Geopark - Azores
The Azores archipelago, made up of nine islands and various islets, is situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Along with the archipelagos of Madeira, the Canaries and Cape Verde, they form Macaronesia, an important biogeographic region of the Atlantic, the name of which means “islands of the fortunate.” The volcanic origins of the Azores, in addition to the geography and geotectonics of this region of the world, are re ected in a rich and vast geodiversity and important geological heritage, making the archipelago a natural laboratory of volcanic geodiversity. Because of the value of this geodiversity, the geological heritage and the importance of its landscape as an economic resource, the Azores Geopark was created in 2010, and recognised as a European Geopark in 2013 and a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2015. The aim of this approach is to link a strategy of geoconservation to education and environmental awareness policies, and to promote the sustainable socio-economic development of the archipelago on the basis of geotourism.
The Azores Geopark is based on a network of 121 geosites throughout the nine islands and surrounding marine area, of which six have international value, 52 are of national importance and the rest have regional worth. These geosites guarantee that the geodiversity of the Azores is represented and re ects the geological and eruptive history of the archipelago, and have a dual strategy of conservation and the promotion of tourism.
In addition to its geological heritage, the Azores Geopark possesses other values worthy of mention, for example a rich biodiversity, as well as architectural, cultural, ethnographic and intangible heritage of undeniable worth. With two World Heritage areas within its territory, four Biosphere Reserves and 13 Ramsar sites, this is one of only two regions of the world to boast four UNESCO classi cations.
Volcanoes, calderas, lagoons, lava elds, fumaroles, thermal waters, volcanic caves and pits, fajãs (supratidal talus-platforms), fault scarps and fossilised marine life, among others, are elements that characterise the region’s geological heritage.
These elements of geodiversity exist in important and unique geosites throughout the Azores, including:
– Caldeira do Vulcão das Furnas (Ilha de São Miguel), the main land-based geosite in the Azores, with a hydrothermal and hydrological system that is unique in Europe – the “Furnas hydropolis” – with various thermal, mineral and natural carbonated water springs;
– Capelinhos Volcano (Ilha do Faial), a landmark in regional and worldwide volcanology, the eruption of which, in 1957-58, which was intensively studied by global experts, is one of the reference points of modern volcanology;
– Mount Pico (Ilha do Pico), the highest point in Portugal, at 2350 metres, and the third largest volcano in the North Atlantic, shaped predominantly by e usive volcanism, of the pahoehoe kind: the resulting rock formations are known as the “lajidos” of Ilha do Pico;
– Fajã Grande and Fajãzinha (Ilha das Flores), on the westernmost territory of Europe, where the blue ocean meets the volcanic black of the lava fajãs, the green of the sub-tropical vegetation of the Azores and the white spray from impressive waterfalls;
– Algar do Carvão (Ilha Terceira), one of the top ten of volcanic cavities in the world, with secondary mineral deposits (in this case speleothems of amorphous silica), formed in a volcanic cavity produced by two distinct volcanic episodes;
– Caldeira and Furna do Enxofre (Ilha Graciosa): the rst is an elliptical volcanic depression set on the top of the polygenetic volcano, the smallest of the Azores; the second, a cathedral of volcanic cavities in the shape of a cupola, the origin of which is linked to the formation of a lake of lava.
Azores Geopark - 9 Islands | 1 Geopark