So close yet so different

news: So close yet so different

THIS MIDDLE group of islands consist of Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Faial and Pico. All are within easy travelling distance, but each offer very different views of the archipelago.


Pico, often referred to as Ilha Montanha, is the second largest island in the Azores.

Pico mountain, the tallest in Portugal at 2,351m, dominates the island. Climbing it is rewarded by the magnificent views that the altitude provides; you can drive up to 1,200m, but from there you have to climb (a guide is advisable).

Crowned by Pico Alto crater, the slopes are covered with thick forest up to about 1,500m; above this, vegetation is reduced to shrubbery. At the extremity of the crater lies the volcanic cone Piquinho, or Pico Pequeno, and sunrise viewed from the top of the peak is a spectacular, unforgettable sight.

The coastline is indented with headlands and bays, and impressive lava arches, like the Arcos do Cachorro (arches of the puppy), can be seen along it. Lajes do Pico, the first settlement on the island, is an important fishing and commercial port. Visit the whale-hunting centre and whaling museum, the only one of its kind in Portugal with over a hundred scrimshaw pieces, carved in the tooth or bone of whales.

The main shipbuilding yard in the Azores is at Santo Amaro, where experienced craftsmen use traditional techniques to transform gnarled and twisted wood into attractive rowing boats and trawlers.

However, if it’s vinho you’re after, Verdelho is made in the area of Criação Velha where grapes grow on lava beds. Prainha do Norte is host to typical old wine cellars, connected with the ancient production of Verdelho wine. To accompany your wine, visit São João, which has won fame for making savoury cheese bearing the name of the parish.


After a violent earthquake in 1980, the city of Angra do Heroísmo had to be reconstructed and a large part of the historical centre is now included in the UNESCO’s list of World Patrimony Sites.

The central area, marked by a large, deep crater called Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz has a volcanic cone to the east. The Algar do Carvão is famous for its spectacular 100m deep grottoes, containing stalactites, stalagmites and interior lakes.

Praia da Vitória is a young city with one of the most inviting beaches of the Azores. Angra do Heroísmo became an important trading centre thanks to the natural qualities of its harbour, evidenced in its name Angra, meaning bay, and became the first city in the Azores. Off the coast lie remains of ships engaged in the African trade, large galleons from Peru and the Orient, war-like frigates with bright bronze cannons, which have transformed the coast into a hidden museum.

In Biscoitos, visit the only wine museum in the archipelago, illustrating the process of traditional winemaking, or take a walk through Mata da Serreta, a forest with lush vegetation on the slopes of the volcanic peak.