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São Miguel
Ilha de São Miguel
Island (Ilha)
Sao Miguel Green Island.jpg
Typical rural landscape of São Miguel island, Azores
Official name: Ilha de São Miguel
Name origin: Portuguese for Saint Michael
Nickname: Ilha Verde
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Azores
Islands Eastern Group
Location Azores Platform, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago Azores
Municipalities Lagoa, Ponta Delgada, Povoação, Nordeste, Ribeira Grande, Vila Franca do Campo
Highest point Pico da Vara
 - location Planalto dos Graminhais, Nordeste
 - elevation 1,104.74 m (3,624 ft)
 - coordinates 37°48′35″N 25°12′51″W / 37.80972°N 25.21417°W / 37.80972; -25.21417
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation m (0 ft)
Length 63.54 km (39 mi), Northwest-Southeast
Width 15.63 km (10 mi), Southwest-Northeast
Area 744.57 km² (287 sq mi)
Population 137,856 (2011) Census
Density 185 /km² (479 /sq mi)
Biomes Temperate, Mediterranean
Orogeny Volcanism
Period Holocene
Demonym Micaelense
Ethnic groups Portuguese

São Miguel Island, named for the Archangel Michael (Portuguese: São Miguel), is also referred to locally as "The Green Island", is the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. The island has around 138,000 inhabitants and its largest city, and in the archipelago, is Ponta Delgada.


In 1427, São Miguel became the second of the islands discovered by Gonçalo Velho Cabral to be settled by people from continental Portugal.

The first capital of the island was Vila Franca do Campo, which was devastated by a major earthquake and landslides in 1522. The tragedy helped to elevate Ponta Delgada to the administrative and economic status of capital and business centre from 1546.

With the Portuguese Restoration War (1640), the island became a commercial centre, establishing new contacts in Brazil. Some of the island’s historic buildings, including mansions and churches, date from this period; the island's development came from revenues from the export of oranges, mainly to Great Britain.

The period after the Liberal Wars allowed the economy to flourish, and the port of Ponta Delgada expanded, through the export of new crops such as tea, pineapple, and tobacco. The development of the fishing industry, cultivation of staple food and expansion of the dairy industry permitted the growth of many of the towns on the island.


The São Miguel Island has an area of 744.57 km2 (287.48 sq mi). It is a narrow island; it is 63.54 km (39.48 mi) long (from southeast to northwest) and 15.63 km (9.71 mi) wide (from southwest to northeast).


Lagoa do Fogo, Miradouro da Serra da Barrosa, Vila Franca do Campo, ilha de São Miguel, Açores
Lagoa do Fogo ("Lake of Fire"), as seen from Miradouro da Serra da Barrosa, along the Agua de Pau Massif

The island, of volcanic nature and subject to seismic activity, presents many mountains, mainly in the interior, dominated by the Pico da Vara; those mountains are cut by valleys, gullies and streams - the only waterways because there are not rivers.

Sete cidades twin lakes
Lagoa das Sete Cidades

The island consists of an ancient massif in the eastern end, and three stratovolcanoes: Sete Cidades, Fogo and Furnas. The stratovolcano of Sete Cidades is known for its large caldera (Portuguese: caldeira) of 5 km (3.1 mi) in diameter and 350 m (1,150 ft) of mean depth; in it there are two small lakes (Lagoa Verde to the south and Lagoa Azul to north).

In the eastern part of the island is the Pico da Vara - the highest point of the island - with 1,103 metres (3,619 ft) of altitude. In the central area, is the Sierra de Água de Pau with 940 m height and on the west lies the Caldeira das Sete Cidades, 850 m altitude.

Lying at the eastern end of the island, Pico da Vara is the focus of a Special Protection Area containing the largest remaining laurisilva forest on the island, which is home to the endemic and critically endangered bird, the Azores Bullfinch.

Its fertile lands produce cereals, tea, grapes (for wine), fruits and food for cattle.


Similar to other islands in the Azores archipelago, São Miguel is influenced by ocean currents and winds, in particular, the Gulf Stream. It functions as a moderating force in the islands, keeping temperatures hovering between 14 and 26 °C (57 and 79 °F) throughout the year. Rainfall is distributed evenly throughout the year, although it is most abundant in the cool season. The island's location also makes it susceptible to many Atlantic storms.

The Köppen climate classification subtype for the climate of Sâo Miguel Island, in Ponta Delgada, is Csb (Mediterran Climate).

Climate data for 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]

Human geography

Most towns and cities are in plains, some along the coast and a few in the interior of the island. There are several communities within ancient craters (such as Sete Cidades, Furnas or Povoação), river valleys (such as Ribeira Chã, Pilar da Bretanha) or coastal deltas (Mosteiros).

There are two cities in the islands: Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande.

Administrative division

The island is divided in six municipalities (Portuguese: concelhos):

Concelho Population Area
Lagoa 14,442 45.6 317 The youngest of the municipalities of São Miguel.
Nordeste 4,937 101.5 49 Well known for an abundance of natural vegetation and the highest point on the island, Pico da Vara.
Ponta Delgada 68,809 233.0 295 It includes not only the industrial/commercial city of Ponta Delgada, but also many rural parishes, as well as the large crater of Sete Cidades.
Povoação 6,327 106.4 59 Home to the first colony on the island, Povoação is in the southeast corner of the island, and includes active and dormant volcanic features, including Furnas and the crater of Povoação
Ribeira Grande 32,112 180.2 178 The second largest municipality, created in 1981, and has an extensive area of the northern coast.
Vila Franca do Campo 11,229 78.0 144 Once the seat of the historical capital of São Miguel (until it was almost destroyed by earthquake and landslides in 1522), it is located along the southern coast between Lagoa and Povoação.

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