São Jorge is famous for its cheese and its headlands, the so called Fajã’s. It is probably the most underrated of all Azorean Islands. São Jorge is one of the three islands that make up together with Faial and Pico the triangle. If you are looking for untouched pastures above high cliffs or are a fan of matured cheese, then this is the place for you. Due to its location, you can see at clear and even at less clear days the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Faial and Pico, all of them within 20 to 40 km.
Cheese and headlands
Looking at the cows grazing the fields high above the cliffs leaves no doubt that cheese must be one of the major assets of the place. The cheese from São Jorge can probably be compared to a hearty Gruyère or a Comté. Its characteristics reflect the sometimes harsh forces of nature on the fields of São Jorge. One thing is sure, the cows never see a stable and spend all their time out on the green. São Jorge cheese you can nowadays even buy at the airport of Lisbon, but its other key attraction, the Fajã’s you can only experience on spot. As the island is basically a long needle, 55 km in length but only 8 km wide and with its highest peak just above 1000 m the shoreline is mostly made up of high cliffs. At some places, though the shore is broken by headlands of volcanic origins, the so called Fajã’s. Being at sea level the Fajã’s have a favorite climate for agriculture of which still nowadays is taken advantage. The small villages at the bottom are contemporary witnesses of a time when these places were isolated and self sufficient.
Exploring São Jorge means that you will have to drive quite some distances, visiting the Fajã’s means that you will need to take some steep winding roads down to sea level. The highlight among the Fajã’s is definitely the Fajã da Caldeira do Santo Cristo with its lagoon. There is one specialty, you can only reach it by foot, which adds to the magic of the place. Fajã dos Vimes on the south coast can easily be reached by car and has a very special attraction, a commercial coffee plantation. At the western tip of the island, high above the ocean you find the ruins of the lighthouse Farol da Ponta das Rosais from where you have a great view over to Faial and to Graciosa. Not far is another hidden treasure, the park Parque Florestal das Sete Fontes. The Parque Terra Nostra in Furnas on São Miguel might be the perfect park, standing up to any other botanical garden in the world. The Parque das Sete Fontes is all what you expect from a mystical garden, small streams, ponds, old trees, little houses overgrown with moss. The perfect place to get the feeling of being in the middle of a fairytale.
São Jorge has 8500 inhabitants, two major towns, Velas and Calheta and numerous small villages spread around the islands. There are two major roads, one on the north and one on the south of the 50 km mountain ridge which makes up for the island. When visiting the Fajã’s by car be ready for some steep and narrow roads winding down to the sea. São Jorge has daily flights to Terceira, alternatively there is an all year ferry service to Pico and Faial.