Fire Lake, Lagoa de Fogo, on Sao Miguel, the Azores, Portugal

Fire Lake Hike

The Fire Lake Hike takes you up to a hidden gem in a caldera high up on São Miguel, surrounded by both lush forests and dry scrubland…

“When I die, I would like my ashes scattered here”, one of our guides, Andre, told us as we looked over the stunning volcanic landscape of Lagoa do Fogo, on our Fire Lake hike.

fire lake hike, azores, sao miguel
The walking path running alongside the water channel through the forest

Located in the centre of the island, it is one of the grandest attractions on São Miguel . Its expansive blue lake, 2 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide, fills the ground of an extinct crater. This caldera was formed during an eruption in 1563 and is surrounded by high mountains an lush vegetation.

The walk to the lake is particularly beautiful, and I will always remember it vividly. You begin on a muddy dirt track that eventually cuts deep into the forest, and continues alongside an irrigation channel filled with water and an occasional fish.

fire lake hike
High hills surrounding the valley leading to the Fire Lake

Creepers and grasses grow and flower along these water channels, their hanging branches dripping wet glistening dew onto the path. Trees on either side of the trail from a natural ceiling of leaves, flowers and fruit, giving the illusion that you’re walking through a magical corridor into something really special.

The path eventually opens up into a small valley. Here you’re pretty high up on the island, and it feels that way too. The lake is about 600 metres above sea level, while the crater rim is almost a kilometre up. You’ll notice a difference in the quality of the light and how the clouds are closer – up here, it feels like another world, one forgotten by time.

fire lake hike, azores, sao miguel
A secluded pond ensconced among hills

We felt completely secluded by the high boulders and hills that were scattered over the narrow valley. You couldn’t see far into the horizon, the valley snakes and curves almost at right angles around the rocky formations, it felt like there was something to discover at every bend. I found myself marvelling at how such a remote place could seem so cultivated – with its neat canals cutting through the landscape and perfectly painted white box houses.

fire lake hike, azores, sao miguel
Water channels run past the few neat white buildings that dot the valley

Eventually, the valley opened up and a path into the wild vegetation around the lake stretched out before us. The plants here are woodier and hardier than the ones before that grew around the water channels. With the strong, clear sunlight striking hard on the surface of the crater, these plants, with their twisted branches shimmered in the heat.

fire lake hike, azores, sao miguel
View of Lagoa do Fogo

Then, finally, the lake came into view. Its serene form stretched out before us, as cloud shadows flitted across its surface and the water glittered in the sunlight as the wind blew on its surface. For the most part, we were the only walkers there on this day and had the entire place to ourselves. It was deeply contemplative walking along the perimeter of the crater that surrounded the lake.

We took a path down to the shore of the lake, where we made this timelapse. It was the perfect excuse to simply do nothing but enjoy the silence and beauty that surrounded us. You can find out a bit more in our post “Breathtaking Nature – Fire Lake Timelapse“.

fire lake hike, azores, sao miguel
A view of the other side of the lake

I could well see why our guides loved Lagoa do Fogo – it is a magical place, quite unlike any other, even on São Miguel. I personally could have started camp and stayed here for both sunset and sunrise. I expect this was something that would have been worthwhile to do.