After spending ten days in Flores and Corvo, we must be honest, we did not have great expectations for Faial. With the last volcano eruption having happened hardly 60 years ago, we thought the island would mainly be black and brown. But we were surprised with the amount of lush vegetation and forest that we found in Faial and just regret that we did not stay longer in the island…
This is a list of the things we did get to see and experience in Faial and can only recommend:
1. Lighthouse of Ponta dos Capelinhos
The lighthouse of Capelinhos was constructed in the late 19th century. It was built in volcanic basalt and remained in activity until 1957, when the eruption of the Capelinhos volcano damaged part of the building, and covered great part of the lighthouse with ash.
2. New land near the lighthouse of Ponta dos Capelinhos
After the eruption of the Capelinhos volcano in 1957/58, Faial got new 2,4 km2 of new land. The eruption started at sea on the 27th of September and lasted for 13 months, stopping in October 1958. During this period, the eruption triggered hundreds of earthquakes, spread tonnes of ashes, destroyed 300 houses and caused the evacuation of 2,000 persons. There were no casualties to be mourned.
3. Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre
The interpretation centre is well organised, with several exhibitions that explain the eruption of the Capelinhos volcano in the sea, how it created new land and what was the impact of the long lasting eruption to the population. Those interested n volcanoes can also check the part of the exhibition dedicated to several volcanic activities throughout the world.
The building itself is a masterpiece of Portuguese architect Nuno Ribeiro Lopes, built underground on existing pre-volcanic ground,in order not to interfere with the landscape. The visit ends at the lighthouse, which today, devoid of its original role, serves as a lookout to the sea, to the new land and to the Interpretation centre.
- Entrance fee: 10 EUR
- Opening hours: November to March from Tuesday to Sunday – 10h00 to 17h00; April to October from Monday to Sunday – 10h00 to 18h00
4. The city of Horta in Faial Island
Horta is a tiny city of 7,000 inhabitants, but due to its international marina, that receives foreign sailors crossing the Atlantic, it gets a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. In Faial, the first settlers were Portuguese farmers from mainland, specially from the North.
5. Peter’s Café Sport and the Scrimshaw Museum in Faial Island
Near the marina of Horta, you can’t miss Peter’s café. This is the place where all sailors come together for a drink and a chat, when they dock in Faial, most of them on their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Nowadays, there are almost as many tourists as sailors at Peter’s, but the place has managed to keep its genuine atmosphere, with the inside being decorated with hundreds of yacht flags.
True, the food is nothing to look forward to, but the house is much better known for its home brewed Gin, and that, we can attest, is an excellent choice. Those looking for a ride across the ocean still come here to hang their notice at the bar. Often one’s request is attended and exchanged by one’s sailing or cooking expertise.
On the first floor of Peter’s you will find the scrimshaw museum, which is actually the collection of scrimshaw art collected during four generations of Peter’s family. More than 1,000 pieces of art, carved in the ivory of whale’s teeth and bones.
- Entrance fee to the scrimshaw museum: 2,5 EUR
- Opening hours of museum: Winter: 11h00 to 13h00 and from 14h00 to 16h00; Summer: 10h00 to 13h00 and from 14h00 to 17h30
6. Porto Pim bay and beach in Faial Island
Porto Pim, situated next to the marina of Horta, has got one of the prettiest and most popular beaches in Faial. The bay protects the sea from the ocean currents, and its shallow waters make it an ideal place for kids to swim safely. It is therefore much sought by locals and tourists alike.
7. Monte da Guia in Faial Island
From Porto Pim bay, there’s a lovely hike that leads to the top of Monte Guia, from where one can have gorgeous views not only of Horta and Porto Pim on one side, but also to the other side of the mountain, where the Caldeirinhas are situated, and where you have a perfect view of the volcanic cone of Guia.
When the weather is good and the sky clear, you can also see Pico, São Jorge and Graciosa islands. It took us less than one hour to reach the top, where a small chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Guia is located, and from where we could absorb the views. If you have the time, you can have a stop at the old Whale factory, which holds nowadays the Whale museum. Nearby is also the Dabney house, which is today a museum.
8. Nossa Senhora da Conceição Outlook in Faial Island, Azores
There are several viewpoints in Faial, but one of the most beautiful ones is the one from Nossa Senhora da Conceição, just outside of Horta at the Ponta da Espalamaca. On the background of the photo, you can see Mount Pico, on Pico Island. From the outlook one also gets incredible views of Horta on one side and the Almoxarife beach on the other side. The monument to Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception) is made of white marble and is about three metres high.
9. Horta’s Marina in Faial Island, Azores
The Horta’s marina is one of the most visited ports in the world because of its location, in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Europe and the Americas. There’s another reason that turned the marina into a very particular one. Horta’s marina is probably the most colourful one in the world. There’s a special tradition at the Marina of Horta, which has been redesigning its architecture. All sailors that dock at the marina leave a drawing to mark their presence. Legend says that those who do it will reach their destination safely. The result is thousands of paintings colouring the concrete harbour. If you pass-by, you will certainly get to meet some of them, eager as they are to share their adventures, you will probably stay a long time with them…
10. Octopus salad at the Aldina Restaurant
Ok, we can’t hide it any longer: Azores is the place for fish lovers! Whichever fish dish you choose, you are up for a treat and a delicacy. We stopped at a road side restaurant without any expectations, and were served one of the best octopus salads we have ever eaten! The octopus was soft and very well seasoned, we could have eaten it every day.
- Location: Find the address of Aldina’s restaurant here.
11. Incredible views over Pico Island and its volcano
We had such a fascination about Pico, probably as everyone else gets with other volcanoes. The best views we got from it were definitely from outside the island. We think we got the best views of Pico from Faial and São Jorge islands. Make sure you get an accommodation (and preferable a room) with a view so that you can wake up to gorgeous views of Pico, the highest point of Portugal, at 2,351 metres above sea level.
- We got a room with a view at Hotel Horta and can only recommend it.
12. Ribeirinha Village in Faial Island, Azores
The place where the Ribeirinha village is located is the oldest part of the island with around 800 thousand years. The village was hit by a strong earthquake in 1998 and several of its buildings were severely damaged, such as the São Mateus Church. The ruins of the Church were kept to remind everyone of the power that nature has over the island.
13. The destroyed lighthouse of Ribeirinha
The lighthouse of Ribeirinha was another victim of the earthquake that hit the island in 1998. With a power of 5,8 in Richter’s scale, this powerful quake left behind a sad scene of destruction, with many houses being knocked down and reduced to ruins.
14. The Windmills of Faial Island, Azores
There are 39 windmills in the island of Faial, most of them have not been recovered yet and only 11 are considered buildings of public interest. They were built in the late XIX century, and were essential to the development of the economy of the island, at the time based on the production and grinding of several cereals. They also have a significant historical meaning, since they are the heritage of the island colonisation by both the Flemish settlers and the Portuguese from mainland. Some mills have the characteristic rectangular grid sail, which is typical Flemish while others have the Portuguese triangular sails. They are rotating windmills, with wooden structures, access ladders, and painted in red.
15. Nature Reserve of the Caldeira Grande of Faial
What an incredible view we got when we arrived at the top of Alto to Cabouco in the centre of the island. It is widely agreed that the eruption that created this caldera was also responsible for the creation of the island. To reach the caldera, one needs to pass the cold and dark tunnel that gives access to it. On the other side of the tunnel, we were awarded with a unique view over the entire caldera and its rim. There’s a trail all around the rim, which is approximately 7 kilometres long, and which takes around 2,5 hours to complete on foot. The impressive caldera has a diametre of two kilometres and is 400 metres deep. There’s another hike which takes down to the bottom of the caldera, unfortunately can only be done with a guide. There’s a lot of vegetation throughout the caldera, such as the Laurissilva forest.
- The circular hike on top of the rim of the caldera is the PRC04 FAI
- Type of circuit: Circular trail
- Duration: 2,5 hours
- Distance: 7 kilometres
- Difficulty: Easy
16. Touring the island with a car
One of the best ways to visit the island is to rent a car and drive throughout the island for a couple of days. There are many attractions outside of Horta (and also interesting accommodation outside of town), better accessed by car. Public transport is summed up to a few buses, which are not really frequent and don’t cover the entire island.
- You can rent a car with Ilha Verde, a local car rental company which we highly recommend.
17. Traditional houses of Faial Island
Traditional houses in Faial are built with volcanic stone and whitewashed for freshness. Many of these traditional houses are being renovated as main habitation, and others are being renovated for tourism. It is part of the charm to stay in one of these simple but charming houses.
18. Japanese Cedar forests
There are many Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica D. Don) forests in the Azores. It was introduced for timber and has spread into wild areas. The colours of the red Japanese cedar are very strong and its odour very pleasant. We took pleasure in walking through different Japanese cedar forests, including this one found on the road from the Caldeira Grande to Horta.
19. Natural swimming pools
There are several places to go for a swim n Faial. You can either opt for one of the many sandy beaches or the natural pools carved in the rocks. Our favourite spot for a swim was the Varadouro, where there are several infra-structures, such as stairs to reach the pools and many places to lie down and sunbath.
20. The Horta Museum
The Horta Museum is located in the old Jesuit college, next to the main church of the island of Faial, in a building that dates from the XVIII century. The main collection relates to the history of the island and its port. It also has an ethnographic exhibition with traditional artefacts.
21. Santa Cruz Fort in Horta
The Santa Cruz fort, a fortress built in the sixteenth-century on the Horta Bay to protect the island from pirates and corsairs, has been transformed into a charming hotel. Today it is possible to overnight in this historic monument, or just visit its restaurant for a meal. The views over the port and marina are just incredible.
22. Our Lady of Carmo Church
This complex of buildings used to be a church and convent from the Carmelite order but after the expulsion of the religious order, it started to decline. There are projects to transform the convent into a hotel.
Tips to help you plan your visit to Faial Island Azores
- COVID 19 Travel Restrictions
The Azores have remained in the green zone of the safest destinations for holidays in 2021. The government of the Azores is taking the Covid pandemic very seriously, and all travellers who arrive without a negative test, will be tested upon arrival as well as on the 6th and 12th days of their stay. Costs are supported by the government and the procedure is quick and smooth. Covid 19 should not hold up your visit to the Azores.
- Free Flight Routing Service to a Second Island
SATA Air Açores provides a free routing service to passengers travelling within the Azores, and to or from Mainland Portugal or Funchal. In practice this means that if you want to visit, let’s say, Flores, you only need to have a ticket to Terceira or São Miguel (the archipelago’s gateways), and do not need to buy another ticket to continue to Flores. You get a free routing to Flores (certain conditions apply, though).
- 35 EUR Safe Destination Voucher to Spend in the Azores
As a reward for arriving with a negative test and making a safety registration online, the government of the Azores is offering the Azores Safe Destination Voucher to all visitors, in the amount of 35 €. You receive the voucher via email once your registration is confirmed. The voucher is valid for 20 days counting from its issuing date and you can use it on many services and products (including car rental agencies, restaurants and travel agencies). Get your Azores voucher here.
- Transport during your visit to Faial Island
Unfortunately, public transport will not allow you to visit the entire island, because there are few bus routes, and the ones that exist make few journeys per day. Only the main villages are connected and often the schedule is reduced to one or two trips in the morning and another one or two in the afternoon.
For travellers interested in seeing different villages, stopping at lookouts, having a break for a swim, the easiest solution is to rent a car or bike. There are some car rentals in Faial (but not many), so it is better to have this organised before arrival, to make sure you get a car. In the high season, the island can get busier.
OUR PICK: We rented our car with Ilha Verde and recommend the experience.
- Useful Websites – Spotazores
Weather changes very quickly in the Azores. Locals usually say that sometimes the weather is so capricious that the four seasons show up in only one day. Also, sometimes it is raining on one side of the island, and the other side has a bright sunshine. In order to help you search for the best weather, there is a website and app (Spotazores) that features live webcams located in different places of the island. It makes it easier to decide which way to go if you are seeking for good weather or running away from fog. Here is the link to spot Azores.
Planning to visit more islands in the Azores? Have a look at our articles:
- What to Visit in Flores
- What to Visit in Corvo
- What to Visit in Pico
- Pico Volcano, Summit Hike
- From Whale Hunting to Whale Watching in the Azores