14 Fun Facts about the Azores

1. The Azores are a group of nine volcanic islands, spread over 370 miles in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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2. Home to about 250,000 people, the Azores are known for their vibrantly-colored blue green lakes, fertile prairies, volcanic craters, colorful hydrangeas, 15th century churches, and majestic manor houses.

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3. Although they are located about 850 miles ( 1367.94 kilometers) west of continental Portugal, the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal, the same status as the Portuguese island of Madeira.

4. Year-round temperatures in the Azores range between 57°F (14°C) and 71°F (22°C).

5. Tourism, government jobs, fishing and agriculture are the major industries in the Azores. The fertile soil yields a variety of crops, vineyards and grazing for dairy cattle and other livestock.

6. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, at 7,713 feet (2350.92 meters) above sea level, is the highest point in the Azores and all of Portugal.

7. While they are not native to the Azores, colorful hydrangeas flowers were introduced to the islands and today, they are very common. Faial Island is known as the “blue island” due to the vast number of hydrangeas present.

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8. The Azores were detailed on  The Catalan Atlas, drawn and written in 1375, but the islands were officially “discovered” in in 1431 by Gonçalo Velho Cabral. São Miguel was first settled in 1444, under the command of Cabral – at the site of modern-day Povoação.

9. Although the Azores were settled by immigrants from mainland Portugal, the islands were also populated by Flemish, French and Spaniards, as well as Moorish prisoner and African slaves from Guinea, Cape Verde and São Tomé. As a result, the Azore population today is genetically different from the mainland Portuguese.

10. Religious festivals, patron saints and traditional holidays are important to the Azorean people, who are primarily Roman Catholic. Azoreans celebrate Carnival (a festive season that occurs before Lent, usually in February) with parades, pageants lively music, colorful costumes, hand-made masks, floats, bullfights and the running of bulls in the streets.

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11. Azorean cuisine is a rich, hearty and peasant-based style of cooking. Famous local food of the Azores includes Cozido das furnas (a one-pot stew cooked by the hot springs,) octopus stewed in wine, kale soup, fried mackerel, locally-grown pineapples, the sweet/spicy Pimenta da terra (cherry-red peppers,) and fresh rich dairy products such as local yogurt, butter and cheeses. Queijo do Pico is a salty cow’s milk cheese from the island of Pico.

12. In the 1750’s, tea leaf was found growing in the wild in the Azores. Commercial tea production in the Azores began in the 1870’s and continues today. The Azores’ tea-drying process using the fresh ocean air gives its green teas a unique fragrant scent when they are brewed.

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13. Wine making in the Azores dates back to the 15th century, as Catholic religious orders planted vineyards as soon as they arrived. While all nine of Azorean islands originally had vineyards, disease outbreaks during the 1850s devastated most. Today wine grapes are grown on the islands of Pico, Terceira and Graciosa.

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14. The United States maintains a NATO air base on the island of Terceira. The Lajes Air Base provides a strategically-located mid-Atlantic link for US and Allied Forces to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Lajes Field is a multi-use airfield, home to the Portuguese Air Force Base, a United States Air Force detachment unit and a regional air passenger terminal.

 

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About the Author: Chris Kovacs

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