Crossing the 4 mile canal which separates the islands of Faial and Pico, the city of Horta welcomes you to this quaint island where everything looks both small and lovely.
The island of Faial has a surface area of approximately 173 km2. “Horta”, seat of the only municipality in Faial, is the liveliest, and most eye-catching town of the Azores.
It contains a great richness of architecture illustrated in its buildings and monuments.
The marina is generally filled with colourful yachts which stop here during their voyage across the North Atlantic. This creates a lively atmosphere characteristic to Horta which is revealed in the relationship between the residents and the yachtsmen.
Architecturally the following structures are especially noteworthy:
- The “São Salvador” Church (mother church), the “Nossa Senhora das Angústias” (Our Lady of Anguish Church), the “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” (Our Lady of Carmo Church), the Church of St.Francis which is presently integrated with the “Arte Sacra” Museum and the “Horta” Museum;
- The Chapels of “Nossa Senhora do Pilar” and “Nossa Senhora da Guia”, (Our Lady of Pilar) provide magnificent terraces overlooking the city, the south part of the island and Pico;
- The “Torre do Relógio” Clock Tower, “Império dos Nobres”, and the “Forte de Santa Cruz”, a noteworthy structure from the 16th century which has been transformed into an Inn;
- The “Portão fortificado do Porto Paim” (large iron gate of Porto Paim), and the “Muralhas de São Sebastião” (walls of St.Sebastian) were constructed to defend the bay of Porto Paim .
Following the city tour, there are three good alternatives for a warm up to the tour of the island:
- A visit to “Monte do Guia”, and a climb to the Chapel offer a spectacular view of Faial and Pico. Descending to Porto Paim, the bay, a wonderful beach and calm blue ocean water awaits you; ( The “Guia” and “Queimado” mounts were classified in 1980 as Protected Countryside due to their botanical and landscape characteristics)
- A trip to Mount “Carneiro” is definitely worthwhile. From there one can observe the exquisite landscape of the green Flamengo Valley, the city of Horta and the island of Pico;
- The ascent to “Espalamaca” offers a beautiful view of the valley from a different angle.
Departing in the direction of the island centre a dazzling display awaits the viewer. The “Caldeira do Faial”, a veritable cathedral of silence and beauty, is the vast crater of the extinct volcano from which the island originated. The “Caldeira do Faial” was classified as a Natural Reserve due to its valuable endemic vegetation and unique landscape.
Returning from the “Caldeira” to the Largo Jaime Melo and heading the east, you will see many interesting panoramas over the south coast. Especially worthy of mention is view of the fascinating “Baía do Varadouro” (bay), with the “Morro de Castelo Branco” (hill) in the background and the “Ponta dos Capelinhos”. This deserted end of the island is presently used in most of the tourist posters of the island and was the stage for the most recent volcanic eruption in the Azores in 1957/58. The effects of this disaster are still evident in the partially covered homes, cultivated land, and lighthouse.
In the “Capelinhos” Museum, near the area in the town of Capelo, a history of the active period of the volcano is presented.
Hiking up to “Cabeço Gordo”, the highest point on the island at an altitude of 1,043 meters, from “Ribeiro do Cabo” is recommended in order to see the spectacular view overlooking the west side of the island. on your return the fresh and well equipped Forest Park of Capelo (Recreational Forest Reserve) is the perfect place for a delightful lunch and a rest.
During the return trip to Horta along the north side, beautiful scenes of the coastline, the slopes of the “Caldiera” and its’ fields decorated by hydrangea fences make for a delightful and unforgettable trip.
A stop at the “Praia do Almoxarife”, a delightful beach with a campground, is a wonderful spot to complete your tour of the island.