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Overview

Introduction

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The Brown Island - Sao Jorge is a long (55km) and narrow (8km wide) island with a total area of 246 sq.km, which was formed by a series of successive volcanic eruptions.

The craggy coastline plunges almost vertically (400m in parts) into the ocean with unique, frequent, small fertile flat areas (fajas) at the base of the cliffs. The central platform runs at an average height of 700m, rising to 1053m at the highest point.

80% of the island is high pasture which supports 20,000 dairy cattle producing high quality milk from which comes the famous Sao Jorge cheese, still manufactured using traditional techniques and the original recipe.

This is an island for walking, for exploring the little settlements on the fajas along the coast by car, for admiring the stunning scenery and visiting the two small port towns of Velas and Calheta.

16km across the water is Pico (accessible in one hour by boat) where a 2,351m volcano dominates the skyline and seems but a stone’s throw away.

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About Sao Jorge

Area: 245 sq. km
Length: 55 km (34 miles)
Width: 8 km (5 miles)
Population: 11,000 inhabitants
Capital: Velas

Highlights

Cheese
Try the delicious Sao Jorge cheese – you won’t be disappointed.

Pico da Esperanca
From here, the highest peak (1,053m) on the island, you can admire the central islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Faial and Pico. Other fine views can be enjoyed from the Miradouro points overlooking the Faja do Ouvidor and the Faja dos Cubres, and from the summit of Pico da Velha.

Birdlife
The Fajas of Santo Cristo and of Cubres are the best birding spots on the island, mainly for seabirds, waders, herons and egrets.  

Handicrafts
In Ribeira do Nabo you will find a small co-operative making and selling lace work and weaved products.

Fact
The lagoon of Faja do Santo Cristo is the only place in the Azores where clams can be fished.

Festivals

  • Espírito Santo (7 weeks after Easter)
  • Cultural week in Velas (1st week of July)
  • Music festival in Calheta (last week of July)

Note: Dates are subject to change.

Activities

Canyoning

Canyoning is an exciting combination of walking, scrambling, jumping, abseiling and swimming in some of the most spectacular scenery on the island of São Jorge. It has become a very popular extreme sport with fans all over the world and provides a unique experience in the middle of nature and at the same time moments of pure adrenaline. 

Baptism
This activity is aimed at beginners with no previous experience of canyoning. Basic training in rappelling techniques are provided and used to scale small vertical (not exceeding 15m) walls with a maximum number of six abseilings. The objective is to enjoy a new experience in a natural setting.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Picnic lunch (sandwich, juice, water, chocolate and fruit) included
  • Price is £86 per person

Advanced Baptism
This activity is aimed at people who have some previous experience in canyoning. Enjoy vertical water courses (over 20m) and several rappels and jumps. The waterways have access to the ocean and some of them you can only reach by boat.

  • Difficulty Level: Difficult
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Picnic lunch (sandwich, juice, water, chocolate and fruit) included
  • Price is £104 per person

Notes:

  • Daily pick-up from properties in Velas or Queimada at 09:00
  • Duration: 4-6 hours – all year
  • Location: Eastern part of the island
  • A short briefing is included before each activity and instruction in rappelling techniques
  • Maximum 6 people / Minimum 2 people
  • Minimum age: 8 years (Baptism) and 15 years (Advanced Baptism)
  • Equipment required: Towel, swim suit, shoes that can get wet (preferably mountain boots or running shoes), warm clothing, spare pair of shoes and clothing for the trip home and a bottle of water
  • Safety equipment provided: Neoprene wetsuit, socks and gloves, helmet and harness

Sea Kayaking

The kayaks used are ‘sit on top’ kayaks - they do not flood and are virtually unsinkable in normal use, and are able to navigate up to 300 meters from the shore. Clients will always be accompanied by one or two monitors depending on the route chosen. A short briefing is included before the activity.

Route to Faja dos Vimes
This activity begins at the harbour of Calheta (south coast). Heading east you will paddle to the Faja dos Vimes enjoying the scenery and the tranquil waters of the Pico - Sao Jorge channel and the only place where it is possible to visit the coffee plantations, try the coffee and visit the local handicraft facilities.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Duration: 3 hours (7km)
  • Price is £88 per person

Route Faja dos Vimes & Faja de Sao Joao
The Route from Faja dos Vimes to Faja de Sao Joao is truly fantastic. The route starts at Calheta’s Harbour by van to Faja dos Vimes (about 20 minutes). In Faja dos Vimes, before starting the Kayak activity, you will go for a coffee at Faja dos Vimes with its special flavour, unique in Europe. It is also possible to visit a small part of the Coffee Plantation and the Nunes Handicraft Workshop where the famous quilts are produced using manual wooden looms. After the morning coffee, you leave the coast and along the route you will pass by seven Fajas, starting with Faja dos Vimes, then Faja dos Bodes, Faja do Cavalete, Faja das Barreiras (abandoned since the 1980 earthquakes), Faja do Ginjal, Faja de Alem and finally Faja de Sao Joao. Along the way there are also two beautiful waterfalls which flow into the sea, the Ribeira do Cedro and Ribeira do Salto. The trip comes to an end in Faja de Sao Joao. This Faja has its own soul, beautiful for its nature and for its people’s dedication to working the land, hence it is quite famous for its wines, fruits, coffee and firewater.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Duration: 1 hour (7km)
  • Price is £99 per person

Notes:

  • Daily pick-up from properties in Velas or Queimada at 09:00 or 14:00
  • Difficulty: low technical requirement
  • Duration: 2-6 hours
  • Maximum 6 people - 2 people per kayak
  • Minimum age: 7 years - Children must be accompanied by parent/guardian
  • Equipment required: Towel, swim suit, rain jacket, shoes that can get wet, warm clothing, spare pair of shoes and clothing for the trip home and sun lotion and hat
  • Safety equipment provided: Life jackets

Guided Bike Tours

Sao Jorge is quite a mountainous island that can be quite challenging by bicycle, but the routes chosen for these tours are less technically demanding and therefore suitable for those who want to enjoy the nature of the island in a calm and peaceful way.

Guided Bike Tour - Extreme West - West End of Rosais (Half Day)
This route is located on the western part of the island and begins in Terreiro da Macela picnic park, in Beira, and ends next to the Church of Rosais. It is a mixed trail of asphalt and dirt track with several points of attraction, from the beginning of the trail to the Forest Park, from riding in between the trees, through the viewpoint of the Park, the old whaler’s watch, the old Lighthouse of Rosais and the all fauna and flora that inhabits this extraordinary landscape. On a clear day you will be able to see the central islands of Graciosa, Pico and Faial.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy-Medium
  • Duration: 3 hours (22km)
  • Price is £93 per person

Guided Bike Tour - Pico da Esperanca - Faja do Ouvidor (Half Day)
The route starts at Pico do Pedro and passes through Pico da Esperanca, with an altitude of 1,053 metres. The trail mostly follows a dirt track and ends at the beautiful Faja do Ouvidor. On a clear day you will be able to see the islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Pico and Faial and the central mountain range of the island. As you descend, you will notice a significant change in the flora. You will ride towards the north of the island that leads to the centre of the parish of Norte Grande and its view overlooking Faja do Ouvidor. After a short stop at the viewpoint, you will continue the descent for another 2km. Here, if the sea conditions allow, you can swim in the famous Simao Dias pool, a natural swimming pool carved out of the black basalt rock by the sea.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy-Medium
  • Duration: 3 hours (25km)
  • Price is £93 per person

Notes:

  • Minimum 2 people and maximum 8
  • Minimum age: 15 years
  • Included: Guides, transfers from meeting point to activity, mountain bike and helmet
  • Equipment required: Light and comfortable clothes; backpack; sun lotion; sunglasses; swimsuit and towel (optional - recommended for the summer), snack/ picnic and water.

Private Taxi Tours

Sunvil is able to pre-book the following private taxi tour on Sao Jorge. Tours can also be tailor-made to suit the individual requirements of our clients, please telephone us for a quotation.

Sao Jorge (Half Day)
Depart from Velas towards Beira where you will visit a traditional cheese factory. Continue to Calheta and Manadas, stopping at several breathtaking viewpoints en route. In Manadas you will visit the beautiful baroque parish church dedicated to Santa Barbara. Continue to Urzelina before returning to Velas.

  • Price is £122 per taxi

Sao Jorge (Full Day)
Depart from Velas along the south coast with several stops at viewpoints en route. You will see the typical Fajas at Ouvidor, Cubres and Caldeira Santo Cristo and visit the handicraft cooperative where you will see women weaving on looms to produce traditional rugs. Continue to Calheta and Manadas, stopping at several breathtaking viewpoints en route. In Manadas you will visit the beautiful baroque parish church dedicated to Santa Barbara (entrance fee c.1 Euro per person payable locally). Continue to Urzelina and the park of Sete Fontes before returning to Velas.

  • Price is £215 per taxi

Notes:

  • Departure from Velas at 09:00
  • Transfers from hotels outside of Velas are at a supplement on request
  • Prices are based on a maximum of 3 people per taxi
  • Full Day: 7 hours
  • Half Day: 3½ hours
  • Not included: Lunch and entrance fees to museums, parks and the cheese factory (c.1.50 Euros per person)
  • A qualified English speaking guide can be provided at a supplement on request

Guided Walks

The islands of the Azores, with their mild climate (day time temperature ranging from 14-22 degrees), are the most wonderful islands for walking. All walks are to be booked and paid for locally.

Serra do Topo / Faja dos Vimes
Starting at Serra do Topo, this trail stretches for 5km until reaching Faja dos Vimes. It begins at an altitude of 700 metres and descends to sea level in Faja dos Vimes on the South Coast of the Island. This trail was used by the ancient Faja inhabitants twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon to collect milk from the cows. It has a steep descent, mostly down steps. Here the use of hiking poles and proper footwear is recommended. This trail has a slope of 20 to 30 degrees and it starts with open views of the surrounding landscapes (Pico Island, Atlantic Ocean and South coast of the Island) and then closes in on its own flora, only opening again when reaching the road in Fajã dos Vimes. Here you can taste the delicious and unique coffee that is produced in Europe accompanied by a visit to the plantation of Cafe Nunes.

  • Duration: 5km (3 hours)
  • Difficulty: Grade 2 (Medium)
  • Linear Trail
  • Elevation: 700m
  • Price is £70 per person

Norte Pequeno (KM0)
KM0 is a network of trails in the Parish of Norte Pequeno on the north coast of Sao Jorge Island. There are 5 trails that share the same starting point and each of them ends in a different Faja. Faja do Mero, Faja das Funduras, Faja da Peneda, Faja das Pontas and Faja do Neca, a total length (all together) of 11km. Passing through these Fajas you will see that the geomorphology of each flat land area has different characteristics. At some points on this trail, especially at Fajã do Mero, you may have the chance to see an ancient steel cable used to transport firewood and incense that was cut in the high rocks of that site.

  • Duration: 11km (3 hours)
  • Difficulty: Grade 2 (Medium)
  • Circular Trail
  • Elevation: 450m
  • Price is £70 per person

Faja Sao Joao / Lourais / Faja dos Vimes
This trail starts in the beautiful Faja de Sao Joao, located on the south coast of Sao Jorge Island. It is a track dug in the hillside which is always in contact with the local culture, from architecture to agriculture. The first 5km are on the way to Lourais, which rises to 650m, and passes through Faja de Alem and Faja do Ginjal. After the Loural, the walk continues for another 5km downhill until reaching Faja dos Bodes. From this Faja, there is a further 1.5km to Faja dos Vimes where you will have the opportunity to visit the only coffee plantation in Europe - the plantation of Cafe Nunes.

  • Duration: 10km (5 hours)
  • Difficulty: Grade 2 (Medium)
  • Linear Trail
  • Elevation: 650m
  • Price is £70 per person

Serra do Topo / Faja da Caldeira do Santo Cristo / Faja dos Cubres
This route starts in Serra do Topo, next to the parking lot in the vicinity of Topo’s Wind Farm. It begins by climbing a wide track flanked by hydrangeas. Then there is a descent through a shortcut down the slope where you will see several species of endemic flora such as the Azores heather, the Azores juniper, the Azores blueberry and the Azores sanicle. The descent alternates between dirt and paved stone paths. Along the way you will visit a waterfall and continue the descent towards Faja do Santo Cristo. Upon arriving at the Faja, the walk proceeds along the waterfront that protects the Faja from the waves, and there will be a stop in a small hillock with a wider view of the Faja and the cliffs that backs it. Further ahead you will have a short stop in the Hermitage courtyard from where you will see the beautiful lagoon where you can bathe and which is also well known for being the cradle of the famous Sao Jorge clams. From here, follow the shortcut that surrounds the beautiful coastal lagoon on the left, towards Faja do Belo. After this Faja, follow the trail until arriving at a parking lot. You will continue on the road for another 800m until arriving at Nossa Senhora de Lourdes Hermitage where the trail ends.

  • Duration: 10km (5 hours)
  • Difficulty: Grade 2 (Medium)
  • Linear Trail
  • Elevation: 700m
  • Price is £70 per person

Notes:

  • Daily pick-up from properties in Velas or Queimada at 09:00 or 14:00
  • Departures: Daily
  • Minimum age: 6 years - Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • Equipment required: light clothing suitable for walking (recommended for spring / summer) and slightly warm and waterproof clothing (recommended for autumn / winter); footwear such as hiking boots with high tops to strengthen the ankle; a backpack; sunscreen; hiking pole (option); bathing suit or shorts and towel (optional and recommended for the summer), snack and a bottle of water.

Self-Guided Walks on Sao Jorge

The islands of the Azores, with their mild climate (day time temperature ranging from 14-22 degrees), are the most wonderful islands for walking. All walks are to be booked and paid for locally.

Serra do Topo
This walk is 4hr 30mins (10km) and is from the mountain range of Serra do Topo to Faja dos Cubres, on the north coast of Sao Jorge. The walk will take you along a magnificent path descending to Faja do Santo Cristo, one of the most isolated spots in the Azores, with a handful of resident families and a few summer houses for those visiting in the summer months. Spend time exploring the protected nature reserve of Faja do Santo Cristo, with its underground cave and lake, before continuing towards Faja dos Cubres. The island of Graciosa can be seen from here.

  • Grade 2 (Medium)

Loural
This is a 2hr 30mins (5km) walk. Starting at Loural you will walk along the steep slopes of Sao Jorge’s southern coastline through farming pastures before descending to Faja de Sao Joao and its village. Along this walk you will be able to enjoy a magnificent view across the ocean to Pico Island, with its towering volcano.

  • Grade 2 (Medium)

Pico das Caldeiras
This is a 5hr 30mins (16km) walk. Passing along the central part of the island from Pico das Caldeiras to Faja do Ouvidor via Pico da Esperanca which, at 1,053 metres, is the highest point on the island. As you descend towards the Faja do Ouvidor, stop at the viewpoint and admire the magnificent view along the coastline and over the agricultural pasture.

  • Grade 2 (Medium)

Note:

  • All walks can be booked and paid for locally

Useful information

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Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi
Best time to go
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Time Difference

GMT - 1 hour

Currency

Euro

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

4 hours 5 minutes

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Note: Map is for guidance purposes only.

Talk to our The Azores expert

Alison
Alison Garrard

Alison joined the Sunvil team in 2019 but has long been an extended member of our family, having sold our holidays as a travel agent for 25 years! Sunvil is more than a business, our approach to travel - introducing visitor to lesser-known places and placing them among the locals, is a concept that our staff buy into and feel passionate about. Our holidays are those that we ourselves enjoy and would recommend for our friends and family. Alison is no exception having chosen a Sunvil trip to the Azores for her honeymoon and having recently returned from Veneto.

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Sao Jorge

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

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