Mistérios Negros (in english: Black Mysteries) is a hiking route through the native forest of Terceira, an island from the central group of the Azores archipelago. This route, that goes between two volcanoes, is challenging but beautiful. Most of its setting is jungle-like, with dense laurissilva forest all around, but there are also lakes, grassland, pine tress and indispensable sharp volcanic rocks. After doing dozens of hikes around Azores, this one, which was actually one of the first ones I made, is still my favourite one. The trail is integrated in the Nature Reserve of Serra de Santa Bárbara and Mistérios Negros.
You will find the beginning of the trail just next to the Negro Lake and about 100 metres past the Gruta do Natal (Natal Cave). The beginning of it is the dirt road bordered by common heather and Japanese cedar. After half a kilometre, you will pass a water tank and soon start following a more narrow path surrounded by lush vegetation. The next stops are three small lakes (Vale Fundo Lakes), where about 150 different species of birds live. Then the path continues inside the forest.
Some parts of this trail make one feel like traveling inside middle earth, as you are passing by and on the top of the hills made of volcanic rocks. Other times, you feel like you are in a jungle, crossing over twisty trees covered in moss and ferns and overgrown tree roots. Tree branches are interwoven, many of them are very low so be ready for some bending over or head whacking from time to time.
All along the way there is flora endemic to Azores, such as Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus), Laurel (Laurus sp.), Juniper (Juniperus brevifolia), Azorean Blueberry (Vaccinium cylindraceum), Holly (Ilex perado azorica), and many others. Even if you are not into identifying it, it's impossible not to be stunned by how lush the surroundings are.
Mistérios Negros is a circular route, categorised as a hard one. It is around 6 kilometres long and takes 2h30 to be completed. Be especially careful if you are doing the trail on a rainy day, or if it was raining the day before, you will find a lot of mud your way! In any case, take good hiking shoes. This trail is not recommended for people with mobility issues.
Near the end of the trail, to the right, is a small volcano, Pico Gaspar, whose cratera is an endemic oasis for plants typical for Macaronesia.
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