Where are the Azorean Islands?

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There are three parts in the North Atlantic 36°43’ to 39°56’ N and 24°46’ to 31°16’ W with total  2'334 km2 (= approx. 2.5% of Portugal): Oriental islands - Central islands - Western islands

Island

 km2

highest elevation

approx. population*

capital

São Miguel

746.8

1103

137'699

Ponta Delgada

Pico

447

2351

14'144

Madalena

Terceira

381.96

1021

56'062

Angra do Heroismo

São Jorge

246

1053

8'989

Vela

Faial

173.4

1043

15'038

Horta

Flores

143.1

914

3'791

Santa Cruz das Flores

Santa Maria

97.5

587

5'547

Vila do Porto

Graciosa

62

404

4'393

Santa Cruz

Corvo

17.5

718

430

Vila Nova

* source: censo 2011

Historical details: discovering and settlement

The exact date of discovery is not quite clear but, from the notes of the Genues sea maps of the 14th century, it is believed that the islands were discovered between 1317 and 1339. On the other hand, some believed the story of Damião Peres that Diogo de Silves discovered the archipelago in 1427. In 2010 a number of ancient cultural sites were discovered, so it may be that history will be rewritten, but at the moment there are studies pending. Furthermore, the settlement of São Miguel and Santa Maria seem to have been established around 1439. In history, the Azores Islands were important during the discovery and defense of the African colonies. The islands where used as a hub for expeditions to Asia and America as well. During the Spanish occupation of Portugal between 1580 and 1640, the Azores Islands were the last bastion of resistance. During World War I and II the archipelago was an important base for the allied forces and acted as a centre of communications.

 

 

Landscape

The nine islands hold many visual attractions, from the highest mountain (vulcano Pico) to calm slopes and steep costal areas. Here the calm plaines and next to it a hugh extinct vulcano with his mystic blue/green lake in the crater then a beautiful waterfall surrounded with lushy green plants. All islands are originated of vulcanic activities. But Santa Maria island is the only one raised out of the Atlantic ocean through tectonic movements. That is why Santa Maria island is the only one that offers you some beautiful white sand beaches. The vulcanic activities are not yet finished, these are proving several fumaroles and mofettas places on São Miguel island. Countless coves, dotted around the islands, offer protection to idle wooden fishing boats, behind the shore, bizarre rock formations and imposing cliffs, rise out of the sea and provide homes to a wide variety of sea and migratory birds.

 

 

Flora

The vegetation on the islands has left 56 endemic plants but over 1200 especies from all over the world which were brought in. Depending on the island you might find/see some of the endemic plants however a lot are only to be found on especial protected areas. Beautiful arrangements of flowers are to be discovered throughout the archipelago. Hortensiens, lilies, and many others dress the roadsides. Regarding the woods you mainly see cryptomeria forests with some Akazies and common bushes/trees like the Pão Branco. In proteced areas you encounter native laurel forest vegetation which is home to the Azores Bullfinch and Estrelinha.

 

 

Fauna

There are a few different species of birds living on the islands, but none of them are endemic (except for the Priole on São Miguel and the Estrelinha on Santa Maria Island). The majority of birds are migratory and spend only winter time in the Azores. Some frequently viewed birds include the Common Buzzard (buteo buteo), the Serin (serinus serinus), the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), the Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the Gray Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) and the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla). The Priole (Pyrrhula murina) is very rarely seen, it is part of the Bullfinch family and is living in the proteced area around Pico da Vara in the northeast of São Miguel.

The only endemic mammal is the Azorean Noctule (Nyctalus azoreum). This bat grows up to 6 cm in length and lives on all the islands except Flores and Corvo.

Rabbits, cats, ferrets and hedgehogs are all living wild on the islands, but there are not any red deers, foxes or badgers. The “Cão de fila” (azorean cattledog) can often be viewed with farmers working. Many different fish are living in the lakes, such as Trouts, Pikes, Carps and Perches, to name a few. In the clear waters around the islands dolphins may be viewed leaping out the ocean. Whales, different species of tunas, and many other sea dwellers may also be observed.

 

 

Climate

Due to their geographical situation, the Azorean Islands have a big influence on European weather. The famous Azores High forms through air masses which develop in the Equator-region, the temperature rises before cooling down and subsequently sinking on the latidude of the Azorean Islands. The Gulf stream offers a constant maritime climate all year round. In January/February the temperature moves between 12 - 18 ° C, whilst in August the temperature climbs up to 25 ° C. The relative humidity usually holds around 75 - 90 %. It is not rare for winters to be stormy and unpredictable when deep Atlantic depressions move across, or close to, the islands. On an eventful day you can experience any combination of wind and calm, hot sun and showers, sometimes even hail. As the Azorean people say: “You may experience four seasons a day!”