Azores

We chart a course through the islands

We then set off to Madeira

The Azores is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 1,400 km west of Lisbon, about 1,500 km northwest of Morocco, and about 1,930 km southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock, fishing, and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. The government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in the service and tertiary sectors.

The largest city of the Azores is Ponta Delgada. The culture, dialect, cuisine, and traditions of the Azorean islands vary considerably, because these remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries. There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600 km and lie in a northwest–southeast direction. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity in the time since the islands were settled several centuries ago.

Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m . The climate of the Azores is very mild for such a northerly location, being influenced by its distance from the continents and by the passing Gulf Stream. Because of the marine influence, temperatures remain mild year-round. Daytime temperatures normally fluctuate between 16 and 25 °C depending on season. Temperatures above 30 °C or below 3 °C are unknown in the major population centres. It is also generally wet and cloudy.

In 1943, during World War II, the Portuguese ruler Salazar leased air and naval bases in the Azores to Great Britain. The occupation of these facilities in October 1943 was codenamed Operation Alacrity by the British. This was a key turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, enabling the Royal Air Force, the U.S. Army Air Forces, and the U.S. Navy to provide aerial coverage in the Mid-Atlantic gap. This helped them to protect convoys and to hunt hostile German U-boats. In 1944, the U.S. constructed a small and short-lived air base on the island of Santa Maria. In 1945, a new base was constructed on the island of Terceira, named Lajes Field.

During the Cold War, U.S. Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare squadrons patrolled the North Atlantic for Soviet submarines. Since its opening, Lajes Field has been used for refuelling American cargo planes. In 1976, the Azores became the Autonomous Region of the Azores , one of the autonomous regions of Portugal. In 2003, the Azores saw international attention when United States President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso held a summit there days before the commencement of the Iraq War,

Cruise Lisbon to Buenos Aires