The Azores officially the Autonomous Region of the Azores, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal, composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Portugal, about 880 km (550 mi) northwest of Madeira, and about 1,925 km (1,196 mi) southeast of Newfoundland. Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming (for cheese and butter products primarily), livestock ranching, fishing, and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. In addition to this, the government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in many aspects of the service and tertiary sectors.
There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction.
All the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft). The Azores are actually some of the tallest mountains on the planet, measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean to their peaks, which thrust high above the surface of the Atlantic.
Because these once-uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries, their culture, dialect, cuisine, and traditions vary considerably.