Colours of the Azores islands

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A few days ago, I talked with a friend about the colours of the Azores islands. And why are they different colours, even though all islands should be referred to as green.

Each of the Azores islands has one colour assigned to it. Terceira is purple, Santa Maria is yellow, Graciosa is white – and so on. Only São Miguel is called green.

Where did the colours of the Azores islands come from?

The colours of the Azores islands were given by the inhabitants. They are based on the characteristics of each island. And although the vegetation is intensely green almost everywhere, other features of the islands were also taken into account.

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Santa Maria – the yellow island, the island of the sun

Santa Maria is the oldest and warmest of the Azores islands. It is the closest to Africa and its climate is different from that of the other islands in the archipelago. It’s attributed its yellow colour mainly due to genista (bushes with intense yellow flowers) growing on the slopes of the island. An additional aspect is the vegetation that is dry in summer. Due to warmer air temperatures and less rainfall than on other islands, Santa Maria’s vegetation turns yellow in summer. The third aspect is the sun – there is a lot of it on Santa Maria!

São Miguel – the green island

São Miguel is the largest island in the archipelago. Its landscape consists of vast meadows and pastures, and dense forests full of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). Japanese cedar is a species brought to the Azores in the 19th century. It is a kind of a showcase of the Azores, but also displaces endemic vegetation. On São Miguel, Japanese cedar was planted mainly in river valleys and in less accessible areas. The green colour of the island is the colour of these trees and native species still present in some places, incl. Erica azorica (a plant from the heather family), laurel or holly.

Terceira – the lilac island

In my opinion, Terceira is rather green than lilac. Especially since Terceira has the largest area of native forest in the entire archipelago, it’s here that endemic plant species are studied. But Terceira was called the lilac island, so let me explain it. It’s not about purple hydrangeas, although they certainly complete the picture. They are spectacular wisterias that you can admire, among others in the city garden in Angra. The purple element, of which there is also a lot here, are the facades of buildings on the island.

Graciosa – the white island

Graciosa is the second smallest island in the archipelago. You can walk around it in one day. It has a lot of bright, whitish rocks – and that is what Graciosa owes its white colour to. These rocks are volcanic trachite, changed over many years of geological processes. These processes turn it into a whitish colour.

São Jorge – the brown island

São Jorge wears the colour brown because of the brown rocks falling into the ocean or into the famous fajãs. One of the brown areas is the rocks on Ponta dos Rosais – the first point you can see when you approach the island from the west. The arable lands are also brown. São Jorge is also a dragon island – but that’s another story.

Pico – the gray island

Pico is an island with Portugal’s highest mountain of the same name – Pico (2351 m above sea level). It emerges in its gray from the green vegetation of the island. Pico is also called the gray island because of the vast expanses of dried lava, stone walls surrounding the UNESCO-listed vineyards and the mysterious maroiços – stone pyramids.

Faial – the blue island

Faial is an island that has strong connections with the sea for centuries. It’s here, in Horta, that the famous seaport and the famous Peter Café Sport bar are located. Connection with the sea is not the only reason why the island is called blue. The second reason is lush blue-coloured hydrangeas. You can find them all around the Cabeço Gordo viewpoint, on the road leading to Caldeira in the center of the island and other roads on the island. There is plenty of blue on Faial.

Flores – the pink island

Even though Flores is considered to be the greenest island in the Azores, its colour is pink. This is because of the numerous azaleas and hydrangeas that are found on it. Winding among the intense green of vegetation and the blue of waterfalls and streams, they are a kind of showcase of the island. After all, „flores” means „flowers” in English.

Corvo – the black island

Corvo is a black island. And not because of the ravens („corvo” is „raven”). It is called a black island for two reasons. First, because of its size – when viewed from Flores, it resembles a black spot on the horizon. Second, because of the black soil and black volcanic rock it abounds in. Corvo is a black spot on the horizon, full of black rocks.

Colourful Azores on a bracelet

For me, as I mentioned, all the islands in the Azores should be described as green and blue. But other colours are also present, I admit. And you can even find them on… bracelets!

Yes, yes, you read it right – on bracelets. One of the most interesting souvenirs that you can bring from the Azores is a bracelet. But not some ordinary bracelet. Basalt bracelet. With beads in the colours of the 9 Azores islands.

I don’t have such a bracelet yet, but let’s agree on one thing – I don’t need one yet. But if I ever move out of here, I will definitely get one. May the colours of the Azores always be with me!

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