How to plan a trip to São Jorge Island in the Azores

How to plan a trip to São Jorge Island in the Azores

About São Jorge

It’s the perfect island destination for fans of canyoning, cheese and offbeat fajãs.

Together with Pico and Faial, São Jorge is one of the so-called “triangle islands.” Discovered around 1460 and settled 10 years later, the islanders endured pirate attacks, food scarcity, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions in the next centuries. 

Today, the island is known for producing (and exporting) one of the finest trademarked cheeses in Portugal.

Narrow and long, the brown island resembles a sleeping dragon’s back when seen from afar, hence the name. According to Christian mythology, St. George slew the dragon that tormented a fictitious village in Libya. 

São Jorge is famous for its steep cliffs that either end abruptly or smooth out into small flat areas at sea level known as fajãs: secluded, mysterious, and incredibly fertile to produce almost anything.

Top things to do in São Jorge island

São Jorge’s steep cliffs make it one of the best islands in the Azores for canyoning and climbing. However, if you’re not ready yet for extreme sports, hiking the marked trails is a great option to get the island under your skin.

Local companies

  • Aventour (bike tours/MTB, birdwatching, canoeing/kayaking, canyoning, hiking, horseback riding) –
  • São Jorge Dive & Sail Center (scuba diving, yachting) –

Top cultural events in São Jorge island

St. George is celebrated in April, but the most talked about event on the island is the Cultural Week in Velas in July. The major events include local folklore, concerts, book fairs, and food festivals.

In July, the July Festival happens in Calheta with concerts, ethnographical parades, and sports activities.

Both the events attract people from all over São Jorge and, due to the proximity and excellent boat connections, folks from the neighboring islands.

What to eat in São Jorge

The (probably) Flemish-influenced local cheese is the star. Still, one can’t really make a substantial meal out of a dairy product, right? 

By the way, there is no right answer to that question. I’m a biased Sao Jorge cheese enthusiast, so living off a cheese-and-bread diet for a few days is absolutely possible. But the island has other foodie favorites that I should tell you about.

Exceptional, tasty, meaty clams from the famous Caldeira de Santo Cristo (a Nature Reserve and Special Ecological Area) are rare on the island.

These are organic clams, not farmed, which means harvesting them may be subject to local environmental regulations. On the other hand, you’re not here to harvest them but to taste them, so ask around for restaurant recommendations.

Equally famous, the espécies are spicy and sweet treat horseshoe-shaped pastries with a filling seasoned with cinnamon, anise, and pepper. Don’t be alarmed by this combination; the spicy kick is surprisingly well-balanced and mild.

Local souvenirs

As much cheese as you can carry, bought directly from the local factory (there’s a chance you even get to take a look at how it’s done)

Local canned tuna Santa Catarina (Dolphin Safe certified), and handmade blankets called mantas de São Jorge.

Find a place to stay

Know before you go

São Jorge is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, one of Portugal’s autonomous regions.

Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.

The same as in Portugal, the Euro (€).

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 São Jorge island is 243.9 square kilometers (approximately 94.17 square miles).

1,638 km (approximately 1,017 miles).

9,171 people, according to the last census of 2011.

By plane:
SATA Air Acores – between islands
Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and Ryanair (via São Miguel or Terceira) – from the Portuguese mainland and other countries.

By boat:
Atlanticoline SA (regular trips from Faial and Pico – Green Line) – between islands

The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F.

July for the Velas’ Cultural Week (“Semana Cultural das Velas”) and for Calheta’s July Festival (“Festival de Julho”).

The level of seismic activity is very low. (Source)

*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.

Check the travel tips for the other Azores islands

6 thoughts on “How to plan a trip to São Jorge Island in the Azores

    • Hi Sandra
      Many thanks for your informative post and wonderful photos!
      As an older Australian , it is unlikely that I will ever be lucky enough to visit Sao Jorge and Velas. My paternal great great grandfather and his brother were born there though they shared different surnames. In their late teens they sailed from Lisbon to Sydney, Australia where they both married and spent the remainder of their lives. I would love to discover more about their childhoods in Velas so that’s why I’m contacting you . Can you please tell me if there is a museum or family history site in Velas that might have records I could read online? I would be grateful for any assistance you can give though I know it is a long shot as records have probably been destroyed in times of volcanic eruptions on the island.
      Thanks, in anticipation for any assistance you can provide.

    • I love the Azores and appreciate your commitment to this series. I have only been to Sao MIguel but I hope to visit one or two more islands the next time I visit!

    • very nice & useful post . Thanks for your sharing

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