The Azores are a group of islands situated in the North Atlantic and comprises of 9 islands, 1400km from Lisbon, Portugal. The third smallest island, Santa Maria, is one of the most popular of the islands with tourists, along with its neighbour Sao Miguel. Both islands have volcanic origins and have registered siesmic readings during their history.
The Yellow Island/Sun Island
Santa Maria is considered different from the other islands due to its topography and hotter climate.
There is a clear distinction on Santa Maria between the flat sunny plains of the South/Western coastal ares and the lush vegetation of the hills and mountains towards the North/East. Most of the rain falls in the hilly area as the clouds reach the high ground, encouraging them to drop the rain. Santa Maria is known as the ‘yellow island’ and also the ‘Sun Island’ due to its sunny yellow wild flowers and because it is sunnier and drier than the rest of the Azores islands. In fact Santa Maria is renowned for its beautiful colours, from the whitewashed buildings, red soil, lush green vegetation and unspoiled golden sandy beaches.
The highest point on the island is Pico Alto, 590m high. This is a great view point for seeing out across the whole island and admiring the beautiful landscape and scenic view. Because of the breathtaking views from Pico Alto it is popular with walkers and walking holidays alike.
Resorts/Places to Stay
Vila de Porto is the largest town on Santa Maria and also the oldest in the Azores. There is a port here with a fortress overlooking it situated at the top of a cliff. To get to the fortress you’ll need to walk up narrow winding streets to the top. Don’t expect package holidays resorts catering for the masses when you visit Santa Maria, it is a secluded, remote but picturesque island offering a quiet beach holiday surrounded by a traditional way of life.
Beaches of Santa Maria
Santa Maria has many golden beaches which are relatively unspoilt and draw holidaymakers looking for rest and relaxation in a beautiful surrounding. For a beautiful beach visit Sao Lourenco Bay, widely revered as a stunning beach set against a backdrop of rocky outcrops inbetween soft golden sand. For a large stretch of wide open beach head to Praia Formosa on the South coast of the island, where you can partake in watersports and holiday activities or just gaze out over the deep blue Atlantic sea and watch the world go by.
Places to visit and things to do
Due to its volcanic origins, Santa Maria has unique geological attractions in the forms of martian like landscapes across the island. Visit the Pico Vermelho and witness the sculptured landscape or the waterfalls at Ribeira do Maloas or the Cascata do Aveiro. Fossils are also found here on Santa Maria island thought to be up to five million years old in the form of shells and sea-urchins, aswell as shark teeth and sponges.
You can take a boat trip to view the caves along the coast and fossils or take a fishing trip. Paragliding is also popular as there are plenty of sheltered bays to choose from. If you visit in August expect to be involved in one of the many events on in this month, from the ‘Our Lady of Assumption Festival’ who is the patron saint of the island (Festa da Nossa Senhora da Assuncao) through to the Santa Maria rally. If you’re a keen rally enthusiast take advantage of any late deals for Santa Maria during this time to book your holiday.