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One of the best sentences that describe the Azores is: One Location, Nine Unique Worlds. The nine islands of the Azores represent Europe’s westernmost point, and are located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Each of the islands has its own specific landscape and character and the Azorean people follow age-old traditions complemented by the diversity of their beautiful surroundings. São Miguel, the largest island is renowned for its flowers and green landscapes, its large scenic lakes and the vibrant city of Ponta Delgada. On the Island of Santa Maria, you’ll discover vine-covered escarpments surrounding the site of the Anjos chapel of Baía de São Lourenço, where Columbus prayed on his return from America. At the centre of the Azores, five islands lie very close together. Terceira Island is steeped in history, as the home of Angra do Heroísmo, the first European city in the Atlantic and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby Faial Island is famed for its blue hydrangeas, and its marina painted in colours of visiting yachts from all over the world. Opposite Faial is Pico, with the highest mountain of Portugal at 2351m. Its slopes are covered with black lava fields and vineyards, and its people remember age-old whaling traditions. Wide green pastures dominate the island of São Jorge, while at the base of its steep escarpments, slivers of land called “fajãs” nestle by the sea. The smallest of this central group of five islands is Graciosa, which has a lake carved in dormant volcanic rock, while its vineyards are dotted with windmills. The island of Flores resembles a garden surrounded by the sea. Its charming scenery is made up of scenic lakes carved into the volcanic rock. The centre of the miniature ninth island of Corvo also has its own volcanic crater, or “caldeira”, which takes up much of its centre.
Those who visit the Azores can count on seeing and experiencing plenty of natural wonders: lakes and mountains, forest reserves, natural and recreational parks, protected landscape areas, endemic flora and fauna, and rare ecosystems. The islands hold endless possibilities for those who venture off the beaten path and get up close with the natural marvels found at every turn.
Food lovers will appreciate the varied cuisine of the Azores. For example, if you like fresh fish, then these islands will make for the perfect holiday. The “Cozido” das Furnas is one of the most emblematic dishes of the island of São Miguel, cooked beneath the earth in near the Furnas Lake. Several ingredients are placed in a pot that is buried next to the hot water springs. It takes about five hours to cook through natural heat that seeps up, produced by volcanic activity. Tasting “Cozido” das Furnas is an unforgettable experience for all visitors of the island. Main courses and sweet puddings come in many varieties, and fine cheeses are locally produced, particularly on São Jorge Island. Home-grown fruit includes pineapple and tropical passion-fruit, while perfumed green tea is grown on the island of São Miguel. When it comes to complementing your meal with a drink, be sure to try the local red and white wines, plus the firewater (aguardente) from Graciosa Island, Biscoitos from Terceira Island and of course the “verdelho” wine from Pico.
The Azores have a rich and active nightlife that can sometimes stay active well into the night and early morning. High-end lounges offering fine entertainment can be found at some hotels, while cosier and more intimate bars are spread out throughout the islands. Other options include live music, dancing and wine cellars showcasing the Azorean wine tradition.
Popular souvenirs in the Azores include ceramic items such as hand-painted clay dishes, vases, teapots and mugs, as well as embroidery and hand-woven blankets, sweaters and other items. Azorean wickerwork, mainly baskets and furniture, has recently grown in reputation, as has Azorean wine, making them popular souvenirs and gifts.
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