Escudo dos AçoresBandeira dos Açores


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The Archipelago of AZORES

Autonomous Region of The Portuguese Republic

Velas, Sao Jorge Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel Pico Island, view from Faial

The Azores Islands

Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about two hours flying time from Lisbon (about 1,500 Km or 940 miles) and five hours flying time from the eastern coast of North America (about 3,900 Km), only abouth 2,000 km (1,250 miles) from Corvo Island to Saint John's, Newfoundland, Canada; the archipelago is spread out in the area of the parallel that passes through Lisbon (39º, 43'/39º, 55' North Latitude), giving it a moderate climate, with mild annual oscillation.

The nine islands have a total area of 2,355 Km2.

Their individual areas vary between 747 Km2 (S.Miguel) and 17 Km2 (Corvo). The volcanic origin of all the islands is revealed by their volcanic cones and craters. Pico, a volcano that stands 2,351 meters high on the island of the same name, has the highest altitude in the Azores and in Portugal.

The nine islands of the archipelago are divided in three Groups:

The Eastern Group of São Miguel and Santa Maria, the Central Group of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, and the Western Group of Flores and Corvo.

The outline of the garden-like islands on the horizons of the sea. Peace and quiet. Flowers in the fields, in the villages, in the houses. The blue and green of dreamy lagoons. A pace of life in which there is time to stop and appreciate living. Art treasures that recall pages of a centuries-long history. Nature in all its original splendour. A meeting with the past involved in everyday life.

Invitations to discover and experience a different world, repeated on each of the nine islands of the Azores.

Formosa beach, Santa Maria Horta, Faial Ponta da Barca, Graciosa

Situated in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, at the centre of the anticyclonic zone of the Azores, bathed by a warm branch of the Gulf Stream, the archipelago enjoys a temperate maritime climate, without great variations in annual temperature. Each island has its own climate, with micro-climates produced by the relief and geographical location.

Light clothes, with one or two woollen pieces for the cooler days or nights, are enough all year round, although in the winter slightly warmer wraps may be necessary. It is better to bring along a raincoat, however, because there are frequent showers followed at once by sunshine "the days of the four seasons" as the Azoreans picturesquely say - above all in the months from October to April.

Lagoa Funda, Flores View of Corvo Island Angra do Heroi­smo, Terceira Island

The total surface area of the Azores is 2,332.7 Km2 which represents approximately 2.5% of the national territory of Portugal and has about 242,620 inhabitants (in 1996). The surface area and inhabitants per island were:

Island - Surface - Inhabitants
Santa Maria - 97.2 Km2 - 6,030
São Miguel - 746.8 Km2 - 130,140
Terceira - 402.2 Km2 - 56,780
Graciosa - 61.2 Km2 - 4,960
São Jorge - 245.8 Km2 - 10,300
Pico - 447.7 Km2 - 14,930
Faial - 173.1 Km2 - 14,750
Flores - 141.7 Km2 - 4,430
Corvo - 17.1 Km2 - 300

Due to the dispersal of the islands the total maritime area of the Economic Free Zone is approximately 938,000 Km2.

Political and Administrative Structure:
The Azores are an autonomous region of the Portuguese Republic and as such it has its own Political Administrative statute. The Regional Legislative Assembly and the Regional Government are the organs of this administration. The Regional Government is responsible politically to the Legislative Assembly. The Region also elects five representatives to serve in the Portuguese Republic's National Assembly.

Population and Employment:
Within the context of Europe the resident population of the Azores is considered to be reasonably young, with a slow decrease rate in the working population (1990-1994) of -1% per annum and a unemployment rate of 6.3% (in 1996). The estimated population in 1996 was 242,620.

Delfins playing close to Pico Island Tradicional Villager Flowers

Discovered or recognised, as some authors state by Portuguese navigators as from 1427, the Azores were populated in the 15th century by pioneers from Portugal, although small groups of Flemings settled on some of the islands. The 16th and 17th centuries made the archipelago one of the anchors of trade between Europe, America and India, and its ports sheltered galleons loaded with treasures.
Important naval battles were fought in the waters of the Azores in that period, while the islands were attacked by corsairs and pirates. The following centuries were calmer, but in 1829 the Azores returned to the pages of history, with the role played by Terceira in the struggle against the absolutist forces and as the base for the liberal forces that invaded the mainland Portugal. The archipelago developed during the 19th and 20th centuries with the introductions of new crops, setting up of industries and progress made with stock-breeding and fisheries. The last few years have witnessed a progressive improvement in the economic and social well-being of the population.

The discovery of the Azores, according to Genoese maps of the 14th century, seems to have taken place between 1317 and 1339, and was made by Portuguese mariners and some Genoese mariners in the service of Portugal. Damião Peres the great historian, however, names Diogo de Silves the Portuguese navigator who discovered the archipelago, in 1427. Settlement began on the Islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel about 1439, and ended with Flores and Corvo, which were discovered later. The Azores have always played an important role in Portuguese history. They took part in the conquest and defence of the Portuguese strongholds on the coast of North Africa, they were a port of call for the caravels on their way from India, they gave support to the expeditions exploring America, and during the Spanish domination period, from 1580 to 1640, they were a bulwark of patriotic resistance. In the Liberal struggles from 1820 to 1834 too, the people of these islands played a major role.The Liberal expedition which defeated the Absolutists at Oporto. Set out from Terceira after this victory of the liberals, the Azores became two provinces with a special franchise and in 1910, when the Republic was proclaimed, they gave considerable support to the Government. Two presidents of the 1st. Republic were from the Azores: Teófilo Braga and Manuel de Arriaga. In the two World Wars the archipelago was vital for the support given to the Allies. It became a centre of communications and a Major Air Base which remains active to this day. After the 1974 Revolution, they constituted their autonomy, with their own Legislative Assembly and Government. This autonomy is safeguarded and even reinforced under the terms of the 1982 Revised Constitution. The Azores have contributed a great deal to Portuguese culture with outstanding figures, particularly in the arts, literature, politics and science.

Sea-birds and various types of birds, including the priolo, a sort of grey bullfinch that is endemic to the region, constitute the most attractive elements of the land fauna. It is in the ocean that the greatest wealth of the Azores lies, with an abundance of hundreds of species of fish and shell-fish and large mammals such as the sperm whale and the dolphin.

Dense areas of larissilva, relics of the temperate hygrophyte forest that covered the archipelago before it was inhabited, can still be found in many islands. Among the many exotic species introduced, special mention should be made to the Japanese cedar, the araucaria, hydrangeas and azaleas.

Furnas, São Miguel

Location and Wildlife
The Azores islands are made up of nine islands in the mid Atlantic Ocean that bear the evidence of a 500 year old culture part of mainland Portugal. They are famous for the numbers of sperm whales that frequent these islands, including sperm whale nurseries around both Pico and Faial. The clear, warm waters of the Azores also contain blue, sei, killer, and pelagic beaked whales as well as at least six species of dolphins.

The dolphins are very abundant in this area and often curiously swimming alongside the boat. Taking a swim with them may be possible during these encounters. The sights around Pico island are breathtaking with a volcano rising from the ocean 2,350 m. (7,700 ft.) into the air with vineyards lining its slopes. This is the highest mountain in Portugal and taking a hike through this region is recommended. Horta is lined with cobblestone sidewalks and fine restaurants offering a place to stroll and to experience the culture of Portugal. Museums describing of the island are also interesting places to visit.

Vulcanic caldeira vulcanica, Furnas, Sao Miguel Winter View of Sete Cidades, S.

An experienced sailor with many Atlantic crossings to his credit once described the Azores as Europe`s best kept cruising secret. Yet, the islands have a lot more to offer. With the exception of Corvo, there is at least one good port on every island, the weather in summer is pleasant, the scenery superb, the waters clean and the Azoreans extremely welcoming.

By building an excellent marina in Horta, recently the same in the Azorean capital Ponta Delgada and in the future one in Terceira, we can say that the Azores are developing some Touristic areas, to receive the Tourists on our best way.

The nine islands of Azores belong truly to the Atlantic Ocean, their nature, history and climate all derive from their position in mid-Atlantic, 1,500 km (900 miles) off the coast of Portugal and 3,000 km (1800 miles) from Bermuda. Located between 36º and 43º North and 25º and 31º west, the archipelago consists of nine main islands divided into three groups, the two most western islands Flores and Corvo, the central group of Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira, and to the east the largest island São Miguel and Santa Maria. The large number of hawks seen flying over the islands, which the early settlers mistook for vultures and are called açores in Portuguese, have given their name to the archipelago.

Fogo Lake going dark, S. Miguel City Gates, Ponta Delgada, S. Miguel

More About the Azores


The North Atlantic Islands | The South Atlantic Islands | The Indian Ocean Islands

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