With an area of approximately 97 km and about 5,552 inhabitants, Santa Maria was the first island of the Azores archipelago to be discovered, by Diogo Silves, in 1427.
It is also the hottest island in the archipelago, with a Mediterranean and dry climate, adorned by several bays, small coves, and beautiful white sand beaches, in contrast to the distinctive black sand present in the other islands of the Azores.
The island also offers fantastic landscapes, colored by the yellow, green, and ocher of the soil and cultures and the deep blue of the sea, which presents excellent conditions for the practice of water sports such as surfing, windsurfing, sailing, diving and sport fishing.
The island's rich cuisine is also inescapable, including fresh fish and seafood, the famous alheiras de Santa Maria and orange-fleshed melons, delicious sweets and excellent regional wines and liqueurs.
For those who like to combine leisure and culture, the island of Santa Maria offers a special architectural heritage, with housing units reminiscent of Algarve and Alentejo, where the island's first settlers came from.
Vila do Porto, the island's capital, is the oldest Azorean village and the only municipality in the Azores with soils of sedimentary origin, where you can find a wide variety of marine fossils.
In 1944, the airport was built which, with its privileged location between Europe and America, gives this island a great strategic value, making it a stopover for transatlantic flights. Nowadays, the aviation sector is still of great importance to the economy of the island.
We leave some suggestions to get to know Santa Maria in full:
- House of Fossils/Dalberto Pombo Environmental Interpretation Center
The Dalberto Pombo Environmental Interpretation Center (CIADP) was the result of the reconstruction of a property at the beginning of the historic area of Vila do Porto. This Center houses the collection of naturalist Dalberto Pombo, a pioneer in the study of the island's geological and biological diversity and marine fossils, of international importance and unique in the Azorean context.
At the Center, the visitor can establish direct contact with reconstituted animals, such as butterflies and beetles from the Azores and the world, migratory birds with routes around the island, and learn about the journey of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).
Casa dos Fósseis provides a 3D journey through the geological formation of the island, from the past to the present, focusing on the importance of its paleontological richness in the international context and an interactive game that offers visitors an experience as paleontologists.
- Ribeira de Maloás
Unique geological formation located in Malbusca, resulting from the contact of the sea with a lava flow. It is an integral part of a waterfall about 20 meters high.
- Anjos Bay
In the northern part of the island, where the chapel where Christopher Columbus had a mass celebrated after his return from America still stands today.
- Barreiro da Faneca
It is an arid and clayey semi-desert landscape of reddish color, usually known as “red desert”. It is a unique Protected Landscape area in the Azores, with about 8.35 km2, which includes the Bays of Raposo, Tagarete and Cré.
- Ilhéus das Formigas
The Ilhéus das Formigas Nature Reserve is located 37 km northeast of Santa Maria and is home to many marine species. It is also one of the best diving spots in the Azores.
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos
Considered the first temple of these islands. Here Christopher Columbus prayed on his return voyage from America. Inside there is a tile panel and a triptych altar, which may have belonged to Gonçalo Velho Cabral, a settler of Santa Maria Island.
- Formosa Beach
A very popular white-sand beach.
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção
Dedicated to the island's patron saint, it is one of the oldest churches in the archipelago. It underwent modifications over the centuries, as a result of looting, fires and reconstructions, but still retains some elements of the original structure.
- Pedreira do Campo, Figueiral and Prainha
Over 100 m high, a wall of pillow lava can be seen, proving that this part of the island was submerged a few thousand years ago.
- Sao Lourenço Bay
In the form of an auditorium, surrounded by vineyards cultivated on terraces and with a beach and natural pools, which are very popular during the bathing season.
- Maia Lighthouse
You can visit the lighthouse and, at the same time, enjoy a breathtaking view.
- Great Route of Santa Maria
Finally, we leave you with a bold suggestion available in Santa Maria: to explore the island on foot, for 5 days, and get to know its landscapes, its people, the culture, the history, the traditions, the local rituals, the flora, the fauna, the geology, the cuisine!
To support the so-called Great Route of Santa Maria, 5 old haystacks were converted into comfortable and welcoming shelters.
Learn more at www.visitazores.com.
Book your trip to the Azores now at www.azoresairlines.pt.