Visiting island of Faial

Island of Faial is located in the central group of islands in the Azores. Image by V. Oliveira under CC-SA2.0

Faial is one of the 9 islands that make the Azores. It is in the central group, making it a neighbor to the islands of Pico, São Jorge and Terceira. In this post, I will go through the main things to see and do on Faial, how to get to Faial as well as where to stay on the island.

What to do and see on Faial?

The port of Horta in Faial harbours many sailboats on their transatlantic trip. Image by V. Oliveira under CC-SA2.0

Visit the harbor of Horta and admire the sailboats

Faial has historically been a safe haven for travelers crossing the Atlantic. The people that would seek shelter here are sailors but in the past also seaplane pilots from the famous airline Pan Am.

What will strike you when arriving in the harbor are the many hand-painted tiles across the pier of the harbor. These tiles are made by the many sailors that have passed Horta and wanted to leave their mark. The sailors also added their nationality by painting a flag and the date they were there.

View over the harbor of Horta, main town of Faial

Have a drink with the sailors at Café Sport

If there is one thing that the sailors look forward to when arriving at Faial after a long voyage is a drink and a meal at Café Sports. This bar or café has been around for more than 100 years. They served meals to the pilots when they used to carry mail by seaplane across the Atlantic, their fuel didn’t last the entire trip US-Europe so they had to stop in Faial.

The café is also known to make its own gin. They also serve meals for lunch and dinner. A great stop to make after visiting the harbor.

Café Sport is an institution on Faial, having served many drinks for the last century. Image by C. Gebhardt under CC-SA4.0
The Caldeira of Faial offers a hike: either around the ridge or down to the crater. Image by V. Oliveira under CC-SA4.0

Hike up the “Caldeira” the extinct volcano

Faial, just like all the other islands of the Azores, is actually land created by the eruption of volcanoes. These volcanoes have left their mark on the islands, Faial is no exception. The peak of Faial is the old extinct volcano and its “caldeira” or caldera can be visited: fear not, as it is entirely safe to be there as the volcano last erupted over 400,000 years ago (before even our species, Homo Sapiens, had evolved).

The best way to get here is to rent a car or even a scooter and then walk either around on the ridge, or to even walk down into the base of the crater. The view from the Caldeira is also breathtaking as you see all of Faial, the town Horta as well as the neighboring island of Pico.

View from atop the Caldeira on Faial over Horta and the island of Pico in the background

Explore the “Farol”, the lighthouse

The last volcano activity on the island was observed here. In 1957-58 there was a small eruption and created the most recent land of Portugal. The lighthouse was already built some 60 years, and it shows since the land mass is in front of it. What makes this part of the island stand out is that it strongly contrasts the rest if Faial: while you will surely pass rolling green fields, and foggy and moist forests, the land around the Farol dos Capolinhos is like a desert. Some compare the land as like the Moon or Mars: I wouldn’t know, I haven’t been on them. However, I have been at the Farol and I loved it.

The lighthouse has a museum dedicated to the volcano incident and explains the history of the Azores islands and their volcanic origin: highly recommend!

Lighthouse Farol da Ponta dos Capelinhos and its moon-like surroundings. Image by V. Oliveira under CC-SA4.0

How to get to Faial and get around the island?

To get to Faial, there are two ways: either by boat or by plane.

There are flights to the small airport of Faial, however these are operated by the smaller planes of the company SATA. These planes can either depart straight from Lisbon or Porto, or they are taken after a layover on the island of São Miguel, situated in-between Faial and the mainland.

However, you can still fly to the island of Pico if the flights are cheaper or better, as you can easily take a ferry to cross the sea to Faial. Atlanticoline is the company that operates the ferries in between the central island group of the Azores. The connection between the islands of Faial-Pico is done through the harbors of Horta and Madalena, respectively. This trip is only 20 min and costs €3.8 one-way. Mind that the timetable changes according to the season of the year. Check the website of Atlanticoline for the timetable and prices linked here

SATA airlines flies to Faial as well as island of Pico. Make sure to check both airports when looking for flights as it is very easy to hop in between the two islands

Where to stay on Faial?

View from balcony at Monte da Guia over the bay and mount Pico in the background

As can be probably seen on a map, the island of Faial is fairly small and there is mainly one town, Horta, that affords accommodation in general. However, you might still find gems if you are feeling adventurous and are willing to try something located outside of Horta. Below are two accommodations I can recommend taking a look at as a start for your search:

  • Monte da Guia: is a guest house located in the outskirts of Horta. If you are lucky, you can get the balcony room with a view over Pico. One night for two people can be had for €54 last time I stayed here. Link to the here
  • Hotel Horta: a 4-star hotel in the center of the town. The hotel has a pool and a great view over mount Pico. They also have a restaurant and nice bar. Last time I checked they offered a room for two for €84 a night, link to their here
Hotel Horta is in the center of the town bearing the same name. They have one of the best views of the town over Mount Pico.

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