Geral information of São Miguel

 

General view

Currency

Volcanism

Travel restrictions

Religious services

Booking accommodation

How to get to the Azores

Language

Clothing

Public holidays

Folk festivals

Monuments, museums and libraries

 Diving

Shopping

 

 

                                                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get to Azores

 

The best way to travel to the Azores is by air. Five airports receive international flights: Lajes (on Terceira), Jonh Paul II (on São Miguel), Castelo Branco (on Faial), Pico and Santa Maria. Lisbon is the gateway for connecting flights to and from Europe and the world. Regular flights link the Azores to Madeira, Porto, the United States and Canada. There are also direct flights between Ponta Delgada and Malmo (Sweden), Gothenburg (Sweden), Stockholm (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Copenhagen (Denmark), Frankfurt (Germany), Munich (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland), Helsinki (Finland), Madrid (Spain) and London (United Kingdom). Owing to their geographical position, the Azores are a favourite port of call for trans-Atlantic yachts and cruisers.

 

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Travel restrictions

 

The Azores are a Portuguese territory, and foreigners must be in the possession of a passport and, in some cases, a valid visa, with the exception of citizens of the European Union, Switzerland and Liechtenstein for whom an identity card is sufficient. Citizens of countries with which Portugal has no diplomatic or Consular relations must apply directly to the Portuguese authorities for a visa. The entry and exit of people and baggage is controlled by the Immigration and Customs services. There are no great limitations on the import or export of Portuguese currency for foreigners who are arriving or leaving Portuguese territory. The entry of pets, plants, weapons, vehicles, as well as the temporary importation of personal belongings is subject to specific legislation. Drivers of cars, motorbikes and other vehicles besides bicycles must have an International Driving Licence, or a licence of their own country. The arrival and departure of boats and yachts is controlled by the Harbour Master's Office.

 

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Language

 

Portuguese is spoken and on some islands it has acquired particular accent with characteristic expressions. Local people are quick to learn languages, and it is common to meet someone who speaks English or French and, occasionally, German.

 

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Clothing

 

Light clothing is recommended for summer. In the spring and autumn, clothing for cooler and damper weather is necessary. In winter, even though the lowest temperatures are mild, it often rains, making raincoats and warm jackets desirable.

  

 

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Currency

 

 The Portuguese currency is the Euro (€). There are coins of €2, €1 as well as50, 20, 10,5,2 and 1 cents, and notes of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €1°and €5.

A comma is used to separate Euros from cents. For those countries which did not join the Euro and for other countries where the Euro is not the national currency, money will have to be exchanged for Euros.  

The exchange can only be done at banks, which are open to the public from 8.30am to 3.00pm every day except Saturday, Sunday and holidays.

Credit cards are generally accepted in the Azores. Establishments accepting credit cards

usually display the cards' respective stickers.

 

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Religious services

 

The Azorean population is predominately Roman Catholic, and the numerous churches, chapel and shrines which proliferate all through the archipelago are a testimony to this. Most of these churches are open to the public everyday, and one may go to Mass or other services. There are a few other non-Catholic Christian communities on some of the islands, namely the Evangelical Baptist Church, the Nazarene Church, the Evangelical Assembly of God, the Evangelical House of Prayer, the Pentecostal Church and the Presbyterian Church. Ali of these churches have services on Sunday.

 

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Public holidays

 

Compulsory public holidays are as follows. 1st January (new Year's Day); 10th April (Good Friday); 12th April (Easter Sunday) 25th April (Liberty Day); 1st May (Labour Day); 10th June (National Day of Portugal); 11th June (Autonomy Day and Corpus Christi); 15th August (Feast of the Assumption); 5th October (Implantation of the Republic); 1st November (Ali Saint's Day); 1stDecember(Restoration of Independence); 8th December (Feast of the Immaculate Conception); 25th December (Christmas Day). the following dates are optional holidays: Shrove Tuesday (February or March) and the Municipal holiday of each locality.

 

 

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Shopping and business hours  

 

Shops in the Azores are well supplied and offer attractive wares at reasonable prices. They are open from 9.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 2.00 pm to 6.30 pm every day except Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays, the shops are open until1.00 pm. there are also shopping centres and hypermarkets and some handicraft shops which are open at weekends and holidays.

 

 

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Diving and underwater observation

 

 With a unique underwater landscape, the Azores provide good underwater visibility, rocky formations of great beauty and a great variety of fishes. Several diving centres operate on almost every island of the Azores and, together with nautical dubs, supply equipment to support diving, competitive apnea and underwater observation. (For further information, you should contact a nautical club or a diving centre).

 

 

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Volcanism

 

The islands' volcanic origin and their development throughout many millennia make them an authentic live museum, showcasing hundreds of curious volcanic phenomena. For more information about volcano watching contact the OVGA Observatório Vulcanológico e Geotérmico dos Açores (Azores Volcanologic and Geothermic Observatory), located in Atalhada, municipality of Lagoa, island of São Miguel. www.ovga-azores.org

 

 

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Monuments, museums and libraries

The most important monuments of the Azores are the numerous churches, built throughout local history since the time of the first settlers to the present day. Their interiors, decorated in gold relief work, inlaid with wood and invaluable azulejos (glazed blue tiles) are veritable works of art. In addition to the dignity of the churches are the convents, some of which are also museums. Furthermore, one can admire the simplicity of the chapels and shrines which are spread throughout the archipelago. Also worthy of attention are the forts, castles, monuments, statues and busts which memorialise the famous names of Azorean history. Throughout the islands there are museums, ethnographical and cultural centres, where one can appreciate paintings and sculpture, as well as a variety of antique tools and traditional equipment which exemplify the local methods and customs. The public libraries are centralised in the cities where they safeguard a broad spectrum of Azorean culture.

 

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Folk festivals

 

The popular feasts are living proof of the religious spirit of the Azorean' people, who are mainly Roman Catholic. The festivals are rooted in medieval traditions and include lively parades and large feasts.

The Divine Holy Spirit, or Espírito Santo Festivals, as well as the feasts for the villages’ patron saints, the pilgrimages, processions and open air gatherings, where the brass bands preside, take place mainly between the months of May and September on all the islands. As part of the tradition, soup and bread are handed out to revellers during these events. On Terceira and other islands, decorative houses called Imperios are the staging points for the feeding of the masses.      Carnival is also celebrated in the Azores. Parades and pageants are the heart of the Carnival festivities. There is lively music, colourful costumes, hand-made masks, and floats. The largest religious event in the Azores is the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo, which takes place on the fifth Sunday after Easter. Pilgrims from all over the world unite to parade behind the image of Christ on a three-hour procession along the flower-decorated streets of the city.

May marks the Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Lord Holy Christ of Miracles) in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel.

The Sanjoaninas Festivities in Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira are held in June honouring S. Antonio, S. Pedro and St. João, in a large religious celebration.        The traditional bullfights in the bullring are ongoing, as is the running of bulls in the streets. The traditional bullfight "on a rope" in the town square dates from the time of the first settlers and the later Castillian Occupation. There is always a great deal of lively participation, and these bullfights have become the symbol of the Sanjoaninas festival. They are characterised by the releasing of the bulls, which have a rope tied to them, into the village streets where they run about wildly, challenging the more courageous spectators to confront them

The festival of Nossa Senhora de Lourdes, (Our Lady of Lourdes), patron saint to the whalers, begins in Lajes on Pico on the last Sunday the August and runs through the week—Whalers Week. It is marked by social and cultural events connected to the tradition of whale hunting. The Festa das Vindimas, (Wine Harvest Festival), takes place during the first week of September and is a century old custom ways by the people of Pico.

On Corvo the people celebrate their patron saint Nossa Senhora dos Milagres, (Our Lady of Miracles), on August 15 every year in addition to the festivals of the Divine Holy Spirit.

The Festival da Maré de Agosto (August Sea Festival), takes place every year beginning on 15 August in Praia Formosa on Santa Maria.

And, the Semana do Mar (Sea Week), dedicated almost exclusively to water sports, takes place in August in the city of Horta, on Faial. 

 

 

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Booking accommodation
 

Registration

Registration Upon checking in, all tourists must fill out a registration card which includes both the hotel and the client's names, the date of entry, the room price and the number of people occupying the room. According to international rules, the client must indicate the amount of time he will be staying upon registering, and this time can only be prolonged by means of a new contract. The tourist has at its disposal more than 70 lodging giving you a choice that best meets your preferences. This offer is also extending also to the more than 60 units of tourism in rural areas that provide quality stays in natural environments, where the past and present come together in harmony.

 

Prices

A price list is displayed in every hotel room, and the rates shown should include all taxes and services. Special situations Extra beds and rates for children under 8 are subject to alterations to the prices published. During the high season (1st May to 31st October), room rates are subject to increase. Complaints Ali establishments are obliged to keep an official complaints book. Complaints may also be made to the Tourism Offices on each island, or to the Regional Director of Tourism.

 

Special situations

Extra beds and rates for children under 8 are subject to alterations to the prices published. During the high season (1st May to 31st October), room rates are subject to increase.

 

Complaints

All establishments are obliged to keep an official complaints book. Complaints may also be made to the Tourism Offices on each island, or to the Regional Director of Tourism.

 

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General view

 

Numerous scenic overlooks offer dazzling views. The rugged coastline is a mixture of head lands jutting out into the ocean or sheer cliffs dropping directly into the sea, or sheltered coves which harbour the fragile fishing boats and expansive bays which have been adapted as ports to provide for shipping. Mountains and tranquil valleys covered with exuberant vegetation, breathtakingly beautiful lakes within the craters of extinct volcanoes, fumaroles, geysers and springs of hot water, imposing peaks and mysterious caves contrasting the carefully cultivated fields give this archipelago a varied landscape which would be difficult to match. Owing to the absence of pollution, the landscape takes on unique shades and colours which provide fabulous conditions for photography enthusiasts who can work in an atmosphere of tranquillity. The combination of all these factors, allied with a gentle of climate and the special nature of the soil, provide for tremendous fertility, which in turn translates into the abundance and tremendous variety of exotic vegetation. Quality timber, much of which is indigenous like the mahogany and cedar, tropical fruits such as the pineapple, and an abundance of flowers which include hydrangeas, hibiscus, ginger lilies, rhododendron, camellias, broom and azaleas, as well as dairy pastures and crops such as tea and tobacco give the Azores a rare botanical variety. The fauna, of which the most common is rabbit, is enriched by numerous birds like wood pigeons, kites, blackbirds and canaries. A great variety of seagulls and other sea birds fly over an ocean rich in fish, of which albacore, conger eel, anchovy, sword fish, tuna, and blue marlin are of special interest to sports fisher men. With regard to big game fishing, the thrill of shark fishing should not be omitted. Various species of cetacean are also common in Azorean waters, especially dolphins, whales and sperm whales. The volcanic origin of the Azores and its evolution throughout several millennia turn the archipelago into a live museum with hundreds of surprising volcanic phenomena. The Volcanological and Geothennal Observatory of the Azores (OVGA) was founded on June 1st, 2000 to train and to promote activities in volcanological, seismological, geothermal and environmental areas, as well as for the training, retraining and updating the personnel from the entities who request it. It is a non-profit scientific, technical and cultural association based on the island São Miguel with delegations, laboratories and sci-tech units on other island of the archipelago. The Observatório Vulcanológico e Geotérmico dos Açores is located in Atalhada (Council of Lagoa, São Miguel) and occupies two new buildings, the Tenente Coronel José Agostinho Pavilion or Bloc 1 and the Professor Doutor Frederico Machado Pavilion or Bloc 2, as well as a general support workshop and an archive with technical and scientific literature. The construction was financed by the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores and stands on land ceded by the council of Lagoa. The current Archipelago of the Azores corresponds to a vast oceanic platform slotted between the North American (to the West), the Eurasian (to the Northeast) and the African (to the South) Plates. This territory, with an almost-triangular shape (see micro plate drawing), is called the Azores Micro plate, and the higher zones correspond to the 9 islands and the associated islets. The fishing banks that encircle them are frequently the remains of islands that have disappeared either through erosion or through the subsidence of the seabed.

Therefore, it was concluded that all the islands are of volcanic origin and that the Azores Microplate resulted form the opening of the Atlantic Ocean, that is to say, from the drift of the American, Eurasian and African Continents. This drift, according to many authors, possibly generated the basis of the Azores some 34 million years ago, while the seabed slowly expanded to the West (American side) and to the East (European side), with the big fracture that runs through the Azores, Gibraltar, North Africa, the Apennines, etc. appearing to the South (African side).

From the oldest islands, only Santa Maria, where one can find volcanic formations that are aver 8 million years old, is left. About 6 million years ago, the entire Azorean platform was levelled by erosion and complex geological movements, thus passing through a phase characterised by the deposition of marine sediments (the famous Santa Maria limestone) and by dormant volcanism.

About 4-5 million years ago, the Azorean volcanism regain enough energy to generate the remaining islands and islets in different phases. The Formigas Islets (emerging submarine lava) and the Nordeste Volcanoes on S. Miguel appeared approximately 4 million years ago. They were fallowed by the islands of Terceira (± 2.5 million years ago), S. Jorge and Graciosa (± 1.5 million years ago) and Faial (Ribeirinha Volcano: ±800 thousand years ago). Flores and Corvo, located on the American Plate or on the edge of the Microplate, burst the ocean around those ages. Strangely the famous island of Pico settled

East of Faial around 260 thousand years ago, thus being the only exception to the gradual appearance of the Azorean islands from East to West.

With the roots of the different islands generated in the referred time, each of them started to increase its respective volcanic area according to rules and rhythms that are still being studied.

After the discovery or finding of the islands, more than 30 eruptions have been registered on the Microplate. The ones that happened on land were called "mistérios" (mysteries), that is to say, new land that was mysterious to the first settlers, with the term being introduced into the scientific jargon. Of all the Azorean volcanic mysteries, Capelinhos, on Faial Island, in 1958, was the last and more famous one.

The Azores have a large marine area with an enormous variety of seamounts, active underwater volcanoes, complex ecosystems and life forms. The islands are the highest peaks of an extensive chain of seamounts on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The seamounts host an extraordinary biological abundance. A remarkable example is the D. João de Castro Bank, a seamount located between the Island São Miguel and Terceira.

The Azores also represent a very important area for the research on deep sea hydrothermal vents. Several interesting communities were discovered recently at the hydrothermal sites Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen, located within the Azores' Exclusive Economic Zone.

Five hydrothermal vents have been identified (Lucky Strike discovered in 1992, Menez Gwen in 1994, Rainbow in 1997, Saldanha in 1998 and Ewan in 2006), and all of them are classified as protected areas. They are located south of the archipelago and have been thoroughly researched by scientists. The NGO World Wildlife Found (WWF) rewarded the Azores with the "Gift to the Earth" Award, for their contribution to the conservation of these marine ecosystems. Dozens of nature reserves, protected landscape areas, forest leisure areas and parks on all nine islands confirm the efforts made by the regional government to preserve the archipelago's ecosystems. For this reason, the Azores obtained one of the mentions of honour from the European Tourism and Environment prize.

In addition to this, other infrastructures, such as the Torres Cave (Gruta das Torres), the Pico Mountain Support House (Casa da Montanha no Pico), the Corvo Island Environmental and Cultural Interpretation Centre (Centro de Interpretação Ambiental

e Cultural da Ilha do Corvo) or the Faial Botanic Garden Visitation Centre (Centro de Visitação do Jardirn Botânico do Faial), have been created. Soon the Virtual Aquarium and the Dabney House (both in Faial) and the Environmental Interpretation Centres of the Furnado Enxofre(Graciosa),the Fajã de Santo Cristo(São Jorge),the Gruta do Carvão (SãoMiguel) and the Fábrica do Boqueirão (Flores)will be opened. The International Coordination Council of the UNESCO programme "Man and the Biosphere" classified the islands Graciosa and Corvo as Biosphere Reserves. Beside the biosphere reserves, the archipelago of the Azores has got classified areas internationally approved for environmental reasons like the statutes of the Natura 2000 Network, UNESCO World Heritage, RAMSAR areas and the Protected Marine Areas under the OPSAR Convention. The current 106 classified areas of the Azores are being replaced by nine Natural Parks (one on each island) and a Marine Park. In the meanwhile, the Natural Parks of the Islands of Pico and São Miguel have been created and now manage the classified areas on those islands. To publicise the different colours, the endless forms and the various life rhythms that reflect the land and marine environment of the smallest island of the Azores is the goal of the Corvo Environmental Interpretation Centre. Interesting buildings, typical windmills with Flemish origin, churches and art treasures of high value are the living testimonies of the history of the Azores, where willpower and people's dignity was a constant along the way. Strong popular traditions, like dances and chanting, merry rope bullfights and characteristic costumes, as well as deep seated religious convictions having lead to the construction of many churches and to processions throughout the year, are part of the existence of this hospitable and simple people.

The Archipelago of the Azores, due to its rich historical past and its traditions, deep rooted into its people, became an important reference in terms of art and crafts. Men and women, throughout the times developed and maintained handicraft techniques with secular traditions.

The handicrafts of the Azores, due to the lack of influence from the outer world caused by the island situation, became somewhat generic due to the use of simple materials like wood, whale teeth and bones, fish scales, basalt stone, clay, hydrangea core or maize leaves.

Handicraft schools exist throughout the Azores as well as craftsmen wanting to preserve these traditions still alive since the settlements on these nine wonderful islands.

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