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The island group of the Azores consists of nine islands, which are divided into three main groups - the ‘grupo oriental’ (Eastern islands) with São Miguel and Santa Maria, the ‘grupo central’ (central islands ) with Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial and the ‘grupo ocidental’ (Western islands) with Corvo and Flores on the Western end of Europe.
All islands are of volcanic origin and have a similar structure with a collapsed volcanic cone forming a caldera. Nature is the highlight on all islands while main towns and centers are mostly small and retain a local village character. Except Corvo, all islands can be reached by plane and connect to the main island of São Miguel, where you will also find the best international access.
Santa Maria is the oldest island of the Azores and you still feel that the world is passing the island by. Known as the island of the sun with a drier and slightly warmer climate than the other Azorian islands, Santa Maria has a gentle appeal. From the geological wealth of its white, sandy beaches to the vineyards that cover the landscape, the island offers huge variety in color with green pastures, yellow crops, white houses and red clay tiles.Many viewpoints and cozy
bays along the coast offer you splendid views over the Atlantic ocean and invite you to take a dip in the refreshing blue waters. Manta Rays are still common in the waters around the island and you can join them on an unforgettable diving or snorkeling adventure to discover some of their secrets.
People on Santa Maria are welcoming visitors with an infectious kindness and spoil them with a traditional gastronomy.
São Miguel is the biggest of the islands and the easiest to reach as the main international airport of the islands is located at Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel. The island alone is worth a trip as it comes with a varied landscape with crater lakes, hot springs and beautiful viewpoints. You will find colorful hedges along the roads and inviting lush parks all over the island and there is a wide range of activities to choose from - from hiking and cycling,
kayaking, canoeing and SUP to swimming with dolphins and canyoning, São Miguel has something to offer for everybody.
Majestic lagoons set in collapsed craters with enormous dimensions, like Lagoa do Fogo and Sete Cidades, offer fantastic hiking opportunities in a truly magical landscape. You can enjoy a unique “Cozido” dish in Furnas, cooked underground over the rising steam from hot water springs. São Miguel enjoys a favorable climate for many exotic plants from all over the world and since the 19. century, it has been peoples mission to create and maintain the most wonderful gardens on the island. You should not miss a visit to the Terra Nostra Park or the Antonio Borges Gardens to admire the wealth of the flowers and plants.
São Miguel is also home to the only tea plantations in Europe and to visit the factory to learn more about the history and tradition of tea grown on São Miguel, is a must.
The name Terceira draws back to the fact that it was the third island to be discovered by Portuguese sailors. The main town of Angra do Heroismo is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and it played an important part in both the history of the Azores and Portugal (see timeline).
Terceira is also known for being a very festive island, where holy spirit festivities take place pretty much every weekend throughout the summer and offer a special experience to
visitors to the island over that period.
You should bring enough time to discover Terceira with all its beauty and there are many activities to choose from to fully enjoy the island - descend to the bottom of the Algar do Carvao and the Gruta do Natal, climb Serra do Cume and stroll through the streets of Angra to take in the vivid atmosphere.
Due to the predominance of volcanic light grey rock, Graciosa is also known as the white island. It is the second smallest island of the archipelago and it is classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island has a strong focus on sustainability and a green way of living - it is powered 100% by renewable energy and huge efforts have been put into the preservation of the Burro da Graciosa, a unique donkey breed, that has been used by farmers for centuries.
You can visit the inside of Graciosa at the Furna do Enxofre, where you descend into a volcanic vent with a lake and mud fumaroles at its bottom, responsible for a distinct sulfur scent in the area. Further, you can relax in the warm thermal waters at Termas do Carapacho in a natural and cozy environment.
The island is considered to be exceptional for diving and fishing and the bays of Santa Cruz, Folga and Praia are ideal for activities like wind surfing, rowing or sailing.
The narrow island is crossed by a mountain range, which gives the island a raised appeal and offers an overwhelming air view. São Jorge is part of the so called triangle, made of the three Southern central islands of São Jorge, Faial and Pico.
The narrow structure and wide mountain range in the middle favored the development of “fajas”, alluvial fans set between the mountains and the sea. You will find fajas on most of the
islands, but the number and beauty of the São Jorge fajas is outstanding.
São Jorge is also exceptional for its culinary highlights, the São Jorge cheeses made from raw milk are world famed and you will also find a coffee plantation on the island, which is unique in Europe. Like many of the islands, São Jorge offers excellent
conditions to practice water-sports like diving, snorkeling, fishing and sailing. Further, the terrain is ideal for hiking, canyoning and speleology.
The second biggest island of the Azores got its name from the volcano it is set on - Pico. Standing at an altitude of 2,351m, Pico is not only the highest mountain on the Azores, but also in Portugal.
The urge to conquer the high mountain comes naturally when visiting the island and you can enjoy magnificent views over the sea and the neighboring triangle islands Faial and São Jorge from the top. It is strongly recommended to climb
Pico with a qualified mountain guide and tour operators offer special early morning starts, so you can enjoy the view at sunrise.
Large fields of lava set the island’s landscape and made the long and special wine tradition possible. The fields give shape to the vine culture on Pico island and have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage in 2004. The soil and climate attract a young generation of enologists, who produce high quality wines in a unique and professional way.
Traditionally, whaling has been one of the most important activities on the island. After its prohibition in 1983, touristic whale watching took its place, making use of the old skills of the whalers to reliably spot whales and navigate close to them in a safe way.
The most Western island of the triangle comes with the beautiful bays of Porto Pim and Horta and is also home to the most impressive phenomenon taking place on the Azores over the last 100 years. The submarine eruption of the Capelinhos volcano in 1957/58 was the last recorded eruption on the island and added two square kilometers of new land to the Western side of Faial.
Faial is also famous for its lively town of Horta, which has
been attracting seafarers for centuries due to its central location in the Atlantic. The marina of Horta is the main attraction and sailors from all across the world still stop in the safe harbor of Horta. The island also played an important role for the implementation of telecommunications, cables and as an airbase for the Allies during the second World War.
Neptune is king on the island. After swimming with sharks, sailing or crossing the island from coast to coast and passing one of the transversal vaults of the submarine mountain range, a fabulous day full of adventure ends with a perfect Gin & Tonic at the famous Peter Cafe Sport on the marina.
By many, the island of Flores is considered to be the most beautiful island on the Azores and one of the most beautiful places in the world. Flores is the most Western part of the Azores and also of Europe and had been a military base for the French until 1993, which had a huge positive impact on the economy of the island.
The temperatures are very mild throughout the year and the island gets more rain than the rest of the Azores. As a result,
the vegetation is much more lush and you will find a great diversity of waterfalls in a very idyllic setting. The island is classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and it is covered with craters, great ravines, cliffs, lakes and streams. The seven volcanic craters turned into beautiful lagoons and provide gorgeous views to the small island of Corvo.
Due to its geological heritage, Flores offers excellent conditions for canyoning and is also a popular spot for diving and whale watching. After all, some of the most beautiful parts of the islands coast are best enjoyed by boat.
With only 17 square kilometers in size and a population of just about 400 inhabitant, Corvo is by far the smallest island of the Azores archipelago. The island comes with a breath-taking landscape, fantastic walking trails and welcoming people. Like Flores and Graciosa, Corvo has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, mainly due to the unique volcanic phenomenon of the collapsed caldera filled with small secondary cones and lakes. The Caldeirao to the North of the island takes nearly half of the small island and you will find a lagoon and twelve small cones in here. Apart from hiking, the island is deemed an excellent location for bird watching.