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The Azores archipelago consists of nine islands spreading over an area of 2,333km. More than 50% of the just around 250.000 Azorians live on Sao Miguel, the largest island, which is also home to the capital Ponta Delgada.
The islands are divided into three main groups - the ‘grupo oriental’ (Eastern islands) with Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, the ‘grupo central’ (central islands ) with Terceira, Graziosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial and the ‘grupo ocidental’ (Western islands) with Corvo and Flores on the Western end of Europe. With an elevation of 2351m, Pico mountain on Pico island is the highest elevation on the Azores and of Portugal in general.
With five gateways - Sao Miguel, Terceira, Faial, Pico and Santa Maria), only two hours flight time from Lisbon and four hours from North America, the Azores offer easy access to a place to get away from it all.
Watching the biggest animals alive on Earth, swimming with dolphins, climbing to the highest point in Portugal, walking through natural and overlooking rails, surfing at volcanic sand beaches swimming in natural pool filled with hot thermal waters are only some of the amazing experiences that wait for you on the islands.
The Azores have been part of Portugal since their settlement in the 15. Century. Since 1976, the islands are partly autonomous with their own parliament and regional government. The islands run a decentralized system, where power is spread across the islands. For example, the president’s domicile is in Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel while the seven ministries are based on Sao Miguel, Terceira and Faial. The members of parliament come together five times over the year on Faial.
The geographic location on the edge of Europe has always been an economic challenge for the Azores. The islands received substantial funding from the EU over the 1990s and 2000s, which gave a massive boost to the labor market and income levels, but the recession in 2008/2009 hit the islands hard with climaxing unemployment rates, especially among young people.
Agriculture has lost much of its significance and only around 10% of Azorians work in that sector today, but the export of agricultural products like beef, dairy or canned fish is still significant. Tourism is by far the most important sector on the employment market, though demand has met supply in recent years, slowing down the growth. Traditionally, the Azores were and still are a popular destination for visitors from mainland Portugal, but the islands are continuously attracting more international tourists and visitors.
The Azores have to import most of its energy and are relying on the import of coal, oil and petrol. A growing investment in geothermal resources is aiming at making the islands more self-sufficient.