“Graciosa Azores: Tips on planning your trip” is the fourth installment of a series of nine blog posts about the Azores islands. The posts are meant to give you a detailed overview of each one of them to help you plan your trip, whether you decide to visit one, two, or all nine. If you have any questions or a specific request, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it or to put you in touch with the right contact.
Table of Contents (Click to skip to a section)
- About Graciosa
- Top things to do in Graciosa Island
- Top cultural events in Graciosa Island
- Azores food: what to eat in Graciosa
- Local souvenirs
- Where to stay in Graciosa Island
- Know before you go
Perfect island destination for fans of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, natural spas, and windmills.
Graciosa, also known as the “white island”, seems to be almost off the radar of tourists. It’s a shame because, as you’ll see, the “gracious island” has more to offer than meets the eye. Good things do come in small packages.
The year of its discovery is uncertain, but it is believed that the island served, at first, as land for cattle in the 1430’s. Later, in 1485, settlers from the Portuguese mainland and the Flanders region of Belgium arrived — the Flemish influence is notorious in the architectural style of the red-roofed windmills, and that are one of the most recognizable symbols of the island.
Despite its small numbers in area and population (Graciosa is the second smallest island in the archipelago), the diversity of its ecosystem has made it one of the three UNESCO Biosphere Reserves of the Azores in 2007. This is both an honor and a responsibility, for it sets the tone of action for all islands regarding conservation and sustainable growth.
Besides the windmills and the eco-diversity, Graciosa is famous for its sulfurous cave, 40 meters (131 feet) deep, that you reach by descending an 183-step spiral staircase. Quite a unique way to visit a volcanic cave isn’t it?
Top things to do in Graciosa island
Diving and sports fishing seem to top the list, but the island is truly great for any water activity. Of course, the opportunity to visit the volcanic cave is not to be missed.
Recommended Local Companies
Please note that I’m not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list I used the following criteria:
- Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- A website in English where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (with a working email)
The company’s goal “is the promotion and development of sustainable tourism, focused on direct contact with Mother Nature, revealing the unique beauty of the Azores, providing, at the same time, an unforgettable holiday.” Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Rua Rodrigues Sampaio 10
9880-238 São Mateus
Activities: Bareboat charter (prices start from 230€/US $250, in low season), boat tours (prices start from 17€/US $18, per person), diving (prices start from 19€/US $20, per person).
Their mission is to promote high-quality eco-tourism in Graciosa island, in a safe and sustainable way.
Activities: boat cruise around the island (prices start from 35€/US $38, per person), boat cruise to the islets and caves (prices start from 25€/US $27, per person), hiking (25€/US $27, per person), diving with sharks (150€/US $163, per person).
Vinho, aguardente, compota, alhos e moinhos, tudo feito na Graciosa! / Wine, brandy, jam, garlic and windmills made in Graciosa island – Azores ▶www.entrevinhas.com◀ #entrevinhas #enoturismo #winetourist #instawinetours #winemaps #acores #visitazores #graciosa
A photo posted by Madalena Vidigal – Portugal (@madalena_vidigal) on
Top cultural events in Graciosa island
The Holy Spirit festivities are also celebrated here, as they are in the rest of the archipelago. The other important religious celebration in Graciosa is Santo Cristo dos Milagres (“Holy Christ of Miracles”, roughly translated) in August. As you read these posts about the Azores, you’ll understand that religion is almost central to the islanders daily routine. I want to emphasize almost because I don’t want you to leave with the impression that their lives are overpowered by blind faith. But these religious events are very present in the Islanders’ cultural identity.
That said, of course, there comes a time to let off some steam and party for the sake of the party. That’s when Carnaval gets serious and colorful. Street parades, balls, and dressing up in original costumes and masks are all popular ways the locals resort to letting loose in those weeks before the forty days of Lent (the Christian 40-day-period of reflection before Easter).
Azores food: what to eat in Graciosa
Fresh and delicious seafood (literally from ocean to the table) is abundant in all the islands of the Azores, and Graciosa is no exception. Among so many options, the toughest decision is to choose how you want to have it — in a traditional stew or freshly grilled? Pair it with a chilled bottle of the locally produced white wine, and you’ll never be disappointed.
Even here, the Azorean sweet tooth comes packed in tiny but rich doses — that’s what I think when I see “queijadas da Graciosa”. A star-shaped custard, that fits in the palm of your hand, is bold in flavor and rich in its caramel color. The bad news? It ends quickly. The good news? There are more where that one came from.
A photo posted by Jorge Malato (@mala_tin) on
A few bottles of white wine or “Anjelica”, the local fortified wine, are a unique gift. A box of “queijadas da Graciosa” is mandatory (and, just in case, buy one extra for the trip because you also deserve the treat).
But to bring something truly unique from the island, stop by the local Artisan Association to buy some hand-embroidered linen, and get to know the craft while you’re there. The style and technique are distinctive, and one that can be easily identified with Graciosa, which makes it a very original souvenir.
Where to stay in Graciosa island
Please note that I’m not listing ALL accommodation possibilities. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list of places to stay on the island, I used the following criteria:
- Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). I excluded chain hotels.
- A website in English and/or a listing on Booking.com* where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
Casa da Madrinha
19th Century refurbished house. With a private road, view over the village of Praia, and surrounded by orchards and pastures.
Fonte do Mato n.º 27
9880-205 São Mateus Graciosa
Low season (1st of October to 31st of March) – 1 to 3 days, 30€/US $32 (per day per room); 4 to 7 days, 25€/US $27 (per day per room)
High season (1st of April to 30th of September) – 1 to 3 days, 40€/US $43 (per day per room); 4 to 7 days, 35€/US $38 (per day per room)
Typical local windmill. Refurbished to fit one two-bedroom apartment and three one-bedroom apartments.
Estrada do Aeroporto 9
9880-343 Santa Cruz da Graciosa
Low season (1st of October to 31st of May) – one-bedroom apartment, 40€/US $43; two-bedroom apartments, prices start from 55€/US $59
High season (1st of June to 30th of September) – one-bedroom apartment, 50€/US $54; two-bedroom apartments, prices start from 70€/US $76
A photo posted by aurinhacruz (@aurinhacruz) on
Know before you go
These are the most frequently asked questions about the Azores islands in general (and the island of Graciosa in particular). If you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to email me.
Where is Graciosa island?
Graciosa is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
What’s the official language in the Azores?
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
What’s the time zone in the Azores?
GMT -1 hour
What’s the currency in the Azores?
Are there banks and ATM machines in Graciosa island?
Is there a post office in Graciosa island?
What Visa do I need to visit Graciosa island?
You need a visa to enter all Schengen area territories, including the Azores islands. Click here for detailed information.
* Please note that this information may change over time. Refer to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your departure for updated information.
Do I need any special vaccination?
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
How do I get medical care on Graciosa island if I need it?
There are pharmacies and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde with emergency services on the island.
What is the voltage?
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Is there public transportation in Graciosa island
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
How big is Graciosa island?
The area of Graciosa island is 60.66 square kilometers (approximately 23.42 square miles).
How far is Graciosa island from Lisbon?
1,632 Km (approximately 1,014 miles).
How many people live in Graciosa island?
4,391 people, according to the last census of 2011.
How many main towns does Graciosa Island have?
Graciosa has one main town (concelhos in Portuguese) called Santa Cruz da Graciosa (where the airport is).
How do I travel to Graciosa island?
By plane – between islands, SATA Air Acores; from the Portuguese mainland and other countries, SATA Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and via Ponta Delgada (S. Miguel) Ryanair,
EasyJet (only until October 2017) and Delta Airlines.
By boat – between islands (seasonal, from May to September): Atlanticoline SA.
How is the weather in Graciosa island?
The climate is mild temperate. Temperatures: average high 19°C/66°F. Average low 14°C/57.2°F.
When is the best time to visit Graciosa island?
In the summer (June – August) during the religious events.
Are there earthquakes in Graciosa island?*:
Rarely and of low magnitude. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Is there WiFi and cell phone coverage in Graciosa island?
Yes, 3G and 4G.
When will you start planning your trip to the Azores?
O burro da Graciosa é a mais recente raça de equino autóctone portuguesa, oficialmente reconhecida, num processo conjunto entre o Grupo de Biotecnologia da Universidade dos Açores e a Associação de Criadores e Amigos do Burro da ilha Graciosa. Para além da manutenção e crescimento do número de efectivos populacionais, no imediato, no sentido de assegurar a viabilidade genética da raça, o objectivo é que a médio prazo os burros possam ser um elemento de desenvolvimento turístico e de afirmação cultural da ilha. Imagem captada na Graciosa, Açores, pelo fotógrafo António Luís Campos no âmbito do projecto Crónicas da Atlântida. Patrocínio: Nomad #BolsaExploracaoNomad | Media Partner: National Geographic Portugal
Tips on planning your trip to the other Azores islands: