Azores elected best destination for 2016 by National Geographic’s dutch magazine “Traveler”.
Azores elected best destination for 2016 by National Geographic’s dutch magazine “Traveler”.
The most common way to travel to Santa Maria island is by air transport. SATA - Air Açores flies daily from S. Miguel island, with flights to the other islands of the Azores Archipelago. Between May and October, transport by ferry is available, departing from Ponta Delgada's cruise ship dock and taking approximately 3 hours.
Placed at 28° 08' W and 37° 43'N, together with S. Miguel it is part of the Eastern Group of the Azores. It is located at 102 km (55 mi) from S. Miguel. It is the southernmost island of the archipelago and it is also the closest one to continental Portugal. It has an area of approximately 97,5 km² (37,6 mi²), with a maximum length of 18 km (9,7 mi) and 10 km ( 5,4 mi) of width.
The island's discovery is, still today, uncertain. However, it is thought to have been discovered by Portuguese sailors, who docked between 1427 and 1432. It was the first island to be populated. The Portuguese sailors, which came mostly from Algarve, settled on the north coast of the island (Praia de Lobos) close to the settlement of Anjos. Later, in 1493, returning from Columbus' first voyage to America, the crew had disembarked on Anjos.
For transportation in the island of Gonçalo Velho, you may opt for renting a vehicle from a rent-a-car service, take a taxi, or make use of the public transport bus, which connects virtually every place in the island.
Small seaside location, has a fishing port and natural pools. Visit the chapel where Columbus had mass celebrated when returning from America.
A bathing resort with beach and natural pool, placed at the base of a marvelous slope, where we can admire the vines that produce the famed São Lourenço wine.
The closest thing to a desert one can find in the Azores, it is commonly referred to as the "Red Desert" due to the volcanic fragments that color the area.
An interesting lighthouse and an excellent sightseeing spot that offers a paradisaical view.
Built in the 16th century during the Philippine Dominion for the settlement's defense. Inside, the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceição can be found.
A place of extreme beauty, enhanced by a cave where stalagmites and stalactites can be observed. The natural interior harbor can be accessed by boat.
Also known as "The Giant's Stepping Stones", this geological formation is the result of the rocky outcrop of gigantic basalt columns.
Small leisure area, it presents a landscape covered with vineries. A natural pool with clear waters invites you for a swim.
A museum composed of two centers: the Museu Etnográfico and the Núcleo Museológico de Vila do Porto. Here you will find excellent works representative of the local handicrafts and also representations of the oldest traditions of the populace.
Magnificent beach of light sand, contrasting with the other beaches of the Azores, which have dark sand due to the basalt. Warm waters invite a relaxing swim, and also the rpactice of nautical sports, like surf.
At an altitude of around 590m, it is the island's highest point. A magnificent panoramic view of the whole island can be admired from the sightseeing spot.
A lake formed by rain in a quarry. A beautiful exlibris of the joint action of man and nature.
Leaving Vila do Porto, go through Pedras de São Pedro, passing by Golfeira, Saúde, Paúl and down to Anjos. There you can find a bathing area, a small port and an hermitage of high historical importance. Return, in the opposite direction, to Saúde, go through São Pedro, Ribeira do Engenho, Lagoinhas, Feteiras e Santa Bárbara. Return to Vila do Porto passing by Picos, Almagreira and Pedras de São Pedro.
Leaving Vila do Porto, go through Valverde. In Almagreira follow throughBrejo and make a stop at Macela sightseeing spot where you will enjoy a charming view. Go down to Praia Formosa, a bathing resort with a wide beach of light sands and clear waters. Returning to the same road, pass by Almagreira, go up to Picos and towards Pico Alto, the highest point in the island, where you can admire the whole island and, if weather allows, catch a glimpse of S. Miguel Island. Going down to Fontinhas, go through Loural, Santo Espírito, Fonte do Jordão, Calheta, Ponta do Castelo, where you can see Gonçalo Velho Lighthouse. Go then to Maia, where you can enjoy a bathing area with a natural swimming pool. Return through the same road and at Loural make a turn to Santo António, towards São Lourenço. Make a brief stop at the sightseeing spot where you can have a view of Ilhéu do Romeiro, go down to São Lourenço where you can enjoy yet another bathing resort, with a beach and natural pool. Return to Vila do Porto going through Santa Bárbara, Picos, Almagreiras and Pedras de São Pedro.
This island features many areas of architectural construction, of Manueline and Baroque styles.
Built in 1594, by Corvelo Resende, together with his brothers, that decided to institute a minster of the Order of Santa Clara, with Santa Maria Madalena as patron saint.
Built in the 17th century, featuring tiles from the time.
It was the first to be built, in 1925, after the Capela das Aparições da Cova de Iria. To reach the top of the hermitage, you must climb 150 steps, corresponding to the number of beads in a rosary.
Probably the oldest temple in the archipelago. Place where Christopher Columbus had mass when returning from America.
Church in Vila do Porto, from the 15th century, revuilt in the 16th century.
Entering this field, you can attend Portugal's oldest festival, "Festival Maré de Agosto". It features a line-up that is very eclectic in music genres and several cultural activities. This annual festival happens in August. The music concerts are played in Praia Formosa e usually include nationally and internationally renowned artists. Thousands of young people visit Santa Maria for the occasion, having fun for a few days in the island.
Still on music, we have "Santa Maria Blues", a festival geared mostly towards Jazz and Blues. It happens yearly in Anjos in the month of July. Also in July there is the "Festival Maia Folk", in Maia. There is also to enjoy, in Santa Maria, the grape harvest fest and the Rallye de Santa Maria, events that cheer the island and will certainly entertain you in the best way.
The main festivity of Santa Maria happens in Vila do Porto, on the 15th of August, honoring its patron saint, Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Also, the Espírito Santo festivities that happen alternately between the several localities between May and September, are a strong tradition. They were brought by the first settlers, and besides the religious significance with the coronation of the Imperador and the traditional procession, the profane component is also very interesting. Large gatherings are had, involving traditional local foods and drinks. Large iron pots are thrown on the fire to cook the famous Sopas do Espírito Santo (Sopas do Império), unique in the archipelago. Taste them if you have the opportunity. Everyone is welcome to join and socialize in this tradition. The meals are free and the entertainment is guaranteed. If you are in Santa Maria during this season, do not hesitate to join the festivities. You can also find the houses of the Impérios, used in the Festas do Espírito Santo, that allude to the Santíssima Trindade, Pai, Filho e Espírito Santo (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Based on natural resources, namely clay and wool, the main crafts of Santa Maria are pottery and weaving. Items made of clay, wool shirts, blankets and linen cloths woven on old looms are presented as unique pieces of rare beauty. Even though not used nowadays, the capote e capelo (cloak and hood) are still the most traditional dress of the island, and of the archipelago.
The folklore, which had its origins in the popular music of continental Portugal, was introduced by the first settlers. With time, it evolved and developed unique forms. Folklore groups have done great research work, managing to replicate, with rigor and precision, the dresses, music and dances of other times.
Regarding food, Santa Maria has to offer the soups of the Impérios do Espírito Santo, the turnip soup, the cake in the pan, "caçoila"(pulled pork), pork and liver sauces, fish soup and fish stew. The seafood includes slipper lobster, spiny lobster, limpets and barnacles, everything fresh from the sea to the plate. When it comes to confectionery, we have centuries-old recipes, such as: cinnamon covered biscuits (known as "Júlias"), the famous ""Orelha" biscuits, white biscuits, spirits biscuits, "suspiros melindre" and the "cavacas". All this gastronomy includes very typical characteristics that delights anyone's palate. Regarding wines, the "vinho de cheiro" should be pointed out, coming from the vines on the slopes of São Lourenço and Maia. It is handmade for personal consumption. There are also the "abafado" and "abafadinho" wines, the blackberry and milk liqueurs, and lastly, the handmade spirits, a well-regarded choice for a digestif.
If you are looking for a good saltwater swim, we recommend the sands of Praia Formosa and São Lourenço. You may also opt for the natural pools of Anjos or Maia.
The line fisher may capture: white seabream, Mediterranean parrotfish, red snapper, grouper, wrasse, mackerel, anchovy, barracuda e sierra. All these species may also be caught by buoy fishing, bottom fishing, trolling or with live bait. The island has fishing ports along the whole coast.
The whole coast of Santa Maria is rich in fish species. A place of choice for parrotfish fishing, where some sport fishing competitions are held, especially in the summer.
Additionally you may go on a boat fishing trip. Local enterprises can be of help if that is your wish. You will be mesmerized by the crystalline waters of Santa Maria and the species that you can capture, for the fish of the Azores's ocean depths has no equal.
In Santa Maria, the spearfisher will find an authentic paradise. All the species are abundant in significant numbers. From the species to fish we point out: vadigo, anchovy, barracuda and Mediterranean parrotfish. Please get informed with the relevant maritime authorities on current legislation that regulates spearfishing.
The Azores, land of sea, provide unforgettable moments to lovers of this activity. The islets of Vila, Lagoinhas and São Lourenço, as well as the Gruta dos Encharéus and the Baía de Tagarete, are locations overlaid with amazing beauty. The islets of Formigas are unique in aquatic fauna richness. You can get support from a company that specializes in this activity, listed in our Guide, in the Services section.
Praia Formosa and Anjos are internationally renowned spots for having all the conditions for the practice of surf. You can also windsurf or sail.
The island of Santa Maria does not present a very rugged terrain, so there are no major impediments to the activity. There are several hiking trails available, such as the Pico Alto trail. You can get more information from guides for this effect. There are no wild animals on the island.
Thanks to its marvelous slopes, Santa Maria offers exceptional conditions for the learning and practice of this sport. Privileged locations for its practice are: the bays of Praia Formosa, São Lourenço, Anjos and Maia. You may opt for a flight baptism in a two-seater. Get more information from AJISM - Associação Juvenil de Santa Maria.
Santa Maria provides unique experiences when it comes to this activity. The Ilhéu da Vila do Porto constitutes one of the most important seabird colonies of the Azores, and the area surrounding the airport is, also, one of the best spots for bird watching. Baía dos Anjos and Foz da Ribeira de São Francisco are other bird watching spots.