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Ilhas dos Açores (Portuguese)
Flag of the Azores
Coat of arms of the Azores
flag coat of arms
Official language Portuguese
Capital Ponta Delgada
surface 2,351 km²
population 245,766 (2015)
Population density 110 inhabitants per km²
gross domestic product 4,128 million (2017)
Gross domestic product per inhabitant 16,900 (2017)
currency Euro (EUR)
independence Political autonomy since April 30, 1976
Time zone UTC-1
UTC ± 0 daylight saving time (March to October)
License Plate P
ISO 3166 PT
Internet TLD .pt
Telephone code +351 (292)
Regiao Autonoma dos Acores in Portugal (complete) .svg
Satellite image of The Azores in May 2003.jpg

The Azores ( Portuguese Ilhas dos Açores [ ɐ'soɾɨʃ ], in German: Habicht Islands ) are a group of Portuguese Atlantic islands (main island São Miguel ).

The Azores comprise nine larger and several smaller islands, which are 1369 km west of mainland Europe ( Cabo da Roca ). The shortest distance (Flores Island) to North America ( Newfoundland in Canada ) is 1930 km, the distance to New York about 3600 km.

In administrative terms, the Azores together form an autonomous region of Portugal , the Região Autónoma dos Açores , and thus belong to the European Union .

Geography and geology


The Azores lie at 36 ° 43 'to 39 ° 56' N and 24 ° 46 'to 31 ° 16' W and cover a base area of ​​2330 square kilometers. They are part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and lie on the plate boundary between the European plate and the North American plate . The westernmost islands Flores and Corvo already belong geologically to the North American continental plate .


Drone video of the Azores island of São Miguel, a little north of the south coast city of Agua de Alto. The view to the north to the mountains and later to the coast is typical of the Azores: lush vegetation, mild humid climate, often with fog and deep clouds

The nine large islands are divided into three groups:

The volcano of the same name on the island of Pico is the highest point in Portugal at 2351 m.

All of the islands in the archipelago are of volcanic origin. Only the oldest of the islands, Santa Maria , has additional sedimentary rocks .



The Azores are characterized by an oceanic-subtropical climate. The location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean ensures that the seasons and temperature extremes are very balanced, i. H. very mild winters and not so hot summers for the latitude. In addition, the air masses are relatively humid due to the long way over the open ocean. At the same time, the islands are under the influence of the subtropical high pressure zone ( horse latitudes ) for most of the year . The Azores high , which is often more popularly known than the islands themselves, is by no means characterized by constant sunshine. Due to the high humidity, often, but not always, deep, sometimes closed, sometimes loosened layers of clouds (trade winds ) arise . Unlike z. B. in the case of the Canaries or Madeira , the wind direction in the Azores is not predominantly from the northeast ( NE-Passat ), but alternating; sometimes there are also very weak winds due to a location in the middle of the vertical axis. In general, these deep clouds bring little or no precipitation.

With a geographical latitude of 36 to 40 degrees, the islands are much more northerly than Madeira and the Canary Islands and can therefore be reached from deep foothills all year round. In midsummer there is around 50% sunshine and predominantly dry conditions. From September, however, the deep impact increases in frequency, and the islands are sometimes also subject to the marginal influence of aging tropical storms ; rarely, around once a decade, do remnants of tropical storms even cross the islands directly, where they can cause strong winds and intense rainfall. The "Azores winter" between December and April is more reminiscent of September in Central Europe: it can be characterized by relatively calm, mild high pressure situations as well as by intense westerly weather with violent storms, rain fronts, thunderstorms, etc. In many cases, either the high or the low pressure dominates throughout the month. Low-pressure winter months can be extremely rainy (up to 300 mm), while those with high pressure can be dry.

The climate on the most westerly island of Flores is much more cloudy and rainy than on the eastern island of Santa Maria . Flores has approx. 1600 hours of sunshine (like in the Ruhr area), Santa Maria approx. 1900 hours (like in the Upper Rhine Graben). The precipitation varies between 900 mm on Santa Maria (also like in the Ruhr area) and around 1500 mm on Flores (like in Berchtesgadener Land). The difference is particularly significant in summer, where Santa Maria often stays dry and thus resembles the Mediterranean climate, while it rains more often on Flores, which makes Flores appear almost humid and tropical due to the very high temperatures in the lowlands.

At higher altitudes of the volcanic peaks, the duration of sunshine continues to decrease and the amount of precipitation increases; in some places over 5000 mm can be reached (as violent as in Southeast Asia). Fog is also very common from 400 m above sea level, especially in winter, as the layers of clouds hang very low.

The temperatures in the "Azores winter" are on average 11 degrees at night and 17 degrees during the day. Cold nights bring about 6 degrees, very mild days around 22 degrees (water temperature 16 degrees). The islands are completely frost-free and allow some tropical plants to survive. Frost can only occur from approx. 400 m, and in rare cases from approx. 800 m snowfall. The volcanic peak on Pico is very often snow-covered with an altitude of 2300 m in winter.

In summer (August) the mean temperature reaches a mild 19 degrees at night and 25 degrees during the day. Cool summer nights are 15 degrees, warm summer days reach 30 degrees. The water temperatures are 22 to 24 degrees.

Climate change

The Azores are affected by the effects of climate change ; a study by Karnauskas et al. (2016) in the journal Nature Climate Change that advancing climate change should lead to a complete drying out of the islands by 2090.


The Azores have great biological diversity and are largely biogeographically isolated, so that a number of endemic species have developed. Conservation International has designated the Azores as a biodiversity hotspot . The Azores are part of the Mediterranean Basin , which extends from the Azores to Jordan.

Since the arrival of the first settlers on the islands, the native flora and fauna have suffered dramatically. The main factors are the degradation of landscapes, deforestation, conventional agriculture and introduced exotic species that make the habitat of the endemic species in competition. Laurisilva (laurel forest), which was previously typical of the Azores , is still found on individual islands, but has been largely displaced by the Australian sticky seed tree ( Pittosporum undulatum ).

Although the nature of the Azores is under great pressure from tourists, measures for effective nature conservation are still in their infancy. Information centers, rangers and areas with controlled access or marked paths already exist on all islands. Large areas of the islands are also under nature protection.


Typical coastline of the Azores on São Miguel
Sunset in Mosteiros on São Miguel

The vegetation in the Azores is lush due to the humid climate . In addition, one also finds rather barren, volcanic landscapes.

Flora and vegetation

Around 70 plant species are endemic, so they only occur in the Azores. In hedges and on the edges of forests , Rubus hochstetterorum , a blackberry species with exceptionally large, light pink flowers, is striking . The white-flowering, succulent Azorean bellflower (Azorina vidalii), which can still be found on some near-natural rocky coasts, is much rarer . The garden hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), which is up to 5 meters high and dominates the image of the Azores, was only introduced from Asia at the end of the 19th century and is now a major threat to endemic species. Other invasive plant species are Hedychium gardnerianum from the ginger family , introduced from the Himalayas, the Australian sticky seed and the orange sticky seed (Pittosporum undulatum), which has largely displaced the native Azores laurel (Laurus azorica) .


Yellow-billed Shearwater

Marine species play a major role. In the course of time, 38 species of whales and dolphins have been sighted off the coast of the archipelago . Due to the warm Gulf Stream , around 500 species of fish cavort around the islands, making the Azores one of the most fish-rich areas in the world.

The avifauna of the islands is poor in species. There are only two endemic species, the best known of which is the Azores bullfinch . It only exists in a few hundred individuals in the northeast of São Miguel. The “Cagarro”, yellow-billed shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), is common . The islands offer seabirds a resting place on their migration to winter or summer quarters across the Atlantic, the migration routes of land birds do not run across the Azores.

Many species that are found in the Azores today were introduced. Apart from bats, there are no native mammal species.


Carthaginian and Cyrenian coins from the 4th century BC BC, which are said to have been discovered on the island of Corvo in 1749, suggest that the Azores may have already been visited by the Phoenicians . Alexander von Humboldt expressed doubts about this find as early as 1836 . Hasso Pfeiler dated the coins to the 3rd century BC. Chr., Hans Hellmuth Kricheldorf was able to show that only one of the nine coins came from Cyrene. In ancient times there were legends about islands in the Atlantic; so one of the localization hypotheses for Atlantis is related to the Azores (Ignatius Donnelly, 1882).

The islands are first recorded on the Portolan sea ​​maps of the 14th century, for example in the Medici Atlas (1351) and the Atlas Catalan (1375). They are listed there as nine islands in three groups along a wrong north-south axis and with wrong outlines. This could be due to sightings made by seafarers returning from the Canary Islands when they performed the "volta-do-mar" maneuver (you first sail to the northwest to encounter steady westerly winds ). One of the earliest expeditions to the Canary Islands is documented here for the year 1341.

The Azores were officially visited in 1427 by Diogo de Silves on behalf of Henry the Navigator and taken over for Portugal. The Portuguese name Ilhas dos Açores ("Goshawk Islands") originated according to the official Azorean representation due to the large number of buzzards living there , which the Portuguese conquerors initially mistook for hawks . The name was retained even after the error was discovered.

Map from 1584 by Abraham Ortelius

Settlement by Portugal began in the middle of the 15th century, first from 1431 on the island of Santa Maria . On the initiative of Isabella of Portugal , the sister of Henry the Navigator, who was married to Philip the Good of Burgundy, the early settlers included not only Portuguese farmers, but also Flemings , as the Netherlands belonged to the territory of Burgundy. On the island of Faial the windmills and the place name Flamengos still remind of this today . The Azores soon became an important base on the way to the possessions in Central and South America. Sun visited Christopher Columbus , the islands in 1493 on the way back from his first voyage of discovery.

In 1580 Philip II of Spain became Philip I of Portugal in personal union. The Azores refused to recognize the Spanish king. So until 1583 the inhabitants of the island of Terceira fought with all means, including bulls, against the personal union.

After the decline of sugar cane cultivation, the Azores experienced an economic boom again at the beginning of the 19th century. Oranges, pineapples, tea and tobacco were grown and had good yields. However, the orange plantations were destroyed by pests at the end of the 19th century. The whaling was intensified and supported by the establishment of a whaling fleet by Portugal. Good relations with the United States of America also contributed to this economic development. Many Azoreans hired on American whaling ships and emigrated permanently.

With increasing mechanization, the Azores became the interface between America and Europe. The emerging steam shipping needed ports to supply coal, which is why coal bunkers were built. From 1893 the first submarine cable connected the two continents via Faial. In the 1930s, the first scheduled transatlantic flights with large seaplanes landed in the port of Horta.

After the military War Plan Gray adopted by the USA in 1941 for the annexation of the islands was not implemented, they discovered the quilted west side of the island of Santa Maria as a suitable site for a large airport. In 1944 they began construction of the Santa Maria airport , which, with a runway length of 3 km, occupies a considerable part of the 97 km² island, inhabited by only 5,780 people, and served as a stopover for transatlantic flights until the 1970s. Today in summer a plane of the local airline lands twice a day to allow beach tourists to visit the island. However, international flights do not land on the former military airfield. In 1943, the Americans expanded the base they had founded in 1913 on the island of Terceira; an airfield enabled the US Air Force to use large flight formations during World War II . Today (April 2013) China is assumed to have medium- and long-term interest in these facilities.

After Portugal joined the EU, the dairy industry was intensified considerably and in part replaced the plantation industry.

Tourism and especially ecotourism are becoming more and more important for the Azores. In 2008 a new marina was inaugurated on the main island of São Miguel, new roads are being built and air traffic to the Azores and between the islands is steadily increasing.

The Azores were repeatedly hit by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The largest eruption was the formation of the Capelinhos volcano on the coast of Faial Island in 1957 . Around 2000 people had to be relocated, and many residents emigrated to the USA, which made their immigration possible through a special law. In 1980 an earthquake struck the island of Terceira and destroyed the capital Angra do Heroísmo . The last major quake occurred in 1998, killing ten people and leaving thousands homeless on Faial Island.



A total of 245,766 inhabitants live in the Azores, most of whom are Portuguese citizens. You are 95 percent Roman Catholic . Evangelical parishes, especially parishes of the Igreja Evangélica Baptista, can be found in São Miguel, Terceira and Faial.

Evangelical Church in Horta on Faial

In the 15th and early 19th centuries and 1933–1945 there was increased immigration of Jews. In 1818/19, many Jewish-Moroccan merchant families immigrated, which contributed significantly to the development of long-distance trade in the Azores. A synagogue that can still be visited today was built in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel in 1836. There and on the islands of Terceira, Faial and Graciosa there are still Jewish cemeteries today.

After decades of emigration to the USA (in the 19th century often also as a crew of whaling ships), to Canada and Brazil and, more recently, to Portugal, the largest towns on São Miguel are once again recording modest population increases.

The population speaks very different dialect forms of the Portuguese language . Mainland Portuguese people often find it difficult to understand the locals.

Largest communities

Statistical survey as of 2015

local community Residents
Ponta Delgada ; Ilha de Sao Miguel 68,352
Angra do Heroísmo ; Ilha Terceira 34,423
Ribeira Grande ; Ilha de Sao Miguel 32,770
Praia da Vitória ; Ilha de Terceira 21,532
Horta ; Ilha do Faial 14,759
Lagoa ; Ilha de Sao Miguel 14,728
Vila Franca do Campo ; Ilha de Sao Miguel 11,256
Povoação ; Ilha de Sao Miguel 6,080
Madalena ; Ilha do Pico 5,948
Vila do Porto ; Ilha de Santa Maria 5,653
Vila Franca do Campo ; São Miguel 4,952


Flag and coat of arms

Administrative division

The administrative capital of the Azores is Ponta Delgada . The Azores form the Região Autónoma dos Açores, which is divided into 19 districts (municípios) . These are:

Administrative division of the Azores
circle Number of
Density of
population / km²
Angra do Heroísmo 8th 35,402 239.01 148 4301
Calheta 5 3,773 126.27 30th 4501
Corvo 10 430 17.11 25th 4901
Horta 5 14,994 173.04 87 4701
Lagoa 3 14,442 45.60 317 4201
Lajes das Flores 4th 1,504 70.04 21st 4801
Lajes do Pico 1 4,711 155.31 30th 4601
Madalena 4th 6,049 147.11 41 4602
Northeast 5 4,937 101.46 49 4202
Ponta Delgada 6th 68,808 232.97 295 4203
Povoação 3 6.327 106.41 59 4204
Praia da Vitória 3 21,035 161.25 130 4302
Ribeira Grande 3 32,112 180.14 178 4205
Santa Cruz da Graciosa 3 4,391 60.66 72 4401
Santa Cruz das Flores 3 2,289 70.91 32 4802
Sao Roque do Pico 3 3,388 142.35 24 4603
Velas 3 5,398 117.39 46 4502
Vila do Porto 3 5,552 96.89 57 4101
Vila Franca do Campo 3 11,229 77.96 144 4206
Azores 78 246,771 2,321.88 106 2


In comparison with the GDP (gross domestic product) of the EU expressed in purchasing power standards, the Azores achieve an index value of 61.1 (EU-25: 100, 2003 ). In 2017 the unemployment rate was 9%. The Azores are seen as an economically weak region in Europe on a European average and receive funding from the EU. Since the Azores were badly neglected during the dictatorship of Portugal , which lasted until 1974, the costs of sustainable construction are enormous.


Each of the nine islands has a modern airport to which short- and long-haul planes from various airlines fly regularly. In 2005 the shipping company Atlânticoline was founded, which operates ship connections between the individual Azores islands. The fleet includes three larger ships, namely the Ilha Azul , the Express Santorini and, since 2009, the HSC ship Viking .


The most important industries on the islands are livestock and dairy farming . The main exports are milk, dairy products and beef.

Besides a plantation in Cornwall , England , the Azores are the only European site where tea is grown (two plantations on the island of São Miguel). In 2012, 136 t of tea were harvested on an area of ​​42 ha. The tea has very little tea , in contrast to the teas from Asia and Africa. A large part of the tea goes to mainland Portugal, especially the famous Chá Gorreana , the rest is consumed by the population themselves. The tea plantations are also a tourist attraction.

The pineapple cultivation on São Miguel is done in greenhouses and is very labor intensive, so the native varieties are more expensive than imports from Central America or Africa. In 2012, 3250 t of pineapples were harvested on an area of ​​260 ha. Yams are also grown in the Azores for personal consumption : the area under cultivation in 2012 was 115 ha and produced a harvest of 1900 t.

DOC white wines from Pico

Viticulture is carried out to a significant extent on the island of Pico (since 2004 a UNESCO World Heritage Site), on the island of Graciosa and on the island of Terceira . After the setbacks caused by the phylloxera plague in the 19th century, wine from the Azores (unlike Madeira ) is hardly exported anymore.

In marine fish, tuna is caught and canned, among other things.


Because of their originality and the unique climate with mild, never extreme temperatures, tourism on the evergreen Azores is becoming increasingly important, as the number of passengers doubled at the main airport in Ponta Delgada between 2014 and 2017. In addition to the mainland Portuguese and international sailors make Tourists from Germany, France and Italy represent a large group of visitors, as well as travelers from the New England states of the USA and Canada, who often have emigrated ancestors from the Azores.

The journey was earlier by ship. Today the journey takes place from various airports in Europe, Canada and the USA to the international airports in Ponta Delgada (São Miguel), Lajes near Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira), Horta (Fajal) or Madalena (Pico).

Since there are no extensive sandy beaches, Azores holidaymakers are mostly nature lovers and hikers. Transatlantic sailors use the ports of Horta (Fajal) and Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) for stopovers. Whale watching is offered on several islands .

Due to its exposed location in the open Atlantic and the Gulf Stream, which washes up relatively warm water, there are numerous large fish and marine mammals around the Azores , which is why the Azores are also popular with divers . However, the strong currents in places make the dives rather demanding and unsuitable for beginners. There are now diving centers on all nine islands that also offer guided dives.

Various medicinal and thermal springs have made Furnas (on the main island of São Miguel) an attractive health resort for a long time, not only for mainland Portuguese. Other hot springs that are used for bathing are located in Caldeira Velha below Pico da Barrosa and in the sea at Ginetes (Ponta da Ferraria), both on São Miguel.

The archipelago in detail

Sizes of the islands

Eastern Islands (Grupo Oriental)
Central group (Grupo Central)
Western islands (Grupo Ocidental) 
island East-west
Name of the survey Residents
Population density inh. / Km²
main place
São Miguel 62.0 15.0 746 1103 Pico da Vara 138,138 185 155 Ponta Delgada
Santa Maria 17.0 9.5 97 587 Pico Alto 5,653 58 46 Vila do Porto
Faial 21.0 14.0 173 1043 Cabeço Gordo 14,759 85 80 Horta
Pico 46.0 15.0 447 2351 Ponta do Pico 13,834 31 110 Madalena do Mar
Graciosa 8.0 12.5 61 404 Caldeira 4,301 71 34 Santa Cruz da Graciosa
São Jorge 56.0 8.0 246 1053 Pico da Esperança 8,491 35 115 Velas
Terceira 29.0 18.0 397 1021 Serra de Santa Barbara 55,955 141 85 Angra do Heroísmo
Flores 17.0 12.0 143 914 Morro Alto 3,692 26th 48 Santa Cruz das Flores
Corvo 3.8 6.1 17th 718 Morro dos Hormens 460 27 18th Vila Nova do Corvo

Distances of the islands

Nautical miles
  Santa Maria
Vila do Porto
Sao Miguel
Ponta Delgada
Angra do Heroísmo
Santa Cruz
Sao Jorge
Sao Roque
Santa Cruz
Santa Maria
Vila do Porto
  57.0 145.0 191.0 184.0 180.0 190.0 195.0 327.0 336.0
Sao Miguel
Ponta Delgada
105.6   90.0 142.0 132.0 140.0 152.0 154.0 279.0 283.0
Angra do Heroísmo
268.6 166.7   48.0 48.0 52.0 65.0 70.0 190.0 192.0
Santa Cruz
353.8 263.0 88.9   38.0 42.0 45.0 46.0 150.0 150.0
Sao Jorge
340.8 244.5 88.9 70.4   9.0 18.0 20.0 144.0 149.0
Sao Roque
333.4 259.3 96.3 77.8 16.7   12.0 16.0 144.0 149.0
351.9 281.5 120.4 83.4 33.4 22.2   4.0 135.0 140.0
361.2 285.2 129.7 85.2 37.1 29.7 7.4   138.0 144.0
Santa Cruz
605.6 516.7 351.9 277.8 266.7 266.7 250.0 255.6   13.0
622.3 524.1 355.6 277.8 276.0 276.0 259.3 266.7 24.1  

UNESCO cultural and natural heritage

There are two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Azores : the city ​​center of Angra do Heroísmo (1983) and the wine-growing cultural landscape of the island of Pico (2004). Furthermore, the Azores are on the tentative list as part of the multinational proposal for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to be included in the World Heritage Site .

The entire land area of ​​the islands and a marine area of ​​around 10,000 km² have been a Geopark member of the Global Geoparks Network since 2013 and a UNESCO Global Geopark since 2015 .

See also


  • Michael Bussmann: Travel Guide to the Azores . 6th edition, Michael Müller, Erlangen 2016, ISBN 978-3-95654-215-2 .
  • Roman Martin: Azores - the 77 most beautiful coastal and mountain hikes . 5. Edit again Edition, Rother Bergverlag, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-7633-4367-6 .
  • Car map: Azores . Freytag + Berndt, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-7079-1060-5 .

Web links

Wikimedia Atlas: Azores  - geographical and historical maps
Commons : Azores  - collection of images
Wikivoyage: Azores  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. Patricia Madeira et al .: The marine fossiles of Santa Maria Island (AÇOREANA, 2007, Supl. 5: 59-73)
  2. Karnauskas et al. (2016),
  3. Section Flora and Fauna ,, accessed on September 7, 2015 (English)
  4. Azores Landesnatur Flora and Fauna ,, accessed on September 7, 2015
  5. Alexander von Humboldt: Critical Studies on the Historical Development of Geographical Knowledge of the New World and the Advances in Nautical Astronomy in the 15th and 16th Century , Volume 1, Berlin 1836, pp. 455ff.
  6. Hans Hellmuth Kricheldorf: Again the Azores and the Carthaginians , in: Schweizer Münzblätter = Gazette numismatique suisse = Gazzetta numismatica svizzera 13-17 (1963-67) 152 (Miszelle).
  7. The 1341 expedition refers to the report by Giovanni Boccaccio "De Canaria et insula reliquis, ultra Ispaniam, in occeano noviter repertis" (see Monumenta Henricina , vol. I, pp. 202-06. )
  8. ^ Felix F. Seidler: Will China's Navy Soon Be Operating in the Atlantic? Center for International Maritime Security, February 8, 2013, accessed April 15, 2013 .
  9. 2015 population statistics accessed on October 17, 2016
  10. Fatima Sequeira Dias: A Brief History of the Jews in the Azores: From the 15th Century to the Present, Lecture, March 28, 2012, Univ. of Massachusetts at Dartmouth , accessed September 7, 2015
  11. Dr. António MachadoPires: Roteiro Cultural Dos Açores p. 255. Governo Regional dos Açores 2012
  12. a b Figures from the Serviço Regional de Estatistica dos Açores , accessed on March 25, 2018
  13. Unemployment rate, by NUTS 2 regions. Retrieved November 5, 2018 .
  16. Michael Bussmann: Azores . 6th edition, Michael Müller Verlag, Erlangen 2016, ISBN 978-3-95654-215-2 , p. 401
  17. ^ Susanne Lipps: Azores. Dumont Travel Paperback . 3rd edition, Ostfildern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7701-7355-6 , p. 56 ff.
  18. Jan Hackl: The Azores. Pico., accessed February 19, 2014 .
  19. Michael Bussmann: Azoren , 3rd edition, 2006, ISBN 3-89953-257-0 .
  20. The distances in nautical miles are taken from the free brochures of the Direcção de Turismo dos Açores (Azores Tourism Board) .