Faial is one of 9 Azorean Islands, almost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The island is situated approximately 1500 km from the European coast and 3900 km from the North American coast. The size is about 21 km in length and 14 km across at its widest point.
The highest point of Faial is the Cabeço Gordo with an altitude of 1043 meters. The Caldeira, one of the island’s greatest attractions, is an enormous crater about 2 km in diametre and 400 m. deep, surrounded by blue hydrangeas and lush vegetation.
The total population of the nine islands is 237.000 people. Faial’s population is approximately 16.000 inhabitants.
The closest island to Faial is Pico, just 6 km away and a ferry maintains the connection several times a day. The crossing will take just 25 minutes with the classic boat or 15 minutes with a fast catamaran. Pico boasts the highest mountain in Portugal with 2351 m.
How to get there:
Most flights come through Lisbon with either TAP or Sata. European connections are best priced through Lisbon and often the connection can be made in one day.
Amsterdam Schiphol – Lisbon 7.00 am – 8.30 am
Lisbon – Horta 10 am –11.30 am. This includes the time difference, one hour from Portugal and England and 2 hours from the rest of Europe.
From Boston there is a connection to S. Miguel with Sata twice a week and then an inter-island flight of 50 minutes from S. Miguel to Faial.
The Sata charters from either London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Skandinvia are more expensive than the TAP flights and often not a one day flight.
Climate and Flora
The Azores have a temperate maritime climate, agreeable temperatures and high humidity rate. This translates into mild winters, no snow or ice and the temperature in the wintertime is around 15ºC. The summers are warm with July and August as the hottest months and a temperature around 25º-30ºC. The weather changes can be very quick, it is said that the Azores can have 4 seasons in one day... The view of rainshowers moving across the ocean can be spectacular. And sometimes hilarious, if a sailboat is caught in a small rainshower and they move at the same speed, while outside the area the sun is shining... It goes without saying that the sunsets are of a very special quality, with no pollution to disturb the air.
Due to its mild climate and high humidity vegetation is of a tropical and semi tropical kind. We have banana trees in abundance, avocados, pineapples, guava, passionfruit, custard apple (cherimoyo), tree tomatoes, loquats, figs, plums, pears, apples, lemons and limes, tangerine and mandarine. The flowers are in such abundance, these are just a few: blue hydrangeas, wild ginger, belladonna, honeysuckle, jasmine, hibiscus, tibouchina.
The Azores were discovered in the first half of the 15th century. In 1460-1468 Flemish travelers settled on Faial in a picturesque valley behind Horta now called Flamengos. Cedros was inhabited by settlers from the north of Portugal. Agriculture and the production of ‘pastel’ were the main activities on the island. The development of whale hunting brought the whaling fleets to Horta during the 18th century. And in 1833 Horta becomes a city. In 1876 the port of Horta was constructed and in 1919 the first hydroplane to cross the Atlantic made a stop on the island. Due to the excellent geographical position of the island several countries installed intercontinental underwater cable stations on Faial.
In 1957 the ‘Capelinhos’ volcano erupts. The principal crater is situated 1 km from the west end of Faial. The volcano remained active for 13 months and deposited millions of tons of black ash on the island. Two small islands in front of the coast rose out of the ocean to become connected with the mainland, now a National Park and one of the most visited places of Faial.
Swimming and Bathing areas:
Faial has so many different swimming areas, more than any other of the Azorean Islands.
The beach nearest Horta, with sand lighter in colour than the rest of the island. It slopes very gently into the sea, and is therfore an ideal spot for young children to play. Ideally situated for townsfolks, it is not the most quiet and lonely swimming hole!
Just below the airport, passing the edge of the runway, there is a delightful hidden swimming area, enclosed by rocks of impressive formations and a view of the ‘Morro’; the big peninsula off the mainland at Castelo Branco. There is a fresh water shower available, attached to a rock.
The village of Varadouro has always been the week-end and vacation get-away for citizens of Horta. It is situated down a cliff and has therefore its own very mild climate. Still a popular spot for Portuguese as well as foreign tourists, it boast two restaurants and a number of holiday rentals. And of course, the swimming pool, surrounded by black rocks, but separated from the open sea. Fed with saltwater, refreshed every day and a children’s pool, this is the most luxury of all swimming places. In the summer months there is even a bath attendant looking after you and the children. There are also ladders giving access to the sea and in settled weather, indicated by coloured flags, it is quite a thrill to swim in between those rocks. A proper bath house with female/male bathrooms, showers and toilets is open daily from 8-20.00.
Near the Capelinhos Volcano is an ancient port, surrounded on three sides by rock walls and adapted for swimming. Access with three different ladders and a ramp, it is also used to launch small boats. The many small pools surrounding the area are interesting study objects for children, with small fish and crabs. The bigger pools make for safe swimming for the smaller ones.
A big black sand beach and waves rolling in make for the holiday feeling. A nearby Pizzeria serves food and drinks and bathroom facilities, showers and toilets, are also available.
Porta da Eira:
The Cedros Swimming Hole is not so easy to reach. It involves a steep climb downhill on a paved and cemented path, and back up again after the swim. It proves its worth though, since the water is so clear and fresh. Ladders facilitate access to the sea and a big pool served as children’s playground.
Porta da Salão:
The swimming place in Salão is similar to Porta da Eira since it also needs a walk to get down and back up, although not as steep. Here is also a camping ground and a snackbar/restaurant with simple Portuguese food.
Praia de Pedro Miguel:
This is still the most quiet and hidden beach of all. Hardly any people, a small secluded beach with tranquil waters. Bring your own picnic and drinks, no services available!
Praia do Almoxariffe:
Is the closest beach out of Horta to the East. A very popular black sand beach, easy access with a boulevard, carpark and several restaurants/snackbars surrounding it. In the summer months there are musical groups performing in the evenings on the village central square. The municipal camping is also located along the seafront.
Other things to do:
organizes dives and equipment can be rented.
is excellent throughout the island's swimming places. Equipment can be bought or bring your own.
Numerous hikes through the island, from the top of the caldeira, along the seafront and the ‘Levada’ (ancient watercanals in Faial’s hills), there will be a different walk for every day of your stay.
A lovely mini golf course with its own restaurant and terrace with a beautiful seaview.
Whale and Dolphin watching:
Several companies offer trips out to sea, most are just half day excursions, one offers whole day trips with an English crew. They are also the only ones with a hydrophone and can therefore tell where the whales are located. There is a variety of boats to choose from, inflatables and hard top boats, a catamaran or sportfishing-type motorboats.
Spotting of Whales is numerous during the summer months and dolphins are always around. See the Links page
The stables are in Capelo with a Portuguese and an Austrian teacher. Spoken languages: English, German, Portuguese. It is possible to take lessons or to ride out.
A full restaurant guide awaits you at our Sabugo rental house as well as additional information about Faial, entertainment, culture and local know how.