Azores named as the best destination for 2016 by Dutch magazine “Traveler” National Geographic.
Azores named as the best destination for 2016 by Dutch magazine “Traveler” National Geographic.
The easiest way to travel to the Azores is by plane, to the airports of Ponta Delgada (S. Miguel Island), Lajes (Terceira Island) and Horta (Faial Island). Regular flights to Lisbon assure the connection with Europe and other continents, as well as charters to Madeira Island, USA and Canada. In the Atlantic, the Azorean harbours are ports of call to yachts and cruisers due to their excellent geographic localisation. However, there is no ferry to the Azores. According to Portuguese legislation, foreigners should have a passport or, in some specific cases, a Visa, with the exception of citizens from the European Union or Switzerland, who only need their personal identity. Countries where Portugal doesn’t have an official representation, the tourist must require permission directly to the Portuguese authorities. Customs control the entrance and exit of passengers and goods. The ships entrance and departure is controlled by local captaincies. The foreign citizens must have an international or national driving license to rent and drive cars, mottoes, or other motorised vehicles.
Portuguese is the language spoken in the islands, although there are some different accents. The Azoreans can speak English, French, and German quite easily.
For you comfort, we suggest fresh clothes in summer, and proper clothes for wet and fresh days in spring and autumn. The temperature doesn’t drop much in winter, but as it rains frequently in the Azores, we advise you to bring a raincoat.
Euro is the Portuguese currency. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, 1 and two euros, and 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros notes. Only the banks are allowed to do exchanges, and they generally operate from 8.30 to 15.00, being closed on weekends and holidays. You can use credit cards in shops that have affixed their acceptance.
All the Azorean islands are linked by regular flights of SATA, the regional airlines company. A local company assures the ferry between the islands from May to October. The islands of Faial, Pico, and S. Jorge have ferry during all year. A bus service is available in all the islands, allowing tours with comfort and of less cost. Besides that, there are car rentals and taxi services at disposal.
The following days are holiday: 1st of January (New Year); 6th April (Eastern Friday); 8th April (Eastern Sunday); 25th April (Freedom’s Day); 1st May (Day of the Worker); 28st May (Day of Autonomy); 10th June (Day of Portugal, Camoes and Communities); 7th June (Day of Christ’s Body); 15th August (Day of Nossa Senhora Assunçao); 1st November (All-Saints Day); 8th December (Day of Nossa Senhora Imaculada da Conceiçao); 25th December (Christmas). There are also two optional holidays: the municipalities’ holiday and Carnival (8th February).
Although not even all islands have the same schedule, trade is usually open from 9.30 to 12.30 and from 14.00 to 18.30; on Saturday, stores close at 13.00. Some shops don't close at lunchtime, and others are open on the weekends as the hypermarkets, shopping centres and several supermarkets. The restaurants are usually open from 12-15 for lunch, and from 18-22 to serve dinner. Several restaurants enlarge this schedule, so you should look for further information in the Restaurants section.
Along the seashore, several beaches, natural and municipal pools are an invitation. Parks and gardens, where interesting botanic species grow, are waiting for your visit. In some places, you can practise horseback ridding. The travel agencies organise different tours, offering the possibility to visit the main tourist points of the islands. Hiking is an excellent opportunity to reach the living nature. Cinemas, bars, pubs and discos are good ways of entertainment for your nights..
S. Miguel and Terceira Islands have good golf courses, and tennis is also a possibility in several islands. The sea is an invitation to sail, windsurf and practice other sea sports, as well as to discover splendid diving spots. The Azorean sea is very rich in fish species, offering the possibility to practise trolling or bottom fishing. In the lagoons and streams, other species of freshwater, as trout, perch, carp and pike, invite for a good fishery. Hunt is also possible due to the existence of wild rabbits, woodcocks, partridges, pigeons, ducks and snipes. However, to hunt or fish in the lagoons of the Azores, a specific license granted by the Forestry Services is required.
Facts and characters of the Azorean History are registered in museums, some located in old monasteries of the Azores, fortresses, castles, stone monuments and statues. To visit the museums or the ethnographic houses spread all over the islands is to enter in the Azoreans daily lives and costumes. The patrimonial heritage is very rich and shows the habits of the islands’ inhabitants in masterpieces of painting and sculpture. The churches, present in every parish, date back from the settlement period, and keep inside real works of art. Many churches and chapels are scattered all over the Azorean Archipelago. Libraries and public archives, located in the cities of the Azores, preserve a vast literary heritage about the Azorean History. There are several popular festivities in the Archipelago; the Divino Espírito Santo Festival, the municipal festivities, and the festivities devoted to the parishes’ patron saints are the most famous. These festivities occur between May and September, and usually include processions and street animation. In Terceira Island, the bullfight, in the streets or in the square, comes from a tradition from the time of the settlement period and the Spanish domain. In the streets bullfighting, the ox is tied with a rope and runs through the streets challenged by the bravest. In the square, the most known bullfights occur during the Sanjoaninas festivities. Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres is the biggest religious festival of the islands.
In the Atlantic Ocean, 760 maritime miles (1408 km) from Lisbon and 2110 miles (3910 km) from New York, nine islands of volcanic origin form the Azorean Archipelago. Açores derives from the name of a bird (goshawk) that supposedly lived in the islands. According to some investigators, the archipelago was once part of the legendary Atlântida. Săo Miguel and Santa Maria islands form the eastern group; Terceira, Graciosa, Săo Jorge, Faial and Pico islands are the central group; the western group is composed by the islands of Flores and Corvo. In its whole, the archipelago occupies an area of approximately 2335 sq km. The mild maritime climate is affected by the East Golf Stream. Without great changes, the air temperatures vary between 23º C (73º F) during summer, and 13º C (55º F) in winter. The water temperature oscillates between 24ºC (75º F) and 17º C (24º F).
According to Genovese maps from the XIV century, the Azores were discovered between the years of 1317 and 1339; however, the historian Damiăo Peres argues that the archipelago was discovered by Diogo de Silves in 1427. The settlement began around 1439 in the islands of Santa Maria and Săo Miguel. The Azores had an important role in the conquest and defence of the Portuguese fortresses in Africa. Also in its ports, ships coming from India and ships departing for America exploration were supplied. During the period of Spanish domination over the Portuguese territory, the Azores were a bastion of resistance. During the two world wars, the archipelago gave support to the allies through its ports and airports, being an important communication centre in the Atlantic. After the national revolution in April 25th, 1974, the Portuguese Constitution granted the Azores the status of Autonomous Region, with a regional Assembly and Government.
In the Azores, several belvederes over the ocean offer unforgettable splendid views of the coastline, the bays, the country side, lagoons, volcano craters, fumaroles, water springs, and fields of real quietness and free of pollution. Exuberant vegetation and a great variety of trees, including endemic species, like field cedar and “vinhático” (a kind of Brazilian wood), grow in this fertile soil. Outstanding are a great variety of flowers, namely hydrangeas and azaleas. The magnificent vegetation, along with the tea and tobacco plantations, confers such colour and diversity to the landscape that each visitor, especially those who are photography lovers, is enchanted by the tones that nature offers. In the Azorean fauna, the dominant species are the rabbit and a great variety of birds: kite, ring-dove and rocky pigeon, canary, and several seabirds, as different kinds of seagull, and sea swallows. Rich in fish species, the sea in the Azores is much favourable to sport fishing. It also offers the possibility of dolphins, sperm-whales, whales and other cetaceans watching, with the help of some specialised companies. Several natural reserves, sponsored by the Regional Government, preserve nature, landscape, fauna and flora of the islands. Typical housing, windmills of Flemish origin, churches, chapels and other monuments are a testimony of the living past of the Azores. The Azorean gastronomy is plenty, varying with the habits of each island of the archipelago. The wines are specially known and qualified. Due to the isolation suffered for many years, the Azoreans developed singular manual working techniques, visible in the handicraft: pieces of whale tooth and whale bone, fish scales, wood, pottery, basaltic stone, maize leaf and fig tree pith. The Azorean popular traditions are displayed in songs, dances, bullfighting ("touradas à corda" in Terceira Island), typical costumes and processions, which reflect the religious feelings of this kind and welcoming people.