The nine mountainous islands of the Azores situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean were discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th Century and long a haven for Atlantic traders and explorers sailing between the Old and New Worlds. The islands have volcanic origins that have created a beautiful and unspoilt environment of craters, lakes, sheer cliffs and lush valleys, to which man has seemingly added only picturesque whitewashed houses and stately little baroque churches. On the green and fertile island of Sao Miguel is Ponta Delgada while
Praia di Vitoria is on Terceira Island and gives access to Angra de Heroism. The tranquil little port of Horta stands on pretty Faial Island. Other towns include Vila do Porto on Santa Maria Island and Velas on Sao Jorge Island. Graciosa Island is also worth a visit.
Although the Azores were included on a map as early as 1351, Portuguese sailors are not known to have reached them until 1427. The islands were settled by Portuguese and Flemish colonists beginning in the 1430s and 1440s. Occupied by Spain from 1580 to 1640 (when Portugal was under Spanish rule), the islands were a place of rendezvous for returning fleets (especially those from the Caribbean), and thus became a theatre of sea warfare between the Spanish and the English.
The following 8 cruises call at Azores.
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