Around 1,600km off the coast of Portugal are the nine islands of the Azores. Here, rare ancient forests, secluded waterfalls, and dominating volcanic craters are best explored on foot. Writer Monica Meade discovers the wild and diverse nature of the archipelago with an unforgettable hike on each island.
I learned quickly that the Dez Vulcões (10 Volcanoes) hike is not for the faint of heart. At around 800 meters (2,600 feet) above sea level, the trail curves around the rim of a 400-meter (1,300-foot) deep Caldera that has a world all its own within—filled with marshland, flora and small lakes. Descending to the west of the Caldera, I pass a handful of small volcanic cones and move past a deep vent cave into a cedar forest teeming with hydrangeas. It looks like the setting of a legend.
Thick fog creeps up behind, so I leg it before the veil can spoil the views ahead of me. Reaching the quiet village of Capelo, I scurry past a creepy, hollow vent, known as the ‘bad cave’—or Cabeco Verde. The final stretch of the route delivers a striking contrast to the caldera as the grey and cream curves of a soft volcanic moonscape—which was formed after an eruption in 1957—come into view.
Trail: Ten Volcanoes – Faial PR06 FAI
Distance: 19.3 km / 12 miles
Time: 5 hours
Elevation gain: –841m / -2,760ft