“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau
As I said, Flores is one of those destinations that most people have never heard of. It’s wonderfully off the grid, with a total population of 4,000 people on an area of 143 km2. Also, named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this Isle of Flowers has some of the best hiking you will find anywhere in the world.
Lajedo – Fajã Grande
Parking your car in Lajedo, at the local post office you will wander through the town before arriving at the official trail head. This trail is 13.5 km long and considered medium difficulty. This section of the West Coast Trail and part of the Great Route Flores takes your through terraced fields, small towns, and to view some of the most stunning waterfalls views. Surrounded by the smell of flowers, this trail is a gentle awakening of the senses with the ocean on your left and vibrant greenery on your right.
For a more detailed encounter of this trail see: Flores West Coast Trail – Part 1
Fajã Grande – Ponta Delgada
If shear cliffs, fields of heather, and ocean views are your thing, this is the trail for you. This trail is the continuation of the West Coast Trail and by far the more strenuous section. It was also my favorite trail. The trail begins with a steep ascent up the side of the island, with a sheer drop into the sea to your left.
Once on the top you traverse cow fields filled with large bushes of heather towering over you and obscuring the ocean views for a time. You will also see the Western most lighthouse in all of Europe along this trail, with the option to stop and visit it.
The end of the trail is a little less spectacular as you walk along the tarmac to reach the town of Ponta Delgada, where you can have lunch at O Pescador.
For more information on this section of the Great Route Flores see: Flores West Coast Trail – Part 2
Miradouro das Lagoas
Along Riberia Grande, the main road that bisects the island is a look-off point with views of Lagoa Negra and Lagoa Comprida. The two lakes are situated next to one another, separated by a small strip of land. If you walk a short ways back down the road you will come upon a trail head sign for Miradouro das Lagoas.
In the beginning, I wasn’t as excited about this trail as I was the others. It started off close to the road and was very wet. The plants in this area were very low to the ground and there was some fog in the area, giving everything an eerie haze.
A portion of the trail is along a dirt road, which traverses to a high point with views of the valley below that you had just walked. From there you hike over the ridge and down towards Fajã Grande, with the ocean in front of you.
This was by far the best part of the trail. As you walk along you go through cow fields, with cows, to a sheer ridge, sloping sharply down into Fajã Grande on your left, with gently sloping fields on your right. Taking switchbacks from the ridge you make your way down into Fajã Grande and the end of the trail. This is the perfect place to have a beer and some snacks at Obama Cabana, situated on the water in the heart of Fajã Grande.
Fajã de Lopo Vaz
Parking your car at the Parque das Merendes, a pretty little picnic area nestled into myricaria trees with BBQ pits and bathrooms, you begin a 45-minute descent to the largest beach in Flores. As you hike down the slick slope of the trail, taking switchbacks along the way, you get piercing views of the ocean and glimpses of the beautiful beach that is to come.
The path itself has more than 300 uneven steps and was created over 500 years ago. At the bottom is the oldest settlement on the island, though no longer inhabited. Surrounded by soaring cliff walls, the beach and the settlement are considered the hottest place on the island. The area is so sheltered it creates it’s own micro-climate, which can sustain the growth of banana trees.
The area around the few homes is overgrown now but the way to the beach is clear. It’s not a place you can swim, due to the intensity of the water here but the large stones and boulders make for a soothing rumble as the water washes over them, trying to pull them into the ocean beyond.
The contrast of the green walls and the blue ocean will take your breath away. However, with the unpredictable weather on Flores, there is always a risk of a shower passing through, in which there is no shelter to be had. This happened to us, the beach and the day was beautiful and clear, then suddenly we were caught in a torrential down pour, which left as suddenly as it came.
This trail is not a loop so you have to climb back out of this beautiful hamlet, back to the park, making this a difficult trail, but completely worth it.
Great Route Flores
This route is a combination of the first two hikes I talked about, plus a section from Ponta Delgada to Santa Cruz. At total of 47 km, this trail is considered hard, and it deserves that rating. We did not do this entire trek, missing only the final section to Santa Cruz. Don’t be deterred by the Azores Trails website saying the trail is closed because it is not, we confirmed this with the tourist bureau.
Flores is an island that is made for the nature enthusiast and hiker. With it’s pristine land, sheer cliffs, and 360-degree views, there is no place quite like it.