“São Jorge Azores: tips on planning your trip” is the fifth 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 São Jorge
- Top things to do in São Jorge Island
- Top cultural events in São Jorge Island
- Azores food: what to eat in São Jorge
- Local souvenirs
- Where to stay in São Jorge Island
- Know before you go
About São Jorge
Perfect island destination for fans of canyoning, cheese and offbeat “fajãs”.
São Jorge is one of the so-called “islands of the triangle” (the other two are the nearby islands of Faial and Pico). Discovered around 1460 and settled 10 years later, in the next centuries, the islanders endured pirate attacks, food scarcity, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Today, the island is known for producing (and exporting) one of the finest trademarked cheeses in Portugal — made with raw cow milk, bold, pungent, and slightly spicy.
Narrow and long, the “brown island” resembles the back of a sleeping dragon when seen from afar — hence the name (according to the Christian mythology, St. George was known for slaying a dragon that tormented a fictitious village in Libya). São Jorge is famous for its steep cliffs that either end abruptly in the sea or smooth out into small flat areas at sea level known as “fajãs” — secluded, mysterious, and incredibly fertile to produce almost anything off that land.
Top things to do in São Jorge island
Due to its steep cliffs, São Jorge is labeled as one of the best islands in the Azores for canyoning and climbing. If, however, you’re not ready yet for extreme sports, hiking the marked trails is a great option to get the island under your skin.
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)
They are experts in canyoning and have plenty of options for a stress-free, active holiday. Their booking form is extremely thorough to include options for visitors with dietary restrictions such as vegetarians (the islands’ cuisine is based on pork, beef, and fish; sometimes finding alternative meals can be challenging).
Rua Nova, 91
Activities: eight different canyoning experiences, bike tours, walking trails, rock climbing.
Experienced in outdoor activities, their motto is simple but powerful: “We make it happen!”
Activities: surf trips, marine species observation trips, diving.
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A photo posted by Jorge Azevedo (@jorge_azevedo_) on
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 the town of Velas in July. The major happenings include local folklore events, concerts, book fairs, and local gastronomy shows.
Also in July, the town of Calheta is home to the July Festival with concerts, ethnographical parades, and sports activities.
Both the events attract people from all over São Jorge but also, due to the proximity and excellent boat connections, folks from the neighboring islands.
Azores food: what to eat in São Jorge
The (probably) Flemish-influenced local cheese is the star, but one can’t really make a substantial meal out of a dairy product, right? (By the way, there is no right answer to this question. I’m a biased Sao Jorge cheese enthusiast, so I can pledge to you that 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 a rare delicacy in 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 a unique and spicy 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.
A photo posted by Vanessa Fernandes (@va.eatingclean) on
What to buy as a souvenir
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, probably even give them a little helping hand), local canned tune Santa Catarina (Dolphin Safe certified), and handmade blankets known as “mantas de Sao Jorge”.
Where to stay in São Jorge 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). We 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)
Views of the island’s green pastures and the Ocean. Outdoor swimming pool and restaurant on site. Rating of 8.2 on Booking.com
Quinta do Canavial
Low season (November 1st to April 15th): prices start from 60€/US $66, per room
High season (April 16th to October 31st): prices start from 70€/US $77, per room
Classical 18th Century house fully refurbished. The rural elements tie in seamlessly with the modern amenities. Rating of 9.3 on Booking.com
Casa da Ermida
Low season (January 1st to May 31st): 70€/US $77, per day
High season (June 1st to August 31st): 120€/US $133, per day
Secluded country house in Calheta. Classical local style, fully refurbished.
70€/US $77 per night (minimum 3 nights; price for 4 guests)
A photo posted by Yazores (@yazores) on
Know before you go
These are the most frequently asked questions about the Azores islands in general (and the island of São Jorge in particular). If you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to email me.
Where is São Jorge island?
São Jorge 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 São Jorge island?
Is there a post office in São Jorge island?
What Visa do I need to visit São Jorge 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 in São Jorge 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 São Jorge island?
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
How big is São Jorge island?
The area of São Jorge island is 243.9 square kilometers (approximately 94.17 square miles).
How far is São Jorge island from Lisbon?
1,638 km (approximately 1,017 miles)
How many people live in São Jorge island?
9,171 people, according to the last census of 2011.
How many main towns does São Jorge Island have?
São Jorge has two main towns (concelhos in Portuguese), Calheta and Velas (where the airport is).
How do I travel to São Jorge 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 (regular trips from Faial and Pico, Green Line): Atlanticoline SA.
How is the weather in São Jorge island?
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F.
When is the best time to visit São Jorge island?
July for the Velas’ Cultural Week (“Semana Cultural das Velas”) and for Calheta’s July Festival (“Festival de Julho”).
Are there earthquakes in São Jorge island?*:
The level of seismic activity as very low.(Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Is there WiFi and cell phone coverage in São Jorge island?
Yes, 3G and 4G.
When will you start planning your trip to the Azores?
Tips on planning your trip to the other Azores islands: