Ribeira Grande: Nature’s County on Sao Miguel Island

Bright red flowers of a pohutukawa tree, AzoresThe county of Ribeira Grande is located on the North part of the island and is known as the “Nature’s county.” Not to be mistaken with just the name of the city Ribeira Grande, it also represents the entire county and all the parish communities that encompass it. One of the first settlements during the colonization of the Azores, Ribeira Grande has been the center of experimental gardens and tea plantations for centuries. The towns, villages and cities that encompass the county are as followed. Sao Brás, Porto Formoso, Maia, Lomba da Maia, Calhetas, Matriz, Lomba de Sao Pedro, Conceição, Ribeira Seca. Each one of these towns/cities has a unique charm to it and all involve the premise of Nature first. The county is said to have more cows than people, however the agricultural based region has many interesting sites and landmarks to explore that just don’t involve the natural beauty of the region.9d4f2-12512713_10204739925371849_2571961446740586084_nSome say Ribeira Grande sets its own time, with farmers and locals alike all seem to just go with the flow and rushing is not part of the culture. A region filled with cow farmers, fisherman, gardeners and botanists it is no wonder why the pace of the county rings to its own bells. This is the place to be when you want to experience true Azorean culture during the months of festivities. Each town celebrates its patron saint in an elaborate sequence of events all which lead to the holy mass on Sunday at the local church. Many offerings are given to the saint and thanks for the blessing received during the year. 2d261-stptrsThis is truly a remarkable experience with many local vendors selling treats and of course the famous Azores raffles where you buy a bag of rolled of papers and inside is a winning ticket. One found, you can go to the local booth where you bought your bag and exchange your winning voucher for a prize, all which is donated by the local business and residents for the benefit of the festival. All the money remains in the local community offering programs to residents and of course the funding and repairs of the local church. During the night local dancers will perform their folklore dancing with Azorean music serenading you as you walk up the cobblestones and enjoy all the local culture and dancers.VillageThe county of Ribeira Grande is also known for its many beaches and is a hot spot in the spring and summer months with many locals from various parts of the island and most recently an influx of tourists due to deregulation of Azorean airspace, which has allowed many routes throughout Europe on a direct flight paths with the island of Sao Miguel. The “Praia de Santa Bárbara” also known as Santa Barbara beach is a popular destination with surfers and bodyboarders alike. santababyThe natural bay of the region creates ample waves for the seasoned surfer to enjoy with outstanding coastal views of the entire city. It is no wonder why the Annual Azores Surf Competition is hosted every year by Azores Airlines and is on Santa Barbara beach. There you can enjoy the dark sandy/stone beaches with ample space to relax and of course a restaurant and snack bar Tuka Tula right on site. This is a hot spot during the day and at night since the restaurant overlooks the coast and has very good food at fair prices. Always try the local seafood since it is a jewel here, and caught fresh daily by local farmers.12524284_541057742742737_8596785742771796690_nThe number of trials has increased substantially in the last years in the area and are an ideal place for the globetrotting tourist to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Ribeira Grande all while enjoying a safely marked trail. The popularity amongst tourists and locals alike have given rise to the many hiking and walking trails in the area and the unique flora and fauna you experience while admiring the beauty of this unique paradise is an experience of a lifetime.Beautiful view over green hills, meadows and mountains of Sao Miguel Island in Azores, PortugalOne minute you could be hiking on the edge of the world, with the ocean at your side and flowers to your north to going deep in the valley’s of the Gorreana tea plantation, the only one of its kind in Europe while you explore waterfalls and unseen wonders.8121219311_6e7c35b446There are many great restaurants in the area and often visited for their unique menu and creative cuisine. The food is all produced locally with a great importance placed on the benefits of eating and producing locally sustainable food products. The beef, pork and poultry all come from the region and is known to be of the highest quality since the cattle is feed a grass diet and not forced grains like in many regions of the world.ffffffMilk from “Happy Cows” where they are able to graze on grass 24 hours a day 365 days a year is only one of the many healthy and sustainable benefits of eating the local foods. The seafood which is caught fresh daily is an important part of the economic sector for the islands as many local fishermen make their livings by the same way their ancestors have by fishing in small boats with 6-8 men on board within 200 km of the Azorean coastline, making the seafood from the North Atlantic a prized and savory delicacy.20988153_806302659551576_2992871358561581928_o

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