The Azores: At the end of Europe; At the end of the World

The Açores Archipelago was re-discovered 60 years before Columbus discovered North America. At this time, these islands were truly the end of the world as Europeans knew it.  One can only imagine the thoughts of the first explorers when they saw this wild place in the middle of the harsh North Atlantic Ocean.

 

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The Caldera (Caldeirão) on the Island of Corvo is one of the most peaceful and enchanting places in the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite almost 600 years of settlement, this place still feels on the edge.  I feel like if there was a landscape to epitomize “end of the Earth”, this volcanic landscape would be it.  However, there’s more to this than what’s visible on the surface.  The reason for the Azores creation is that it literally is on the edge, of 3 tectonic plates!  The Island chain sits directly on top of the spot where the European, African, and North American plates intersect.   Here it is possible to sail from one island that is in “Europe” and arrive in “Africa” or “North America”.  All of the pushing and pulling of these 3 massive continents is the catalyst for the volcanic activity that is still creating the islands today.  Just 50 years ago, the island chain’s land area increased by 2km2 !

 

 

 

Because of this “creation”, one could argue that this isn’t the end of the Earth, but the beginning.  Thanks to copious amounts of of moisture, the islands are incredibly green.  In fact they are like gardens, growing citrus fruit and pineapples year round.  Flowers bloom all year, and a deep shade of green pervades every hillside.  The archipelago is so fertile, that most of Portugal’s milk (and excellent cheese!!) is produced here.  Locals even figured out a way to cultivate grapes here and create world-class wines.
So, despite being at the “end of the world”, The Azores are a true paradise.  However, little word has gotten out about this wonderful place, so you might have it all to yourself (as my wife and I did)!

 

 

 

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