São Jorge Island is a small island in the central group of the Azores archipelago. It is an island with immense natural diversity and it looks greener and more humid than the others.
Check out our post about the Azores for more information on this archipelago and how to visit it.
The main activity on the island is the production of cattle, with the objective of producing milk which is the raw material for the production of the most typical product on the island: the Island Cheese. It is an intense flavour of cheese that we love and that has DOP.
Being an island with a lot of natural diversity, it is the perfect place for lovers of outdoor walks. Its geography, and its fajãs, create the perfect environment for trails by the sea with incomparable views and experiences. It is undoubtedly breathtaking to see the fajãs at the top of the hills. This was the main motivation for visiting the island, we wanted to see the fajãs and make the trail by the sea between Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo.
The island is small and in our opinion for those who want to see only the main attractions and make a small trail, a day’s visit is sufficient, however, if you intend to explore the island in more detail, we recommend you stay at least one night. The beauty and simplicity of this island are something that everyone should have the opportunity to visit at least once, with the quality and diversity of the natural heritage existing in Portugal very evident.
During the low season, it is normal for some shops to be closed, since it is not sustainable to maintain activity and there is almost no tourism at that time.
What is São Jorge known for?
São Jorge island is known for its natural beauty, with dramatic cliffs and lush valleys. It is also famous for traditional crafts such as lace and pottery, and delicious local cuisine such as fresh seafood and cheese made with local milk.
São Jorge is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts such as hiking, biking and diving. The island has several nature reserves, including the Pico da Esperanza Natural Park, the largest nature reserve in the Azores.
In addition to its natural and cultural attractions, São Jorge is known for its role in the history of the Azores. First settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, the island played an important role in the region’s whaling industry over the following centuries. Today, visitors can explore the island’s museums and historic sites, offering a glimpse into São Jorge’s rich past.
How to get to São Jorge Island
The most common ways to get to São Jorge Island are by boat or by flight from another island in the archipelago. There is a regular ferry service between the various islands in the Azores that allow you to reach other islands throughout the year. In the low season, the frequency and routes are shorter, but it usually allows you to take the outbound boat early in the morning and return at the end of the day. The two islands closest to São Jorge are Faial and Pico.
Check here the prices and timetables for ferries to the islands of the triangle
If you choose to reach the island by plane, the local company SATA has regular connections with the other islands in the Azores.
If you use a SATA flight, you must keep your boarding pass, as it gives you access to museums under the supervision of the general direction of culture and archipelago – contemporary arts centre.
Find here your flight to the Azores
Where to stay on São Jorge Island
In São Jorge, the biggest offer of accommodation is mostly in local accommodation units but there are also some hotels.
We do not stay any night on the island, so we will not be able to recommend any place to stay, however, we suggest that you use a search aggregator such as Booking for the purpose.
Find here your accommodation in São Jorge
How to get around São Jorge
São Jorge is an island where the terrain is very rugged. There are many escarpments, places where you can find the famous Fajãs typical of the island. To visit them it will help to have a car or a motorcycle. Public transport exists but will not allow you to reach everywhere. Having a motor vehicle will help you maximize your time on the island.
In addition to having a car or a motorcycle allowing you to move around the island, it will also allow you when you visit other islands to use the same means of transport since on some of the ferries between the islands you can also take the car or the motorcycle with you. Car hire in the Azores is relatively cheap, and the roads allow you to explore the islands in peace. You should always be aware that cattle often travel on the same roads and in fog, you must double your attention.
Find here your rent-a-car in São Jorge
What to see and do on São Jorge Island
Velas e Calheta
Velas and Calheta are the two main ports on the island. Both villages are located on the south coast of São Jorge. With a rural and fishing atmosphere, they create a relaxing atmosphere to explore the small streets of the villages. In the village of Velas it is possible to visit the pleasant garden of Praça da República.
Manadas or Church of Santa Bárbara, was once one of the main ports of exit for wine production through its port. In the area, it is possible to visit the Church of Santa Bárbara, a Ermida de Santo António e a Ermida de Santa Rita de Cássia, Ermida da Senhora da Guadalupe e a Ermida de Santo Cristo.
Conservas de Santa Catarina
Canned foods from Santa Catarina are among the best that are produced in Portugal. Nowadays they can be found for sale everywhere, but it is worthwhile to go to the factory and buy them at the kiosk at the entrance. Prices are more affordable and there is more variety – including new recipes. You can take a guided tour of the factory by appointment.
Ponta e Parque dos Rosais
Ponta dos Rosais is the name given to the northwestern tip of São Jorge Island, rising to more than 200 meters above sea level. It corresponds to a land area of approximately 170.2 ha, including the islets and Ponta dos Rosais.
Torre Sineira Urzelina
In Urzelina there is a bell tower, the only part of a church that survived the volcanic eruption of 1808.
Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo
The Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is undoubtedly one of the most magical places we visited on São Jorge Island. We did the trail on foot from Fajã dos Cubres to Caldeira de Santo Cristo. This linear trail by the sea, with about 10 km round trip, is part of the PR1SJO trail that goes from Serra do Topo, passes through Caldeira de Santo Cristo, and ends at Fajã dos Cubres. We chose to make only half, a round trip because we left the car at Fajã dos Cubres.
In addition to the magnificent scenery along the trail, the lagoon is known for its famous clams. There is a restaurant on site that serves clams, but unfortunately, when we visited the place, it was closed.
Check here for more information about this trail
Fajã dos Cubres
Fajã do Cubres is one of the most exotic and beautiful places on São Jorge Island. Viewed from above, with its lagoon and basalt houses, it is a unique landscape that is worth seeing both from above and inside.
Serra e Vila do Topo
Ponta do Topo, is the name given to the eastern part of São Jorge Island. It was actually a formation originating from the most recent volcanic eruption that ended up forming a new island that joined the existing one. It is one of the highest elevations on the island and its unique landscape is composed of the forest with some interruptions of green meadows where cattle graze.
Fajã do Ouvidor
Fajã do Ouvidor is one of the largest and best-known fajãs on the island of São Jorge. It is an area with commerce, housing, and natural pools. But what makes it unique is the viewpoint that allows a panoramic view of the three fajãs and the Atlantic Ocean.
Where to eat on São Jorge Island
Fornos de Lava (Velas)
It is a restaurant that serves local delicacies with a fabulous panoramic view over the island of Pico. It serves fresh fish and is grilled over charcoal.
Naval Restaurant (Velas)
It is a restaurant located next to the candle port and serves traditional dishes. The charcoal grills stand out.
Taberna Agueda (Fajã de São João)
It is a restaurant of traditional dishes. Usually, the menu is small and the restaurant has a very cosy decor. The view is also pleasant.
Eating Clams at Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo
In the fajã of Caldeira de Santo Cristo, there is a species of clam in the natural lagoon that is only found in that part of the island. They say they are one of the best clams that can be eaten in Portugal. Unfortunately, when we visited the island we didn’t have the opportunity to try it, since the only restaurant in the fajã was closed.
Try the São Jorge Cheese at the LactaAçores factory store
What’s better than being able to try the products right where they are produced? That’s what we did, we visited the LactaAçores factory. There is a small shop in the factory where it is possible to buy the cheeses produced there together with other traditional products from the Azores.
In this shop there is also a snack bar, which seemed to us to be mostly used by factory workers, however, it is possible to eat a cheese sandwich from the island. You shouldn’t expect much sophistication, but what we tried was honest, both in taste and price and the service was friendly.
Delight in the Espécies at Dulçores
The Espécies are a typical sweet of São Jorge Island. This is the best place on the island to try them out.
If you still have time
Explore the Trails of São Jorge Island
Being an island with a unique natural diversity and landscape, there are several options of trails to do during your visit to the island.
If you still have time, take a look at the list of official trailers here
Visit the island of Faial and Pico
São Jorge Island is part of the central group of islands triangle, together with Faial Island and Pico Island. Its proximity and the existence of regular ferry services create the ideal conditions for using Faial Island as a base for visiting the other two islands. This was our option when we visited Faial Island.
Visiting São Jorge Island was certainly a surprise for us. We were fascinated by its natural diversity and the beauty of the landscapes respected and almost untouched by man. It is the ideal island for those who like to walk outdoors. If you visit the Azores, be sure to spend at least one day in this green paradise.
- Order your Revolut card - the only card we use while traveling
- Book your flight to São Jorge with Momondo or with Skyscanner
- Find your accomodation in São Jorge with Booking
- Rent your car with Rentalcars
- We recommend the travel guide DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Azores
- Chose your travel insurance with Iati (with 5% off) or with World Nomads