The islands of Azores and Madeira are part of Portugal. They were both “discovered” by the Portuguese navigators in the 15th-century, in one of the first efforts of the bigger Portuguese project of exploring the seas.
The Portuguese arrived in Madeira in 1419. Navigators Tristão Vaz Teixeira, Bartolomeu Perestrelo e João Gonçalves Zarco will call it Madeira because of the wood – madeira in Portuguese – that is abundant. Considered an important strategic point, Madeira will be colonized in 1425 and several cultures will be sent to the island. One of the most successful will be sugar, which will be sent to many European countries and will make Madeira prosperous.
During the 19th-century, Madeira will become a famous destination for the European aristocracy. The beauty of the island, the flowers, the climate will attract many. One of the most famous is the Empress Sissi, of Austria, that stayed in Funchal as a recommendation of her doctor due to pulmonary disease. That episode is part of the movie “Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress”, of 1957, starring the beautiful actress Romy Schneider.
Tourism is still today one of the major sectors of the area, contributing with 1/4 of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the island. Madeira is known for being a wonderful place to relax, with beautiful gardens, delicious food and nice people. Levadas and its trails are famous amongst hikers. And there is, of course, the famous fireworks of New Year’s Eve, one of the biggest in the world, that attracts thousands to Funchal at the end of the year.
Portugal islands: Azores and its unspoiled nature
While Madeira has invested in tourism, Azores preferred a more discreet approach. The low-cost airlines have only been authorized to land in the archipelago in 2015. That meant a less prosperous economy, but probably also a more authentic experience, away from cruise ships and crowds.
As for Madeira, there are several theories defending that the Portuguese knew about these islands since the 14th-century. But the navigator Gonçalo Velho arrived in Santa Maria in 1431 and a letter sent by Henry the Navigator, in 1439, is the first known written reference to the exploration of the archipelago of Açores.
It is commonly accepted that the name Açores comes from the birds found on the islands, açor in Portuguese (goshawks). Despite this, some specialists believe this name was indeed based on a mistake as it not probable that those birds nested in the islands.
Azores is an archipelago composed by major nine islands: Flores, Corvo, Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, São Miguel e Santa Maria. All of them with plenty to see, especially if you love nature.
Lagoa das Sete Cidades is just one of the many places that deserves a visit and it is often part of the gallery of live postcards that you can get in the islands. At Lagoa das Furnas they cook inside the steaming holes that prove the volcanic origin of Azores, but you can also visit the Pico mountains, the islet of Vila Franca do Campo and many other points of interest.
To help it making even more special, the people of Azores are super nice and the food is also amazing. The fish, of course, couldn’t be fresher and you must try the typical cheese of the region. You fall in love with the cured and peppery notes.