It’s already been a wonderful year for flower lovers. Southern California experienced a super bloom of poppies throughout the hillsides. Then the cherry blossoms captured our attention in Washington, D.C., Japan and elsewhere. There were also the expected acres and acres of tulips in Holland.
Come Spring, the whole world transforms into a flower shop. But there’s one extra-special bloom that hasn’t come out just yet. In the Azores islands of Portugal, summer brings hydrangeas as far as the eye can see in a rainbow of vivid colors.
One of the nine islands is famous for its blooms. Faial has earned the nickname Blue Island, but not because of the beautiful azure waters surrounding the island. Instead, the name is inspired by the gorgeous blue hydrangeas that bloom here in late July and early August.
The flowers bloom with an otherworldly vibrant blue due to the especially fertile and acidic soil around the island. In the late 1950s, the Capelinhos volcano erupted and expanded the island by about 1.5 miles. While it displaced thousands of residents, there was a silver lining — it created the perfect soil for hydrangeas.
While many flowers bloom in the 1,300-foot-deep and 1.25-mile-wide volcanic cone in the middle of the island, the hydrangeas pop up all over this and other islands in the archipelago, along roadsides and throughout fields. Because the soil is acidic, the hydrangeas produce brilliantly colored and vivid leaves. Each year is better than the last; the flowers come back stronger and spread around the island. Every bit of the island has a touch of the bright blues when the flowers bloom.
The locals love the blooms even more than visitors. They celebrate them with a weeklong festival, Semana do Mar. The festival includes a parade and a regatta during the first week of August, which also happens to be the best time to experience the blooms.
Naturally, the flowers are very important to the local residents. As such, it is illegal to pick them. So if you go and snap photos, sniff away and leave them for the next visitors to enjoy.