How to plan a trip to Graciosa Island in the Azores
It’s the 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 tourists’ radar. 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 the island was probably used, at first, as land for growing cattle in the 1430s.
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, which are among the most recognizable symbols of the island.
Graciosa is the second smallest island in the archipelago, and it’s a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2007. That is both an honor and a responsibility. It sets the tone of action for all islands concerning 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 a 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 genuinely great for any water activity. Of course, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the volcanic cave.
Top cultural events in Graciosa island
As in the rest of the archipelago, Graciosa also has Holy Spirit festivities.
The other important religious celebration in Graciosa is Santo Cristo dos Milagres in August. As with all the other Azores’ islands, 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, 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, masked balls, and dressing up in costumes are popular ways the locals make the best of those weeks before the 40 days of Lent (the Christian 40-day-period of reflection before Easter).
What to eat in Graciosa
Fresh and delicious seafood (literally from ocean to the table) is abundant in all the Azores’ islands, and Graciosa is no exception.
The most challenging decision is to choose how you want to eat it. In a traditional stew or freshly grilled? Pair it with a chilled bottle of 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. The star-shaped pastry filled with 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 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.
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Know before you go
Where is Graciosa island?
Graciosa is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, one of Portugal’s autonomous regions.
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?
The same as in Portugal, the Euro (€).
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 to visit Graciosa Island?
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 do I travel to Graciosa island?
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)
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 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.