Depending on how you look at it, Europe either begins or ends here at the Western-most Azorean island of Flores, which, along with Corvo, forms the western group of islands of the archipelago. It is believed that Flores was first discovered sometime between 1450 and 1452, but isolation marked the island's development and only with the construction of an airport in the 1960s did Flores develop a stronger connection to the outside world.
Today, the island lives on fishing, agriculture and blossoming tourism. Flores is a welcome escape from the modern world, with a slow pace that is hard to find anywhere else these days. The island is a mix of deep green forests, pastures, and fields. As the name suggests, Flores is always in bloom with wild flowers, including blue hydrangeas and wild cubres (a yellow bloom) grown on seaside cliffs. The landscape is rugged, with crater lakes and dramatic coastal cliffs. And, there are more crater lakes, waterfalls, and sea cliffs than any other island in the Atlantic. The rocky coasts of Flores are dotted with tiny islands, some home to grazing sheep.
Corvo is an even more isolated, sparsely populated place. Named for a crow, it was the last of the archipelago to be settled. The island seems to swirl around a huge crater, some 500 feet deep. Corvo is home to just a few hundred people – all living in the seaside village of Vila Nova do Campo. There are no other towns. Corvo is mostly open hinterland (inviting for private hikes, and being at one with the sky and sea). Corvo was sighted around 1450, and settled by 1548.
The island’s isolation led to an interesting trading relationship with pirates, who where given supplies in exchange for protection. Many visitors now come to Corvo for its excellent scuba diving and fishing. Others seek the beauty of its landscape, and the solitude of one of Europe’s most isolated places.
The small and hilly island of Graciosa was discovered in 1450. Soon, the island’s green fields were drawing people from throughout Portugal and Flanders. While Graciosa has not seen volcanic activity in some 500 years, the island has active geysers. Called the white island, there are low hills at the center of the island around a series of extinct volcano craters. Azoreans know Graciosa for its fine wines and brandy produced from Isabela grapes, for its Flemish-inspired windmills, for its famous cheese cakes, and for small craftshops producing handmade embroidery and linens.