessible by the road. It may be a long way and go up for a while, but it gives a beautiful view that not so many people will see. Also, there is a great diversity of landscapes from farmland to forest, including a view of Ilhéu de Vila Franca.
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Admire the view at Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint
Along the way up to Lagoa do Fogo’s viewpoints, there are different places to stop the car and observe the magnificence of nature from different angles. The viewpoints are the best way to have the most beautiful pictures of Lagoa do Fogo. The two main viewpoints are:
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- Miradouro da Barrosa: the first one when you come from Ponta Delgada. From there it is possible to see both the North and South coasts of São Miguel island and of course the lake.
- Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint: where the descent hike begins. From there you have a wider view of the lake.
As the first viewpoint is higher, it can be more cloudy than the other one.
Can I swim in the lake?
Short answer, no. This is a nature reserve and for preservation purposes, it is forbidden to swim in its tempting waters. Note that from the weather camera you can see the lake so it is possible that when you go back up, someone will be expecting you and you will receive a fine. Cameras, you can have a fine when you come back up.
DID YOU KNOW... That the beach of Lagoa do Fogo was elected one of Portugal's Seven Wonders in the category Wild Beaches, in 2012?
Even though swimming is not allowed, you can still go down to the pumice beach to work on your tan.
Best time to visit Lagoa do Fogo
From dawn to the last hours of the day, Lagoa do Fogo is always beautiful, even at night! Also from January to December, it is always possible to explore this part of the island. Let’s see together the best time to visit this wonder of nature.
Best season of the year
To be honest, the summertime is when you will have more chances of a clear view. However, it is also that time of the year when there are more travelers on the island so the spot can get crowded. July and August are the busiest months, but June and September still have decent, yet unpredictable weather conditions like the rest of the year.
In the wintertime, as Lagoa do Fogo is at altitude, it can get a bit cold and windy. There can even be hail on rare occasions. Also, there might be more clouds and the view of the lake will likely be blocked.
Best time of the day
If you are visiting during the summertime, then your best bet is to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to have a chance to be alone, or with few visitors. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing to watch from the top of Lagoa do Fogo.
Also, a very special time to go is at night. Why, you might think. Well as you are at altitude and there are no lights around, Lagoa do Fogo is a perfect spot for stargazing. You can even see the milky way! In the summertime don’t miss the shooting stars nights.
Plan your visit to Lagoa do Fogo
In this part we will see how to go to Lagoa do Fogo, and any other tips we can give you to fully enjoy this magical place in the Atlantic.
How to get to Lagoa do Fogo
Lagoa do Fogo is located in Pico da Barrosa, accessible by the EN5-2A road.
There is no public transportation going to Lagoa do Fogo, so the only ways to go are by car, taxi, or guided tour. At Futurismo, we have several experiences passing by Lagoa do Fogo, like hiking tours, van tours, or jeep tours. Our experienced guides know everything about this wonderful region of the island.
You can also opt for the hike from Aguá d’Alto to be closer to nature, but it is the hard option, and a longer one also.
Be careful when putting Lagoa do Fogo in your GPS, it can lead you to the south of the island and then you have to do the 2-hour hike when in reality it is just a short walk from the viewpoint to see the lake. Here is the right GPS link if you want to see Lagoa do Fogo from the viewpoint.
Also, going down to the lake shore is worth it. Don’t just stop at the viewpoint unless you really don’t have time. The hike down will provide you with wonderful views and it is a good exercise surrounded by beautiful nature.
What to do after Lagoa do Fogo
Now that you visited one of the most beautiful places on São Miguel island, what can you do in the same area? There are many options, some more physical and others more relaxing. You can choose between a great variety of landscapes.
This is a great option if you want to relax after a good day of exploring the island. The hot springs of Caldeira Velha are the ideal place if it is cold or windy. Its hot waterfall is famous across the islands and provides a great back massage. In the summertime, it is better to book in advance or go early because it can get crowded and there is a limit of entries.
Salto do Cabrito
A beautiful waterfall in the forest, that is Salto do Cabrito. From there, canyoners rappel down, jump, and swim in the clear waters. You can simply enjoy the view and nature around, or take your swimming suit for a refreshing moment. What could possibly be better in the summertime?
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Surf at Santa Barbara beach
Challenge the waves and take a surfing lesson in the most popular spot in the Azores: Santa Barbara beach in Ribeira Grande. This is the perfect place to play in the ocean and learn a new sport. You can also get tanned on the black sand beach and explore the old bunkers near the parking lot. There is a cafe to have a drink and delicious local snacks.
Janela do Inferno Hike
If you love hiking, there is another trail when going down from Lagoa do Fogo to Ponta Delgada called Janela do Inferno (Hell’s Window). Despite the cold name, it is a beautiful circular hike with a gorgeous waterfall at the end. You will pass by tunnels, farmlands, a forest, and pipes that used to transport water. It takes about 2h30 to complete the 7.6km hike.
Ribeira Grande, the surf capital, is a beautiful coastal city on the North coast of São Miguel island. It is also the second biggest city on the island after Ponta Delgada. Among its treasures, there are several churches to visit, beautiful squares where locals and tourists meet, a farmers’ market, the river, and an interesting museum about the Azorean emigration.
Useful Tools & Apps
The weather in the Azores is very special and unpredictable. Here we say that we have four seasons in a day. It can be very sunny, then suddenly pouring rain within a 5-minute time-lapse.
For a more accurate weather forecast, you can consult Windguru, which is what we use to see the weather and sea conditions for our activities. On the website, you can check the waves, the wind, temperatures, and much more.
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Lagoa do Fogo webcam
Spotazores is an official platform allowing you to see the live weather around the nine islands. It is very useful to make sure you get decent weather wherever you decide to go. It is particularly helpful for spots in altitude which are often covered in clouds. Make sure you get that view!
It is only worth going up to Lagoa do Fogo when the view is visible. But as you will notice once in the Azores, the weather changes quickly. So it can be cloudy in the morning and in the afternoon you will have a bright sun.
Sometimes, the camera of Pico da Barrosa can be offline due to maintenance. But if you see it all white, it is simply because there are too many clouds.
As you might have understood through this post, Lagoa do Fogo is an amazing place to spend a unique day in the Azores. You should definitely not miss this wonder of nature when on holiday on São Miguel island.
Join Futurismo on a guided tour for a complete experience of Lagoa do Fogo. By feet, van, or jeep, you decide your own adventure!