The island of Flores is the westernmost point of the Azores Archipelago and of the European continent. Flores is about 15 miles from Corvo. The two islands make up the western group of the archipelago. Flores has area of around 55 square miles (143 Km2), and about 4000 inhabitants. The main Flores municipalities include Santa Cruz and Lajes. Flores as well as Corvo are part of the North American tectonic plate, unless all other Azorean islands which sit on the European plate.
The island of Flores has deep valleys and high peaks, lagoons bordered by hydrangeas, cliffs carved by grottoes, hot springs and the remains of old volcanoes.
Flores (Flowers) takes is names due to a great profusion of wild flowers (especially hydrangeas, which have large blue or pink petals) and small size botanical species, many of which are indigenous and part of the original flora. Pastures, farms and vineyards complete the make-up of the landscape of Flores Island.
On May 27, 2009, Flores was chosen as one of several areas to be included on UNESCO's list of World Network of Biosphere Reserves at the Man and the Biosphere meeting held in Jeju, South Korea, along with the islands of Graciosa and Corvo. The program targets the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss. It uses its World Network of Biosphere Reserves as vehicles for knowledge sharing, research and monitoring, education and training, and participatory decision-making with local communities.
The melodious sound produced by water-mills next to crystal-clear streams of Flores; The long, dense clumps of hydrangeas winding over hills and dales; The basalt petrified in eternal threads; The refreshing tranquility of the lagoons; The musical creaking of an ox drawn cart; Picturesque old customs; White houses perched on green slopes. All this are synonym of the harmonious Flores, a garden floating on the ocean.
The discovery date of the islands of Flores and Corvo is a controversial issue, although it is known that it took place after that of the other seven islands of the Azores. It is said that Flores was sighted in 1452 by Diogo de Teive and his son. Initially called Sao Tomas or Santa lria, its name was soon changed to Flores, literally "Flowers" on account of the abundance of wild flowers that covered the whole island, the seeds of which were possibly brought from Florida, in the United States, on the feathers of migratory birds. The initial settlement is attributed to Flemish Wilhem van der Haagen (Guilherme da Silveira, as he was known to the Portuguese), who left Flores after a few years and settled on the island of Sao Jorge. This was no doubt due to the remoteness of Flores and the lack of regular shipping connections that would allow the export to Flanders of the sough-after dye-yielding plant called woad. He was followed in the 16th century by farmers from various regions of continental Portugal who began to plough fields and produce wheat, barley, maize, vegetables, archil (a lichen used in dyeing) and woad. During that period the settlements of Lajes and Santa Cruz received town charters.
Far removed from other Islands of the archipelago and with few export goods, the island of Flores was almost completely isolated for centuries, a situation broken by rare visits of ships that look on water and bought provisions there. Also cargo boats from Faial and Terceira which came to fetch sperm whale oil, honey, cedar wood, butter, lemons, oranges, smoked meats and, at times, ceramics from the local potteries. In exchange traders left left wool and linen clothes and other goods. This isolation did not prevent the island from the sacking by English privateers in 1587, nor did it prevent other pirates from attacking and pillaging it, including one who according to tradition, took refuge in the "Enxareus" grotto.
American whaling ships frequented the waters of the Azores from the middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century. They hunted sperm whales and recruited sailors and harpooners from among the population. Many of these recruits later became the captains of sailing vessels, including the outstanding "Wanderer" which sailed until 1924 and was considered the most beautiful American whaler.
The development of agriculture and stock-breeding, improvement of the port facilities, construction of an airport, and the presence of a French satellite tracking station, are recent events that have opened new horizons for progress on the island.
The island of Flores, with an area of 55 square miles (143.11 km2), is 11 miles (17 km) long and 7 miles (12.5 km) at its widest point. The highest part of the central plateau is Morro Alto with an altitude of 3,000 feet (914 m). The island is situated on 31º 59' west longitude and 39º 25' north latitude.
Flores developed initially from a submarine volcano from the Pleistocene period that constructed small calderas and numerous volcanic cones. Following a long period of quiescence beginning about 200,000 years ago, several young craters and associated lava flows erupted during the Holocene period, including two about 3,000 years ago. The "Funda de Lajes" tuff ring formed about 3150 years ago, accompanied by a lava flow that traveled toward the southeast reach the area of Lajes.
The Island has deep valleys and high peaks. Morro Alto is the highest peak of the island, reaching an altitude of 915 meters. It has several inactive volcanoes; "Caldeira Funda das Lajes" last erupted in 1200 BC, and "Caldeira Comprida" erupted in 950 BC. Some of these volcanoes have calderas ("caldeiras" in Portuguese) in which water has collected to form lakes. There are seven of these lakes on the island. The caldera "Lagoa Funda" is considered the best. "Aguas Quentes" are small hot springs of boiling sulfurous water. "Gruta de Enxareus" is an enormous grotto, about 50 meters long and 25 meters wide.
The economy of the island is mainly agricultural, with yams and grain. Due to the early settlers being from northern Portugal, the island's houses and streets resemble those found there. Portugal has a military agreement with France permitting France to have a base in the region. The island also has an airport.
Flores is a fishermen’s paradise. The craggy seashore gives them an endless number of fishing grounds where they can catch large bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper and many others. But if the sports fishermen find abundant catch in Flores, underwater sportsmen have, in the depths, fringed by multi-colored rocks, abundance of animal and vegetable life, and, in the island's caves, the beauty of the underwater sea. For the same reasons the scuba diving has become an increasingly popular activity in past years, not only due to those wonderful sea conditions, but also due to the appearance of specialized and well-equipped diving centers.
Sail the Atlantic
Situated on the main route linking Europe and America, a growing number of yachts stop by Flores every, attracted by its geographical position, the quaint port of Santa Cruz, and the welcoming hospitality of its habitants. Flores thus constitutes, together with Faial, Terceira and São Miguel, one of the points of the quadrangle enabling visitors to enjoy cruises in Azorean waters.
The streams and fishing
The swiftly flowing streams, whose sparkling waters enhance the landscape of Flores, are also a paradise for fishermen, who can catch delicious trout in them. Main fishing areas are in the streams of Moinhos, Alem Fazenda, Fazenda, Silva, Urzela, Grande and Lake Lomba.
Swimming, sailing and water activities
Clear waters and lapping pebble-covered beaches await swimmers along the coast of Flores, particularly in the area of Lagedo and Castelo (Ponta dos llheus), Fajãzinha, Ponta do Albarnaz and Cedros. Santa Cruz, Lajes and Fajã Grande have natural swimming-pools. Flores also offers excellent conditions for practicing sailing and windsurfing on the natural indents of the coast.
Walking and sightseeing
Flores roads will take you to the main attractions in the island. There are also hidden areas of real scenic beauty that can only be discovered by walking through flowers and green fields, crossing murmuring brooks and small waterfalls.
IRC Rally Azores
S. Miguel island is part of the IRC car rally circuit happening annually
Senhor Santo Cristo
Arguably the biggest religious festivities in Azores, happens annually on the fifth weekend after Easter
Bull Fights (bull on rope)
People waiting for bull - Typical of Terceira island it happens in many places throughout the island from May to September
Limas water battles
Ponta Delgada - Traditional battle of limas happens during carnival
Flower street carpets
Traditional flower carpets adorn the way for processions in religious festivities
Festival of lights
Convento da Esperanca - One of the highlights of religious festivals are the amazing light displays
Selling the typical tremoco (lupinus) and candy
Always a hit with young and old carousels are part of the festivities fabric
The Festival of the Holy Ghost is the most important in Flores. A centuries-old tradition, it is closely connected with the religious feelings of the people of Flores. Enacting the rituals of the coronation of the "emperor", the showing of his insignia and celebration of the "bodo" or feast, attracts the inhabitants of the village and many visitors. Similar festivals are held in every parish. The most important, lasting for two days, is held in Santa Cruz, where the town is decorated with flowers and colored arches and where locals and visitors mix in lively street dancing. With the presence of the crowns of the 27 emperors existing on the island, it is considered to be the most important festival of the Holy Ghost in the Azores. The Holy Ghost festivals take place on Sundays after Whitsun until the summer. At Santa Cruz it is held on the last Sunday in August.
Other festivals includes the "Folares" (Easter cakes with baked eggs), the processions of the "Senhor dos Passos" (Our Lord bearing His Cress), held in every parish on Good Friday. St. John's Festivals at Santa Cruz also attract many visitors. The Festival of Senhora das Flores, held in honor of Our Lady at the Chapel called "Capela dos Matos" is one of the most frequented in Flores. The Emigrants Festival at Lajes das Flores is held on the 2nd weekend of July.
Traditional Holy Ghost Sopas from Santa Maria
Dill & Mint
Dill is specific of Santa Maria. Mint is used in all Sopas
Lining up for Sopas
Long lines demonstrate the popularity of Sopas feasts
Sopas a tradition shared in every Azorean community
Besides the meat and fish recipes that can be said to be "Azorean", since they can be found all over the archipelago, Flores also offers such local specialties as watercress soup, boiled pork with vegetables, tripe, yams with tasty sausages, beans with pigs head and pasteis de ervas marinhas.
The tasty cheese produced in Flores, the soft creamy butter, and the delicious honey which has the scent of flowers always present in Flores throughout the year, complement the meals. Not forgetting of course the crabs, goose barnacles and limpets found on the rocks washed by the sea.
Clay and Wicker are art forms that span centuries in Azores
Bonecos are figurines made of straw and cloth
Wicker is used for many uses. More traditional for basket weave.
In Flores, Pottery Art, which was centered at the villages of Fazenda and Lajedo, supplied the needs of Flores, but has unfortunately been lost. The delicate embroidery and lace-work, the decorative objects made of colorful seashells and the blankets woven on simple looms are witnesses to traditions that are still kept up. Wicker work, wood and rafia are also interesting expressions of craftsmanship. Rattan is interlaced to create objects of practical and decorative use, employing a technique that may possibly be of African origin. As transparent as poetry, the artificial flowers made from the pith of plants, are works of art made by skilful hands, although they run the risk of disappearing since the technique is being forgotten by the younger generation.
Azores flowers for all tastes
Pineapple of S. Miguel
Pineapples are grown in green houses and are only a product of S. Miguel
In Terceira, for example, cows outnumber people 2:1, thus the abundance of dairy and meat
Fish, abundant and varied, is an essential ingredient in the Azorean diet
Cheese - A Specialty
Cheese from S. Miguel, S. Jorge, Faial and Pico are world renowned
A variety of vegetables can be found in the Azoes including the local inhame (yam)