Portugal City Travel Guide: The Azores
Map Of The Azores
The nine-island archipeligo of The Azores is without doubt one of the most beautiful, unspoilt places on Earth. The islands abound with emerald-green lakes, volcanic craters or caldeiras, pleasant vineyards and historic settlements. The islands have a temperate climate all year round with temperatures ranging from around 11-29 degrees Centigrade.
São Miguel is the largest of the islands of the Azores (65 km by 16km, 40 miles by 10 miles) and the most populated (pop. 140,000). Known as the "green island", São Miguel is the center of government and the Azores' transport hub for international and inter-island flights.
The main town of Ponta Delgada on the south coast is beautifully located amidst a backdrop of small volcanic cones. The town contains several fine baroque churches including the 16th century Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, the 17th century São Pedro and the 18th century São João. The fine Palácio da Conceição houses the present-day government buildings and is of architectural interest, as is the baroque Casa de Carlos Bicudo with its mermaid façade and the three arches of the city gates - Portas da Cidade.
The Museu Carlos Machado housed in a 16th century convent is of interest for its exhibits of the natural history, art and ethnography of the Azores and for a great view of the city head up to Reduto de Mãe de Deus.
Outside Ponta Delgada the interior of the island offers some wonderful sites. To the west, the twin lakes set within the Caldeira das Sete Cidades appear one green and the other blue. In the north, the historical town of Ribeira Grande is full of exquisite churches and a little out of town are the hot springs of Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande and to the south the Lagoa da Fogo (Fire Lake) which makes for a pleasant hike through the scenic surroundings.
Traveling east of Ponta Delgada are the small town of Lagoa noted for its ceramics, good beaches at Prainha and Agua d'Alto and the town of Vila Franca do Campo, the former capital of the island with some beautiful churches and an interesting civic museum. Just offshore is the pictureque islet of Ilheu - ideal for swimming or a picnic.
To the northeast, past the crater lake of Lagoa das Furnas is the village of Furnas, famous for its bubbling hot springs and mud. A local delicacy is cozido - meat and vegetables cooked in pots buried in the hot earth.
São Miguel is a center for whale-watching, has two good golf courses at Ponta Delgada and Furnas and also offers scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing and boat-hire opportunities.
The beautiful natural scenery of The Azores
Ponta Delgada Av. Infante D. Henrique 9504-528 Tel: 296 285 743,
296 285 125
There are direct flights to Porta Delgada from Lisbon and other European cities including London (Heathrow) with TAP. Air Azores (part of the SATA Group) flies to many European cities including direct flights to London (Gatwick), Zurich, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid and many other destinations in Europe including Manchester in the UK via Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Funchal and has direct flights to Boston and Providence, Rhode Island in the USA. There are also charter flights to the Azores from Canada.
All the islands of the Azores have air connections from Porta Delgada with SATA Air Azores. Inter-island flights are run by SATA Air Azores.
Buses from Ponta Delgada connect with most towns on the island. There is also a bus service in Ponta Delgada.
Car or taxi rental are good options for exploring the island.
From the Airport
The Joao Paulo II Airport is 3 km west of Ponta Delgada, there are hourly buses to the town center.
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São Miguel has some of the most varied cuisine in the Azores with a number of good local fish restaurants and international cuisine also well represented.
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Santa Maria, located due south of São Miguel is only 17 km by 9 km (10 miles by 5 miles). The island is blessed with golden, sandy beaches and is the driest and sunniest of the Azores islands. The main town is Vila do Porto. Christopher Columbus stopped over on his way to the Americas. Santa Maria was the first island to be discovered (1427) and the first to be settled.
Terceira, 29 km by 17 km (18 miles by 10 miles), takes its name from the fact that it was the third island of the Azores chain to be inhabited and is now the second most populated. The interior of the island is wet and covered with heather. Nearly all settlement is on the coast including the magnificent Angra do Heroismo - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ex-capital of the Azores, though damaged in the 1980 earthquake contains a number of beautiful palaces including the Paços do Concelho (now the city hall), churches, castles and a cathedral. June 24 sees the lively festa of São Joaninas complete with a bull run. Bullfighting is an important island tradition. The island also plays host to an American Air force base.
Terceira Tourist Office
Delegacao de Turismo da Terceira
The island of São Jorge - 56 km long by 8 km wide (35 miles by 5 miles) is another jewel of the Azores and a superb hiking destination. São Jorge affords spectacular views of the other central islands, Velas is the largest town. The island's green pastures are ideal for diary cattle and São Jorge is rightly known for its cheeses.
Sao Jorge Tourist Office
Posto de Turismo de Sao Jorge
Faial is dominated by the central Caldeira, a volcanic crater over 300m (1,000 ft) in depth. The island is well-known for the beautiful hydrangeas that scatter the island in hedgerows. The main town and capital is Horta with numerous historic buildings and churches - its natural harbour and marina mean it has become a center for yachting. At Ponta dos Capelinhos are dunes of dark volcanic cinders left by an undersea eruption in the late 1950s.
Faial Tourist Office
Posto de Turismo do Faial
As its name of "gracious" suggests, Graciosa is a pleasant island of sloping hills and pleasant villages. Here too are remnants of the island's volcanic past - with a volcanic sulphurous lake at Caldeira do Enoxfre. Santa Cruz, the small capital is known for its white-washed houses. The island produces some good wines and brandy and the "White Island" as it is known is famous for its rugged coastal scenery and its thriving colonies of sea birds.
Graciosa Tourist Office
Posto de Turismo da Graciosa
Pico is dominated by the Azores' and Portugal's highest mountain, the 2351 m (7,712 ft) Mount Pico. The fertile, forested interior has relatively recent lava flows (mistérios), fascinating caves and grottoes and some fine vineyards sheltered by stone walls. The island, the second largest in the archipeligo, has a long association with whaling (Moby Dick was set in its waters) and town of Velas has a small but interesting whaling museum - the Museu dos Baleeiros - which organizes whale-watching trips in the May-September season.
Pico Tourist Office
Posto de Turismo do Pico
With a rugged coastline the lush island of Flores, 17 km by 12 km (10 miles by 7 miles) abounds in evergreens, crater lakes and steep mountain waterfalls. Together with Corvo, Flores forms the western group of islands of the archipelago. The main settlements are Santa Cruz and Lajes.
Flores Tourist Office
Posto de Turismo das Flores
The tiny island Corvo ('cormorant' in Portuguese) is only 6 km by 3 km (4 miles by 2 miles) and is reached by daily boat from nearby Flores. With around 300 inhabitants in the solitary village of Vila Nova, the island is a haven of tranquillity and a center for bird-watching in its crater lakes.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.