Sao Miguel - The Craters
As you probably know the Azores are formed by volcanic activity. It gives the island its dramatic landscape with gentle slopes, steep cliffs, typical almost symetrical lakes, micro climate and stunning views. The best way to experience the crater landscape form my point of view is to hike in, over and aroind them. On Sao Miguel you can do right that in three different hikes, on three different days, the easy way, the long way and the hard way.
The easy way
The easiest way to endure the beauty of a crater is to walk round its inner base. Most craters on Sao Miquel have a lake (it is the greenest island and that is not because it never rains) and the furnas lake is just the right size. A nice pathway goes around the lake enabeling you to make good progress. As the walls of the creater are steep and high you get dramatic views where the clouds just tip over the ridge. I didn't test the water for its temperature but the boiling mud indicates that not all heat is coming from the sun.
The Long Way
The long way is not just a matter of going in the wrong direction or take the route public transport normally does. The long way is following the crater rim all around. On Sao Miguel this can be best done at the Site Cidades crater. Starting at Visto do Rei, with a stunning view inside the crater which is big enough to hold two lakes, some other craters and a small village, you simply follow the edge of the crater. On one side steep cliffs, on the other side the gently slope ending in the fast atlantic ocean.
The Hard Way
The hard way is just pure torture. You start at sea-level (ok, admitting I did start at 75 meter) and then climb up the crater out-side wall, reach it highest point at 581 meter and then descent to the lake inside the crater. The walk to Lagoa do Fogo is just that. I did choose a hot and sunny day so the levada came as a bonus. Dipping in the cap to cool the head was very welcome. Sitting at the lake side inside the crater it is great to see the clouds just tumbling over the top of the rim, start falling down but then evaporate in the process. Very relaxing and guaranteed with an empty mind you retrace your steps. It is worth it.