Discover Santa Maria, the warmest island in the Azores archipelago and Christopher Columbus’s first stop on his voyage back from discovering the New World in 1492. The most southerly of the islands, Santa Maria claims that it enjoys more sunshine and balmier water temperatures than its neighbours. The beautiful landscape is dotted with small farms and native shrubs, rising to the central volcano of Pico Alto. Hikers will be tempted into walks up to its peak, while the island’s sandy bays, spectacular coastline and promise of manta rays lure divers to explore the surrounding waters.
During your stay, head to the tiny village of Anjos for the Nossa Senhora dos Anjos Chapel, where Columbus and his crew offered thanks to the Lord for a safe passage. Also worth a visit is the 15th century town of Vila do Porto - the oldest in the Azores - with long streets leading to the 16th century cliff top fort of São Brás with the port below.
From São Miguel it only takes 30 minutes to fly to Santa Maria and is perfect for those looking to relax and enjoy the sunshine, as the south of the island is home to one of the best beaches in the Azores: Praia Formosa.