Best day in the para­dise with Azorean May Day cel­eb­ra­tion and with a won­der­ful tour (Azorean tour guide 1. Part)

In this post I would like to tell you about how May Day (Inter­na­tion­al Work­ers’ Day) is cel­eb­rated on the Azores, and also tell you about one of my best days ever on the island – which also included hik­ing on a beau­ti­ful trail. You might be think­ing now: well-well, we are happy that you had a good time, but why is this post worthy, and what is there in it for us?

I would like you to con­sider this post as a cul­tur­al intro­duc­tion into one of the many tra­di­tions of the Azores, and as a great event recom­mend­a­tion for May Day for every­one who is vis­it­ing in the future at this time of the year.

In the morn­ing I thought I will only attend a simple May Day cel­eb­ra­tion, but thanks to lucky turn of events I found a beau­ti­ful hik­ing trail, too. So this post is an event and hik­ing trail recom­mend­a­tion.


I love attend­ing all sorts of events which have to do with Azorean cul­ture and tra­di­tions, and in fact what I enjoy even more is to ask the loc­al people about the reli­gious back­ground or the story behind the fest­iv­it­ies. This time it was no dif­fer­ent. A few days ago I have seen a ban­ner with GRANDIOSA FESTA DE MAIOS on it, and since I knew the fest­iv­al is hos­ted in the par­ish of Maia, I figured MAIOS has to do some­thing with the town, and GRANDIOSA FESTA means BIG PARTY. So based on my inter­pret­a­tion I thought I will be going to a big party, which is nev­er a bad idea. There was some­thing else on this ban­ner which I could not fig­ure out, at all. It said that the founder of the par­ish, Ines Maia will also take part in the fest­iv­al, and also a huge Ines Maia statue will be inaug­ur­ated in her hon­or. This is where they lost me. So who? What? Is this now a statue or a liv­ing per­son? But how can the founder of a seem­ingly old town be still alive today? I had lots of ques­tions, which made me even more curi­ous.

The big rag doll fest­iv­al – Azorean May Day

I have to admit I have nev­er been to Maia before, but this will def­in­itely change because it is such a beau­ti­ful little town. By the time I man­aged to park my car the sun came out, and I pro­ceeded to find the place of the fest­iv­it­ies near the Divino Espirito Santo (Holy Spir­it) Church, loc­ated in the city cen­ter.

In the neigh­bor­ing streets and the around the church there were life-size rag dolls every­where, a group of drum­mers were drum­ming happy music, and accom­pan­ied a huge (GIGANTE – just as it was prom­ised on the ban­ner) Ines Maia statue that was moun­ted on a car. So Ines Maia graced the event in the form of a statue. The town Maia was named after her. Appar­ently, Ines has been the first woman in the town.

On the main square there was a small exhib­i­tion, fea­tur­ing the tools of old trades and pro­fes­sions. Back in the days Maia had a tobacco fact­ory – which is not func­tion­ing any­more, but there is a museum about its his­tory. Next time I will go and vis­it this tobacco museum, and tell you all about it.

So the small exhib­i­tion star­ted with show­ing the tools that were used for tobacco pro­cessing, but there were also wick­er bas­kets with lids on exhib­it: these were used by the wives to bring lunch to their hus­bands work­ing on the tobacco fields. There were also lots of tools used in fish­ing, agri­cul­ture, dairy equip­ments, and anoth­er curi­ous item: a pot with the pic­ture of a pig on it.

I wanted to get more inform­a­tion about this fest­iv­al, so I can share it with you, so I star­ted to ask around if there is any­one who is will­ing to help me. This is how I have found a loc­al gen­tle­man called Manuel, who explained to me all about this May Day tra­di­tion.

So from Manuel I found out that the huge statue com­mem­or­at­ing Ines Maia after whom the par­ish was named was installed the first time. The small exhib­it on the main square – as I sug­ges­ted earli­er – was show­cas­ing old trades and pro­fes­sions. The little pot with the pig­let on it was used at domest­ic pig slaughters. Also, Maios means rag doll, so this is when I under­stood that GRANDIOSA FESTA DE MAIOS means HUGE RAG DOLL FESTIVAL.  On the 1st of May in all smal­ler towns of Sao Miguel the bal­conies, gar­dens, and pub­lic places are dec­or­ated with life-size rag dolls for two main reas­ons: 1) to serve as fun dec­or­a­tion, and 2) to make fun of cer­tain pro­fes­sions. People think this tra­di­tion brings a good har­vest, and also since these dolls look like scare­crows they are here to scare away Winter and to wel­come Spring.

On the fest­iv­al there was also a loc­al cake and loc­al green tea – from the nearby Chá Gor­reana plant­a­tion – tast­ing. All in all it was a very enjoy­able fest­iv­al that I can heart­ily recom­mend to all vis­it­ors.

Incred­ible ocean side trails start­ing from Maia

After the fest­iv­al came that won­der­ful hike I told you about earli­er. Manuel – the loc­al gen­tle­man who was so kind and offered to help, for which I now would like to pub­licly thank him – showed me the start­ing points of the trails in Maia.

Both trails are along the coast­line:

one of them is the 5 km long Praia da Viola trail

the oth­er one is the 1.2 km long Degredo

So I went for the short­er one. I was walk­ing along on this beau­ti­ful ocean­side prom­en­ade, com­plete with a secure wooden fence, the sun was shin­ing, it was not too warm, and it was just me, Moth­er Nature, and a few fish­er­men. I could feel the pos­it­ive energy radi­at­ing from the vol­can­ic stones. The trail ends at a nat­ur­al rock pool, where those who have their swim­suits ready can even go for a dip. The hike has been simply amaz­ing! Take a look at the pho­tos I took and get inspired to come and com­plete one – or both – of these trails.

You can find more inform­a­tion about all trails on the Azores on this Vis­it Azores web­site (http://​trails​.vis​itazores​.com/​e​n​/​t​r​a​i​l​s​-​a​z​o​res). You can find all inform­a­tion about town Maia on their Face­book page (https://​www​.face​book​.com/​V​i​s​i​t​M​a​ia/). The trails going through Maia are Praia da Viola (5 km) and Degredo (1.2 km). Both trails are marked as EASY. I have seen a sign warn­ing about rock falls on the Praia da Viola trail, so be care­ful if you go hik­ing there.

I am look­ing for­ward to your feed­back, videos, and guest posts about these hik­ing trails.

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