Hiking the Sanguinho trail PRC09 SMI

The Sanguinho trail is one of the most popular on the island of São Miguel, Azores, and it’s easy to understand why. This circular walking trail is officially 4.5 km long and takes us to the mythical ghost village of Sanguinho, the idyllic Salto do Prego waterfall. It is also possible to easily extend it to Salto do Cagarrão waterfall (+4 km round trip).

Located in Faial da Terra, Povoação, this is one of our favorite trails in the Azores and is, therefore, also part of our list of the best trails in Portugal.

When we did the Sanguinho trail, we also went to Salto do Cagarrão, so we will also describe here how you can do it. It’s nothing too complicated, but it is a bit tough and technical, especially in the rainy season.

The entire route is well marked, and the beginning is easy to identify, like all the official routes we know in São Miguel. We advise taking a GPS, but you probably won’t need it.

Sanguinho and Salto do Prego Trail – general information

  • Name: Sanguinho and Salto do Prego Trail – PRC09 SMI
  • Start: Faial da Terra
  • Finish: Faial da Terra
  • Distance: 4.5km, the normal route, 8.5km round trip to Salto do Cagarrão
  • Time needed: 2 hours for the 4.5 km, around 4 hours for the 8.5 km
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate if it is the official trail. Moderate to hard with extension to Cagarrão waterfall
  • Max/min altitude: 220/ 20 meters
  • Type: Circular, with two detours to see the waterfalls
  • Signage (1-5): 5, excellent
  • Highlights: Sanguinho, Salto do Prego, Salto do Cagarrão, natural forest landscapes
  • You can download the pamphlet here
How to hike Saguinho trail in Azores

Our experience on the Sanguinho trail

The Sanguinho trail (PRC09 SMI) begins and ends in the small village of Faial da Terra, municipality of Povoação, São Miguel, Azores. The information panel that marks the beginning of the trail is located inside the village next to the bus stop, and some parking is available on the street.

It is possible to take the car along the asphalt a few hundred meters further and leave it at the edge of the village, saving the walking that takes place at the beginning and end of the trail.

Dirt trail where you can park your car to hike the Sanguinho trail
Although this is not the official start, you can start the trail at this point later on

The first section of the trail goes along the river – first along the paved street mentioned above and then along a dirt trail. Right from the beginning of the trail, the walk is uphill, but it is nothing too hard. The vegetation quickly becomes thicker, first with some family orchards, then with dense forest.

Eventually, we reached a bridge over the river. We had to cross it and start climbing on the other side. This was a much tougher climb, but it was not too long before we reached a fork. At the fork, you will see signs that show you the way to Salto do Prego. There’s no way to cheat.

Wooden bridge over the river in the middle of the Sanguinho and Salto do Prego trail
The path along the river. You have to cross a wooden bridge to continue the trail

After turning towards the Prego waterfall, we continued climbing despite taking a few breaks. There is a new turnoff for the PR 11 SMI trail about halfway. This is the path that will later take us to Salto do Cagarrão. For now, we move on. It’s only about 500 or 600 meters to get to the Prego waterfall, but it seems longer. When arriving at the waterfall, be careful, as the descent can be complicated if it is wet.

Salto do Cagarrão waterfall that falls from the mountain on a small lake
Salto do Cagarrão Waterfall, in summer, it is possible to swim in the lagoon

At Salto do Prego, don’t forget to go up the path on the left to see the top of the waterfall. The view from up there is stunning.

After taking photos, catching our breath, having a snack, and even going for a swim if it’s warm enough (we went in winter; that wasn’t an option), we have to return. To return, we have to go exactly the same way until we reach the fork that takes us to the Cagarrão waterfall.

If you have energy, turn right and start climbing. If you don’t want to go to Salto do Cagarrão, continue straight ahead along the path you came from.

view of the Salto do Cagarrão waterfall surrounded by forest
Viewpoint for Salto do Cagarrão

Extension to Salto do Cagarrão

In our opinion, it is well worth going to Salto do Cagarrão. Still, we have to point out that the Salto do Cagarrão waterfall is smaller and perhaps not as beautiful as the Salto do Prego. Furthermore, it is a round trip that totals almost 4 km and is quite challenging. However, the waterfall is very beautiful, and if it is rainy season, there is a lot of water, as you can see in the photos.

Turning towards Salto do Cagarrão, we will immediately notice that the initial climb is very hard, very steep, and sometimes a little slippery. There are no rocks, but this area rains a lot, and it is normal for it to be humid.

Fork in the middle of the forest during the Sanguinho trail
Fork in the middle of the forest during the Sanguinho trail

The initial part of 200 or 300 meters is the hardest, but the path is practically always uphill for more than 1 km. Then, it eases and eventually starts to descend slightly. We have to turn right about 200 meters from the waterfall (it is indicated once again), and the final descent to the waterfall is very steep. We advise you to be very careful, as a distraction can have serious consequences.

This entire route is along the gorge’s edge, making the walk a little more adventurous but not especially dangerous or technical. It just requires some attention. On the other hand, be prepared to get a lot of mud if it is raining or has rained in the previous days.

The Salto do Cagarrão waterfall is much lower than the Salto do Prego waterfall, but it is still quite impressive and has a beautiful lake at its bottom. Swimming and cooling off in the summer must be quite appealing.

Women in front of salto do Cagarrão Waterfall in winter, with a lot of water.
Salto do Cagarrão Waterfall in winter, with a lot of water

After Salto do Cagarrão, we had to return exactly the way we came until the fork. Even though it was only about 4 km, it took us about 2 hours in total: about 90 minutes going there and back and another half hour at the waterfall and taking photos.

Back at the Cagarrão jump fork, we return to the official PRC9 SMI trail—the one we describe here. From here, we continue to the original intersection, and from here, we head towards Sanguinho. The path to Sanguinho is undulating, with several small climbs and descents, some crossing wooden bridges. Be careful, as they may slip if they are damp.

Part of the route through the forest, on old cobblestone
Part of the route in ancient stone

Arriving in Sanguinho, we see an abandoned village in the process of recovery. You will find typical houses and small agricultural productions. No one lives there anymore, but there are several local accommodations for those who want to spend a few days in a refuge away from almost everything.

The village of Sanguinho owes its name to the endemic plant of the Azores, Frangula Azorica, which locally has exactly the name Sanguinho. On the other hand, it gained the nickname of “ghost village” after a BBC report that gave it some notoriety due to the beauty of the place and abandoned ruins.

The center of the Sanguinho village, with renovated white houses and a cobblestone trail
The center of the Sanguinho village

Sanguinho was inhabited for around a century. It was built as a refuge from the floods of the Faial River and to take advantage of the fertile land there. It had around 20 inhabited houses, but emigration to North America and access difficulties led to its abandonment.

After exploring this unique place, continue down the cobblestone path. But be extremely careful, as the slope is very high, and the slippery stones make this part of the trail very dangerous. It is also extremely tiring, as we always have to be focused. It’s one of the most curious paths we’ve ever taken—the photos don’t do it justice.

This sidewalk takes us exactly to the starting point of Faial da Terra. The entire route took us around 5 hours, although it could have been done a little faster if it had been summer and less wet. Unless you are a fast hiker, count on at least 4 hours to complete the entire journey.

Caminho em paralelo para Sanguinho.
Caminho para Sanguinho. É muito mais inclinado do que parece

Best time of year to do this walk

We did this walk during winter and at a time when it had rained a lot in the previous days. Still, we loved the trail and went to both waterfalls and Sanguinho village.

In our opinion, this trail can be done all year round, although it offers quite different experiences. In winter, you will find a few people and powerful waterfalls with plenty of water. In summer, it is a very popular trail, but the waterfalls will have much less water. Due to the more pleasant temperatures, it will also be possible to go swimming.

The ghost village of Sanguinho is much more pleasant in good weather, as it allows you to explore the ruins and landscapes more easily. In winter, you also need to be especially careful with mud and humidity to avoid slipping. On the other hand, in summer, the humid heat can be punishing and make the walk much harder. Fortunately, much of the path is within the forest.

One of the many wooden bridges on the Sanguinho trail
One of the many wooden bridges on the Sanguinho trail

Who can do the trail?

This is not a technical trail, and anyone who is used to hiking will not have any major problems. The only thing to be careful about is the mud and water on the path if there is/has been rain.

It’s not too long a route either, and although it’s almost always inclined, you’ll probably be OK if you’re not very athletic. It is perfectly possible to hike the official trail with children and people of any age if they do not have mobility problems. The extension to Salto do Cagarrão is a little harder (also due to the accumulation of the walk) and more suitable for hikers who are used to these things.

Doing the walk with very young children, babies, or people with mobility difficulties is highly inadvisable.

Another small cobbled part of the Sanguinho and Salto do Prego route
Another small cobbled part of the Sanguinho and Salto do Prego route

What should you take for the Sanguinho hiking trail?

If you are planning to do the complete route, it will take at least 4 hours of walking plus another hour to take photos, rest, and have a snack. Since there is no place to buy anything, you must take everything with you. On the other hand, the trail is not technical, so you don’t need to take anything in particular other than hiking boots in winter.

So we suggest you take:

  • Water (About 1l per person, but perhaps more if it is very hot and humid);
  • Snacks to eat;
  • Comfortable walking shoes, but hiking boots are ideal. Boots are especially useful in winter. Do not wear everyday shoes, as there will probably be a lot of mud;
  • Comfortable clothes;
  • Raincoat – in winter, it is mandatory, but even in summer, the weather can change quickly;
  • Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
  • Camera and cell phone. There are many opportunities to take beautiful photos. Cell phone can also be used as a GPS, but the trail is excellently marked;
  • Small backpack to carry all this;

This route passes through areas classified as Protected Landscapes. Conserving this natural habitat can contribute to its protection and ensure its biodiversity. Bring with you all the trash you produce (and, if possible, any else you may find).

Another wooden bridge in the middle of the forest
Another wooden bridge in the middle of the forest

How to get to the start of the trail?

The Sanguinho and Salto do Prego trail begins in the village of Faial da Terra, one of the six parishes in the municipality of Povoação. As always, in São Miguel, the trailhead is well-marked by its information panel and is next to the village bus stop. The village is quite small, so it is not difficult to find. Furthermore, it is also marked on Google Maps.

Faial da Terra is one of the most remote villages on the island and one of the furthest (in terms of time) from Ponta Delgada. From Ponta Delgada, it is 65 km, which takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. Basically, we have to go to Furnas, then Povoação, and finally Faial da Terra. It’s not difficult; the roads are good, although there are a lot of curves and descents—especially after Furnas.

View of Faial da Terra from the Sanguinho Trail. The weather is harsh and the sky is grey.
View of Faial da Terra from the Sanguinho Trail

Where to stay when taking this hiking trail?

Despite being the largest island in the Azores, São Miguel is relatively small, and the roads are good. Therefore, we suggest you stay in Ponta Delgada and make daily trips to the attractions. In this case, you can reach the trailhead from anywhere on the island in about an hour.

Ponta Delgada is the largest city in São Miguel and where you will find the most hotels, bars, restaurants, and everything you need for a good stay. In Ponta da Delgada, our recommendation is these accommodations:

  • Hotel Alcides – is located in the heart of the historic center of Ponta Delgada. Ideal for those who want to explore the city at the end of the day. It has a great breakfast. The hotel’s restaurant is one of the most famous and popular on the island, mainly due to its steak. Book here.
  • Herdade do Ananás – A little outside the city center, but it is a hotel that is worth it due to the jacuzzi inside the Ananás plantation. It is undoubtedly an experience. See prices and availability here.
  • Azores Dream Hostel – is probably the best option in Ponta Delgada for those looking for cheap accommodation without compromising comfort. Book here.

Alternatively, we can also stay in Furnas, an area with many attractions and is therefore quite popular for a few days. And it is considerably closer to te trail head. In Furnas, we suggest the Atlantic 3 bicas. It is located right in the center of the village and has excellent reviews.

Finally, you can also try to stay in one of the local accommodations in Sanguinho. Spending the night in the “ghost village” will certainly be a unique experience.

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Sanguinho Trail in Sao Miguel Island

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