A miniature version of Ireland or Switzerland. This is one of the most frequent combinations that can be found when describing Flores, one of the nine islands that make up the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, inhabited by just under 4000 people.
In fact, the characteristics, the landscapes and the sceneries offered by this marvelous island are very reminiscent of those of Ireland and Switzerland: it is enough to think about the green hills, the uncontaminated lagoons and the numerous inlets of transparent water which flow into lakes or into the Atlantic Ocean.
The island of Flores is the westernmost territory of the Azores and of all Europe. It boasts beautiful landscapes, and forms together with the nearby Corvo the western group of the archipelago.
Like the other Azores, Flores is of volcanic origin, and presents a mountainous territory furrowed by deep valleys. Its highest peak, 914 meters, is the Morro Alto. The short water courses form numerous waterfalls, and its coasts are characterized by very high cliffs.
The hinterland of Flores, on the other hand, is sprinkled with craters that today take the form of lakes. Among these, the most famous is “Caldeira Funda“, among laurel forests and hydrangea plants. The island is a captivating place also thanks to the quiet life that its inhabitants lead, which reminds us of ancient times.
Visiting Flores means entering a calm and peaceful world, light years away from the chaos of cities and hectic life, made of walks, nature and breathtaking landscapes.
Getting around the island of Flores is very easy, given its small size. A boat tour gives the opportunity to admire closely the rock formations of the coast, including the Arch of Santa Cruz das Flores and the islet of Maria Vaz. Do not miss the sea caves visible only from the water: they are the Gruta dos Enxaréus and the Gruta do Galo.
Divers and diving lovers will love the bay of Alagoa, formed by islets and reefs at water level, while to observe closely the brown grouper it is necessary to go to the islet of Garajau.
In Santa Cruz das Flo res and near Lajes das Flores there are the beautiful natural pools of the island. Those who are looking for more authentic experiences will have to head towards the pools of water that form at the base of the waterfalls, such as those of Ribeira Grande, 300 meters high, and Poço do Bacalhau, 90 meters high.
In the central area of Flores you can admire 7 volcanic craters, transformed into lakes with the advance of time. The landscape is truly magnificent and unusual, especially that of Lagoa Funda, the best known of these formations. Do not miss the panoramic view from Morro Alto, the highest point of the island.
One of the most famous panoramas of Flores and of all the Azores is the Rocha dos Bordões, basaltic columns born as a result of a volcanic eruption, located as if by magic on top of a hill.
It is a true wonder of nature, and is covered with mosses and lichens whose colors change during the day, as the inclination of the sun rays gives the whole different shades and nuances.
In Santa Cruz das Flores the most impressive monument is the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, a church that stands out from the other buildings for its large facade, but it is also interesting to walk through the Praça do Marquês do Pombal, the main square of the city.
Do not miss a visit to theIgreja de São Boaventura, and the Museu Regional das Flores which in turn includes the Museu Etnográfico and the Casa Museu Pimentel de Mesquita.
Finally, as a souvenir of the trip it is possible to buy in Santa Cruz das Flores lace, embroidery, blankets woven with ancient looms and hydrangea pith flowers.
These are two practically adjacent lakes, located in the highlands of the island of Flores, at an altitude of about 600 meters. The first one is characterized by its impressive depth, which in some places reaches one hundred meters; moreover, from Lagoa Negra you can immediately notice a beautiful waterfall that ends right in the other lake, the Comprida.
Flores preserves in its ‘heart’, or in its central point, the beautiful nature reserve of Morro Alto, from which you can enjoy what is perhaps the best view of the island. How to do it is simple: it will be enough to reach the Pico dos Sete Pes, where among other things there is also a very pretty waterfall, through a small road that goes right in the middle of the mountains.
It will not happen again so easily to admire a waterfall of 90 meters: Poco do Bacalhau is located near the village of Faja Grande, and it’s mostly visited by swimming enthusiasts, although the waters are really frozen!
The entire coast of the island of Flores is composed of many cliffs, which make the landscape more unique than rare. Impossible not to go to the Rocha dos Bordoes, an impressive rock formation that is located just a step away from the Ocean.
The most striking part is undoubtedly the northern one: not far from here there is the Corvo Island, easily reachable, with a breathtaking view and a small village, the only one on this piece of land, that you can admire entirely in one day.
There are several interesting and engaging things to do in Flores, such as long hikes or boat rides. But that’s not all: here’s a list of the best activities to undertake on the island, for a vacation dedicated to nature and tradition.
Scuba diving is one of the favorite hobbies of tourists who go on vacation to Flores. Following what has already been done on other islands of the archipelago, also in Flores there will soon be an underwater park to visit, which will allow to discover the shipwreck of the English steamboat Slavonia, destroyed in the early 1900s.
To tell the truth, Flores is not the top island for whale watching, although the event is not so rare. Much easier, however, come across many dolphins, which are always cheerful and playful.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the combination of the volcanic soil and the ocean breeze give the local products a unique taste. Many recipes on the island of Flores are based on Taro root and sweet potatoes.
The islanders are very creative and resourceful when it comes to creating dishes using what they have on hand. One of the most popular local dishes is seaweed breadcrumbs, a kind of veggie burger made with eggs and seaweed. You don’t throw anything away!
In every village on Flores Island, a Stations of the Cross procession is held on Good Friday. The island also celebrates the patronal feast of Nossa Senhora das Flores and the Festa do Emigrante, which is celebrated on the third Monday of July when the island is at the peak of flower bloom.
It is a long festival with various recreational activities for which, every year, many emigrants return home.
A stone cottage in an abandoned village brought back to life or a guesthouse in the westernmost point of Europe? The beauty of Flores is also reflected in the accommodations offered to visitors.
Our favorite area in Flores is on the west coast of the island, particularly in Faja Grande, a small village with all the essential services and a few restaurants. Arriving at the end of the village, where there is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora Do Carmo, the road ends and you really realize that you are in the westernmost point of Europe: looking at the sea you can’t help but think that the next closest land is Canada!
Also on the west coast, just south of Faja Grande, is the beautiful village of Cuada, located on a small plateau near the coast and almost abandoned during the ’60s, when many of the inhabitants emigrated to the United States, leaving Cauda to become a ghost town. But today many of the houses have been recovered and modernized, while still maintaining a traditional style, and the village provides a very peaceful stay. Cuada has no driveways between the houses and the parking lot is about 2-3 minutes away, along a winding path: for this reason, luggage is sometimes delivered to its destination by ATVs.
Lajes Das Flores is the most popular place for tourists living on the island. It is located on the south coast and here is the town hall, several stores and services and the port of the island, from which ferries depart to the rest of the archipelago.
It is also interesting to stay along the east coast, if only because this is where the airport of Flores is located, so it is a good destination for those who want to reach their accommodation immediately after landing the plane.
The easiest and most convenient way to reach Flores is by plane, thanks to one of the daily flights operated by Sata from the others of Faial, Ponta Delgada and Terceira.
There is also another way, rather alternative and adventurous, to land in this enchanting corner of the Azores: AtlanticoLine in fact allows you to get to Flores by ferry. It departs from Faial or Sao Miguel, but we warn you that the journey is very long and often the sea is rough.
In Flores you can use different means of transport. There are public transport, but often do not meet the needs of tourists because during the weekends have reduced schedules, not to mention that do not connect all the places of interest.
Surely the cheapest option is to rent a bike, but to make this decision you need to be well trained, especially if you decide to turn the island completely, which although small has ups and downs quite challenging.
Finally, it is possible to rent a car or a scooter. There are several local companies that offer this service such as Autatlantis, Ilha Verde and Euroçor, in addition to the ubiquitous international rental companies.