• Words and Photos by John Domine

On the Road: The Azores Islands

The Azores may be one of the last spots in the world you would expect to find street art. Technically part of Portugal, this archipelago of nine islands located in the middle of the Atlantic, halfway between North America and Europe, feels like a mix somewhere between tropical Hawaii and rural Switzerland, with some street art thrown into the mix.

Nonetheless, many artists have made the trek out to the Azores, specifically to the largest island of Saõ Miguel, adding a bit more color to the verdant, pastoral landscape.

Every July, the main city of Ponta Delgado has a street art festival, where artists from around the world come to the island to create murals. Known as the Walk & Talk Urban Art Festival ("Anda & Fala" in Portuguese), it transforms otherwise dilapidated buildings, walls and even benches, beaten by the harsh marine air into works of art. Founded by local artists Jesse James and Diana Sousa in 2011, it has since become a multi-dimensional event and an annual tradition on the island.

As on the mainland, artist Alexandre Farto, better known as Vhils, has a presence here, as do others, such as Pastel and Phlegm. In addition, there is a lot of other art to be found along the charming streets and on doorways, as well as rainbow-colored "dolos" or shaped concrete blocks that act as a breakwater for the waves along the coast. A casual walk through town will definitely reap rewards in short order.

So, if you are headed to Portugal, consider a side-trip to the island of Saõ Miguel in the Azores. Aside from the beautiful views, great hikes, simple but delicious food and opportunities for whale-watching, there is also a very nice urban art scene worth exploring. What are you waiting for?

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