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The volcanic island of Graciosa makes up part of the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic.
Known as the ‘White Island’ due to a white clay landscape and its sea of whitewashed houses, it oozes rural charm and tranquillity. It also boasts a Dutch-style backdrop of windmills scattered across vast fields and colourful vineyards.
In Vila da Praia, make sure you visit the Church of Sao Mateus, which features a fascinating 18th Century organ.
A hike up the 129m ‘Monte de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda’ gives you stunning views overlooking Santa Cruz. There are also some wonderful shrines nearby, most notably the ‘Chapel of our Lady of Help’, which is a fine example of fortified religious architecture.
Venturing through one of the island’s sulphur caverns, in particular, ‘Furna do Enxofre’, makes for a thrilling day. There is a 100-metre deep natural tunnel which leads to an awe-inspiring lake, filled with sulphur water in the volcano’s crater. Although cold, it is perfectly safe to bathe in and has positive nutrients for your skin.
There are more mineral baths to be found in Carapacho in the south. Here, you can relax in hot spring baths which are believed to contain medicinal waters.
The volcanic soil encourages excellent vine growth. Therefore, naturally, Graciosa boasts some fine wines. Inside the ethnographic museum in Santa Cruz, you can learn everything you need to know about the local wine culture.
Graciosa is very well connected with the other islands in the Azores. There are frequent, short journeys from Terceira, Pico, Sao Jorge, Faial and Sao Miguel. However, there are slightly longer sailings from Santa Maria and Flores which take just under a day with one crossing each week.