Known as “Fajã Island”, There’s So Much More to Discover!
São Jorge is the island at the very centre of the Azores Archipelago and the one that brings together the best of what can be found on all the other islands. Known as Fajã Island, it begs the question: what is a fajã after all?
A fajã is a flat piece of land formed as a result of several landslides. On the island, the towns and municipalities have been built up on these geological accidents – and they’re beautiful! No one knows how many fajãs there are on São Jorge, but at last count, there were over 70.
Now check out some of our top tips, which are sure to have you coming back to the island again and again!
Pico Da Esperança (Hope Peak)
Blanketed in hydrangeas and heather and standing at an altitude of 1053 metres is Pico da Esperança.
Going up Pico da Esperança is almost a 2 for 1 deal: you get to reach the highest point on São Jorge Island and visit the other islands within the Central Group, all at once. Go with us on this one: on a clear day, you can see Faial Island, Pico Island, Terceira Island and Graciosa Island from here. And, of course, take in the spectacular landscape of the beautiful fajãs scattered across São Jorge.
Simão Dias natural swimming pool
A must-see for those visiting the island in summer: Simão Dias is a natural pool filled with crystal clear water between towering black rocky cliffs. The water is clean and temperate – the perfect place for a dip in a stunning location.
You can reach the pool from Fajã do Ouvidor via the signposted trail. A quiet place, where there are not generally many people, the sun doesn’t come over the cliffs surrounding it until after lunch, so it’s not worth trying to get there too early.
Fajã Da Caldeira De Santo Cristo
The most famous fajã on São Jorge is undoubtedly also one of the most beautiful. One of the most secluded places on the island of São Jorge, it’s considered a bodyboarding and surfing sanctuary by surfers from all over the world. Go for a swim in the Fajã de Santo Cristo Lagoon, visit Furna do Poio cave and take the pedestrian trail that leads to the Fajã de Santo Cristo Waterfall and its natural pool, from which the water flows down the escarpments and sprinkles down the mountain before finally joining the sea.
Ponta do Topo
Ponta do Topo is the most easterly point on the island, where you’ll find Vila do Topo (Topo Village), and the iconic Ponta do Topo Lighthouse. This beach is believed to have been where the first people to set foot on São Jorge landed, having come from Flanders.
Sete Fontes Forest Park
Sete Fontes Forest Park is the perfect place to escape from the world as we know it. The tranquillity of nature here allows you to truly relax and take in the unique beauty of endemic species while the kids have fun and explore. Children’s play areas, BBQs and picnic tables are nestled into this habitat, which is home to several species of animals, and which can be explored further as you make your way down the endless paths crisscrossing around the Park.
Ponta dos Rosais
This is where the land ends, and the sea looks ready to swallow us up. This Nature Reserve is made up of soaring, strikingly beautiful coastal cliffs, a headland perfect for observing nature in all its splendour, and, for those interested, home to a large number of nesting seabirds.
Algar Do Montoso Caves
One of the largest vertical caves in Portugal, it is the largest in the Azores and the perfect place to explore (safely and with a guide, of course!) if you’re an avid cave explorer keen on both adventure and darkness. A species of beetle lives in the Algar Do Montoso caves, which can be found nowhere else in the world! Do you dare dive into the depths of the earth for a peek?
Jardim Da República (Garden Of The Republic)
The Jardim da República Bandstand – around which different types of trees can be found in every corner – is one of the most beautiful in the country and is a mandatory meeting point for anyone visiting Vila das Velas. In fact, the whole of the Vila das Velas town is picturesque and looks like it’s jumped straight out of an old film. The City Hall is beautiful!
In the square in front of the São Jorge Mother Church, you’ll find a fountain with a stone dragon in the centre – a nod to the island’s namesake and the legend of Saint George who fought against a Dragon… and won!
Culture and Leisure:
Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo Interpretation Centre
The Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo Interpretation Centre tells of the geological, biological and human history of the São Jorge Fajãs, particularly those in Caldeira de Santo Cristo and Cubres.
Visitors can take a break in the reception area as they admire an old recreation of an oven decorated with replicas of ancient cooking utensils.
This is a very well-known locale, as the building has kept its original, traditional façade: it was once an old house with a little supporting building. Featured on several websites and architecture magazines, it was once on the cover of Korean magazine C3.
São Jorge Park House
The São Jorge Natural Park covers 24% of the total area of the island of São Jorge. Just picture that! The São Jorge Park Museum teaches us all about this immensity of nature and allows visitors to discover more about the local fauna and flora.
In the main room, you’ll find a children’s area equipped with educational games related to the Azores and raising environmental awareness. Your little ones will love learning in such a fun way!
You can also visit the multimedia area, where you can listen to the sounds of nature and be amazed by the photograph exhibition depicting the Protected Areas of São Jorge, by Paulo Henrique Silva.
Urzelina Church Tower
In 1801, a huge volcanic eruption destroyed a large part of the village of Urzelina. The Church Tower stands alone among the vegetation in memory of the tragic event that caused panic and far-ranging damage. The rest of the building was buried under molten rock.
Want to visit a beautiful location and taste some local produce while you’re at it? Visit the Beira Cooperative to sample some of the best cheeses in the region – Beira, Lourais, and Topo Cheese are some of the varieties produced here, where you’ll find culture and cuisine all in one place. Ask for a guided tour of the Factory to follow every step of how this delicious cheese is made before being served at our table, and finish off by taking some slices home with you. There’s nothing better than that!
Velas Natural Swimming Pools
Formed by basalt rocks, these natural pools are very popular in the summer – an excellent place for a swim and lots of fun! The dark volcanic colour of the rocks contrasts gracefully with the deep blue of the vast Atlantic Ocean, making this the most idyllic of settings.
The Velas Natural Pools provide bathers with complementary services, such as toilets and showers, a bar service and surveillance.
Benefiting from the Fajão dos Vimes micro-climate, the Nunes family are Europe’s only coffee producers. Keeping the coffee-producing culture within their family and still using the old methods to produce the drink, you’ll be able to taste this family’s history at Café Nunes. The family is very friendly, quick to invite visitors to visit their plantations, which start right behind the house, as well as to take a look at the handicrafts they produce.
São Jorge Museum
The São Jorge Museum in Calheta displays objects and tools used in the daily life of the island, such as an animal-powered millstone used to grind grain. Each stage in the production of bread and process of pig slaughtering is depicted, as are all the instruments used to produce linen and wool. The museum encompasses various practices, from ceramics and textiles and weaving to agriculture and livestock, including furniture.