The Azores Islands (pronounced AY-zorz or uh-ZORZ; Portuguese: Acores; Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈsoɾɨs]), are a Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 km (930 mi) from Lisbon and about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) from the east coast of North America.
The Monchique Islet on Flores Island, located at 31° 16 24 W is considered as the most western point in Europe, even though from a geographical standpoint, the two westernmost Azores islands (Flores and Corvo) actually lie on the North American plate not the European plate.
The current Azores main industries are tourism (which is becoming very popular), cattle raising for milk and meat, and fishing.
The Azores Archipelago Overview
The nine major Azorean islands and the eight small Formigas Islands extend for more than 600 km (373 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction.
The vast extent of the islands defines an immense exclusive economic zone of 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi). The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km (2,100 mi) from the North American continent. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although Santa Maria also has some reef contribution. Mount Pico on Pico Island, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft) in altitude, is the highest in all of Portugal.
The Azores are actually the tops of some of the tallest mountains on the planet, as measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean.
The archipelago forms, officially since September 4th 1976, the “Autonomous Region of the Azores”, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other is Madeira).
Unique in Culture, Traditions and Diversity
Because these once uninhabited, remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries, their culture, dialect, cuisine and traditions vary considerably from island to island. Farming and fishing are key industries that support the Azorean economy.
The Azores islands, supported for centuries the expansion of Europe’s main land, attracting many people from all over in search of fortune, such as sailors, slaves, privateers and pirates.
From here many azoreans left to seek even more remote destinies. Those who returned, brought along novelties from far cultures.
Because of the still new undeveloped land and the need to survive together, strong bonds between the different islands were established. Due to the remote and isolated geographical location of the archipelago, influences from these old cultures are still vividly present today.
Come and visit the islands; we will help you select the best places to stay and things to do on the Azores archipelago.
9 Major Islands in the Azores
There are 9 major islands in the Azores archipelago.
- Flores Island,
- Corvo Island,
- Graciosa Island,
- Terceira Island,
- Sao Jorge Island,
- Pico Island,
- Faial Island,
- Sao Miguel Island,
- Santa Maria Island
Since there are 3 island clusters, there isn’t one main capital and rather 3!
Azores main cities are Ponta Delgada (the most populated city in Azores) in Sao Miguel Island, Angra do Heroismo in Terceira Island and Horta in Faial Island.
Since we’re talking about islands, airports are of the utmost importance and Azores has nine of them:
- Ponta Delgada Airport (Joao Paulo II) in Sao Miguel Island,
- Horta Airport in Faial Island,
- Santa Maria Airport,
- Flores Airport,
- Graciosa Airport,
- Pico Airport,
- S. Jorge Airport,
- Corvo Airpot,
- Airfield in Flores Island,
- Lajes Civil Airfield in Terceira Island.
Isolated and Wild but Easy to Visit
Originated by volcanoes, eroded by time, and manipulated by the inhabitants, the Azores islands have maintained their splendor and beauty throughout the years and are now one of the few archipelagos in Europe that still offer a sense of “wilderness nature”.
Easily reachable from both Europe and North America there’s no wonder they are starting to become well known. The Azores are about 1,000 miles from Lisbon, about 2,400 miles from the east coast of North America and New York, and about 1,500 miles from London United Kingdom.
Access within the Island are fairly good, especially due to the regional government efforts made during the last decade. New roads, public transports, health and other service facilities have greatly improved and are well received by tourists visiting the archipelago!
So much to do and see in the Azores!
The islands are most know for its unspoiled nature and wildlife, it’s tranquility and all the nature-based activities you can experience such as trekking holidays and walking tours, whale spotting and bird watching, not forgetting the eye staggering scenic views that will surely find a sweet spot in your memories for years to come.
There are plenty of remarkable hotels in the Azores, exquisite restaurants and lively bars and night clubs. There’s even a Casino, the newly opened Casino Azor in Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, managed in partnership with the Azor Hotel.
There’s so much going on in the Azores, we promise you won’t get bored for even a bit of your time. Ready for this?