Hiking on Sao Jorge of the Azores Islands
Today let’s discuss some hiking I did on Sao Jorge of the Azores Islands a few days ago. Hiking Sao Jorge is good times and it’s a long island which is also quite narrow and sparsely populated with ~9,000 inhabitants. It’s part of the central cluster of island and one of the spots which gives you the best sense of the Azores being an archipelago with views of the neighboring islands in almost every direction. It’s a heavenly place for those looking to get away and enjoy what has quickly become some of my favorite cheeses on this planet…
We arrived from a flight which left Sao Miguel and did a quick layover on Terceira. Getting there was easy and once there, it’s easy to take a ferry should one wish to the neighboring islands which is exactly what we did. The capital of Sao Jorge and largest town is Velas and it’s not a big place but definitely the hub of the island. The term Velas means both candles and sails in Portuguese and it’s speculated the city is name after one of them as it used to be a place where sails got repaired and they used candles to signal between the islands.
The island is known for rural tourism and a spot where people come to disconnect and enjoy the sounds of silence with endless views of the ocean in all directions. That said, you can still get a 3G signal in many parts of the island and if you’re looking for a great meal, it’s as easy as going to one of the restaurants or even the guesthouse you’re staying at for some top shelf seafood or steaks. I’ll also mention some of the cheese which bears the islands name again, it’s called Sao Jorge and something I brought home with no issues through customs into Canada. Also, don’t get me started on my love for limpets; see below.
We were there to explore and do some hiking and the main event was most certainly the afternoon we hiked Serra do Topo, Faja dos Cubres which is a solid 10km trail from the tops of the mountains down to the ocean before winding up and out again. It also went through Caldeira do Santo Cristo which is a tiny parish that is only accessible by foot or a quad-bike and had quite the little surf community from what it seems. It’s also off the grid with generators for power and home to some clam farming; expect to see some unique stone homes both old and new as people are restoring ones destroyed in an earthquake of yesteryear.
This hike wasn’t so difficult but you definitely needed to watch your step on the descent and it offers some spectacular views. The day started out a bit cloudy at the summit but by the time we got half way down it was clear skies and I’ll let the photos paint the picture for you. I really enjoyed this hike and would gladly do it again should the opportunity present itself. Another hike we did was along the coast to an older parish but the sky was grey most of the way so the vast majority of photos are from the Serra do Topo, Faja dos Cubres hike.
Other than hiking, we did a tour of the island of sorts to take in the sights from different view points. A few of the top spots had clouds but that’s life, right? These other ones should still give you a glimpse of what this island is all about. If you are coming, my recommendation is that the first thing you do is rent a car from the airport or ferry terminal once you arrive as it’s without a doubt the best way to explore the island. Most islands of the Azores are small enough to feel quaint but big enough to still get lost in a good way. Do give yourself lots of time though, there seems to be another photo or a reason to stop at each and every of the many twists and turns.
I liked hiking Sao Jorge and liked the vibe I got from the island as a whole. If you’re coming to the Azores to do some hiking and will be exploring the central islands of the archipelago, do look into Sao Jorge and you’ll most likely be glad that you did. We stayed for two nights and had incredible views of Mount Pico on Pico Island in front of us and the island of Faial to our right. If you are going, look into staying at a locally run guesthouse as it’s a pleasant experience with all the amenities you’d need and if they cook for you, it will most likely be a meal you’ll remember. If you’d like to see more, I made a video about hiking on Sao Jorge.
Huge thanks to Visit Azores for the experience, it’s most appreciated. Also, when hiking Sao Jorge or any other of the islands, do be ready to perhaps enter a cellar and taste some locally produced wine should you pass some of the pleasant people living there. Most of the people I met on the islands were incredibly hospitable and very friendly; Sao Jorge was no exception.
P.S: I also made a video with my GoPro so stay tuned on my Youtube channel.