São Miguel Island, the largest island of the Azores

Wednesday, 30 December 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

Fonte de Buraco Belvedere overlooking the village of Maia © José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa

Fonte de Buraco Belvedere overlooking the village of Maia © José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa

São Miguel Island, nicknamed “The Green Island” (Ilha Verde), is the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. The island covers 760 km² (290 sq mi) and has around 140,000 inhabitants, with 45,000 people residing in Ponta Delgada, the archipelago’s largest city. The ancient laurisilva forest has mostly been replaced by cultivated fields and imported trees and plants, such as the ubiquitous cryptomeria trees. There are some hot springs (caldeiras), generally located in the center of the island, in the area stretching from Povoação to Nordeste. The highest elevation on São Miguel is the Pico da Vara at 1,103 metres (3,619 ft). Lying at the eastern end of the island, it is the focus of a Special Protection Area containing the largest remnant of laurisilva forest on the island, which is home to the endemic and critically endangered bird, the Azores bullfinch. Whale watching tours, starting from Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca do Campo are available. One may see sea turtles, dolphins and humpback whales.

Owing to the predominance of volcanic cones and craters in the interior, human settlement has developed primarily along coastal and interior plains. In addition, there are several communities that have developed within ancient craters (such as Sete Cidades, Furnas or Povoação), river-valleys (such as Ribeira Chã, Pilar da Bretanha) or coastal deltas (Mosteiros). Regardless, these settlements were largely agrarian and concentrated around the parish churches and the many fertile parcels of land. The communities were largely isolated throughout the year, owing to the great distances and rough landscape of the island, and only became integrated with the development of the many road networks that circle and bisect the island. Two cities have developed, largely because the island was divided by mountainous volcanic cones in the interior: Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande. Administratively, the island is governed by five municipalities, with Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande having more administrative functions associated with their larger populations.

© Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-3.0 Chá Porto Formoso Tea Plantation © Ciru/cc-by-sa-3.0-de Fonte de Buraco Belvedere overlooking the village of Maia © José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) © Jwp1234/cc-by-sa-3.0 President's Palace Ponta Delgada © BBCLCD/cc-by-sa-4.0 Sete Cidades lagoon © Lacobrigo/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Fonte de Buraco Belvedere overlooking the village of Maia © José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa
Lagoa, the youngest of the municipalities of São Miguel, has a population of about 14,126 inhabitants (2008 census), incorporating the south-central parishes east of Ponta Delgada; Nordeste, literally the north-eastern municipality, well known for an abundance of natural vegetation and the highest point on the island, Pico da Vara; Ponta Delgada, 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, home to the first colony on the island, Povoação is located in the south-east corner of the island, and includes active and dormant volcanic features, including Furnas and the crater of Povoação; Ribeira Grande, the second largest municipality, with approximately 30,852 inhabitants, received its charter in 1981, and incorporates an extensive area of the northern coast (including the parish of Rabo de Peixe, the largest parish by population); and Vila Franca do Campo, 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.

Local government is administered at the local level by the civil parish (Portuguese: freguesias), which are responsible for the provision of services and implementation of municipal initiatives. Based on the historical ecclesiastical limits established after settlement, the civil parishes are run by a president, treasurer and secretary (at the head of a parish council). These presidents have municipal council standing and represent their constituencies in the assemblies of the Câmara Municipal. On the island of São Miguel there are 64 local area authorities.

Read more on Wikivoyage São Miguel and Wikipedia São Miguel Island (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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