The hike: wonderful and fascinating hike which is only around 6 kms long with an altitude change of only 100 meters, but heavens, those meters!
We started at Gruta do Natal. From here the hike starts very easily. If there was rain the days before, you should really consider to wear waterproof boots (I don’t say that frequently :)), the entire area is very wet and you won’t be able to not walk through puddles or mud on your way. Gradually the hike gets more complicated and shortly next to the misterios negros you will definitely use both of your hands and be happy about the good shoes, a pole and packing light.
You will be gratified with stunning views over silent lakes, dense and mystic underbrush and a real rainforest atmosphere. About 1,5 km before returning to Gruta do natal you’ll have a wonderful view over the hilly landscape and the misterios negros.
The Misterios Negros are streams of cold lava. People in former times weren’t able to explain what it is and so they called them Mistérios Negros – black mysteries.
If you want you can additionally climb Pico Gaspar (ca. 50m of elevation). Gruta do natal is not open on sundays and opens at 14:30 all the other days. If you are by car, go for the near fumaroles afterwards.
Pico, the island, has the same name as its mountain. With 2531m, Pico Mountain is the highest mountain in Portugal and one of the biggest European volcanoes. The last eruption has been in 1720. One of the former eruptions created another tiny mountain inside of the caldera (I’m quite sure that geologists would chose different words for this outcome :-), which gives Pico its characteristic appearance. It looks like the mountain would wear a too small party hat. Despite this funny exterior, Pico has a diginfied and wise aura.
This trail was clearly one of our hiking highlights on the Azores. It follows an old water channel (Levada) through dense jungle-like forests and grasslands. As there was a hurricane just some weeks earlier, we had to climb over fallen trees a lot and there was even a bridge which was hit by a tree. On time we had to pass trough a tunnel.
As we have parked our car at the beginning of the trail we had to take a taxi to bring us back to our initial point. I guess it would have been much more exhausting if we hadn’t found one because the climb to the start was rather steep.
Capelinhos on Faial Islands was the latest volcanic eruption of the Azores. It happened in the 1950s over a couple of month. First an undersea volcano erupted and build up a landmass some meters in front of the island. Later, the gap between the new landmass and the island was closed by further eruptions. At the beginning the inhabitants of the island didn’t notice much of it but when the wind turned, and the ashes were spread all over the island, ignoring it wasn’t an option anymore and normal farming wasn’t possible for years.
There is a story about the lighthouse keeper who would have stood in his lighthouse during all the eruptions. He even would have had a long spoon to spoon some Lava out of the stream.
The underground documentation center architecturally is a great building. The museum (8€ pP) itself is ok but not great. The most important part (the eruption) is only documented on one wall, the festivity and marketing of 60 years of eruption is a huge room.