One of the Azores’ most enjoyable walking challenges is the Grande Rota – the Great Route of Santa Maria.

The Grande Rota began as an idea amongst five friends; five young Santa Marians who wanted to circumnavigate their island on foot. The project took wings as the local community got whole-heartedly behind the scheme – as a way for both visitors and residents to enjoy the varied landscapes of this beautiful island. The trail is traditionally broken up into four full-day walks:

Day 1 – Vila do Porto to Cardal – 16.5km

Day 2 – Cardal to Norte – 21.5km

Day 3 – Norte to Bananeiras- 16.5km

Day 4 – Bananieras to Vila do Porto – 23.5km

With our Great Route of Santa Maria holiday, you’ll be based at the Charming Blue Hotel in the main town of Vila do Porto or, if you prefer to self-cater, in one of our charming rural cottages. Our resident guide will collect you from the hotel each morning – he’ll bring along your picnic lunches and you’ll chat through the day’s walk before driving to the trail head. You could self-guide, but you get so much more out of spending time with our guide: more of an insight into the history, wildlife and landscapes of Santa Maria (and it’s also a big help to the local economy of this small island).

You’ll also have some time on the main island of Sao Miguel – it’s well-connected to the outside world with direct flights from the UK, Boston and Toronto, and we’ll include the (short) internal flights you’ll need between the islands. We’ve suggested a ten-night Great Route of Santa Maria holiday but it’s easy to extend your trip to a full two weeks if you’d also like more time to explore Sao Miguel.


You’ll begin your holiday by flying direct to the Azores. You’ll be transferred by our driver to your accommodation in Ponta Delgada.
You’ll have today free to explore Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores. It's a great place to shop for local produce and souvenirs, with an excellent selection of friendly restaurants and cafe bars, attractive mosaic pavements and traditional Portugeuse architecture. In the afternoon, you'll head down to the local marina for a whale and dolphin watching trip.
You'll be transferred to the aiport for your flight to the island of Santa Maria. You'll be collected by our driver for your transfer to your new accommodation in the main town of Vila do Porto.
Grande Rota Day 1: Vila do Porto to Cardal - 16.5km. Your first day’s walk begins at the 17th century Sao Bras Fort and take you via Grutas do Figueiral, the beach at Praia Formasa and the viewpoint at Ponta da Malbusca – ending in the small hamlet of Cardal.
Grande Rota Day 2: Cardal to Norte - 21.5km. Today’s walk takes in the full length of Santa Maria’s east coast. You’ll pass by the Ponta do Castelo and the Goncalo Velho lighthouse, the vineyards at Sao Lourenço and the abandoned cold-war NATO station.
You'll have a free day to relax - you could spend the day at Praia Formosa beach.
Grande Rota Day 3: Norte to Bananeiras- 16.5km. The third section of the Grande Trailho takes you through the Poco da Pedreira quarry, via the twin waterfalls at Cai Agua, up to the summit of Pico Alto: the highest point of the island at 587m.
Grande Rota Day 4: Bananeiras to Vila do Porto - 23.5km. For your fourth and final walk, the trail will take you down the west coast, back to your start point in Vila do Porto. You’ll visit the Barreiro da Faneca, Santa Maria’s arid, red clay desert, and the village of Anjos where Christopher Columbus famously made land on his return voyage from the Americas in 1493.
You'll fly back to Sao Miguel for a two night stay in Ponta Delgada.
You’ll spend your final full day with our resident guide, exploring Furnas: the most easterly volcano on Sao Miguel. There are over thirty springs and geysers dotted around the village, and the 200-year-old Terra Nostra botanical gardens are home to the town’s most famous geothermal swimming pool.
You’ll be transferred to the airport for your direct flight home.

From £1800 per person

We can create a tailor-made holiday to suit your budget.

INCLUDED: international and inter-island flights, accommodation in twin/double en-suite rooms on a B&B basis, airport transfers, a whale and dolphin watching trip, four guided walks on Santa Maria including return transfers and a picnnic lunch, and a full-day guided tour of Furnas on Sao Miguel.

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