The Azores (or Açores in Portuguese) are a group of Portuguese islands situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 km from Lisbon and about 3,900 km from the east coast of North America.
The archipelago is spread out in the area of the parallel that passes through Lisbon (39º, 43'/39º, 55' North Latitude), giving it a moderate climate, with mild annual oscillation. The nine islands have a total area of 2,355 km2. Their individual areas vary between 747 km2 (São Miguel) and 17 km2 (Corvo).
The volcanic origin of all the islands is revealed by their volcanic cones and craters. Pico, a volcano that stands 2,351 meters high on the island of the same name, has the highest altitude in the Azores.
The Azores had a population of 238,000 in 1992 and a population density of 106 persons per square kilometer.
The nine islands are divided into three groups:
- The Eastern Group of São Miguel and Santa Maria
- The Central Group of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial
- The Western Group of Flores and Corvo.
Angra consisted of Terceira, São Jorge, and Graciosa, with the capital at Angra do Heroismo on Terceira.
Horta consisted of Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo, with the capital at Horta on Faial.
Ponta Delgada consisted of São Miguel and Santa Maria, with the capital at Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.
From 1938 to 1978, the archipelago was divided into three districts, quite equivalent (except in area) to those in the portuguese mainland. The division was quite arbitrary, and didn’t follow the natural island groups, rather reflecting the location of each district capital on the three main cities (neither of each on the western group).
In 1978 the Azores became an Autonomous Region and the azorean districts (Angra, Horta, Ponta Delgada) were supressed.