“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.
Please note that I’m not listing ALL the local companies. These are local companies listed on Visit Azores website, with a website in English, and easy to contact from abroad (via social media or email). I do my best to update the blog, but if you notice that any of this information is outdated let me know.
- Gracipescas (hiking, scuba diving, whale watching, yachting) – www.gracipescas.com.pt
- Calypso Azores (scuba diving, yachting) – www.calypsoazores.com
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 accommodations available on the island, just the ones you can book via Booking.com* for convenience.
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.
Graciosa is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
GMT -1 hour
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.
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
There are pharmacies and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde with emergency services on the island.
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
The area of Graciosa island is 60.66 square kilometers (approximately 23.42 square miles).
1,632 Km (approximately 1,014 miles).
4,391 people, according to the last census of 2011.
Graciosa has one main town (concelhos in Portuguese) called Santa Cruz da Graciosa (where the airport is).
SATA Air Acores – between islands
Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and Ryanair (via São Miguel or Terceira) – from the Portuguese mainland and other countries
Atlanticoline SA – between islands (seasonal, from May to September)
The climate is mild temperate. Temperatures: average high 19°C/66°F. Average low 14°C/57.2°F.
In the summer (June – August) during religious events.
Rarely and of low magnitude. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Yes, 3G and 4G.
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