Faial, the blue island got its nickname from the uncountable hydrangeas which are lining up all the way up to the top of the island. But who knows, probably the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean and Faial’s seafaring history contributed to it, too. Faial is most known for the volcano of Capelinhos which erupted in 1957-58 and created a unique landscape. But the marina of Horta and the impressive volcanic crater of the Caldeira are further emblematic landmarks of Faial. Besides these attractions, there are many more reasons why to choose Faial as prime destination.
The blue island
Visiting Faial gives you the opportunity to get to know the Azores in its most attractive way. Faial is probably the most diverse place to visit in the Azores, it offers a breath-taking natural environment, it has a thriving city where you can spend the evenings and you can enjoy all this without being overflown by tourists. The nature of Faial is marked by the Caldeira do Cabeço Gordo, a crater 400 meters deep and 2 kilometers in diameter. The Azores are having many craters, but the Caldeira of Faial is the most impressive among them. The volcano of Capelinhos is a living example that volcanic activity in the Azores is not something of the remote past, but part of everyday life.
It was not by accident that Faial, the blue island is a hotspot for whale watching, as it was one of the main places of the whaling industry in the Azores. If you love the sea, then you can also go to a sailing trip, game fishing or even dive with sharks and mantas. Horta is a real city of the sea, for centuries its naturally protected port has determined the fate and culture of the island. Nowadays it is one of the most popular marinas in the Atlantic, many of the yachts crossing between the continents make a stop-over in Horta where the sailors hop in for a gin in the famous Peter’s Café.
The history of Faial dates back almost 700 years and was always marked by Horta’s harbour and its visitors arriving across the sea. Still nowadays, you can feel the international flair of Horta. After having spent your day out in the nature, Horta is the perfect place to enjoy the evening in one of its bars or restaurants. If you visit Faial during the summer, you might attend the numerous smaller and bigger festivals.
During August, the Sea Week or Semana do Mar is the week where life comes to a standstill and everybody is out at the seafront to enjoy this cultural festival with its concerts and have some good food and drinks.
Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain is just a short ferry trip across the channel separating Faial from Pico. But to get the best view of Pico, you do not need to leave Faial, just sit down in one of the bars in Horta and enjoy the view. Not only Pico, but also São Jorge, the third island of the Triangle Islands, can be easily reached by ferry from Faial, thus making Faial the perfect base for your stay exploring the Triangle.
Dominating Faial is the dormant volcano of Cabeço Gordo with its impressive crater. You can reach the top of the Caldeira easily by car in a half an hour ride from Horta. If you are into hiking, then you should not miss to walk around the edge of the Caldeira. A tour which can be done easily in 2,5 hours during which you have a stunning view on Faial and the neighbouring islands. You can extend your hike down to the volcano of Capelinhos, another landmark of active vulcanism in the Azores.
The volcano erupted in 1957 and 1958 leaving a moon like landscape behind and leading at the time to a mass exodus of the inhabitants of the nearby villages. Nowadays it hosts the volcano interpretation centre, and you observe how vegetation is slowly gaining ground.
The city of Horta
The city of Horta is an incredibly special place, it has only about 7000 inhabitants, but the flair of an international city. Its famous marina is the preferred stop over for sailing ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Traditionally, each crew leaves a small painting on the pier, making it a colorful living art exhibition. In Horta you can explore several historical buildings telling the story of the diverse history of the city and the island. Did you know that during large parts of the 20th century the transatlantic telecommunication cables went through Horta?
The villas of the different companies are a beautiful memory of the times when Faial was the backbone of international communication. It is just a short walk from the center of the city to Porto Pim, one of the most beautiful bays of the Azores. There you can have a drink in one of the cafés or continue your walk across the beach to the old whaling factory transformed into an impressive museum.
Hiking the trails
Most of the people visiting the Azores will do one or another hike during their stay. On Faial you have options for every taste. You can climb Monte de Guia and Monte Queimado in a short walk from the city to enjoy the panorama of Horta and the view of the canal over to Pico.
If you like magical forests, then the hike along the old levada, an old water line, is the place for you. As if you were walking through Jurassic Park, dinosaurs excluded. If you are a pro, then you should do the trail crossing the island from Riberinha up to the Caldeira and down to Capelinhos. It is a full day program, but worth it.
The Atlantic Ocean
Finally, the blue island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The Azores are mostly associated with whale watching, but there is another truly Azorean experience you should not miss out. Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Be it at the sandy beach of Porto Pim right in the city, perfect for swimming with kids. In the flat water you might even encounter a ray, do not worry, they are harmless, but like the flat water. Even more unique are the numerous natural pools made from ancient lava flows. You can find them all around the island, some of them like the one in Castelo Branco or Varadouro have classical swimming pools as well. The perfect place for families.
All year round
Faial, the blue island really is a great place to visit. What time of the year should you visit, of course during the summer. But if you have visited Scotland, Ireland or Island in the summer and liked it, then why not visit Faial during the wintertime? Sure, the weather is not always bright and sunny, but for nature lovers that is probably not the main argument. You should give it a try, the Atlantic Ocean really can be impressive during a storm, the same is true for viewing Pico with snow on its top. And if the sun comes out, then it can get really warm, not that it would ever be cold.
Faial, the blue island, measures 21 km from East to West and 14 km across, forming the shape of a giant turtle if you were to look at it from space. About half of the population of 15 thousand life in the city of Horta, the remainder is spread among the ten countryside parishes around the island. There is a circular road round the island giving access to most of the places. But do not leave out the secondary roads, there are many hidden gems to be discovered. Faial is easiest to be reached by taking a direct flight from Lisbon, during the summer there are daily connections. Several daily inter island flights connect Faial to São Miguel, Terceira and Flores. Last but not least, to reach the islands of the triangle, there is a regular ferry service to Pico and São Jorge, allowing you to leave in the morning and return in the evening. During the high season, the ferry also connects twice a week Faial with Graçiosa and Terceira, giving you even more options to travel.