Key information: Sao Jorge
- This long, slender island can only be described as walking magic, essentially a series of old volcanoes which now forms the thrilling central ridge, with endless minor craters and other formations along their flanks.
- Lots of walking options, but its high central ridge is the greatest attraction.
- Walkopedia rating97
- Natural interest16
- Human interest13
- Negative points0
- Total rating97
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: 1,053m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Sao Jorge can only be described as walking magic. This 53km long, slender island is essentially a long, interrupted series of old volcanoes which now forms the thrilling central ridge, with endless minor craters, fumeroles and other formations along their flanks. It is much of its length one ridge wide, with its high hilltops command thrilling views across to Pico and its huge volcano and on into Atlantic infinity.
The middle hillsides are entrancing, cattle grazing steep little emerald fields: Ireland on steroids with giant heather hedges and a shining sea an ever-appealing backdrop.
Sao Jorge is wonderfully verdant: deep mattresses of grass high up, a belt of giant heather below that would set Japanese sculptor-gardeners’ hearts racing, below that fields and elegant Japanese and Azores cedars (the latter actually a type of juniper); hedges and roadsides awash with blue hydrangeas in summer.
There is just one significant harbour, with the appealing town of Velas behind it. It feels quiet and remote compared to Sao Miguel or even Horta on Faial.
Sao Jorge is called the walkers’ island and you can see why: there is a mass of beauty and interest to be enjoyed in this smallish package.
Central Ridge: The central ridge is, Walkopedia would argue, the finest walking in the Azores and a high Top 100 walk. Walkopedia fizzes with excitement just thinking of it. Think of a series of volcanic cones, craters and other formations, some nestling little tarns to their heart, lining the central ridge of a long, slender island, with endless views to the other Islands which decorate the infinitely receding Atlantic. They are covered in vivid grassy vegetation, with dark giant heather and woodlands along the mid slopes and a patchwork of little fields below that. A good cinder track winds along this high ridge, which makes for miraculous walking, so easy underfoot that you can reserve all your attention for the visual marvels around you. A road crosses the ridge roughly halfway along, enabling various walking options.
Piquihino da Urze to Faja de Cubres via Faja da Caldeira da Cima: This fine and very varied walk explores remote valley and coast and a traditional fishing village. Starting at the eastern end of the high ridge, drop into the lovely forested valley which descends towards the sea an on to the Faja da Caldeira do Santo Cristo and a very remote traditional village on a wide faja (coastal flat) with a saltwater lagoon. Thence westward on a good track the along the north coast to the roadhead at Faja do Cubres. Really worthwhile.
To Rosais Cape: An enjoyable walk out to the Farol dos Rosais lighthouse at the far end of S. Jorge’s north-western cape, and back along the high south coast. Attractive undulating fields below rounded grassy hilltops with startling 1,500ft cliffs behind and huge sea views.
Mid-flank lanes: there are a number of lanes which traverse the island’s flanks, especially on the northern side. You can walk for miles along them, and indeed combine roads at different levels to make circuits.
South coast: There is an excellent path (GR01SJO) which runs around the hillsides above the southern coast between Topo at the far eastern end of the island and Ribeira Seca.Includes a fine walk on an old cobbled path above the south coast, between Faja de Sao Joao and Vimes. See ideas at: https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-jorge/faja-de-sao-joao-lourais-faja-dos-vimes https://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores/sao-jorge/serra-do-topo-faja-dos-vimes
The east: There are also some quiet country lanes on the higher ground which invite exploring and could form circuits.
The routes follow red-marked trails on the Kompass Azores map 1.
Getting to/from the start/end of walks by taxi is both straightforward and reasonable value.
This can be demanding walking in high mountains with unpredictable ocean weather. Come prepared.
Find relevant books on Amazon
We would love to give more. Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!
For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Azores walk page.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more