We arrive at Vista do Rei, a lookout high up on the rim of the Sete Cidades crater overlooking the tiny parish and one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal. The view is absolutely breathtaking.
The area of Sete Cidades is an extinct volcano that sits around 575 metres above sea level. It was named ‘seven cities’ due to the seven peaks surrounding the lakes. In the middle of the crater sits the twin-lake, Lagoa das Sete Cidades. The twin lake is made up of two lakes separated by a man-made bridge. The smaller of the two lakes appears vivid green in colour, giving it the name Lagoa Verde (Green Lake). The larger lake is deep blue, giving it the name Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake).
Legend has it that in the Kingdom of Sete Cidades lived a king and his daughter. The green-eyed princess was an only child and the king was very protective of her. She was never allowed to leave the castle or to speak to anyone other than her father and her nanny. The princess would sneak out of the castle and on one occasion she heard the sound of beautiful flute music. She followed the music and met a young, blue-eyed shepherd. The two fell in love and the shepherd asked the king for his daughters’ hand in marriage. The king forbade his daughter from seeing the shepherd again. The star-crossed lovers embraced and wept as they bade farewell on their final encounter. The two lakes were formed from their tears with the water coloured by their eyes.
The real reason for this natural phenomenon is somewhat less romantic. Lagoa Azul is around 33 metres deep and reflects the colour of the sky, giving it the deep blue colour. Lagoa Verde is comparatively shallow at around 19 metres deep and it reflects the colour of the algae on its bed and the greenery that surrounds it, giving it a rich green colour.
Behind us is Miradouro Candelária, overlooking the parish of Candelária which extends from the crater of Sete Cidades to the seaside. It is covered in a majestic, green mantle interrupted only by caves, orchards and houses.
We travel from Vista du Rei to another lookout a little further down, where find ourselves overlooking the bridge that separates the lakes. The view is every bit as spectacular and from here we have a clear view of the parish.
We drive down towards the lakes and cross the bridge to reach the parish of Sete Cidades. This area became a civil parish on the 18th of February 1971, making it the 20th parish in the municipality of Ponta Delgada.
We stop near Igreja de São Nicolau, a Neo-Gothic church that sits at the end of a tree-lined avenue. The church was built in 1857 under the order of Nicolau Maria Raposo Amaral and became the seat of the parish in the 20th century. Inside it is modest and quaint and outside sits a fountain decorated with seven triangular sculptures, representing the seven peaks.
From the church we wander through the parish, towards Lagoa Azul. An old woman shuffles past us wearing oversized wellington boots and carrying a pail of milk. The streets are lined with little cottages and we marvel at the view that these villagers wake up to every morning.