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Sete Cidades 4x4 and cycling tour

The dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Azores are perhaps their most well-known feature, and for many, Sete Cidades on São Miguel is the jewel in their crown. This massive caldera is filled by blue and green lakes, cradled by dense forest and laced with walking and cycling trails. This half-day tour explores the region by 4x4 and bike. You’ll get down to the lake shore and up onto the crater rim for sweeping views of the landscape and a chance to learn about local legends as well as the caldera’s geological and cultural importance.

Your private guide will pick you up from your hotel in Ponta Delgada at the start of your tour and take you by 4x4 to Sete Cidades, a journey of about 40 minutes. Driving through the island’s interior you’ll pass cattle grazing on rich pastures, scenic lookouts and the remains of a 16th-century aqueduct which once carried water from Sete Cidades to Ponta Delgada.

As you approach Sete Cidades, you’ll get a view of the twin lakes that fill that enormous caldera here. The lakes are actually one body of water: the Blue Lake is deeper and reflects the sky, while the Green Lake is shallower and reflects the surrounding vegetation. As your guide will explain however, local legend suggests otherwise, with tales of forbidden love between a princess and a shepherd, whose tears filled the adjoining lakes.

Like many places in the Azores, there are several stories as to how the Sete Cidades (Seven Cities) area got its name. One of the most popular suggests this was the location for seven elusive island cities that vanished and reappeared before sailors’ eyes, perhaps a result of the thick fog that is very characteristic of the area.

Depending on the weather conditions on the day of your tour, the order of your visit may vary, but will include driving and cycling experiences. Once you arrive at the lakes, you’ll hop on a mountain bike to explore the area around the bottom of the crater. Staying on relatively flat terrain, you’ll follow a quick circular route around the lakes for about half an hour with your guide telling you about local plants and wildlife, as well as explaining how volcanic activity has shaped the landscape.

Then, by 4x4, you’ll make your way through the forest up to the top of the crater rim to get a view from above, where the sheer scale and size of the caldera becomes apparent. Your guide will point out areas of particular interest and you’ll have some time to take photographs before returning by 4x4 to your hotel in Ponta Delgada.

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