Graciosa Island: a landscape sprinkled with windmills and volcanic craters
Terceira: the third discovery among the nine Azorean islands

São Jorge: island of fine cheese

S. Jorge cheese
Credits: visitportugal.com

While cheese is made on all the islands, São Jorge has made fine cheese its calling card. This central Azorean island lies 35 miles south of Graciosa, encompassing 92 square miles.  A central peak, Esperança Peak, rises to 3,497 feet. The whole island looks a bit like an aircraft carrier, as the long and narrow central plateau of the island soars above the sea. The central plain of the island is relatively flat, making it a perfect walking destination with quiet roads, open fields and an abundance of trails to choose from.

São Jorge produces everything from wine to cereals, but it is best known for its cheese. The dairy cows dotting the open green pastures are a good clue to this important industry. They far out-number the 8,000 residents and are often seen being herding along the island’s red dirt roads. There are five cheese factories operating on the island, giving visitors the opportunity to learn and witness the finer points of cheese science during an up close and personal tour that shows you exactly how cheese is made. 

The two main towns, Velas and Calheta, are both on the island's warmer south coast. Visitors can find historic churches and palaces in each town, with both surrounded by manor homes. Most other towns on the island are found along the cliffs at the coast rather than inland in an effort to leave room for the grazing and growing that takes place in the island's interior. 

In the seaside town of Urzelina, a half-ruined church is all that remains from an 1808 volcanic eruption while the botanical forest park of Sete Fontes is a wonderful stop for a picnic, with garden paths, a small zoo and a variety of rare plants and trees. 

Faja dos Cubres in Sao Jorge island
Credits: Associação de Turismo dos Açores
But, another claim to fame are the Fajãs. These shelves of flat land often sit a few hundred feet below steep cliffs. They were produced by secondary eruptions, spilling lava into the sea, making the unique perch that are Fajãs.

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