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The Azores
Portuguese: Os Açores
Autonomous Region (Região Autónoma)
Azoren (14).jpg
Mount Pico
Flag of the Azores.svg
Coats of arms of the Azores.png
Coat of Arms
Official name: Região Autónoma dos Açores
Motto: Antes morrer livres que em paz sujeitos
(English:Rather die as free men than be enslaved in peace)
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Azores
Region Atlantic Ocean
Subregion Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Position Azores Platform
Capitals Ponta Delgada , Horta , Angra do Heroísmo
Largest city Ponta Delgada
 - center São José
 - elevation 22 m (72 ft)
 - coordinates 37°44′28″N 25°40′32″W / 37.74111°N 25.67556°W / 37.74111; -25.67556
Highest point Mount Pico
 - elevation 2,351 m (7,713 ft)
 - coordinates 38°28′19″N 28°51′50″W / 38.47194°N 28.86389°W / 38.47194; -28.86389
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation m (0 ft)
Area 2,333 km² (901 sq mi)
Population 246,746 (2011) Census
Density 106 /km² (275 /sq mi)
Settlement August 15, 1432
 - Administrative autonomy c. 1895
 - Political autonomy September 4, 1976
Discovery c. 1427
 - Santa Maria c. 1427
 - São Miguel c. 1428
President Vasco Cordeiro (PS)
 - President (Assembleia) Ana Luís (PS)
Timezone UTC-1
 - summer (DST) UTC 0
ISO 3166-2 code PT-20
Postal code 9XXX-XXX
Area code (+351) 292 XX XX XX
ccTLD .pt
Demonym Azorean
Anthem A Portuguesa (national)
Hino dos Açores (regional)
Currency Euro (€)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drive right-side

The Azores (Portuguese: Açores) is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean; they are about 1,500 km (930 mi) west of Lisbon and about 1,900 km (1,200 mi) southeast of Newfoundland. The islands, and their Exclusive Economic Zone, form the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.

There are nine major Azores islands and several very small islands (islets), in three main groups. They extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction.

The archipelago is part of the Macaronesia islands.


Officially, the islands were discovered in the 15th century (in 1431) by Gonçalo Velho Cabral a Captain in the service of Infante Dom Henrique, although credit is also given to the explorer Diogo de Silves (in 1427).

The archipelago was settled over the centuries, mostly from mainland Portugal. Portuguese settlers came from the provinces of Algarve, Minho, Alentejo and Ribatejo, as well as Madeira.

In 1976, the Azores became the Autonomous Region of the Azores (Portuguese: Região Autónoma dos Açores), an autonomous region of Portugal.


Map of the Azores Islands.

The archipelago is in the Atlantic Ocean between 36º and 43º latitude North and between 25º and 31º longitude West. They have a very humid oceanic climate with relatively small annual variations.

The nine islands are in three natural geographic groups, each group separated by more than 160 km (99 mi) of water. These groups are:

  • The eastern group, with the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria;
  • The central group, with the islands of Faial, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, and Pico;
  • The western group, with the islands of Flores and Corvo.

The eastern group also has, to the northeast of Santa Maria, a group of very small islands (islets) and reefs that are named Ilhéus das Formigas (Islets of the Ants), or just Formigas ("Ants"); these smalls islands, together with the Dollabarat reef, form the Reserva Natural do Ilhéu das Formigas.

The nine islands have a total area of 2,333 km2 (901 sq mi). Their individual areas vary between 759 km2 (293 sq mi) of the largest island (São Miguel) to 17 km2 (6.6 sq mi) of the smallest (Corvo).

Areas and highest points
of the islands of the archipelago
Island Area
Highest point
Height Name
São Miguel 759 1,103 Pico da Vara
Pico 446 2,351 Mount Pico
Terceira 403 1,021 Serra de Santa Barbara
São Jorge 246 1,053 Pico da Esperânça
Faial 173 1,043 Cabeço Gordo
Flores 143 914 Morro Alto
Santa Maria 97 587 Pico Alto
Graciosa 62 404 Caldeira
Corvo 17 718 Morro dos Hormens
Azorina vidalii0
Flowers of an endemic plant of the Azores, Azorina vidalii

All the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity since the islands were settled. The last volcano to erupt in the archipelago was the Capelinhos Volcano (Portuguese: Vulcão dos Capelinhos) in 1957, in the western part of the island of Faial. Earthquakes are common on most of the islands.

The Azores are on place where three of the world's large tectonic plates (the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate) meet. The westernmost islands of the archipelago, (Corvo and Flores), are in the North American Plate, while the remaining islands are located within the region where the Eurasian plate is separated from the African Plates.

The volcano Mount Pico, on the Pico island, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft).


Daily maximum temperatures usually range between 15 °C (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F). The average annual rainfall increases from east to west, and it ranges from 700 to 1600 annual millimetres (27.6–63 in) on average, reaching 6,300 millimetres (250 in) on Mount Pico.

The sea around the Azores is warmed by the Gulf Stream and sea water temperature varies from 14 °C (57 °F) to 22 °C (72 °F).

Climate data for The Azores : Ponta Delgada
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 16.5
Average low °C (°F) 11.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 112.4
Source: [1]


A total of 11 tropical or subtropical cyclones have affected the region in history. Most of them were either extratropical or tropical storms when they impacted the region, although several hurricanes of Category 1 have reached the Azores.


When the Azores became an Autonomous Region of Portugal, the cities of Ponta Delgada, Angra and Horta were considered capital/administrative cities to the regional government: homes to the President (Ponta Delgada), the Judiciary (Angra) and the Regional Assembly (Horta).

The Azores are divided into 19 municipalities (Portuguese: concelhos); each municipality is further divided into parishes (Portuguese: freguesias), of which there is a total of 156 in all of the Azores. The municipalities, by island, are:

Oriental islands (Grupo Oriental)
Central islands (Grupo Central)
Western island (Grupo Ocidental)
Island Population Local Administrative Units Capital
2011 % Total No Municipalities (Concelhos)
São Miguel 137,830 55.86 6 Lagoa, Nordeste, Ponta Delgada, Povoação, Ribeira Grande, Vila Franca do Campo Ponta Delgada
Santa Maria 5,552 2.25 1 Vila do Porto Vila do Porto
Faial 14,994 6.08 1 Horta Horta
Pico 14,148 5.73 3 Lajes do Pico, Madalena do Mar, São Roque do Pico Madalena do Mar
Graciosa 4,391 1.78 1 Santa Cruz da Graciosa Santa Cruz da Graciosa
São Jorge 9,171 3.72 2 Calheta, Velas Velas
Terceira 56,437 22.87 2 Angra do Heroísmo, Praia da Vitória Angra do Heroísmo
Flores 3,793 1.54 2 Lajes das Flores, Santa Cruz das Flores Santa Cruz das Flores
Corvo 430 0.17 1 Vila Nova do Corvo Vila Nova do Corvo
Total 246,746 19


Cidade de Angra do Heroísmo, ilha Terceira, Açores
Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are five cities (Portuguese: cidades) in the Azores:

  1. Ponta Delgada (37°45′01″N 25°40′12″W / 37.75028°N 25.67000°W / 37.75028; -25.67000 (Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores)), São Miguel island, with 68,809 inhabitants: 33,516 men and 35,293 women.
  2. Ribeira Grande (37°49′08″N 25°31′31″W / 37.81889°N 25.52528°W / 37.81889; -25.52528 (Ribeira Grande, São Miguel, Azores)), São Miguel island, with 32,112 inhabitants: 16,187 men and 15,925 women.
  3. Angra do Heroísmo (38°39′37″N 27°13′12″W / 38.66028°N 27.22000°W / 38.66028; -27.22000 (Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores)), Terceira island, with 35,402 inhabitants: 17,270 men and 18, 132 women.
  4. Praia da Vitória (38°43′48″N 27°03′36″W / 38.73000°N 27.06000°W / 38.73000; -27.06000 (Praia da Vitória, Terceira, Azores)), Terceira island, with 21,035 inhabitants: 10,434 men and 10,601 women.
  5. Horta (38°32′07″N 28°37′52″W / 38.53528°N 28.63111°W / 38.53528; -28.63111 (Horta, Faial, Azores)), Faial island, with 14,994 inhabitants: 7,324 men and 7,670 women.


According to the 2011 Census, the total population in the Azores was 246,746: 121,533 men and 125,213 women. The density for the whole Archipelago is 106 persons/km2 .


The Azores economy is based mainly on agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

In the agriculture sector, cattle-raising is very important. Some of the most important crops in the Azores are pineapples, grapes, potatoes, tobacco and tea. Fisheries are an important economic activity on all islands. Fishing methods are highly traditional among Azorean fishermen. Industry in the Azores is based mainly on the production of dairy products (milk, cheese) and transformation of fisheries products, such as tuna.

It is tourism, however, that has been growing more in recent years. It is far less developed than those industries of its Macaronesian neighbours, Madeira and Canary Islands.


Images for kids

See also

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