Overview

Santa Maria is the most southerly and sunniest island, and is a favourite holiday destination for many Azoreans.

Santa Maria is the closest island to Sao Miguel and was the first inhabited island in the archipelago, from 1439 at Anjos. Christopher Columbus famously came ashore here in 1493 on his return voyage from the Americas; attending mass at the chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos.

It is one of the few islands with sandy beaches and its spectacular coves are the most photographed in the archipelago. Its international airport makes it easy to get to – it was even used as a re-fuelling point for Air France Concordes flying between Paris and Caracas.

Highlights

One of the cultural highlights on the island is its July Blues Festival. The festival always has a strong international flavour – 2015’s line-up included Alvon Johnson from the USA, Joanne Tailor Shaw from the UK and Doghouse Sam and his Magnatones from Belgium, alongside Portuguese artists such as Budda Power Blues.
The island is also famous for its handicrafts, with most Azorean families owning a blanket, patchwork quilt or linen tablecloth which was woven by hand on a traditional loom at the co-operative in Santo Espirito. Wines and sweet liqueurs are also produced on the island, including Aguardente, Licor de Amor, Vinho Abafado and Vinho Abafadinho.
Visit the Bay of Sao Lourenco, a spectacular shell-shaped bay on the northeast coast lined with pretty vineyards. Or go surfing at Praia Formosa, a beautiful pale sand beach close to Vila do Porto.

Activities

From relaxing on sandy beaches to hiking and biking the many trails of Santa Maria, this lesser visited, sunny island is just waiting to be discovered.

Accommodation

Being such a quiet island, there are fewer accommodation choices but there is a lovely boutique hotel in Vila do Porto and lots of pretty self catering cottages dotted around the villages with their traditional Alentejo style chimneys.

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