The Azores (Os Açores)
Autonomous Region (Região Autonoma)
Mount Pico and the green landscape, emblematic of the archipelago of the Azores
Coat of Arms
Official name: Região Autonoma dos Açores
Name origin: açor, Portuguese for species of rapier bird, erroneously identified as goshawks; also derivation from the word for blue
Motto: Antes morrer livres que em paz sujeitos
(English:Rather die as free men than be enslaved in peace)
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Azores
Region Atlantic Ocean
Subregion Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Position Azores Platform
Islands Corvo, Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Pico, São Jorge, São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira
Municipalities Angra do Heroísmo, Horta, Lagoa, Lajes das Flores, Lajes do Pico, Madalena, Nordeste, Povoação, Praia da Vitória, Ponta Delgada, Ribeira Grande, Santa Cruz da Graciosa, Santa Cruz das Flores, São Roque, Vila do Corvo, Vila do Porto, Vila Franca do Campo
Capitals Angra do Heroísmo (Seat of Judiciary/Tribunal), Horta (Seat of Legislature), Ponta Delgada (Seat of Presidency/Government)
Largest city Ponta Delgada
 - center São José
 - elevation 22 m (72 ft)
 - coordinates 37°44′28″N 25°40′32″W / 37.74111°N 25.67556°W / 37.74111; -25.67556
Highest point Mount Pico
 - elevation 2,351 m (7,713 ft)
 - coordinates 38°28′19″N 28°51′50″W / 38.47194°N 28.86389°W / 38.47194; -28.86389
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Area 2,346 km2 (906 sq mi)
Population 245,374 (2009) Estimate
Density 100.28 / km2 (260 / sq mi)
Settlement 15 August 1432
 - Administrative autonomy c. 1895
 - Political autonomy 4 September 1976
Discovery c. 1427
 - Santa Maria c. 1427
 - São Miguel c. 1428
 - location Assembleia Regional, Rua Marcelino Lima, Horta, Faial
 - elevation 46 m (151 ft)
 - coordinates 38°32′6″N 28°37′51″W / 38.535°N 28.63083°W / 38.535; -28.63083
 - location Palácio de Santana, Rua José Jácome Correia, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel
 - elevation 60 m (197 ft)
 - coordinates 37°44′52″N 25°40′19″W / 37.74778°N 25.67194°W / 37.74778; -25.67194
President (Government) Carlos Cesar (PS)
 - President (Assembleia) Francisco Coelho (PS)
Timezone Azores (UTC-1)
 - summer (DST) Azores EST (UTC0)
ISO 3166-2 code PT-20
Postal code 9XXX-XXX
Area code (+351) 292 XXX XXX
ccTLD .pt
Demonym Azorean
Patron Saint Espírito Santo
Holiday 51st day (Monday) following Easter (Dia da Região Autonoma dos Açores)
Anthem A Portuguesa (national)
Hino dos Açores (regional)
Currency Euro (€)[1]
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drive right-side
Location of the archipelago of the Azores relative to Europe
Distribution of the islands of the archipelago
Wikimedia Commons: Azores
Statistics from INE (2001); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)
Azores is located in Atlantic Ocean
Location of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean

The Archipelago of the Azores (UK /əˈzɔrz/ ə-zorz, US /ˈzɔrz/ ay-zorz; Portuguese: Açores, IPA: [ɐˈsoɾɨʃ]) is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about 1,500 km (930 mi) west from Lisbon and about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. Its main industries are: agriculture, dairy farming (for cheese and butter products primarily), minor livestock ranching, fishing and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region; added to which, the government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in many aspects of the service and tertiary sectors.

There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. The vast extent of the islands defines an immense exclusive economic zone of 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi). The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km (2,100 mi) from the North American continent. All the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft). The Azores are actually some of the tallest mountains on the planet, measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean to their peaks, which thrust high above the surface of the Atlantic.

Because these once-uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries, their culture, dialect, cuisine and traditions vary considerably.



A small number of alleged Hypogea, earthen structures carved into rocks that were used for burials, have been identified on the islands of Corvo, Santa Maria and Terceira by Portuguese archaeologist Nuno Ribeiro and speculations were published that they might date back 2000 years, alluding to a human presence on the island before the Portuguese.[2] However, these kind of structures have always been used in the Azores to store cereals and suggestions by Ribeiro that they might be burial sites are unconfirmed. Detailed examination and dating to authenticate the validity of these speculations is lacking.[3] So far, it is unclear whether these structures are natural or man-made and if they predate the 15th century Portuguese colonization of the Azores. Solid confirmation of a pre-Portuguese human presence in the archipelago has not yet been published.

Exploration and rediscovery

1584 map of the Azores.

The discovery and settlement of the Azores archipelago, much like the islands of Madeira, is one of the more controversial aspects of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. In addition to many theories, myths and stories written about the Azores there have been various Genovese and Catalan maps produced since 1351 that identified islands in the Atlantic. Some chroniclers note that sailors knew of the islands, and visited them during return voyages from the Canary Islands (about 1340–1345), during the reign of King Afonso IV. In "A History of the Azores" by Thomas Ashe written in 1813[4] the author identified a Fleming, Joshua Vander Berg of Bruges, who made land in the archipelago during a storm on his way to Lisbon.[4] Ashe then claimed that the Portuguese explored the area and claimed it for Portugal shortly after.[4] Other stories note the discovery of the first islands (São Miguel Island, Santa Maria Island and Terceira Island) were made by sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique, although there are few written documents to support the claims. Supporting the official history of the islands are latter day writings, based on oral tradition, that appeared in the first half of the 15th century. Legends and myths also developed during pre-official history to include myths about Prester John, the "Ilhas Afortunadas" (the Fortunate Isles), the "Ilhas Azuis" (the Blue Islands), the "Ilhas Cassiterides" (the islands of Tin and Silver) or "Ilhas de Sete Cidades" (the islands of the Seven Cities), all noting the knowledge of undiscovered lands in the middle of the Atlantic.

Officially, the first islands were "discovered" in the 15th century (in 1431) by Gonçalo Velho Cabral a Captain in the service of Infante D. Henrique, though credit is also given to the explorer Diogo de Silves (in 1427).

Although it is commonly said that the archipelago received its name for the goshawk (Açor in Portuguese) due to its being a common bird at the time of discovery, it is unlikely that the bird nested or hunted in the islands. Some people, however, insist that the name is derived from birds, pointing to a local subspecies of the buzzard (Buteo buteo) as the animal the first explorers erroneously identified as goshawks. The name may also derive from the word azor, meaning blue in vernacular Portuguese and used by those sailors who identified the islands by their blue color as they appeared in the distance by sea. The proper word for blue in Portuguese is azul.


Angra do Heroísmo, the oldest continuously-settled town in the archipelago of the Azores and UNESCO World Heritage Site

At some point, following the discovery of Santa Maria, sheep were let loose on the island before settlement actually took place. This was done to supply the future settlers with food because there were no large animals on the island. Settlement did not take place right away, however. There was not much interest among the Portuguese people in an isolated archipelago hundreds of miles from civilization. But patiently Cabral gathered resources and settlers for the next three years (1433–1436) and sailed to establish colonies on Santa Maria first and then later on São Miguel.

Brush had to be cleared and rocks removed for the planting of crops; grain, grape vines, sugar cane, and other plants suitable for settler use and of commercial value, were planted. Domesticated animals were brought, such as chickens, rabbits, cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs. Houses were built and villages established.

The islands were settled by a mixed group of people from the Portuguese provinces of Algarve and Minho. Also, Madeirans, Moorish prisoners, enslaved Africans, French, Italians, Scots, English, Germans and Flemings were among the early settlers. There were petty criminals, Spanish clergy, Sephardic Jews, soldiers, government officials, European merchants and sugar cane growers.

São Miguel was first settled in 1444, the settlers – mainly from the Estremadura, Alto Alentejo and Algarve areas of Portugal, under the command of Gonçalo Velho Cabral – landing at the site of modern-day Povoação. In 1522 Vila Franca do Campo, then the capital of the island, was devastated by a landslide caused by an earthquake which killed about 5,000 people, and the capital was moved to Ponta Delgada. The town of Vila Franca was rebuilt on the original site and today is a thriving fishing and yachting port. Ponta Delgada received its city status in 1546. Since the first settlement the pioneers applied themselves to the area of agriculture. By the 15th century Graciosa exported wheat, barley, wine and brandy. The goods were sent to Terceira largely due to the proximity of the island.

During the 18th and 19th century, Graciosa was host to many prominent figures, including Chateaubriand, the French writer who passed through upon his escape to America during the French revolution; Almeida Garrett, the Portuguese poet who visited an uncle and wrote some poetry while there; and Prince Albert of Monaco, the 19th century oceanographer who led several expeditions in the waters of the Azores. He arrived on his yacht "Hirondelle", and visited the "furna da caldeira", the noted hot springs grotto.

The first reference to the island of São Jorge was made in 1439 but the actual date of discovery is unknown. In 1443 the island was already inhabited but active settlement only began with the arrival of the noble Flemish native Wilhelm Van der Haegen. Arriving at Topo, where he lived and died, he became known as Guilherme da Silveira to the islanders. João Vaz Corte-Real received the captaincy of the island in 1483. Velas became a town before the end of the 15th century. By 1490, there were 2,000 Flemings living in the islands of Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge and Flores. Because there was such a large Flemish settlement, the Azores became known as the Flemish Islands or the Isles of Flanders. Prince Henry the Navigator was responsible for this settlement. His sister, Isabel, was married to Duke Philip of Burgundy of which Flanders was a part. There was a revolt against Philip's rule and disease and hunger became rampant. Isabel appealed to Henry to allow some of the unruly Flemings to settle in the Azores. He granted this and supplied them with the necessary transportation and goods.

The settlement of the then-unoccupied islands started in 1439 with people mainly from the continental provinces of Algarve and Alentejo. In 1583, Philip II of Spain, as king of Portugal, sent his fleet to clear the Azores of a combined multinational force of adventurers, mercenaries, volunteers and soldiers who were attempting to establish the Azores as a staging post for a rival pretender to the Portuguese throne. Following the success of his fleet at the Battle of Ponta Delgada, the captured enemies were hanged from yardarms, as they were considered pirates by Philip II.[citation needed] (This was added to the "Black Legend" by his enemies.) An English expedition against the Azores in 1597, the Islands Voyage, also failed. Spain held the Azores in what is called The Babylonian captivity of 1580–1642. Into the late 16th century, the Azores as well as Madeira began to face problems of overpopulation. Spawning from that particular economic problem, some of the people began to emigrate to Brazil.[5]

Iberian Union

The Azores were the last part of the Portuguese Empire to resist Philip's reign over Portugal (Macau resisted any official recognition) and were returned to Portuguese control with the end of the Iberian Union in 1640, not by the professional military, who were used in the Restoration War in the mainland, but by local people attacking a fortified Castilian garrison.

Liberal Wars

The Portuguese Civil War (1828–1834) had strong repercussions in the Azores. In 1829, in Praia da Vitoria, the Liberals won over the absolutists, making Terceira Island the main headquarters of the new Portuguese regime and also where the Council of Regency (Conselho de Regência) of Maria II of Portugal was established.

Beginning in 1868, Portugal issued its stamps overprinted with "AÇORES" for use in the islands. Between 1892 and 1906, it also issued separate stamps for the three administrative districts of the time.

From 1836 to 1976, the archipelago was divided into three districts, equivalent (except in area) to those in the Portuguese mainland. The division was arbitrary, and did not follow the natural island groups, rather reflecting the location of each district capital on the three main cities (none of which were on the western group).

  • Angra do Heroísmo consisted of Terceira, São Jorge, and Graciosa, with the capital at Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira.
  • Horta consisted of Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo, with the capital at Horta on Faial.
  • Ponta Delgada consisted of São Miguel and Santa Maria, with the capital at Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.

20th century

In 1931 the Azores (together with Madeira and Portuguese Guinea) revolted against the Ditadura Nacional and were held briefly by military rebels.[6]

In 1943, during World War II, Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar leased bases in the Azores to the British, despite his previous collaboration with Germany.[7] The occupation of these facilities in October 1943 was codenamed Operation Alacrity by the Allies.[8] This was a key turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, allowing the Allies to provide aerial coverage in the Mid-Atlantic gap; helping them to hunt U-boats and protect convoys.

In 1944, American forces constructed a small and short-lived air base on the island of Santa Maria. In 1945, a new base was constructed on the island of Terceira and is currently known as Lajes Field. This base is in an area called Lajes, a broad, flat sea terrace that had been a farm. Lajes Field is a plateau rising out of the sea on the northeast corner of the island. This Air Force base is a joint American and Portuguese venture. Lajes Field continues to support United States and Portuguese military operations. During the Cold War, the United States Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine squadrons patrolled the North Atlantic for Soviet submarines and surface spy vessels. Since its inception, Lajes Field has been used for refuelling aircraft bound for Europe, and more recently, the Middle East. The United States Navy operates a small fleet of military ships in the harbour of Praia da Vitória, three kilometres (2 mi) southeast of Lajes Field. The airfield also has a small commercial terminal handling scheduled and chartered passenger flights from other islands in the archipelago, Europe, and North America.

In 1976, the Azores became the Autonomous Region of the Azores (Região Autónoma dos Açores), one of the Autonomous regions of Portugal, and the Azorean districts were suppressed.


Map of the Azores

Physical geography

The archipelago of the Azores is located in the middle of the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean and extends along a west-northwest to east-southeast orientation (between 36.5º-40º North latitudes and 24.5º-31.5º West longitudes) in an area approximately 600 km wide. The islands of the Azores emerged from what is called the Azores Platform, a 5.8 million km² region that is morphologically accented by a depth of 2000 meters.[9][10]

From a geostructural perspective the Azores is located above an active triple junction between three of the world's large tectonic plates (the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate),[10] a condition that has translated into the existence of many faults and fractures in this region of the Atlantic .[11] The westernmost islands of the archipelago (Corvo and Flores) are located in the North American Plate, while the remaining islands are located within the boundary that divides the Eurasian and African Plates.

Surface areas of the islands of the archipelago
Island Area
km2 sq mi
São Miguel 759 293
Pico 446 172
Terceira 403 156
São Jorge 246 95
Faial 173 67
Flores 143 55
Santa Maria 97 37
Graciosa 62 24
Corvo 17 7
On the island of Pico, Mount Pico, the highest mountain/summit in the Azores and Portugal, as seen from the island of Faial
Volcanic crater lake, Lagoa das Sete Cidades, on the island of São Miguel

The principal tectonic structures that exist in the region of the Azores are the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Terceira Rift, the Azores Fracture Zone and the Glória Fault.[10] The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the main frontier between the American Plate and the African-Eurasian Plates that crosses the Azores Platform between the islands of Flores and Faial from north to south then to the southwest; it is an extensive form crossed by many transform faults running perpendicular to its north-south orientation, that is seismically active and susceptible to volcanism. The Terceira Rift is a system of fractures that extends from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the Glória Fault that represents the main frontier between the Eurasian and African Plates. It is defined by a line of submarine volcanoes and island mounts that extend northwest to southeast for about 550 km, from the area west of Graciosa until the islets of the Formigas, that includes the islands of Graciosa, Terceira and São Miguel. Its northwest limit connects to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, while the southeast section intersects the Gloria Fault southeast of the island of Santa Maria. The Azores Fracture Zone is that extends from the Glória Fault and encompasses a relatively inactive area to the south of the islands of the Central and Eastern groups north to the Terceira Rift, along a 45º angle. The Glória Fault, for its part, extends 800 km along a linear line from the Azores to the Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault.[12]

The island's volcanism is associated with the rifting along the Azores Triple Junction; the spread of the crust along the existing faults and fractures has produced many of the active volcanic and seismic events,[13] while supported by buoyant upwelling in the deeper mantle, some associate with an Azores hotspot.[14] Most of the volcanic activity has centered, primarily, along the Terceira Rift. From the beginning of the island's settlement, around the 15th Century, there have been 28 registered volcanic eruptions (15 terrestrial and 13 submarine). The last significant volcanic eruption, the Capelinhos volcano (Vulcão dos Capelinhos), occurred off the coast of the island of Faial (in 1957); the most recent volcanic activity occurred in the seamounts and submarine volcanoes off the coast of Serreta and in the Pico-Jão Jorge Channel.[15] The islands have many examples of volcano-built geomorphology, including: many of the caves and subterranean lava tubes (such as the Gruta das Torres, Algar do Carvão, Gruta do Natal, Gruta das Cinco Ribeiras), the coastal lava fields (like the coast of Feteiras, Faial, the Mistério of Prainha or São João on Pico Island) in addition to the currently inactive cones in central São Miguel Island, the aforementioned Capelinhos on Faial, the volcanic complexes of Terceira or Plinian caldeira of Corvo Island.

The islands of the archipelago were formed through volcanic and seismic activity during the late Tertiary geological period; the first embryonic surfaces started to appear in the waters of Santa Maria during the Miocene epoch (from circa 8 million years ago). The sequence of the island formation has been generally characterized as: Santa Maria (8.12 Ma), São Miguel (4.1 Ma), Terceira (3.52 Ma), Graciosa (2.5 Ma), Flores (2.16 Ma), Faial (0.7 Ma), São Jorge (0.55 Ma), Corvo (0.7 Ma) and the youngest, Pico (0.27 Ma).[16] Although all islands have experienced volcanism during their geological history, within recorded "human settlement" history the islands of Santa Maria, Flores, Corvo and Graciosa have not experienced any volcanic eruptions; in addition to active fumaroles and hot-springs, the remaining islands have had sporadic eruptions since the 14th Century. Apart from the Capelinhos volcano in 1957–58, the last recorded instance of "island formation" occurred off the coast of São Miguel, when the island of Sabrina was briefly formed.

Owing to its geodynamic environment, the region has been center of intense seismic activity, particularly along its tectonic boundaries on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and Terceira Rift. Seismic events although frequent, usually tectonic or vulco-tectonic in nature, but in general low to medium intensities, occasionally punctuated by events of level 5 or greater on the Richter scale.[17][18] The most severe earthquake was registered in 1757, near Calheta on the island of São Jorge, which exceeded 7 on the Richter scale. In comparison, the 1522 earthquake, mentioned by Gaspar Frutuoso the historian, was only a magnitude 6.8, but a level 10 on the Mercalli scale,[19] but responsible for the destruction of Vila Franca do Campo and landslides that may have killed less than 5000 of the inhabitants.

The nine islands that comprise the archipelago occupy a surface area of 2,346 km2 (906 sq mi), that includes both the main islands and many islets located in their vicinities. Each of the islands have their own distinct geomorphological characteristics that make them unique: Corvo (the smallest island) is a crater of a major Plinian eruption; Flores (its neighbor on the North American Plate) is a rugged island carved by many valleys and escarpments; Faial characterized for its shield volcano and caldera (Cabeço Gordo); Pico, is the highest point, at 2,351 metres (7,713 ft), in the Azores and continental Portugal; Graciosa is known for its active Furnas do Enxofre and mixture of volcanic cones and plains; São Jorge is a long slender island, formed from fissural eruptions over thousands of years; Terceira, almost circular, is the location of one of the largest craters in the region; São Miguel is the largest island, and is pitted with many large craters and fields of spatter cones; and Santa Maria, the oldest island, is heavily eroded, being one of the few places to encounter brown sandy beaches in the archipelago. They range in surface area from the largest, São Miguel, at 759 km2 (293 sq mi) to the smallest, Corvo, at approximately 17 km2 (7 sq mi).

These islands have naturally evolved into three recognizable groups located within the Azores Platform; they are:

In addition, several sub-surface reefs (particularly the Dollabarat on the fringe of the Formigas), banks (specifically the Princess Alice Bank and D. João de Castro Bank, as well as many hydrothermal vents and sea-mounts are monitored by the regional authorities, owing to the complex geotectonic and socio-economic significance within the economic exclusion zone of the archipelago.


The archipelago lies in the Palearctic ecozone, forming a unique biome that includes the macaronesian subtropical laurissilva, with many endemic species of plants. Even though the Azores look very green and sometimes wild, the vegetation has been extremely altered. Approximately 95% of laurisilva has been wiped out in the past 600 years for its valuable wood (for tools, buildings, boats, fire wood, and so on.) and to clear land for agriculture. As a result, it is estimated that more than half of insects on the islands have disappeared or will become extinct.[20] Many cultivated places (which are traditionally dedicated to pasture or to growing colocasia, potatoes, maize and other crops) have now been abandoned, especially as a result of emigration. Consequently, some invasive plants have filled these deserted and disturbed lands. The two most common of these alien species are Pittosporum undulatum and Acacia melanoxylon. They are usually restricted to ancient agricultural land and only rarely penetrate into undisturbed native vegetation. The main loss is in the lowlands (below 400 metres), where virtually all laurisilva was eradicated.

A few Persea indica and Picconia azorica still survive in some places, but appear to be extremely vulnerable. Only Myrica faya seems to have survived human impact quite well, and it is commonly found in hedges or among exotic trees. More recent introductions could become a serious threat, like Leptospermum scoparium which has the ability to colonize the still nearly untouched medium-altitude vegetation (Ilex, Myrsine africana, Erica, and so on.).

Hydrangeas are another potential pest, but their threat is less serious. Notwithstanding the fact that Hydrangeas were introduced from America or Asia, some locals consider them to be a symbol of the archipelago and propagate them along roadsides, helping them to escape into the wild. Cryptomeria, the Japanese cedar, is a conifer extensively grown for its timber; many seedlings can be found in the last remnants of medium-altitude native vegetation.

The Azores has two endemic bird species. The Azores Bullfinch, or Priolo, is restricted to remnant laurisilva forest in the mountains at the eastern end of São Miguel, and is classified by BirdLife International as endangered. Monteiro's Storm-petrel, described to science as recently as 2008, is known to breed in just two locations in the islands, but may occur more widely. The Azores also has an endemic bat, the Azores Noctule, which is unusual in regularly feeding during the day.

The islets of the Formigas (the Portuguese word for "ants"), including the area known as the Dollabarat Reef, has a rich environment of maritime species, such as black coral and manta rays, sharks, and sea turtles. On São Miguel there are notable micro-habitats formed by hot springs that host extremophile microorganisms.[21]


The archipelago is spread out in the area between 37° N and the parallels of latitude that pass through the Lisbon area (38° 43' / 38° 55' N), giving it generally a tepid, oceanic, subtropical climate, with mild annual oscillations. Daily maximum temperatures usually range between 15 °C (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F). The average annual rainfall increases from east to west, and it ranges from 700 to 1600 annual millimetres (27.6–63 in) on average, reaching 6,300 millimetres (250 in) on Mount Pico,[22] the highest Portuguese mountain at 2,351 m (7,713 ft). The Azores high, an area of high atmospheric pressure, is named after the islands.

Climate data for the Archipelago of the Azores (1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 16.0
Average low °C (°F) 11.5
Precipitation cm (inches) 11.17
Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, IP Portugal.[23]

In addition, the Instituto de Meteorologia has identified the following weather extremes:

  • Highest minimum air temperature: 24.3 °C (75.7 °F), in Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira (30/06/1996)
  • Lowest minimum air temperature: −3.5 °C (25.7 °F), in Chã das Lagoinhos, São Miguel (02/01/1973)
  • Highest maximum air temperature: 32.1 °C (89.8 °F), in Madalena, Pico (07/09/1985)
  • Lowest maximum air temperature: 4.0 °C (39.2 °F), Chã das Lagoinhas, São Miguel (20/02/1972)
  • Maximum precipitation in 24 hours: 27.6 cm (10.87 in), Furnas, São Miguel (03/10/1974)
  • Maximum wind speed: >168 km/hour, Angra do Heroísmo, (Terceira 02/11/1995)[24]

Human geography

The Azores are divided into 19 municipalities (concelhos); each municipality is further divided into parishes (freguesias), of which there is a total of 156 in all of the Azores. The municipalities, by island, are:

Island Group Population Local Administrative Units Main Settlement
2002 % Total No Municipalities (Concelho)
São Miguel Eastern 130,154 54.50 6 Lagoa, Nordeste, Ponta Delgada, Povoação, Ribeira Grande, Vila Franca do Campo Ponta Delgada
Terceira Central 54,996 23.00 2 Angra do Heroísmo, Praia da Vitória Angra do Heroísmo
Faial Central 14,934 6.25 1 Horta Horta
Pico Central 14,579 6.11 3 Lajes do Pico, Madalena, São Roque do Pico São Roque do Pico
São Jorge Central 9,522 3.99 2 Calheta, Velas Velas
Santa Maria Eastern 5,490 2.30 1 Vila do Porto Vila do Porto
Graciosa Central 4,708 1.97 1 Santa Cruz da Graciosa Santa Cruz da Graciosa
Flores Western 3,949 1.65 2 Lajes das Flores, Santa Cruz das Flores Santa Cruz das Flores
Corvo Western 435 0.18 1 Vila do Corvo Vila do Corvo
Total 238,767 19

There are five cities (Portuguese: cidades) in the Azores: Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande on the island of São Miguel; Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória on the island of Terceira, and Horta on Faial. Three of these Ponta Delgada, Angra and Horta are considered capital/administrative cities to the regional government: homes to the President (Ponta Delgada), the Judiciary (Angra) and the Regional Assembly (Horta). Angra also serves as the ecclesiastical centre of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Angra.

Panoramic view near São Mateus, Terceira, June 2004


On 31 December 2002, the Azores' population was 238,767 at a density of 106 inhabitants per square kilometre (270 /sq mi).

The Azores were uninhabited when Portuguese navigators arrived in the early 15th century; the settlement process was initiated in 1439 with individuals from various regions of mainland Portugal and from Madeira island. Today, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Azores are an admixture of Portuguese, descendants of 15th century immigrants from Algarve, Alentejo and from Minho, as well as Sephardic Jews, Moorish prisoners, Flemish, French, Spaniards, and other populations who contributed to the successive settlement process of the islands. The nature of the economy dictated that African slavery never became common in the Azores because they were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean, only a few remained in the Azores to help with domestic chores, although the islands sometimes served as a waypoint for ships carrying African slaves.[25]


Genetic studies (Pacheco et al., 2005; Branco et al., 2006; Branco et al., 2008a, 2008b, 2008c) report high genetic variability and heterogeneity in the Azorean population, as compared with mainland Portugal and other European populations. This high genetic variability may be explained by the history of the settlement of the islands, as well as genetic contributions that occurred during the expansion of trade navigation between Europe, America, and Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. As in continental Portugal, the most frequent mtDNA haplogroup in the Azores is H (45.2%). After R, Haplogroup J is the second most frequent Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup in the Azores. Y-chromosome Haplogroup J, found in greatest concentration in Southwest Asia, is thought to have originated in the Middle East. Data show that in the Azores this haplogroup is the second most common, with a frequency of 13.4%, twice as high as in mainland Portugal (6.8%; Rosser et al. 2000). The other non-European haplogroups, N3 and E3a, which are prevalent in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, have been found in the Azores (0.6% and 1.2%, respectively) but not in mainland Portugal.


Mtdna profile: Haplogroup pre-HV = 56% (Middle East, Arabia); Haplogroup H = 45.2% (Europe); Haplogroup K = 6.5% (Europe, France, Italy, Spain); Haplogroup L = 3.4% (Africa); Haplogroup T = 10.1% (Spain); Haplogroup U = 16.7% (Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium).

Y-chromosome DNA profile: Haplogroup E1b1b = 9% (northern Africa, Europe, Spain; the Balkans); Haplogroup E3a = (Africa, Berbers, Tunisians, Moroccan Arabs); Haplogroup G = (Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia); Haplogroup I = 5% (Europe, Near East, Caucasus, Central Asia; Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Dagestan); Haplogroup I1b = 30.8% (Eurasia, Slavic, Uralic people of Eastern Europe; Lebanese); Haplogroup I1c =  ?% ( ? ); Haplogroup J = 13% (southwestern Arabian Peninsula, north Africa, southern Europe); Haplogroup N3 = (Scandinavia, northern Europe, Ukraine, Poland, Volga-Ural region); Haplogroup Q = (Central Asia; the Americas, north Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacific region); Haplogroup R1b = 61.5% (Europe: southern Portugal, western Norway, Tehuelche Argentina, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, central Portugal, Vienna Austria, Spanish, Irish); Haplogroup R1b3 = 60% (European: Spanish, Catalans, Portuguese, French, Danes, etc.; Irish).


Since the 17th century, many Azoreans have emigrated, mainly to Brazil, the United States and Canada.[26] Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, especially the cities of New Bedford, Bristol, Barrington, Pawtucket, Central Falls, West Warwick, Hudson, River Point, and Fall River have been, and continue to be the primary destination for Azorean emigrants.[27] Northern California was the final destination for many of the Massachusetts immigrants who then moved on to the San Joaquin Valley, especially the city of Turlock, just south of Modesto. The tuna fishing industry drew a significant number of Azoreans to the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, in Southern California.[28] In 1919, there were approximately 300,000 people in the Azores while there were 100,000 Azoreans in the United States.[29] From 1961 to 1977, about 150,000 Azoreans immigrated to the United States.[30] There were an estimated 83,000 Azoreans in California in the 1970s.[31]

Many Azoreans also moved to Bermuda and pre-U.S. Hawaii.[31] Florianópolis and Porto Alegre in the Southern Region of Brazil were founded by Azoreans, who accounted for over half of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina's population in the late 18th century.[32] As late as 1870-4 some 46,000 Portuguese emigrated to Brazil and a large proportion were from the Azores.[31]


Politically, since 1976, the Azores is an autonomous region integrated within the framework of the Portuguese Republic. It has its own government and autonomous legislature within its own political-administrative statute and organic law. Its governmental organs include: the Legislative Assembly, a unicameral parliament composed of 52 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for day-to-day operations. It is represented in the Council of Ministers by a representative appointed by the President of the Republic, which was created during the revision of the constitution of 2004 (which, among other things, removed the older Portuguese representative that was appointed by the President of the Republic, beholden to the Council of State and coincident with the President).

Since becoming a Portuguese autonomous region, the executive branch of the regional authority has been located in Ponta Delgada, the legislative branch in Horta, and the judicial branch in Angra do Heroísmo.

The islands of the archipelago do not have independent status in law, except in electoral law and are governed by 19 municipalities that subdivide the islands. In addition, until the administrative reform of the 19th Century, the following civil parishes had municipal standing: Topo (today integrated into the municipality of Calheta, São Jorge); Praia da Graciosa (today integrated into municipality of Santa Cruz da Graciosa); São Sebastião (today an integral part of the municipality of Angra do Heroísmo); Capelas (now part of the municipality of Ponta Delgada); and Água de Pau (now a civil parish in the municipality of Lagoa). These civil parishes still retain their titles of "vila" in name only, by Regional Legislative Decree n.º 29/2003/A, June 24, 2003; the populations of Capelas and neighbouring parish still protest the change and promote the restoration of their status. The municipalities are also subdivided into several civil parishes, with the exception of Corvo (the only municipality by law without a civil parish, owing to its size).

Azorean politics are dominated by the two largest Portuguese political parties, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Socialist Party (PS), the latter holding a majority in the Regional Legislative Assembly. The Democratic and Social Center / People's Party (CDS/PP), the Left Bloc (BE), the Unitarian Democratic Coalition (CDU) and the People's Monarchist Party (PPM) are also represented in the local parliament. Currently, as of the 2008 Regional Elections, the Socialist Party (PS) and its leader, Carlos César have a plurality of the seats in the Assembly, and operate the Regional Government. Although the PS dominates the regional politics, the PSD is traditionally popular in city and town council elections.

International affairs

In 2003, the Azores saw international attention when United States President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and the Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso held a summit there days before the commencement of the Iraq War.[33]



Each of the nine islands has an airfield,[34] although the majority are aerodromes rather than airports. The commercial terminals in Ponta Delgada, Horta, Vila do Porto and Santa Cruz das Flores are operated by ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, a public entity that oversees the operations of airports across Portugal. The remaining, except for Lajes Field, are operated by the Regional Government. Lajes is a military airbase, as well as commercial airport, and is operated by the Portuguese Armed Forces in conjunction with the United States

Marine transport

The Azores has had a long history of water transport to overcome distances and establish inter-community contacts and trade. Consequently, the shipbuilding industry developed in many islands, from small fishing boats, to whaling sloops to larger passenger services.[35] Passenger traffic to the main islands (São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira and Faial) began in the 17th century, and between the 18th-19th century, the Pico Yacht controlled the lucrative summer traffic season.[35]

After 1871, the Insulana Shipping Company was the only entity responsible for regular traffic between the islands (except Corvo), Madeira and the United States.[35] But, cargo and passenger transportation ceased in the 1970s, and the ships sold or converted into tuna fishing boats. For the next 20 years, commercial maritime service between the islands (except between Faial-Pico and Lajes das Flores-Vila do Corvo) ceased.[35]

Transmaçor (Transportes Marítimos Açorianos, Lda.) was founded on 22 December 1987, resulting from the fusion of Empresa das Lanchas do Pico, Ld, owners of the ships Espalamaca and Calheta (ships that had travelled the canal between Faial and Pico for several years); Empresa Açoreana de Transportes Marítimos, Lda, which operated the ship Terra Alta; and Transcanal (Transportes Marítimos do Canal, Lda.) operator the traditional boats Picaroto and Manuel José.[36][37] In the Central Group, the shipping company operates four to six time daily connections between Horta and Madalena throughout the year, using its small fleet of ships (Cruzeiro das Ilhas, Cruzeiro do Canal, Expresso das Ilhas and Expresso do Triângulo), in addition to inter-island connections between Faial, Pico, São Jorge and Terceira during the summer months.[36]

Meanwhile, new initiatives began in the late 1990s: the catamaran Iapetos began services, followed by Lady of Mann and Golfinho Azul (chartered by Açorline).[35] In 2005, Atlanticoline was established, providing services with the ships Ilha Azul and Express Santorini, later adding the Viking in 2009.[35]

On 20 June 2011, the Regional Government announced that it would purchase 60% of Transmaçor, equivalent to 500,000 Euros of the company's capital.[38] With this acquisition the Autonomous government of the Azores controlled 88% of the capital, with 12% to shareholders.[38] The signed memorandum of understanding concluded negotiations between the various parties involved, under which the liability of Transmaçor (worth a total of 8 million Euros) was divided equally between the Region and businessman José Almeida, who is the holder of a majority stake in the company.[38]

Similarly, the Regional Government approved the consolidation of the three individual port authorities (Administração dos Portos do Triângulo e Grupo Ocidental, Administração dos Portos da Terceira e Graciosa and the Administração dos Portos das Ilhas de São Miguel e Santa Maria) and regional Portos dos Açores into one entity that resulted in a 2.2 million Euro cost savings, in addition to a reduction from 11 to three administrators.[39]


Azoreans have developed their own distinct regional identity and cultural traits, from a combination of continental Portuguese customs brought by various waves of immigration and local political and environmental factors.

Religious festivals, patron saints and traditional holidays mark the Azorean calender. The most important religious events are tied with the festivals associated with the Cult of the Holy Spirit, commonly referred to as the festivals of the Holy Spirit (or Espírito Santo), rooted in millenarian dogma, and held on all islands from May to September. These festivals are very important to the Azorean people, who are primarily Roman Catholic, and combine profane religious rituals with processions celebrating the benevolence and egalitarianism of neighbours. These events are centred around treatros or impérios, small buildings that host the meals, adoration and charity of the participants, and used to store the artefacts associated with the events. On Terceira, for example, these impérios have grown into ornate buildings painted and cared for by the local brotherhoods in their respective parishes. The events are normally closed to the public (confined to the members of the parish brotherhoods), although some limited events have been organized by the tourist-friendly populace, including a public event held by the city government in Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel, which attracts visitors and locals.

Another event, the Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (English: Lord Holy Christ of Miracles) in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel is the largest individual religious event in the Azores, and takes place on the fifth Sunday after Easter. Pilgrims from within the Portuguese diaspora normally travel to Ponta Delgada to participate in an afternoon procession behind the image of Christ along the flower-decorated streets of the city. Although the solemn procession is only held on one day, the events of the Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo occur over a period of a week, and involve a ritual of moving the image between the main church and convent nightly, ultimately culminating in the procession, which is televised within the Azores and to the Portuguese diaspora. The Sanjoaninas Festivities in Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira are held in June honoring S. Antonio, S. Pedro and St. João, in a large religious celebration.

The festival of Nossa Senhora de Lourdes, (Our Lady of Lourdes), patron saint of whalers, begins in Lajes on Pico on the last Sunday the August and runs through the week—Whalers Week. It is marked by social and cultural events connected to the tradition of whale hunting. The Festa das Vindimas, (Wine Harvest Festival), takes place during the first week of September and is a century old custom of the people of Pico.

In Corvo the people celebrate their patron saint Nossa Senhora dos Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles) on August 15 every year in addition to the festivals of the Divine Holy Spirit. The Festival da Maré de Agosto (August Sea Festival), takes place every year beginning on 15 August in Praia Formosa on Santa Maria. Also, the Semana do Mar (Sea Week), dedicated almost exclusively to water sports, takes place in August in the city of Horta, on Faial.

Carnaval is also celebrated in the Azores. Parades and pageants are the heart of the Carnaval festivities. There is lively music, colorful costumes, hand-made masks, and floats. The traditional bullfights in the bullring are ongoing, as is the running of bulls in the streets.

See also



  1. ^ Until 2002, the Portuguese escudo was used in financial transactions, and until 1910 the Portuguese real was the currency used by the monarchy of Portugal.
  2. ^ Lusa (5 March 2011). J.M.A.. ed (in Portuguese). Estruturas podem ter mais de dois mil anos: Monumentos funerários descobertos nos Açores. Lisbon, Portugal: Correio da Manhã. Retrieved 18 June 2011 [dead link]
  3. ^ Lusa (27 June 2011). A.O. Online. ed (in Portuguese). Estudos arqueológicos podem indicar presença prévia ao povoamento das ilhas. Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Açoreana Oriental. Retrieved 27 June 2011 
  4. ^ a b c Ashe, Thomas (1813). History of the Azores, or. Western islands. Oxford University. 
  5. ^ Scammell, G.V (1989). The First Imperial Age. Unwin Hyman. 
  6. ^ Payne, Stanley (1972). A History of Spain and Portugal - Ch27. Madison WI: University of Wisconsin. Retrieved 22 June 2011 
  7. ^ "The Role of Portugal -co-opting Nazi Gold, Jonathan Petropoulos, "Dimensions", Vol 11, No 1, 1997". Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  8. ^ M B Barrass (2001-2008). "Air of Authority: A History of RAF Organisation". Royal Air Force Organization ( Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  9. ^ Miranda,, 1998
  10. ^ a b c Machado,, 2008, p.14
  11. ^ Lúis, 1994, p.439–440
  12. ^ Madeira, 1998
  13. ^ Ferreira, 2005, p.4
  14. ^ Ting Yang,, 2006, p.20
  15. ^ "Erupções vulcânicas históricas [Historical Volcanic Eruptions]". Centro de Vulcanologia e Avaliação de Riscos Geológicos (CVARG). 2010. Retrieved April 15, 2010. ; Evidence for the submarine eruptions off the coasts of Velas, São Jorge Island and Cachorro, Santa Luzia, Pico Island included primarily from inferences and eyewitness testimonies about sulfuric gases and vapors released from the waters along the coast (February 15–24, 1964 and December 15, 1963, respectively)
  16. ^ Carine, 2010, p.78
  17. ^ Ferreira, 2005, p.110
  18. ^ "Actividade Sísmica [Seismic Activity]" (in Portuguese). CVARG. 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  19. ^ Ferreira, 2005, p.111
  20. ^ Triantis, K. A.; Borges, P. A. V.; Ladle, R. J.; Hortal, J.; Cardoso, P.; Gaspar, C.; Dinis, F.; Mendonça, E. et al. (2010). "Extinction debt on oceanic islands". Ecography: no. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2010.06203.x.  edit
  21. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (10 December 2010). "Encyclopedia of Earth". In Monosson, Emily; Cleveland, Cutler J.. Washington D.C.: National Council for Science and the Environment. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "Climate of the Azores islands". Azores Weather. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  23. ^ "Normais Climatológicas (1971–2000)". June 2011. 
  24. ^ Maximum wind speed recorded during Hurricane Tanya (1995), Institute of Meteorology, IP Portugal [1]
  25. ^ Melvin Eugene Page and Penny M. Sonnenburg (2003). Colonialism: An International, Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781576073353. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  26. ^ "Azores Islands". 1997-01-17.. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  27. ^ By: Lurdes C. da Silva 08/22/2008 (2008-08-22). "Mass.- Azores links inked". O Jornal. Retrieved 2009-05-05. [dead link]
  28. ^ Orbach, Michael K. (1977). "Hunters, seamen, and entrepreneurs: the tuna seinermen of San Diego" University of California p.7
  29. ^ "Azorean Migration". 1997-01-17.
  30. ^ "Azorean Immigration into the United States".
  31. ^ a b c Russell King, John Connell (1999). "Small worlds, global lives: islands and migration". Continuum International Publishing Group. pp.61–65. ISBN 185567548X
  32. ^ Imigrantes: Açorianos
  33. ^ – Bush speaking in the Azores, March 17, 2003
  34. ^ "Flughäfen in Portugal (PT)". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  35. ^ a b c d e f "History" (in Porutguese). Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Atlânticoline. 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  36. ^ a b Transmaçor, ed (2010). "Transmaçor – Transportes Marítimos Açorianos, Ldª." (in Portguese). Horta (Azores), Portugal: Transportes Marítimos Açorianos, Lda.. 
  37. ^ The societies and companies comprise 80% of the capital, with the remaining shares owned by the Azores Regional Government.
  38. ^ a b c Lusa (20 June 2011). "Concluídas negociações para compra da Transmaçor". In AO Online (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  39. ^ Pinheiro, Maria (8 June 2011) (in Portuguese). Portos dos Açores – Fusão administrativa aprovada na Assembleia Regional. Horta, Portugal: Tribuna das Ilhas. Retrieved 5 September 2011 


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External links

Wikimedia Atlas of the Azores

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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