Santa Maria, part of the southern island group is the oldest, southernmost and third smallest island within the Azores archipelago.
As with all the smaller, remoter and more unique Azores islands, (Graciosa and Corvo included) Santa Maria contains a wealth of beauty and memorable experiences for those few that make the effort to visit.
It is an island of contrasts, especially in its landscape. The west is fairly flat, dry and soaked in sunshine and used in the majority for farming. Moving east and central on the island you come to the mountain peak of Pico Alto (587m/1925ft), which descends onto a totally different hilly landscape, which often shrouded in cloud, is rich in vegetation, and offers some quite spectacular scenery, where cliffs rise 100m from the oceans below.
One of the less visited islands Santa Maria offers you a peaceful and refreshing change of pace. We recommend 2-4 days to explore the Island. Hire a car and take your time to experience the beautiful landscapes, beaches and nature reserve.
Our 2 day Santa Maria walking and camping trip provided us with some of the most adventurous hours of our time in the Azores.
Santa Maria was the first island of the Azorean archipelago to be discovered, in 1427.
Santa Maria is part of the eastern island group (along with Sao Miguel).
Santa Maria is the southernmost and third smallest island within the Azores.
Santa Maria has 3 distinct areas: the flat plains in the west; a mountainous ridge in the center; and rolling hills, high cliffs and lush vegetation in the scenic east.
Santa Maria is 17 km long, 9.5 km at its widest with a total land area of 97 sq. km.
The highest point Pico Alto reaches 590m along its tree-lined ridge.
Santa Maria is quite different to the other islands. It is the only island of the archipelago of sedimental origin, where you can find not only sandy beaches but also marine fossils. It is also flatter and therefore dryer, warmer and with a lower humidity and much more suited for a winter holiday.
With just over 5,500 inhabitants Santa Maria accounts for approximately 2% of the population of the archipelago.
Christopher Columbus sought refuge on Santa Maria in 1493 on his return from his voyage to America.
SANTA MARIA HIGHLIGHTS
Praia Formosa is one of the best beaches in the Azores.
The Baia da Praia nature reserve
Anjos, the town, where Columbus landed
The quaint town of Sao Pedro
The white Algarve style houses of picturesque Santa Barbara
Pico Alto (590m,) from where one can see the whole of the island.
The 15th century town of Vila do Porto is the oldest in the Azores and has long streets leading to the 16th century cliff top fort of Sao Bras with the port below.