Discovered in the 15th century by Portuguese navigator Gonçalo Velho Cabral, the Azores islands are an autonomous region of Portugal, located in the Mid-Atlantic, approximately 1500 km off Portugal’s shoreline. Nine islands in total and all relatively very small in size, here on the largest island in the archipelago Sao Miguel, you can find a little bit of everything mother nature has to offer.
These nine islands have always had a unique sense of identity, culture, and history. Although they belong to Portugal, they have a lot of self-autonomy, which has allowed them to forge their destiny on political and social issues. During the carnation revolution of 1974 on the island’s capital of Ponta Delgada, it forced a new constitution for the region. It gave them the autonomous status which they and the island of Madeira now have.
The island of Sao Miguel has a population of 140,000 people in 64 cities and towns that make up the island’s community. The island receives the warm gulf breeze that prevents the island from reaching freezing temperatures and allows a moderate climate relative to its location. Here, the people and culture are friendly and bright with lots of colorful seaside houses and brilliant festivals all year long, making this a charming island community.
It was here that the first trials of tea began in the 19th century, which now represents the only region in the entire Euro-zone to produce both green and black teas. Here at the famous Cha Gorreana tea plantation founded in 1883, you can admire the perfectly manicured tea fields alongside sweeping ocean views. The island is filled with exotic trails that lead you through various elements such as forests, pastures, coastlines, and valleys. The island has over 50 marked trails that offer routes based on experience and agility and are worth exploring while on this island paradise.
One of my favorite trails is in Sete Cidades, also known as the “Lake of Seven Cities.” Here you can admire one of the Azores’ natural wonders; the adjoining blue and green lakes. Here you have all the choices available to you on how you want to spend your day. The trails lead to either the majestic lakes through the valleys and mountainous terrain. You can enjoy the beautiful ancient laurisilva forest, one of Europe’s only remaining laurisilva forests still in existence while taking in the flora and fauna of this delicate area.
The Azores are not known for the picturesque, white sand beaches; however, they have many dark lava stone beaches on the island equally unique and offer an excellent view out into the Atlantic. There are not many places where you can admire cows grazing on the green grass on the mountains above while basking in the sunshine on the hot sand beach overlooking the rugged Atlantic coastline.
There are numerous natural rock pools and human-made pools along the coastlines, which are ideal for spending a unique afternoon with many local restaurants serving the island’s most delicate traditional dishes. The island of Sao Miguel has increasingly gained international exposure because they have two very unique golf courses that exist on the island.
They are both recognized as world-class golf courses, holding many international events in the past and offer rentals, golf clinics, and of course, a first-class bar at their clubhouse. If a golf retreat in the middle of the Atlantic is something you are interested in or just fancy playing a couple of rounds in between tours, make sure you look into Azores Golf Islands. Here you can book and arrange anything you need golf-related, and they are known for their exceptional customer satisfaction.
The island is very much still an agriculture-based society and even though the recent influx of tourists has increased the service sector here on the island it is in the blood and veins of Azoreans to work the land or sea, as it is the hard work of generations of Azoreans that have made this the special island paradise in the Atlantic it has become. The region has received numerous awards for its sustainable tourism programs and initiatives and the fact that the islands are all working to become 100% energy efficient.
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