Portugal - Azores - More Information

The Azores are a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean about 1500 km (950 miles) from Lisbon and about 3900 km (2400 miles) from the east coast of North America. The two westernmost Azorean islands (Flores and Corvo) actually lie on the North American plate and are only 1925 km (1,200 miles) from St. John's in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The nine major Azorean Islands and the eight small Formigas extend for more than 600 km and lie in a north west-south east direction. The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km from the North American continent. All of the islands have volcanic origins, though Santa Maria also has some reef contribution. The mountain of Pico on Pico Island, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft) in altitude, is the highest in all of Portugal. The Azores are actually the tops of some of the tallest mountains on the planet, as measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean. The archipelago forms the Autonomous Region of Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.


The archipelago is spread out in the area of the parallel that passes between through Lisbon (39° 43' / 39° 55' N) and 37° N, giving it a tepid oceanic subtropical climate, with mild annual oscillation. The average annual rainfall increases from east to west and ranges from 700 to 1600 annual millimeters (27.6–63 in) in average, reaching 6,300 millimetres (250 in) in Pico mountain (the portuguese highest mountain at 2,351 m/7,713 ft). The Azores high is named after the islands. Formigas (the Portuguese word for "ants") islands also called as Dollabarat Reefs, has very nice and rich maritime fauna, being like a swimming pool on the middle of the ocean, on which also grows exotic species as the black coral and swims jamantas, sharks, sea turtles and thousands of other different creatures.

The archipelago lie in the Palearctic ecozone, forming a unique biome the macaronesian subtropical laurissilva, with many endemic species of plants. The uniqueness of the islands gives them a very distinctive aspect.

The nine islands have a total area of 2,346 km² (906 sq miles). Their individual areas vary between São Miguel's 759 km² (293 sq miles) and Corvo's 17 km² (7 sq miles). Three islands (São Miguel, Pico and Terceira) are bigger in size than Malta (composed of three different islands), São Miguel Island alone being twice as big.

The nine islands are divided into three groups:

* The Eastern Group (Grupo Oriental) of São Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Islets
* The Central Group (Grupo Central) of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial
* The Western Group (Grupo Ocidental) of Flores and Corvo.

The islands were formed during the Tertiary period by the Azores hotspot, in the Alpine phase. Their volcanic cones and craters reveal the volcanic origin of most islands. Pico, a volcano that stands 2,351 metres (7,713 ft) high on the island of the same name, has the highest altitude in the Azores. The last volcano to erupt was the Capelinhos Volcano (Vulcão dos Capelinhos) in 1957, in western part of Faial island, increasing the size of that island. Santa Maria Island is the oldest Azorean island presenting several limestone and red clay extensions.

View all our Walking Holidays in Portugal - Azores