Flores Island: The Westernmost Point of Europe
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the Azores, and much less of the Flores [Flowers] Island, which sits west of the archipelago, it is only 55 square miles and houses 4,000 inhabitants. However, be prepared to be taken aback by its untouched beauty. Its luscious forests, human sized Hydrangea and bright blue volcanic lagoons will leave you breathless.
It is commonly said Flores was first discovered by Diogo de Teives in 1452. Flores gets its name from its abundance of Hydrangea, with pink and light blue petals, so big and so profuse that farmers now use them to separate their fields instead of traditional fences. Wilhem van der Haagen, from Flanders, is said to have been the first settler, leaving after a couple of years because of the isolation of the island from the rest of the archipelago and trade routes. In the 16th century, farmers from northern Portugal came to the island and began to cultivate the fields. Flores, in its quality of being the westernmost point of Europe, remained (and remains) an extremely isolated island, close only to the 7-square-mile island of Corvo, 15 miles north. Historically, its economy is fundamentally based on agriculture and whale hunting, the latter ceasing in the mid-20th century.
The landscape is characterized by high peaks and low valleys, punctuated by volcano craters and calderas. Flores was chosen to be included in UNESCO’s World Network list of Biosphere Reserves in 2009. Touristic activities include snorkeling, diving, whale and dolphin watching and hiking.
Most agglomerations tend to be in fajãs, areas of flat land on the coast, differing from the usual mountainous terrain.
Santa Cruz das Flores, on the east coast, is the largest agglomeration on the island, located right by the airport. However, the must-see towns are Fajã Grande and Fajãzinha [Literally: Large fajã and small fajã], where you will see traditional houses and ruins of water mills in a breathtaking setting. Moreover, the Ribeira Grande waterfall in Fajãzinha has a drop of several hundred meters and separates into over 20 waterfalls, many of which feed into the ocean.
All photo credits to Neil F. King, on flickr.