THE ENCHANTED ISLANDS
In the memorable words of Azores-born writer Vitorino Nemésio, in the Azores islands, geography is "as precious as History". All those who have already been to the Azores know that this is totally true and must agree with the author of the literary work Mau tempo no canal. Geomorphology, human settlement and economical activities have always played a crucial role in these nine small but beautiful universes. There is a long grieving experience of earth quakes, volcanic eruptions and devastating storms. That is probably why the islands share such a deep-rooted religiosity, represented, for instance, by the famous buildings Impérios do Espírito Santo (Empires of the Holy Spirit). A dominant rural background has prevailed in the islands, becoming clear in multiple aspects of land organisation.
Since the 14th century, cities, towns and remaining villages reflect a unique sense, which is typical of the archipelago and that can not be confused with any other urban, rural and architectural manifestation of Portuguese culture.
The Azores are included in the North Atlantic archipelagos - Madeira, Canary Islands, cape Verde and in the south extreme, Sao Tomé and Príncipe and other islands of the Gulf of Guinea - in terms of geology, botanic, history and geography. Scientifically, this group of islands is known as Macaronesia. They have plenty in common, not only in terms of nature (volcanoes, coastline layout and flora), but also in terms of human presence (5 hundred years-long Portuguese occupation played a crucial determining role, even though it was not as significant in the Canary Islands).
These striking nine islands of the Azores amaze the visitors by their diversity and natural beauty, leaving a feeling of mystery behind, which is quite hard to define. Each island tells a story and the heroes of those stories are sailors, artisans, peasants and soldiers, but also pirates, emigrants, producers of cattle, sugar cane and orange, men of religion and poets.
São Miguel is the queen of the islands, since it is the biggest, the most populated and the one that offers the greatest range of landscapes. Terceira is a precious island for many reasons, but mostly for that treasure of Portuguese urban planning which is Angra do Heroísmo. Santa Maria is a piece of Alentejo region that fell in the middle of the Atlantic. Pico is a paradise for fishing and walking tour fans. Faial is a floating garden with a city full of marks of sailing times. São Jorge is the island of lovers with breathtaking landscapes and the "fajãs" located by the water, inviting to contemplation and walking. Graciosa is indeed a gracious island that has plenty to offer. Flores is a paradise of colours and aromas. Last but not the least, Corvo is the smallest and most deserted of all islands, however it continues to be inhabited.