Azores,(Portuguese: Açores), a group of nine islands and numerous rocky islets in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 850 miles (1,370 km) west of the Portuguese coast. Politically, the Azores form an autonomous region of Portugal.
The Azores stretch in an arc 400 miles (640 km) long and have a total area of about 890 square miles (2,300 km2). In the east are Sao Miguel, the largest island, and Santa Maria; in the center, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial; and in the west, Flores and Corvo. The islands are the peaks of partially submerged volcanoes and have rocky, rugged coasts and mountainous interiors. The greatest elevation is 7,713 feet (2,351 m), on Pico. The climate is warm, with moderate rainfall throughout the year.
The economy of the Azores is based on agriculture. Pineapples, oranges, cereals, tea, and tobacco are grown. Raising of livestock and fishing are also carried on. There is little industrial development other than food processing and the making of handicraft items.
The population of the Azores in 2001 was 241,763. Ponta Delgada, on São Miguel, is the capital, chief port, and largest town; it has a population of 65,854. The people of the islands are largely of Portuguese descent. Most are Roman Catholic.
The Azores were known to the Phoenicians in ancient times and to the Norsemen during the early Middle Ages, but were then forgotten. The Portuguese rediscovered the islands in 1431. Soon after, Portugal claimed the then-uninhabited islands, and settlement followed. From 1480 to 1640, when Portugal was part of Spain, the Azores were under Spanish control. During both World Wars important military bases were established in the islands. A movement for independence from Portugal arose after World War II. In 1976 the Azores were made an autonomous region, and a regional government was established for the islands.