Santa Maria

Santa Maria is known by the Azoreans as the yellow island, this is because it has a warmer, drier climate with lower levels of rain than the other islands resulting in dry land and yellowish vegetation. Santa Maria is also known as the Island of the Sun. This intriguing island emerged about 10 million years ago from the now surrounding seafloor making it the oldest of the Azores Islands. Its age and diverse geological past are the basis of its unique landscape features this beautiful island has to offer. It is much flatter in the west where the airport is located in comparison to the eastern half of the island which is hilly and features lush vegetation, not to mention the Pico Alto (highest point in Santa Maria) which offers fantastic panoramic views. The Barreiro da Faneca, known as the "Red Desert", tempts visitors with its undulating, smooth surface presenting different colours depending on the time of day.

The Walking

Please see below for a brief description of some of our walks on Santa Maria.

The first section of the round island GR route is an exhilarating walk, first along the cliffs then the sea edge for the last section; this may remind you of sections of the South West Coastal Path.  It is a dream for amateur geologists and botanists with the fascinating rock formations and the profusion of plants, beautiful flowers and butterflies.

This fantastic walk could be done as one very long day’s walk or be tackled in sections. It starts at the beautiful São Laurenço Bay on the east coast and immediately climbs up a dramatic cliff, thereafter undulating through picturesque countryside and gradually ascending into the Alpine-looking forest to the highest point of the island (587m) where you are rewarded with spectacular views all around.  A delightful, easy descent brings you back down briefly to roads and villages, but you quickly leave those behind to follow the path along the north coast past the island’s tiny ‘desert’ and along stunning cliffs with spectacular views to the sea below and ahead towards the plain.  The walk finishes in Anjos, where you can see the chapel where Columbus went to Mass on his return from the New World.

Local transport is rare and of little benefit to a walker. Taxis to the start and finish of each walk can be arranged by our local representative.

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