History of Santa Maria

History of Santa Maria 

Located in the most southeastern part of the beautiful Azores Archipelago, the Island of Santa Maria was the first to be officially discovered, by Diogo Silves, around 1427, and its capital is located in Vila do Porto, the oldest of the Azores villages.

The archipelago of the Azores is divided into three groups: the Eastern Group, consisting of São Miguel, Santa Maria and the Formigas islets; the Central Group with Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira and Graciosa; and the Western Group, formed by the islands of Flores and Corvo. The date of the Archipelago’s discovery is unknown, but historical chains claim that the Azores islands already appeared in Genovese maps in 1351. Nevertheless, it was in 1431 that the islands began to be populated.

The Island of Santa Maria maintains its ancient traditions, combined with a unique architectural heritage and amazing nature, owner of great pieces of land of sedimentary origin where varied marine fossils can be found – a testimony of the passage of centuries in this territory.

The highest point on the island is located at Pico Alto, at an altitude of 590 meters, from where it’s possible to view panoramas of great beauty, allowing you to really observe the territory’s natural intensity.

A place of fertile territory, over the centuries it has taken advantage of the best that the land has to offer, basing its economy on agriculture and livestock, but also in other sectors, such as transportation, especially aerial, with great developments since the construction of the Airport.

The Island of Santa Maria is characterized by its housing nuclei, which are a great reminder of the continental regions of the Algarve and Alentejo, with white masonry houses decorated with colored bands, a legacy left by the first settlers in the 15th century, who mainly originated from these regions. Full of natural beauty, Santa Maria is known for the beautiful colors of its landscapes, where the yellow and ocher of the soil and its harvests, the green of the fields and the deep blue of the ocean create unique sceneries, with so much to see and experience, providing the best conditions for the practice of sports and activities, both natural and leisure, or simple contemplation.

In the Santa Maria Museum, in Santo Espírito, you’ll discover more about this beautiful Island’s history and ethnography, which is also famous for its handcraft with items made in red clay, wool, wicker and straw.