Lago Santiago, Sao Miguel

1. While the islands were first colonised by the Portuguese in 1432, the Atlantic islands had been the stuff of many fearsome and alluring legends for centuries before. Even Pliny and Plato wrote about mysterious Atlantic islands (Atlantis?) over 2000 years ago.

2. Christopher Colombus stopped for a breather on the islands in 1493, on his way home from America. He was mistaken for a pirate and promptly taken prisoner.

3. The nine Azorean islands are spread across a distance of 600 km (375 miles). This vast area of ocean is solely responsible for Portugal having Europe’s third largest economic trading area.

4. The Azores are home to Portugal’s highest point. Mount Pico on Pico Island peaks at an impressive 2,351 metres.

5. Unlike many remote island groups, the Azorean gene pool is very well mixed thanks to a diverse influx of people over many centuries. These have included settlers, merchants, sailors, prisoners and slaves.

Whale watching from Pico

6. Mark Twain wrote of the Azores in 1877, “I think the Azores must be very little known in America. Out of our whole ship’s company there was not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them.” How many people know much more about these islands today?

7. The Azores did hit the news in early 2003 as the staging point for the international summit that saw the go-ahead given for the Iraq war. In attendance were George Bush, Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister José Aznar of Spain and Prime Minister of Portugal José Barroso.

8. The Azores sit on the edge of several tectonic plates, although there has been little volcanic activity in recent years and most recorded earthquakes have been minor.

9. The island of São Miguel is home to the only two tea plantations in Europe. Visitors can tour the facilities at Gorreana and Porto Formoso and enjoy a taste of the produce in their tea rooms.

10. Football fans may want to combine a visit to the island with a game at the local team Santa Clara. Despite being a couple of hours flight from Lisbon the team has competed at the highest level in Portugal and several international players have played here in their early years, most notably Pauleta, Portugal’s all-time leading scorer.

If you’d like to learn more about visiting the Azores visit our special page where you can download a brochure and contact our expert team.

by Andy Jarosz