16. November 2020
Why is the Azorean Central Group so Special?
The central group includes the Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial islands. On the whole they offer something extraordinary to our visitors: a journey rich in unique moments. Nature is undoubtedly our image, and every island has its own peculiarities. Fortunately these 5 islands cover various historical events, volcanic phenomena and different cultures. In the central group you can know the essence of this archipelago.
First let’s see what each island in the central group contains. Thus you will have the realization that as each island is unique, and that on the whole become special.
The third island is a must visit because of the existence of a splendid nature and an incomparable heritage. This is the island of the Azores with the greatest historical heritage. Apart from a rich historical tradition, this island has an attractive natural wealth like:
Algar do Carvão
An experience not to be missed is the descent to Algar do Carvão. It is a remarkable volcanic chimney, in excellent conditions of preservation.
The descent to the cave ends next to a pond of clear water fed by rain.
Serra do Cume
With a superb view over the Manta de Retalhos, in the Mirador of Serra do Cume you can see the bay of Praia da Vitória, the plain of Lajes and the vast area of the interior of the island. The meadows, the animals, the atmosphere are elements that together will convey tranquility and purity.
Natural Pools of Biscoitos
A place where fun and nature intersect. These pools are located northeast of the island in the parish of Biscoitos. Surrounded by rocks from ancient volcanic eruptions and bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Piscinas dos Biscoitos has been totally adapted to be a fantastic place of leisure.
The island Terceira is a point of attraction due to the various popular manifestations. Their parties are intense and lived in an atmosphere of euphoria and good mood. Of its celebrations the Sanjoaninas Festivals, the Festivals of the Beach of the Victory and the bailinhos of carnival stand out.
Filled with nature and built heritage, Terceira Island is also a great place for lovers of gastronomy. The Alcatra, Santo Espírito Soup, Cornucopia, Alfenim, Días Amélias and Caretas are some of the typical dishes of the island.
Graciosa island, classified by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, has lovely, gently rolling landscapes with scattered hills and small volcanic cones. The harmonious blending of the green of the vegetation with the white of the houses, and with the historical monuments, turns out to be an admirable landscape.
One of the most representative features of the Graciosa landscape is undoubtedly the windmills, with their red roofs, considered the most beautiful of the whole archipelago, especially when their sails are in the wind.
The natural heritage features pearls such as:
It is a depression of collapse implanted in the top of the smallest volcano of the Azores and is the most emblematic landscape element of the island. The caldera is a geological structure of high interest, since it has several types of unique volcanic formations, with special emphasis on Furna do Enxofre.
The Sulfur’s Furna
Inside the Caldeira is a stunning volcanic cavity. Access to this cave is done by a tower containing a spiral staircase. In the zone of the entrance and the interior of the grotto one observes diverse species of flora, moss and invertebrate beings.
This volcanic cavity is recognized internationally. Because it has a lake of cold water and a fumarola with mud, responsible for the smell of sulfur, which reports to the designation of this cavity.
The beach islet is located 1 mile in front of Vila da Praia. It stands out for the green that covers its surface and for the nesting of different species of seabirds. This islet is the sanctuary of the seabirds of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is a curious formation of volcanic origin that is located in the Bay of Ponta da Barca. And by its configuration it is reminiscent of a whale. The Lighthouse of Ponta de Barca has the highest tower among all the remaining in the Azores, which allows a breathtaking view of this mysterious rocky whale.
Fun and Culture
The feasts in honor of the Divine Holy Spirit, also, on this island have great religious and profane meaning. From Pentecost to summer, the various localities of the island celebrate lively. In the second week of August, the feasts of the Lord Santo Cristo dos Milagres are celebrated. The carnival in Graciosa is extremely lively and is always invited to enter the joke.
In Graciosa Island, the typical gastronomy combines exceptional dishes with the best meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, and is also famous for its pastries and sweets, Queijo da Graciosa, cavacas, hoods, rice puddles or soggy eggs. White wine is a good companion in gastronomy.
There is much more to be enjoyed on this island, such as the ethnographic museum that best demonstrates the island’s historical journey and the lifestyle of its people, as well as religious and rural monuments.
São Jorge’s Island
São Jorge is an island of cliffs, cliffs and fajãs, one of the greenest of the archipelago of the Azores and the perfect place for a holiday in contact with nature and the sea. The predominance of the green that makes the island’s charm, invites you to stroll through a landscape of primitive beauty. São Jorge presents an elongated and very narrow profile, being unique in the archipelago. The island develops along 55 km from Ponta dos Rosais to the Ilhéu do Topo, emphasizing its long volcanic mountain range.
Its coast is steep, almost vertical and sometimes contains flat surfaces by the sea, the fajãs. This island is known as the island of the fajãs. Now let’s see which fajãs are most attractive to you.
Fajã of the Cubres:
It is probably one of the most beautiful and exotic fajãs of this island. There is in this space a lagoon, surrounded by marshes of Junco, has an irregular shape with four small islets in its interior. In this fajã there is a great variety of typical marine fauna and flora, being a natural refuge for several marine and migratory birds.
Fajã of the Ouvidor
Located on the beautiful north coast of the beautiful São Jorge Island, in the verdant Azores Archipelago, Fajã do Ouvidor. This zone is already well developed, with some commercial structures, and houses of habitation, not influenced its rural aspect and reserved of other times. Very frequented is its beautiful natural swimming pool of great beauty, given the easy access to the Fajã, and to the own baths of sea.
Poça of Simão Dias
This puddle is one of the best places to go bathing on the island of São Jorge. It is very beautiful, natural and the water has a spectacular color. The clear, crystal clear water invites you to a refreshing swim. Considered a quiet and secluded place where it is possible to spend relaxing moments on the most beautiful summer days on the island of São Jorge.
Fajã of Caldeira de Santo Cristo
This is the island’s most famous fajã. Located in the parish of Ribeira
Drought, in the county of Calheta, the fajã da Caldeira do Santo Cristo is a natural reserve and a special ecological area. Considered a sanctuary for bodyboarding and surfing, it is also the only place in the Azores where clams are grown.
The gastronomy on this island although it includes many of the remaining gastronomic traditions, has many unique features of the island. Among the specific dishes there are those that are made with clams, since this is the only island in the Azores where this species exists.
As far as pastry and confectionery is concerned, the species and cakes of the day stand out.
The cheese on this island is classified as a cheese with a clean taste, slightly spicy and strong aroma. São Jorge cheese is an internationally recognized product. Being a true delicacy to enjoy, on its own or as an accompaniment to dishes.
The island of Pico is the second largest island of the archipelago and its name is due to its majestic volcanic mountain. This is the highest mountain in Portugal. Its dry and warm climate combined with the richness of the lava soils and the organized form of the terrain result in an impressive mosaic of black stone and vegetation.
The Pico is of extraordinary beauty, of an admirable color and has a very powerful power of attraction. The extensive lava fields, vineyard corridors, rural monuments, vegetation and climate on this island will provide you with unprecedented moments.
The island in addition to presenting the mountain, has a long mountain range with patches of vegetation and pastures, where they punctuate lagoons that result in a whole dream landscape.
In terms of assets, the following stand out:
A Gruta das Torres
It is located in the Old Creation and is inserted in the volcanic complex of the Pico mountain. This cave is the largest lava tube known in Portugal and was discovered in 1990. This cave has several structures characteristic of the cavities of volcanic origin. Where the stalactites, the lava stalagmites and lava balls stand out. The main entrance is made by the Algar da Ponte, descending steps. During the descent one can observe the transition of vegetation from the surface to other forms of life less evolved. This course will be fantastic, and will have moments of surprise as well as wonder.
O Museu do vinho
It is housed in the old Carmelite convent of Madalena, and consists of two buildings. A two-storey building that recreates a house, with space for housing and cellar, with a permanent exhibition on the tradition of the vineyard culture on this island; And a second, where the alembic is. It also has a viewpoint overlooking the corrals and a forest of dragon trees, in itself worthy of visit. Walks and wine tastings are also organized.
O Museu Regional dos Baleeiros
Being Pico a land of strong whaling traditions, it is located in the parish of Lajes do Pico, this museum and its purpose is to expose and interpret the aspects related to the activities and the daily life of whalers. In this museum you can enjoy a thematic library that can see for yourself maps and books on board, and an auditorium where you can see the movie “The Last Whalers”.
Apart from these places to visit that are part of the heritage of this island, could not fail to climb the mighty mountain.
A subida à montanha
Pico is the prime location of the fantastic Pico Mountain Nature Reserve, where you can enjoy excellent views of the island, surrounding islands and the Atlantic Ocean, all in all a breathtaking landscape.
The ascent and the descent take approximately 3 to 4 hours, so the visit to the highest point of Portugal takes about 8 hours. Before making the climb you should go to the Mountain House where you will register. You can spend only one night on the mountain.
Sunrise and sunset are unique and truly unforgettable moments, and of course sleeping on a sea of stars is anything from another world.
As for its architectural heritage, it concentrates mainly on churches and hermitages.
The gastronomy of the island is very rich, especially as far as the products of the sea. The crab, the limpets, the octopus, and the fish serve as a base for the varied and delicious dishes.
Meats are present in dishes such as:
- Pico-style meat sauce
Also worthy of mention are the cheeses that are consumed with wines. Talking about the Pico wine is synonymous with pride. There is nothing like tasting the wines, in their place of origin, it has another flavor and another meaning.
The island of Faial is one of the obligatory stops in the visit to the central group. With its Capelinhos volcano, its magnificent caldera covered with various shades of green, its pasture fields surrounded by hydrangeas and the calm sea beaches. The city of Horta deserves special mention. Of great monumental wealth, it is the most cheerful and colorful city of the Central Group. Its marina, which is usually full of yachts of various colors, gives the bay and the city a very characteristic atmosphere. Due to its geographical position, the city of Horta offers unique landscapes of the island of Pico and São Jorge.
Places to visit
Vulcão dos Capelinhos
The landscape in the parish of Capelo is the result of an underwater eruption that occurred in 1957. There is a contrast between the rich green and the brown sands that result in a dramatic landscape. In this same place, you can enjoy a submerged space that will make you go back in time and experience volcanic phenomena.
O Centro interpretativo do Vulcão
The Capelinhos Lighthouse was transformed into a belvedere and at its base, the Interpretive Center of the Volcano operates. This center has an informative, didactic and scientific character, having a set of exhibitions that recall the unique period of the history of Faial, as well as the formation of the archipelago.
This space also has an exhibition of samples of rocks and minerals.
The zone of the varadouro, known like a fajã, stands out for its micro-climate and its vivacious vegetation. Besides the magnificent landscape, it has a beach area formed by volcanic rocks.
The crater of the volcano that originated the island. Formed 500 thousand years ago, this huge crater is rich in vegetation. Its interior is one of the best places in the whole archipelago to observe the vegetation that covered these islands before their settlement. You can use a guide to go down the boiler, where you can enjoy the sun on a soft moss mattress.
O Cabeço Gordo
It is located in the central zone of the island and is a magnificent viewpoint that on good weather days allows to see all the islands of the triangle and to Graciosa.
O Monte da Guia
It is an ancient volcano of submarine origin that during its formation joined the island of Faial. It presents a landscape of excellence overlooking the bay of Porto Pim.
Baía do Porto Pim
The Bay is protected by Monte da Guia, which facilitated the origin of a magnificent beach. The bay contains dunes, clear and very fine sand. The sea is very calm, and all the surrounding scenery offers you a paradisiac moment
In this bay, the Whale Factory of Porto Pim is located, being one of the most relevant testimonies of the time of the whaling and that today is an interpretive center, therefore it is in an ideal place to take a peek. In addition to this bay we have the Monte da Guia, we also have Monte Queimado where you can climb and enjoy the scenery or dazzle the sunset.
As for the gastronomy of this small island but great in culture, we have dishes very similar to the island of Pico, namely, fish dishes, meat dishes, soya mass, yams, sausage and our Morro cheese.
Faial is a perfect destination for all nature lovers.
The islands of the triangle
The proximity between the islands of São Jorge, Pico and Faial, as well as the numerous maritime connections, makes this triangle a fascinating and surprising destination. The maritime interconnection is carried out between these islands, through the ports. Making the boat trip has the bonus of seeing the islands from another perspective. In less than a week you can visit the islands of the triangle.