The many islands of the Azores – Intro
1600 km from Lisbon – the Azores; the emerald green Portuguese islands in the mid-Atlantic
The Azores lie some 4,000 km. off the coast of Africa, and approx. 1,600 km. from Lisbon. They are small, but numerous. How the Portuguese managed to discover all 9 of them remains something of a mystery, but they sailed to them in 1427, probably during one of the many voyages of exploration, during the Age of Discovery, under a captain that was sent out by Prince Henry the Navigator. It may have been Captain Gonçalo Velho that discovered the Azores. In Portugal, maps already existed at that time of all islands that were more than 100 years old. But even to this day, no one knows who drew them.
How Sheep arrived in the Azores
During the early days, when the islands were beginning to be colonized, sheep were brought over to supply meat and clothing, etc. Prior to this, there were no large animals on the islands. From approx. 1500 until today, the islands gradually became populated, although the number of inhabitants is still only approx. 300,000. Some islands have no more than a couple of hundred inhabitants even today.
It is a stunningly beautiful archipelago (collection of islands) situated in the midst of a volcanic region, that has not created any significant problems in spite of the 40-50 eruptions that have occurred, surrounded by the 2,000 metre deep ocean on all sides which gives it a sub-tropical climate, with slight variations from island to island. The climate is usually slightly humid, but it is never colder than 15C degrees, and is typically around 25C degrees in the summertime.
An Archipelago of 9 islands
The 9 islands cover in all an area of 2,346 km2, in total including the main islands and several smaller ones.
Each island is different. Corvo, the smallest of them, is basically a large crater. Flores is stony and mainly barren with little vegetation. San Gorge is a long, thin island with rich vegetation, etc. This makes them even more interesting for the visitor to explore. They are not identical tropical islands with sand and palms where if you´ve seen one, you´ve seen them all as it were. Tropical islands also have their charm, of course, but that´s uniformity is not what you experience here.
The 9 islands are
– The easterly group (Grupo Oriental): São Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Islets
– The central group (Grupo Central): of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial
– The westerly group (Grupo Ocidental): of Flores and Corvo.
Read more about the Azores here soon.