Island archipelago, Ilhas dos Açores (the islands of the hawks), in the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to Portugal and lying some 750-1000 miles west of the mainland. The nine largest islands belong to three groups. Five of them lie in a central group, separated by about a hundred miles from the southeastern islands, the most populous group of the three, and by about 150 miles from the northwestern group.
The existence of the islands was known in the 14th century. They were explored in the 1420s and 1430s, and began to be settled by the Portuguese at the end of the 1430s. There was also an influx of Flemings after 1466 when the island of Faial was given to Isabella of Portugal, wife of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.
The islands are divided into three administrative districts, each named after their capitals. The southeastern islands (Sào Miguel and Santa Maria) form the district of Ponta Delgada. The district of Angra do Heroismo consists of the eastern islands of the central group (Teceira, Sào Jorge, and Graciosa), while the western islands of that group (Faial and Pico) are joined with the northwestern islands (Flores and Corvo) to form the district of Horta. Horta only has some 20,000 people as opposed to Ponta Delgada’s 130,000.
The islands as a whole became an Autonomous Region in 1976, with its own parliament and executive. Ponta Delgada is the capital.