The archipelago of the Azores extend some 600 km (370 mi) from northwest to southeast. The islands have a total land area of 2,346 sq km (906 sq mi). The islands forming the archipelago are Corvo, Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Pico, Sa~o Jorge, Sa~o Miguel, Santa Maria and Terceira. The functions of the capital are shared between three towns, Angra do Heroi’smo, Horta and Ponta Delgada. The highest mountain in the Azores is the 2,351-meter (7,713 ft) Mount Pico, on the island of Pico. If measured from the ocean floor, then many of the mountains in the Azores are the tallest on the planet.
The discovery and settlement of the Azores began in a similar fashion with Madeira. Earliest maps showing the existence of the Azores date back to 1351. The island was officially discovered in 1431 by Gonc,alo Velho Cabral, although explorer Diogo de Silves is also credited with its discovery in 1427. Following the discovery, and finding that there were no large animals on the island, sheep were brought over. Settlement did not begin immediately, as there was little appeal in living on an isolated archipelago.
In the later part of the 15th century, African slaves were brought to the island of Sa~o Miguel and abandoned there to fend for themselves. Then more domesticated animals were brought over, and villages were established.
During the Second World War, the Portuguese dictator Anto’nio de Oliveira Salazar leased bases in the Azores to the British. The base enabled the Allies to effectively hunt U-boats and protect Trans-Atlantic convoys. After the war, the Americans continued to maintain a base there to patrol the North Atlantic Ocean for Soviet submarines and spy vessels. The Azores was also the venue of a summit between US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose’ Mari’a Aznar and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose’ Manuel Dura~o Barroso, just before the start of the Iraq War.
Today the people of the Azores, called the Azoreans, have developed their own distinct identity and cultural traits. They hold religious festivals and celebrate feast days of their patron saints.
Going to the Azores
The Ponta Delgada Airport (PDL) is the main gateway to the Azores. TAP, the Portuguese flag carrier, has regular services to Ponta Delgada from Lisbon and Funchal. Other airlines flying there include Azores Express and SATA Azores.
To explore the Azores, it is most practical to rent a car. Then you will be able to visit some of the remote areas. The terrain in some places is steep and rugged, so proper vehicle is necessary. If you have the time, then cycling is another possible option, though you should expect to push your bike up some hill slopes.
6. Sa~o Jorge
7. Sa~o Miguel
8. Santa Maria
Towns in the Azores
1. Angra do Heroi’smo – seat of the judiciary
2. Horta – seat of legislature
3. Ponta Delgada – seat of presidency
5. Lajes das Flores
6. Lajes do Pico
10. Praia da Vito’ria
11. Ribeira Grande
12. Santa Cruz da Graciosa
13. Santa Cruz das Flores
14. Sa~o Roque
15. Vila do Corvo
16. Vila do Porto
17. Vila Franca do Campo