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Azores

Main attractions

Traditional windmill and Mount Pico in the background, Azores
Traditional windmill in São Jorge with Mount Pico in the background / Rob Oo, / CC BY 2.0

The westernmost part of Europe is not Ireland or continental Portugal. Westernmost are Azorean islands far, far to the west from the mainland Europe.

Modern Europeans reached these islands in medieval times. Most beautiful monument of these times is Angra do Heroísmo - beautiful late medieval town, an early example of Renaissance thinking in urban planning.

Waterfalls at Fajazinha, Azores
Waterfalls at Fajazinha, Flores / Björn Ehrlich, / CC BY-SA 3.0

There are though multiple claims that islands were reached earlier. Some even consider that these islands are the last remnants of the legendary Atlantis - there are frequent reports about submerged pyramids and other mysterious archaeological finds here. Most of these reports are not true - but they add some romantic flavour to the image of Azores. Nevertheless here are mysterious archaeological monuments - megaliths which are somewhat similar to Irish megaliths. Could it be possible - that prehistoric people managed to go that far in the ocean?

There are also impressive natural landmarks. Especially beautiful is the scenery of Flores island with its cliffs covered with subtropical forests and adorned with countless waterfalls. Very interesting are the geothermal fields as well as the beautiful landscape of volcanic craters with their deep calderas and lakes.

Natural landmarks

Furnas geothermal field, Azores
Furnas geothermal field / Michael Caven, / CC BY 2.0

Geothermal features

  • Furnas do Enxofre - Terceira. Field of fumaroles. Gases are up to 95° C hot. Some fumaroles have shaped sulphur coated holes in the ground. Area with its fumes and dense vegetation looks unusual.
  • Furnas geothermal field - São Miguel, eastern part of Furnas village. Geothermal field with hot springs and mud pots.
  • Lake Furnas geothermal field - São Miguel, northern shore of Lake Furnas. Group of hot springs and fumaroles, some of them are considered to be geysers although do not fully correspond to the characteristics.

Caves

  • Algar do Carvão - Terceira. Volcanic vent and lava cave. Cave is some 100 m long and 90 m deep. Cave is entered through a 45 m deep chimney.
  • Gruta das Torres - Pico. More than 5.2 km long lava cave, longest in the Azores. Contains picturesque stalactites and stalagmites. At least two endemic species of insects.
  • Gruta do Natal - Terceira. 697 m long lava cave.
Poço do Bacalhau Falls, Azores
Poço do Bacalhau Falls / Julen Iturbe-Ormaetxe, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Caldeira Velha Falls - São Miguel. Waterfalls which are formed by thermal waters. Waters have deposited iron salts, thus forming interesting, orange and brown formations. Below the falls is located geothermal field with boiling springs.
  • Cascata da Ribeira Grande - Flores. Magnificent, more than 200 m tall waterfall. After heavy rains in the area of waterfall form numerous other smaller waterfalls of similar height (waterfalls at Fajazinha), creating a magnificent scene. Some waterfalls fall directly into the sea.
  • Cascata da Ribeira Quente - São Miguel. Tall waterfall with several cascades. Formed by thermal springs.
  • Poço do Bacalhau Falls - Flores. Approximately 90 m high waterfall with a single, picturesque leap.

Man made landmarks

Archaeological monuments

  • Cart ruts of São Brás - Terceira. Mysterious parallel incisions - ruts in the rock, as if left by heavy vehicle in sift rock. Some cart ruts elsewhere in the island enter the sea. Such landmarks are characteristic for Mediterranean region, especially Malta.
  • Grota do Medo - Terceira. Recently discovered megalithic constructions - two rock settings similar to passage graves and four structures similar to Irish portal tombs. Site contains more than 20 large stones with depressions cut in them where water is collecting. There is also an engraving of boat and cupmarks.
  • Madalena maroiços - Pico. Pyramid-shaped stone settings in area rich with volcanic stones. Some step-pyramids are up to 13 m high. Some archaeologists consider that these are prehistoric structures although most likely these are ordered piles of stones collected from the agricultural fields.
  • Monte Brasil "Phoenician sanctuaries" - Terceira. Rock cut chambers, possible prehistoric structures made long before the coming of Portuguese in the 14th century. Similar rock-cut structures have been found on Corvo and Santa Maria islands and, reportedly, on Flores. Researchers consider that these can be Carthaginian (Phoenician) temples from the 4th century BC.
Angra do Heroísmo, Azores
Angra do Heroísmo / Concierge.2C, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Settlements

  • Angra do Heroísmo Old City - Terceira. Well preserved historical city - a witness to the age of great discoveries, for several centuries an obligatory stop for ships travelling to America and back. City centre is picturesque, with steep streets and ornate houses, Portuguese pavement.
  • Ponta Delgada Old City - São Miguel. Historical centre of once important Transatlantic port, founded around 1450. Numerous valuable structures have been preserved including the ancient gates to the city and central plaza.
Convent of São Francisco, Azores
Convent of São Francisco in Angra do Heroismo / Francisco Antunes, / CC BY 2.0

Churches and monasteries

  • Church of the Jesuit College in Ponta Delgada - São Miguel. This ornate church was built in the middle of the 16th century.
  • Church of São Mateus da Calheta - Terceira, Angra do Heroismo. Large church in Neo-Baroque style, built in 1895 - 1911.Church was built in the site where church has been standing since the middle of the 16th century.
  • Convent of São Francisco - Terceira, Angra do Heroismo. Beautiful Franciscan convent and church - Church of Our Lady of the Guide. Constructed in the time period from (approximately) 1663 to 1672 in Baroque style. Now a museum of city.
  • Sé Cathedral of Angra do Heroísmo - Terceira. Largest cathedral in Azores. Construction of the first church was built here in 1461 - 1496, but the current one - in 1562 - 1683 in Mannerist style.
Criação Velha vineyards, Azores
Criação Velha vineyards / David Stanley, / CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Cemetery of Anchors - Terceira, Angra do Heroismo. Ship cemetery in the Bay of Angra. Many ships have lost their anchors during sudden swells and at least 72 ships sinked here. Most have not been found yet.
  • Criação Velha vineyards - Pico. Impressive historical vineyards, still in use. Vine here is grown in volcanic soil, plantings are protected by a complex, dense system of drystone walls. Vineyards have been developed since the 15th century, area is dotted with historical buildings - windmills, manor houses, wine cellars.
  • Fortress of São João Baptista - Terceira, Angra do Heroismo. Impressive fortress with ornate entrance gates. Constructed in the 15th - 16th century.
  • Ribeira Grande Eight Arches Bridge - São Miguel. Ornate bridge with eight large arches, built in the 18th century.

List of described attractions by islands

Azores consist of 9 larger islands.

Corvo
Faial
Flores
ArrowMonte Brasil "Phoenician sanctuaries"Rock-cut architecture, Prehistoric and ancient shrines
Formigas Reef
Graciosa
Pico
São Jorge
São Miguel
Santa Maria
Terceira

Map of Azores

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