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The landscape of Graciosa attracts and fascinates the visitor. It is made up of plains, round hills covered with trees, vineyards lying between dark stone walls, chequered fields of tilled land and the constant presence of the blue sea.
What also attracts and fascinates is the atmosphere of calm isolation that is lived and felt, the unusual situation of an island that is almost cut off from the world and where life maintains the rhythm of the seasons.
Volcanological phenomenon, geologically unique in the world. In the interior of Caldeira, the crater of a former volcano, there is a deep tunnel with a depth of about 100 metres. At the bottom lies a huge grotto, with an 80 metres high vault covered with stalactites and an underground lake of cold, sulphurous water with a diameter of about 130 metres and a maximum depth of 15 metres. Besides the entrance tunnel there are two other openings in the flanks of the crater. You can walk down the tunnel by a stone stairway, The recommended visiting time is between 11 a.m. and 2 pm., when the sunlight penetrates the interior of the cavern and creates dazzling effects.
Prince Albert of Monaco, the famous l9th century oceanographer who led several expeditions in the waters of the Azores, was one of the first visitors of the cavern, having gone down into it by a rope ladder in 1879.
After visiting the Sulphur Cavern you should walk about Caldeira and circle its crater. Magnificent vistas. Possibility of catching sight of the islands of Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial.
With the names of Serra Dormida, Serra Branca and Serra das Fontes, these hills are like belvederes, affording views of the island and sea. Low-lying the altitude of Pico Timão is only 398 metres while that of Serra do Facho is 375 metres - with soft curved lines, covered with their original vegetation of beech-trees, heather, incense, vinhÃ¡tico and also Japanese cedars, they are the natural framework for restful walks, communion with Nature and quiet picnics.
Rocks inhabited by birds that crop out in the sea, they are one of the charms of Graciosa, surprises that await the visitor at the end of a bay or a cape. The most suggestive is Baleia (literally, Whale), which looks like a giant mammal anchored by the shore. The others have names such as Bordo do Pico, Gaivotas, Pesqueira, Vermelho, Comprido, Grande and Agulha.
The insides of the island can be viewed from other places, less spectacular than the Sulphur Cavern (Furna do Enxofre) no doubt, but still fascinating. Because here and there you will find more or less deep fissures that invite braver persons to discover the secrets of the volcanic formation of Graciosa. Such is the case of the caverns (Furnas) of Bolos, Linheiro, Manuel d'Avila, Lembradeira, Queimado, Labarda, Cardo, Cão, Gato, Castelo, Calcinhas, Vermelho, Urze, Furada and Luis. Recommended: equipament and a guide.
The arms and wooden lattices which are covered with cloth when greater speed is desired or the wind is weak. The walls of the cone-like trunk are while-washed. The door and the small windows are edged in blue or red. The whole is covered by an onion-shaped dome ending in a point. That is what the picturesque windmills of Graciosa are like. Flapping their wings at the tops of hills, particularly in the Praia area, they can be considered the true symbol of the island.
The outline and shape of these windmills recall those which for centuries ground flour or pumped water in the fields of northern Europe. But is their origin connected with the presence of Flemings in the settlement of the Azores? The answer to this question is neither simple nor positive. It is known that in the Azores wheat was formerly ground by water-mills where streams existed or by mills where the stones were moved by patient oxen or donkeys. These mills - which are still in operation in some islands - were a royal privilege entrusted, as a reward, to the captains-donees and nobles. It was only with the end of absolutism in the early l9th century that milling was freed from feudal rights and made tax-free. Researchers believe that the first windmill was built in 1818 at the initiative of a priest on Terceira island. Others followed and the windmills spread all over the archipelago, except for the island of Flores where there are many water-mills.
The windmills used in the Azores vary from island to island. On Graciosa it is the dome that is moved to accompany the direction of the wind, using for the purpose a long wooden pole that almost touches the ground. On Faial, for example, it is the whole body of the windmill, built of wood and other light materials, that rotates on the stone tower on which it is based. The enigma of the origin of the windmills of the Azores therefore remains But the windmills fit so well into the green landscape that they deserve to have been there at the very beginning, awaiting the first settlers.