The Caldeira do Faial is the vast crater of a volcano from which the island of Faial originated. It reaches 1.043 metres at the island’s highest point and has a diameter of approximately 1.5 kilometres. Faial island comprises two central volcanoes and two basaltic fissure systems, the oldest is the Ribeirinha Volcano on the northeast sector of the island and the largest is Calderia do Faial. The 1000 BP explosive eruption of the Caldeira Volcano was one of the last major explosive events recorded in the Azores archipelago and was the most complex and prominent eruption of this volcano.
As we climb the winding road to the rim of the crater we pass fields of cows and our guide explains that the farmers on the island bring their cows here in the winter months and let them roam on the highlands grazing on the long grass. It is said that there are twice as many cows as there are people in the Azorean islands.
We arrive at the Miradouro da Calderia. We climb the steps from the carpark and find ourselves looking down into the massive crater. The rim stands at around 900 metres high and the steep crater walls lead down to the bottom, 500 metres below. There was once a lagoon at the bottom of this crater however the seismic activity created by the eruption of the Capelinhos Volcano created fissures that led to the draining of the water.
This area was established as a natural reserve and a special protected zone in 1982 and therefore walking within the crater is not allowed. There is however a trail that leads hikers around the rim of the caldeira and takes around two and half hours. Another, more adventurous trail, called The Route of the Ten Volcanoes, starts here and leads all the way down to the Capelinhos Volcano, covering 20 kilometres.
As we make our way back down the winding road we notice that some of the low-hanging clouds have cleared and the neighbouring island of Pico has come into view.