The Sete Cidades of Sao Miguel – The Azores

Blue and Green lakes of Sete CidadesRight off the bat here, this “Sete Cidades” and its crazy name leads to some confusion. If you start looking around on the internet for “sete cidades” you’ll find it described as a “a civil parish in the center of the municipality of Ponta Delgada”, whatever that means.

It turns out sete cidades refers to both the towns located inside of a massive volcanic crater on Sao Miguel, and also to the crater(s) it(them)self(ves) and the lakes that have formed inside of it/them.

See what I mean?

Even if you don’t speak Portuguese you might be able to tell from the name Sete Cidades that it has something to do “seven cities”. No, there aren’t seven towns inside of the crater, and I won’t bore you with too much of the story of how it got it’s name.

Let’s just say it goes as far back as the 8th century AD, which is actually about 700 years before the islands were even discovered. Something about a Spanish bishop fleeing the invading Moroccans for “distant Western lands” that most didn’t believe existed (which became also know as Atlantis – you may have heard of it?) and was never seen from again. Seven hundred years later, the islands were discovered by the Portuguese and they thought to themselves, “hey, maybe this is where that crazy Spaniard ended up?”, so the name stuck.

We took a tour bus over to the Sete Cidades and the crater lakes for a little lookey-loo. It was truly a spectacular view.

The crater lakes are often characterized by their colors – one is deep blue, the other a pale green. The green lake is simply much more shallow, so it picks up the color of the vegetation at the bottom, whereas the blue lake is deeper and reflects the color of the sky. They’re both volcanic craters, and they’re technically only one body of water, but since it’s made from two separate craters, their depths are different, and the colors are different, they’re often considered two separate lakes.

View of Sete Cidades on Sao Miguel, The Azores

Now that you’ve heard the story of how this area got its name, you should also hear how the lakes were formed.

The Story of the Sete Cidades Lovers

Hundreds of years ago in the kingdom of old, there was a beautiful young Princess living on the island. She became smitten with the wonders of the natural world, and would spend far more time wandering the mountains and tracing the rivers than attending matters of state.

One day while wandering, she came across a handsome young shepherd tending his flock. One look into the Princess’ deep blue eyes and he knew this strange woman, wandering the woods all alone, was the one for him. She would come and visit him on every one of her walks; they’d talk and talk into the late hours of the day, and soon they shared a deep and mutual affection.

The King, however, had other plans for his Princess. He had promised her to another – a Prince from a distant kingdom and heir to the throne. He knew he would have to put an end to the romance between his daughter and the shepherd. He forbade them from ever seeing each other again, but love is stronger than law.

You can really see the green of the lake in this pic

The Princess snuck away to meet with the shepherd one last time, knowing she would never be with her true love. Her heart broke in half and she cried and cried, until her tears filled up the crater, and it was the same shade as her beautiful eyes. As for the shepherd, he took one look at the sobbing Princess; not being able to bear seeing his love in such pain, his heart broke as well. He too began to cry – though this was the old days and guys tried hard to not cry as much back then – and his tears filled the shallow crater, making the green lake.

Though the lovers were always apart after that fateful night, the two lakes are connected and will remain together for the rest of time.

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