There’s no place in Portugal quite as remote as Corvo, a single volcanic crater island set bold as brass in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Barely more than four hundred souls inhabit this rocky outcrop, by far the smallest of the Azores archipelago, which rises abruptly from the sea-bed some 2,000 kilometres off the Newfoundland coast.
Corvo was the last of the islands to be discovered, circa 1500. Settlement began a hundred years later and it has remained an agricultural-based society since.
Along with the neighbouring island of Flores, Corvo marks the westernmost edge of the entire continent but the fact that is situated on the American shelf suggests that it belongs more to the New World than Europe.
Shaped around an ancient caldera (known locally as Caldeirão), Corvo is a joint UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, along with its sister island, Flores.
One of several key natural attractions to explore, Caldeirão is notable for the 718-metre-high Morro dos Homens standing over the volcanic crater, in which a group of islets in some strange way manages to represent the nine islands of the Azores. It’s also a natural mid-Atlantic resting spot for American and European migratory birds during autumn.
Bird-watchers are sometimes treated by a rare glimpse of the white-rumped sandpiper, rose-breasted grosbeak and laughing gull, all occasional visitors to Corvo, along the yellow-billed cuckoo which has been sighted in Vila do Corvo.
Another must is a visit to the island’s cultural and environmental interpretative centre located in the heart of Vila do Corvo where people can learn about Corvo’s environmental projects, including a nearby recovery centre for wild birds.
Very little has changed at the one solitary settlement of Vila do Corvo in decades. As the rest of Europe embraces the technological age and all that goes with it, Corvo languishes in a period free from most of the hurly-burly associated with modern life.
For instance, there are no annoying traffic lights on Corvo or neon signs to distract the eye. Likewise, the island is refreshingly free of fast-food outlets and there are no fancy hotels to speak of, just a cosy room at the inn or in someone’s house.
There’s no crime and people show their trust for one another by leaving their front doors wide open, weather permitting of course.
Corvo is reachable either by plane (the local airport opened in 2005) or by boat from nearby Flores island.