Faial Island is one of the Central Group of the Azores Archipelago and is nicknamed ‘The Blue Island’ due to the many blue Hydrangeas that can be found growing wild on the island. Hydrangeas can be found in many different shades of pink and blue and their colour changes depending upon the soil. Soil with aluminium and a low PH will produce blue Hydrangeas while soil without aluminium and a high PH will produce pink Hydrangeas. Volcanic soils have aluminosilicate minerals (composed of aluminium, silicon, and oxygen) and tend to produce beautiful, blue Hydrangeas.
Where to Stay
The Pousada Forte da Horta is a converted sixteenth century fortress that was classified as a National Monument in 1947. The hotel is located in the city of Horta, within walking distance of various restaurants and bars (including the world famous Peter Café Sport). The hotel overlooks the marina and has a lovely outdoor swimming pool. The buffet breakfast is very good and the outdoor seating area overlooks the swimming pool. The hotel has a nice lounge area downstairs and a bar. There is free wi-fi however it does not work very well from some of the rooms (it works well in the lounge and communal areas).
What to See
Take a wander around Horta Marina. This is the fourth most visited marina in the world and the walls are beautifully decorated with paintings made by the yachtsmen who have visited. It is said that painting on the marina wall will bring luck for future sea travels and this tradition has transformed Horta Marina into an open-air museum.
Ponta Dos Capelinhos
Ponta Dos Capelinhos is a must see! The eruption of the Capelinhos volcano in 1957 created the youngest landscape of the Azores, a huge volcanic mound that increased the size of the island by 2.4 square kilometres (this area is now only 0.6 square kilometres due to intense erosion). The interpretation centre provides lots of information and a short movie about the volcanic eruption. If you are feeling adventurous a short hike will take you to the top of the mound where you will be able to enjoy the spectacular views and see the steam that still rises from cracks in the ground.
Calderia do Faial
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. On the way up to the crater you will be able to enjoy fantastic views of nearby Pico Island on a clear day. The Miradouro da Calderia allows visitors to look down into the crater from a viewpoint around 900 metres high. The 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.
Day Trip to Pico Island
Pico Island is around 30 minutes away by ferry and perfect for a day trip (or an overnight trip). Pico island (meaning Peak Island) is named for its imposing stratovolcano, rising from the middle of the island to a height of 2,351 metres. Mount Pico is not only the highest point in the Azores archipelago but also in Portugal.
Pico is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture. The site consists of consists of spaced-out, long linear walls running inland from and parallel to the shore where grape vines are grown in ‘currais’ (small, soilless, rectangular plots) to make the Verdelho wine.
Pico Islands is nicknamed ‘the black island’ for its black, volcanic earth, strange rock formations and black lava rocks. Arcos do Cachorro is a set of volcanic rock formations in the municipality of Madalena. The rock that gives the site its name, which means ‘Arches of the Puppy’ resembles a dog’s head.
While on Pico Island a trip to Adena “A Buraca”, a local winery and museum is well worth it. The museum displays various traditional tools used for agriculture but the highlight of “A Buraca” is the tasting room where visitors can sample the locally produced wines and moonshine liquors.
On the way to and from Pico Island look out for the two islets; Deitado (meaning ‘lying down’) and Em-pe (meaning ‘standing up’). As the ferry passes Em-pe you will be able to see a hole in the rock that resembles both a dolphin and the Virgin Mary from different angles.
Where to Eat
Faial is more expensive for dining that Sao Miguel and avoiding the ‘tourist traps’ with overpriced dishes and poor service is recommended.
Peter Café Sport is a must visit. The legendary bar is world-famous in the yachting world and has a lovely terrace area overlooking the marina. A reservation is recommended as this place gets very busy! The menu offers a great variety of dishes including typical Azorean cuisine, snacks and sandwiches. There is often live music on the terrace after dinner, making it a great place to enjoy a drink after your meal.