Santa Maria

Santa Maria is the most southerly of the nine islands of the Azores.

It’s also the sunniest, with some of the best beaches in the archipelago making it a favourite holiday destination for many Azoreans. Geologically, it’s the oldest island with a very different landscape to the younger volcanic islands like Pico or Faial. The volcanoes that first formed Santa Maria have had time to erode into pleasant rolling hills, secluded coves and dramatic sea cliffs.

The island was the first to be inhabited, with the first Portuguese settlers arriving in 1439 on the site of the current village of Anjos. Christopher Columbus famously came ashore at Anjos in 1493 on his return voyage from the Americas; attending mass at the chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos. The island’s also famous for it’s handicrafts with most Azorean families owning a blanket, patchwork quilt or linen tablecloth which was woven 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.

If you’re a hiker, Santa Maria’s circular Grande Trilhos is a great way to explore the island’s coastal walking trails, and the island is one of the Azores’ best mountain biking destinations. It’s just a short fifteen-minute flight from the main island of Sao Miguel, making it the natural choice if you’re thinking of splitting your stay between two islands.

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