The island of Graciosa has a peaceful rural charm, perfect for a truly relaxing break.
The whole island is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (along with Corvo and Flores) – highlighting Graciosa’s ideal balance between the preservation of her landscapes and ecosystems, and sustainable economic and human development. As a visitor, this manifests itself as sparsely populated villages, traditional rural architecture, quiet roads and a gentle pace of life which you can’t help slipping into as soon as you arrive on the island.
That’s not to say Graciosa is dull; quite the opposite – it’s violent volcanic past is only too evident when you take the plunge down into the volcano at Furna do Enxofre. A unique geological phenomenon, this enormous lava cave is an extraordinary sight: 200m in diameter, with a magnificent vaulted ceiling 50m high (made up of perfect cross-sections of volcanic prisms), its own underground sulphurous lake, and it’s only accessible via a vertigo-inducing 80-year-old stone spiral staircase (we counted 183 steps). The Azores has more than its fair share of impressive geological phenomena, but Furna do Enxofre has to be one of our favourites.
Spend your days exploring on foot and by car, and your evenings relaxing in the main square in Santa Cruz. It's also a great island for studying pelagic bird species; we have a group trip every August.