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Vista do Rei, Sete Cidades: iconic viewpoint in the Azores

Blog » Travel » Vista do Rei, Sete Cidades: iconic viewpoint in the Azores

Vista do Rei is a famous viewpoint on the west coast of São Miguel island in the Azores. It belongs to the town of Sete Cidades, Ponta Delgada county. It is popular due to the clear view it offers over the crater of Sete Cidades with its two-colored lake. The landscape visible from this viewpoint was actually elected one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal.

The viewpoint of Vista do Rei at 544m above sea level is a mandatory stop that you should visit during your holidays in the Azores. Vista do Rei is a great spot to have an overview of the singular natural beauty of our islands. It definitely is one of the highlights of São Miguel and most travelers have it on their must-see list.

If you are coming to the Azores from America or if you are traveling from São Miguel to the other central or western islands, you will probably see Sete Cidades and Vista do Rei from the plane. In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about Vista do Rei. From the best time to visit it to how to go there, here we go!

What is Vista do Rei

Vista do Rei is probably one of the most famous places in the Azores. You can see it in most of the postcards in souvenir shops. But also on many images while searching for ‘Azores’ on a search engine. It is a popular viewpoint that leaves both travelers and locals speechless. Nearby are two parking lots and a toilet for your comfort.

The name Vista do Rei literally translated means the King’s view. It comes from the fact that the king of Portugal visited this place in the summer of 1901. Indeed, it was King Dom Carlos I at that time, and his queen Dona Amélia, who went to Sete Cidades on July 6 during their royal visit to São Miguel.

Vista do Rei viewpoint in Sete Cidades, São Miguel island
David Rodrigues | Vista do Rei viewpoint in Sete Cidades, São Miguel island

What to see from the Vista do Rei viewpoint

From Vista do Rei, the view is simply breathtaking. There are many things to observe, from the beautiful two-colored lake to the coast of São Miguel island, from the quiet village down the crater to an imposing abandoned hotel.

At the viewpoint, there is an indication sign with a beautiful drawing of the landscape. On it, you can see all the indicated lakes around and other points of interest inside Sete Cidades volcanic complex like the peninsula or the viewpoint of Boca do Inferno.

The beautiful peninsula of Ponta dos Carneiros in Sete Cidades
Álvaro Palácios | The beautiful peninsula of Ponta dos Carneiros in Sete Cidades

Blue and Green Lakes

The first thing you see from Vista do Rei are the beautiful lakes. The blue and the green lakes at the bottom of the caldera of an ancient volcano are in fact only one lake. Even though they look separated by a bridge, the water joins both ways.

On a sunny day, you can truly see the color difference between the two. There are two explanations for this contrast: a scientific one and a legendary one.

Let’s start with the scientific side of the story. Basically, the color difference is due to the variability of the depth. The green lake is shallower and the blue lake deeper so the sun’s reflection makes them look different. Also, the presence of algae makes the green lake even greener.

On the other hand, there’s a love story behind the facts.

Once upon a time, a blue-eyed princess fell in love with a green-eyed peasant.

Watching the blue and green lake from Vista do Rei viewpoint
Álvaro Palácios | Watching the blue and green lake from Vista do Rei viewpoint

The Picturesque Village

On the right shore of the blue lake and inside the lands of the volcanic crater is located the picturesque village of Sete Cidades. It is a small village of about 800 inhabitants and belongs to Ponta Delgada county. On the left side of the lakes, you can see the peninsula. Inside the little forest, there is a path going along the blue lake up to a quiet picnic area.

Inside the village, there is everything you need, from restaurants to a mini-market, a beautiful church to explore, and even a campsite as well as local accommodations.

Our activity center on the shore of the blue lake is great if you want to experience Sete Cidades from a different perspective. We have bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to rent. Our friendly guide will give you all the tips to enjoy this wonderful area in the best way. You can access the village from Vista do Rei on foot or by car.

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Kayaking in Sete Cidades lake is a fun adventure to explore this area from a different perspective
Álvaro Palácios | Kayaking in Sete Cidades lake is a fun adventure to explore this area from a different perspective

Volcano crater extension and Cumeeiras

The huge Sete Cidades volcanic complex contains many lakes and small peaks. From Vista do Rei, enjoy the views of the immense green walls that are the crater walls covered in lush vegetation. Behind these walls, you can see the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. There is a long trail going all around the top of the crater called Cumeeira Grande allowing great views over Sete Cidades.

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If you go a bit before the parking lot at Vista do Rei, around the toilet building, you can also have a view over the infinite ocean as far as the eye can see.

Sete Cidades huge volcanic crater almost complete in a picture
Enrico Pescantini | Sete Cidades huge volcanic crater almost complete in a picture

Hotel Monte Palace

When looking at the lakes from Vista do Rei viewpoint, behind you is a large building impossible to ignore. This is Monte Palace, the abandoned hotel. The 5-star hotel opened only for a year, from April 1989 to the end of 1990. It closed and was being supervised until 2011 but due to the lack of funds, it was abandoned and vandalism began.

Now all that is left is the floor, the walls, and the roof. People like to go inside for a great urbex (urban exploration), however, it is forbidden to enter because of the dangers of the ruin that can fall down.

In total there were 88 suites, a bar, some shops, a bank, and even a nightclub!

Also, 2 restaurants called Grill Dona Amélia and Restaurante Dom Carlos in honor of the King and Queen of Portugal who visited Sete Cidades in 1901.

Monte Palace was for sale for 1.5 million euros with a total of 2.400 m2 of implantation area and in 2017 a Chinese investor bought it. The hotel should have reopened in 2021, but the reconstruction hasn’t started yet.

The big abandoned Monte Palace hotel in the Azores
David Rodrigues | The big abandoned Monte Palace hotel in the Azores

Best season to visit Vista do Rei

It is hard to choose a particular season as each one of them has its single beauty. But for more chances of a clear view, summertime might be your best bet to visit Vista do Rei viewpoint.

Differences between seasons

In the summertime, from June to August, the blooming hortensias are a must-see in Sete Cidades. The flowers of many colors are a symbol here on São Miguel island and Sete Cidades is one of the best places to see huge walls of hortensias. There is a famous road to go down the village with thousands of hortensias on the sides. From Vista do Rei you can see many of those wonderful flowers.

When fall comes, the colors of the vegetation change. Trees get more orange and brown for a whole different atmosphere.

Sunset is a great time to take pictures to match those soft colors of the season.

While in spring many flowers begin to blossom, giving the landscape bright colors. The grass starts to get greener and you truly see why São Miguel is known as the green island.

During winter there is no snow on São Miguel island, but it can get very chilly and windy in altitude. Sometimes we also have hail although it is rare. Fortunately in the Azores, the temperature is always positive although weather conditions can get wild.

The famous hortensias road in Sete Cidades, São Miguel island
David Rodrigues | The famous hortensias road in Sete Cidades, São Miguel island

Best time of the day to visit the Vista do Rei viewpoint

Early in the morning is a very special moment to go to Vista do Rei. There is a beautiful natural phenomenon when the crater and village of Sete Cidades are filled with low clouds. A perfect moment to observe and take poetic pictures.

In the summertime, it is best to get there early for parking space. Later in the day, people park in the street and traffic can get more complicated. Plus, if you get there early it leaves you more time to explore this beautiful region of the island.

The sunset is also a great time to visit the Vista do Rei viewpoint as the sun will set on the ocean, on the left side of the lakes. The sky will be filled with a thousand colors and the village will slowly be plunged into darkness.

Vista do Rei in the morning with Monte Palace hotel and Sete Cidades crater filled with clouds
David Rodrigues | Vista do Rei in the morning with Monte Palace hotel and Sete Cidades crater filled with clouds

Plan your visit to Vista do Rei

In the Azores, we say that we have the 4 seasons of the year in only one day. And we can confirm this saying is 100% true. Be prepared for any kind of weather, bring several layers of clothes and a waterproof jacket.

Also, because of the altitude, sometimes it is not possible to see the lakes from Vista do Rei viewpoint. Fortunately, we have cameras around the island to check the weather. Consider checking them before leaving for a place in altitude.

The magnificent Vista do Rei viewpoint with high clouds
Álvaro Palácios | The magnificent Vista do Rei viewpoint with high clouds

How to get to Vista do Rei

Vista do Rei is probably one of the easiest attractions to access on São Miguel island. It is perfect for people with limited mobility as you don’t need to hike or walk for a long time.

From Ponta Delgada, you can go to Sete Cidades by bus, by car, by bike, by quad or you can go on a guided tour in order to explore like a local.

If you go on your own, there are two different parking lots when you arrive up the hill at the viewpoint. The first one right in front of the abandoned hotel is a short-duration parking lot. You can stay for a maximum of 20 minutes. The second one a bit further past the hotel at the intersection to go to the village is a long-duration parking lot if you want to spend more time exploring.

The road to Vista do Rei viewpoint with the entrance to the short-duration parking lot
David Rodrigues | The road to Vista do Rei viewpoint with the entrance to the short-duration parking lot

Explore the PR3SMI Vista do Rei Hiking Trail

If you wish to fully experience Vista do Rei and discover more, there is a linear trail going down from the viewpoint to the village passing by beautiful natural features and great landscapes. You will pass by the lakeshore where you can find our activity center offering several adventures. The end is in the center of the village, in front of the famous church.

It is a relatively easy 7.7km trail going downwards for 2 hours. However, some parts can be slippery especially when it has been raining on the days before. Another viewpoint nearby can be visited for a small detour. It is called Lomba do Vasco and offers a view over the west coast with Mosteiros and its famous volcanic islets.

The beautiful entrance of São Nicolau's church in Sete Cidades village
David Rodrigues | The beautiful entrance of São Nicolau’s church in Sete Cidades village

At the end of the visit…

When you had enough time to enjoy the view from Vista do Rei, take a chance to go down to Sete Cidades village. Some highlights of the village are definitely a visit to the church or a walk around the lakes. A really nice thing to do during summertime is to rent a kayak and paddle on the green and blue lakes, passing under the bridge.

There is also a trail going all around the green lake. But it is not in great condition and is not recommended if you are afraid of heights. Many other lakes are great to explore inside Sete Cidades volcanic complex. For instance, Lagoa de Santiago on the road down the village. Also, Lagoa do Canario and the iconic viewpoint Boca do Inferno.

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To complete a perfect day, go take a swim in the natural hot springs of Ferraria. Watching the sunset at Mosteiros is also a great idea.

View from Boca do Inferno in Sete Cidades, another iconic viewpoint
Álvaro Palácios | View from Boca do Inferno in Sete Cidades, another iconic viewpoint

Useful Tools & Apps

Because of the altitude, Vista do Rei can be cloudy. The view could not be as great as in the pictures. In order to limit those risks, Spotazores is a great tool to see the weather right before heading there.

If you want to see a weather forecast beforehand, you can check windguru. However, keep in mind that weather forecasts can be wrong. It is hard to predict the weather many days before in the Azores.

As some trails and small paths don’t appear on the famous map apps. There is an application that is very useful in the Azores: maps.me. There, you can see many walking paths and discover secret spots!

Part of the trail Cumeeira Grande going all around the big caldera
Fernando Resendes | Part of the trail Cumeeira Grande going all around the big caldera

Conclusion

We hope that you found all the information you were looking for about Vista do Rei viewpoint in this complete article. It is a magical place that should be visited by all travelers passing by São Miguel island without any doubt.

Near Vista do Rei, there are so many things to see! Discover our article about Ponta da Ferraria, an outstanding hot spring in the middle of the Atlantic ocean that is close to Sete Cidades.

Sete Cidades village as seen from Vista do Rei viewpoint
David Rodrigues | Sete Cidades village as seen from Vista do Rei viewpoint

Video

Amazing aerial images from the Vista do Rei viewpoint and the Sete Cidades volcanic complex

References

Marta Gonçalves Miranda – São Miguel: o antes e depois deste incrível hotel abandonado

Idealista News – Açores: antigo hotel Monte Palace reabre em 2021

Map

Melissa Masvaleix

Nature lover and adventure seeker, Mélissa is a French girl who landed in the Azores 3 years ago and never let go of this paradise in the Atlantic. She particularly enjoys the tranquility of the islands contrasting with the infinite outdoor experience possibilities.

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