Faial Island (the blue island) is part of the Azores central group, located about 66 miles from Terceira, 4.5 miles from Pico and 11 miles from S. Jorge. The surface area of Faial Island is approximately 67 square miles (173 km2). The island has about 15.000 inhabitants and its main municipal seat is located in the city of Horta. Different colours of blue decorate the houses, divide the fields and line the roadsides, giving Faial the name of Blue Island.
In the 18th century the development of whale hunting brought the early whaling fleets to Horta. By 19th century, Horta had become an important sea port, and a stopping point for a large number of yachts crossing the Atlantic.
In 1957 a great volcanic eruption from the "Ilheu dos Capelinhos", about 1 km from the coast, projected large quantities of lava and ash forming an islet that later became connected to Faial island by an isthmus.
The green circle of a volcanic cone at the top of a hill; White houses in towns mirrored on the ocean; The masts of sailing boats sailing from all over the world; The ochre walls of a fortress that has witnessed countless naval battles; The unforgettable sight of sunrise with the island of Pico in the background; The quiet inlets with beaches of soft sand; The hydrangeas standing out against the landscape, framing houses and roads, reason why Faial has been christened the "blue island".
The first Portuguese navigators called Faial "Sao Luiz". According to legend, Faial's first inhabitant was a hermit who sought refuge from the world. Later Josse van Huerter, a wealthy Flemish, accompanied by fifteen fellow-countrymen, landed in Faial which was already inhabited by settlers from Portugal. Van Huerter was searching for the tin and silver lodes that were said to exist in the island. The first prospection work proved that a mistake had been made and thus dooming the expedition. But Van Huerter, excited by the island and its fertility, did not give up. With the intercession of the Duchess of Burgundy, a daughter of King Joao I of Portugal, Van Huerter obtained a letter patent in 1468 naming him donee of the island and giving him the right to bring more settlers from Flanders, scourged by the Hundred Years' War. The Flemish settled in the parish of Flamengos - the very name of which recalls their origin. and later in the Horta area.
The island prospered due to agriculture and the export of the dye-yielding plant called "woad". In 1583, a Spanish fleet sailed to Faial as part of the occupation of the Azores which had began with the landing in Terceira island. A body of armed men landed at "Pasteleiro" and engaged the defenders who had been reinforced by French troops. After a bloody battle, the Spaniards finally overcame the resistance and conquered the island. The presence and actions of the Spaniards were followed by attacks by English buccaneers, which inflicted large-scale damage to Faial. Much later a destructive earthquake shook Faial in 1672 causing large scale damage.
In the l9th century Faial took an active part in the struggle between liberals and absolutists. In the end it was won over by the former thus culminating with a visit from King Pedro IV in 1832. The island contributed a group of brave combatants to the liberal cause and also an arsenal that was used to supply the fleet that landed at "Mindelo" in northern Portugal. Until about 1860, Faial's position in the Atlantic and the existence of a sheltered port attracted cargo boats engaged in the orange trade and American whalers which stopped there to load up supplies.
In the first half of the 20th century Faial was an important communications center as underwater cable links connected Europe to North America via Faial. Faial was a feature in the pioneer period of aviation, where hydroplanes, most notably Pan Am airlines made Horta de connecting refueling ports for their transatlantic voyages.
Today Faial is a developing island, with an economy based on agriculture, livestock raising, a dairy industry, fishing and trade. It is also the headquarters for the Tourism office.
With the shape of an irregular pentagon and an area of 67 square miles (173.42 Km2), the island of Faial has a length of 13 miles (21 Km) and a maximum width of 8.7 miles (14 Km). Dominated by the volcanic cone of Caldeira, which has gentle slopes interrupted by secondary volcanic formations, the island has its highest point at Cabeco Gordo, with an altitude of 3421 feet (1,043 m).
Geophysically speaking Faial is the westernmost point of Europe as it sits on the European tectonic plate. Flores and Corvo sit on the North American plate. Faial was formed from several geomorphologic structures resulting from volcanism. The "Capelo" volcanic complex is the most recent geomorphologic feature, where last eruption occurred along "Costa da Nau" and "Ponta dos Caplinhos", near the small parish of "Capelo" on September 27, 1957. Initially, a small island (Ilha Nova) formed off the coast but quickly disappeared. During a subsequent eruption a cone and a small isthmus formed off the coast and then volcanic activity dissipated. The volcano became active again on December 16, 1957; this lasted until May 12, 1958 and connected the islet with Faial, effectively enlarging the island by 2.4 km² and extending the "Ponta dos Capelinhos" into the western ocean.
Faial's early economic growth was propelled by cultivation and processing of "woad", a blue-colored dye produced from a plant of the same name (in Latin, Isatis tinctoria). It was the only source for blue dye until the end of the sixteenth century when Portuguese trade routes started bringing indigo from the far east. Economic and population growth was also spearheaded by many legends of tin and silver, perpetuated by members of the Portuguese court.
The economy of the island generated some prosperity until 1957, when the Capelinhos Volcano erupted in the western part of the island, reactivating emigration to North America, supported by promises of aid made by Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy to the affected populations.
The main agricultural resources of the island are potatoes, cereals, fruits, and wines, along with cattle (which makes up its dairy and meat industry). The city of Horta is the centre of commerce and services of the island.
In 1970s, after the "Revolution of the Carnations," Portugal experienced economic growth, and an airport was opened; with it, tourists came. After Portugal's entry into the EEC, the standard of living rapidly grew and today the population generally prospers.
Cabecão Gordo - With an altitude of 3422 feet (1043 meters). Located in the centre of the island, it offers amazing views of the neighbor islands of Pico and Sao Jorge
The Caldeira - Also a great attraction, an enormous crater with 6560 feet (2 km) diameter and 1300 feet (400 m) deep. This area is classified as a natural reserve.
Monte da Guia - A mountain from where you can have a look over the town, it is also a protected natural reserve.
Ponta dos Capilinhos - One of Faial's main tourist attractions. Here the visitor can see the results of the eruption of 1957/8 which transformed the landscape, burying fields and houses. The old lighthouse can still be seen.
Lajinha and Ponta Furada - Great attraction for their caves and strange lava arches, where the sea often flows violently against the rocks.
Vale de Flamengos - Attractive area full of colorful plantations, flowers and picturesque houses.
Scrimshaw Museum - This is a private collection belonging to the owner of the popular Peter's Cafao. Over a hundred pieces are exhibited here, engraved with beautiful sailing boats, mermaids, images of whale-hunting, among many others.
Horta Museum - Housed in the former Jesuit College, the museum is noted for its collection of fig wood, one of the island's traditional handicrafts.
Port of Horta - Built in 1876, this important sea-port is a principal port-of-call for many transatlantic yachts. The sea wall is of special interest as it is covered with hundreds of paintings and messages left by the sea-travelers who call in at the port.
Fail is the island of nautical sports and a must stop for all serious yachtsmen. Horta bay and the Pico-Fail straight know as "O Canal" (the channel) to the locals, are privileged areas for practicing sailing, windsurfing and rowing. The curvy coast, the volcanic ocean floor and the wealth of flora and fauna provide divers with hours of pleasure. But it is yachting that best defines its vocation as an island that lives for the sea.
Just a few short years ago, yachting was an infrequent stop and any arrival was an event. Now there are hundreds of yachts that make Horta their mandatory port of call for crossings the Atlantic or the vertex of a triangle that ends on the coasts of America or Europe. Famous names in yachting such as Joshua Slocum, the first lone navigator to sail round the world. Tabarly, Sir Francis Chichester, Malinovsky and Fougeron have anchored their boats in the blue waters of the port on their historic voyages. Horta is also the port of arrival or call for international regattas. The Horta marina has expanded the capacity to receive and support large port yachts, thus consecrating the town nautical and sporting tradition, and consolidating its role as a safe and welcoming port on the North Atlantic. Horta is the ideal starting point for a dream cruise round the archipelago. To unravel its secrets, spend pleasant days in good company, appreciating the vast clear horizons shaded by the greenery and masses of flowers of the islands.
The myth of the paintings
No one knows how and when it started, but one day, several years ago, a crew member of a sailing ship anchored at Horta decided he should leave a painted souvenir of his stay in Faial on the thick wall of the dock. The first painting was followed by others until now they take up the whole length of the wall. New ones are painted over old ones, and that irregular dark surface has been transformed into a colorful mosaic of drawings and words recalling the many yachts that have docked in Horta. Meanwhile, a superstition began circulating with the locals stating that boats which, for one reason or another, have failed to leave a record of their presence have suffered grave accidents. Therefore every yachtsman picks up brushes and paint and sketches out drawings and words referring to the boat or the trip, true "works of art" of modern sailors.
Fishing and the records
The sea triangle made up of the islands of Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge constitutes one of the richest big game fishing reserves of the Atlantic, a challenge to the skill of sports fishermen who want to break European and world records already set in its waters. Combative, large-sized sharks, bonitos, pecos, sword and tuna fish, are the most frequent catches.
Fishing from rocks and line fishing from boats make it possible to catch the species that are most abundant in the waters of the Azores: common sea bream, sword fish, barracuda, amberjack, oceanic bonito, bluefish bream, snapper bream, tuna, congerl, moray, Jack Grevale and mackeral. This can be besty done in Laginha, Castelo Branco, Costa Brava, Cedros, Almoxarife and Espalamaca.
Pico - The neighboring island
Only a few miles separate Faial from Pico, a distance that is overcome by speedy boats several times a day, with regular sailing from the port of Horta to the town of Madalena which lies opposite to it. You can leave for Pico in the morning and come back in the evening. The crossing takes about 30 minutes.
The pleasure of walking
Faial does not have heights and scarps that present a challenge to the climber or hiker. However its lovely green landscape, cut by masses of hydrangeas is an invitation to invigorating walks that offer the possibility of enjoying its charms, and discovering small treasures of beauty that can be found at the top of a hill or on the slopes of a valley.
IRC Rally Azores
S. Miguel island is part of the IRC car rally circuit happening annually
Senhor Santo Cristo
Arguably the biggest religious festivities in Azores, happens annually on the fifth weekend after Easter
Bull Fights (bull on rope)
People waiting for bull - Typical of Terceira island it happens in many places throughout the island from May to September
Limas water battles
Ponta Delgada - Traditional battle of limas happens during carnival
Flower street carpets
Traditional flower carpets adorn the way for processions in religious festivities
Festival of lights
Convento da Esperanca - One of the highlights of religious festivals are the amazing light displays
Selling the typical tremoco (lupinus) and candy
Always a hit with young and old carousels are part of the festivities fabric
The traditional and characteristic Festivals of the Holy Ghost, which are of medieval origin, are held in almost every parish in Faial from spring till the end of August, with colorful ceremonies and the celebrated “festas” at which you can taste such mouth-watering dishes as the sopas do Espirito Santo, roast meat, massa sovada, and the rice dessert called arroz doce.
The St. John's festivals on the 24th June attract pilgrims from all over the island to the leafy park of Largo Jaime Melo where, to the sound of music played by bands and groups of stringed instruments, picnics are enjoyed, there is dancing and a good time is had by all.
"Semana do Mar" (Sea Week)
The Horta port is full of dozens of sailing ships with their colourful sails and flags. The town is dominated by the happy music of bands and groups of stringed instruments, the songs and dances of folk music groups, the animation of a charity sale, the delicious aroma of the tasty morsels served at stands, art and handicraft exhibitions, dances and conviviality. But the festival is dedicated to the sea, and on its waters there is a regatta in the Faial-Pico channel, besides competitions of sailing, windsurfing, swimming and fishing, not to mention aquatic games for youngsters. Every year, from the first to the second Sunday in August it confirms Horta's vocation as a cosmopolitan meeting town that lives from and for the sea.
The Festivals of the Patron Saints
Each village has its own saint to which it is particularly devoted. And every year, mainly in the summer months, the image of the saint is carried in procession.
Traditional Holy Ghost Sopas from Santa Maria
Dill & Mint
Dill is specific of Santa Maria. Mint is used in all Sopas
Lining up for Sopas
Long lines demonstrate the popularity of Sopas feasts
Sopas a tradition shared in every Azorean community
Although Faial faces the sea and received from it various influences over the centuries, the cooking of Faial does not contain any exotic dishes that stray from Azorean traditions.
There are the substantial dishes of linguiça com inhames (sausages and yams), molha de carne (a meat speciality), morcelas de porco (a pork blood sausage), torresmos de vinha-de-alhos (bacon prepared with wine and garlic), sopas do Espirito Santo (beef broth) and also caldo de peixe (fish soup), caldeirada (fish stew) and polvo guisado com vinho (octopus stewed in wine), accompanied by maize bread and massa sovada (sweet bread). Lovers of shell-fish will be delighted at the taste of the local lobsters, cavaco, deep-water crabs and delicious arroz de lapas (limpets cooked with rice). The llha and other cheeses produced on Faial, as well as the sweet with the picturesque name of fofas, provide a good close to a meal.
Clay and Wicker are art forms that span centuries in Azores
Bonecos are figurines made of straw and cloth
Wicker is used for many uses. More traditional for basket weave.
The handicraft products of Faial are as lovely as the island where they are made. There are fine and delicate straw embroideries on tulle, flowers made from fish scales, towels and other decorations in cut paper, the artistic crochet lace-work that is so characteristic in its motifs and delicate transparency. Or the straw hats that last years of sun and rain, the most aristocratic top-hat of bright, firm straw, recalling elegant country fashions of times gone by, the purses of woven straw with decorative cords and the wickerwork.
The delicate and unique art of fig-tree wood
Probably originating in the skilful hands of nuns in convent cloisters, the art of turning fig-tree wood into wonderful miniatures has been practiced in Faial since the middle of the l9th century. Its main master was Euclides Rosa, who transformed fig-tree wood into the delicate and marvelous pieces that are the pride of the Horta Museum. Cut in thin, transparent strips, the fig-tree wood, with much skill and patience and a minimum of glue, gives rise to houses and windmills, flowers and animals, ships and delicate and fragile figures.
The scrimshaw tradition
It was the rough sailors of the whalers of yore who brought to the Faial the technique of carving designs on whale's teeth, the ivory of the sea. Designs such as ships with their sails full, tempting sirens and whale hunting scenes are typical. The whalers have gone but the difficult art of scrimshaw has remained in Faial. Hard-working and skilful craftsmen, using centuries-old techniques, record on valuable, rare whale's teeth the adventurous atmosphere of a past that is ever more distant, recalled with imagination and art.
The unusual “capote-e-capelo”
A large cape that covered a woman's figure, allowing only a glimpse of her face, the origin of the “capote-e-capelo” is controversial. Some say that it came from Flanders and others state that it is an adaptation of mantles and cowls that were fashionable in Portugal in the 17th and 18th centuries. Regardless, for centuries the “capote-e-capelo” was a typically Azorean woman's garment used in Faial. Varying from island to island in the cut of the cape and the arrangement of the cowl, Faial had the extravagant shape of a wedge resting on the shoulders and which jutted out in front for over a palm. The common characteristic of the “capote-e-capelo” was that it was made of a strong, heavy electric-blue cloth that lasted for generations and was handed down from mothers to daughters. The women of the Azores stopped wearing the “capote-e-capelo” around the 1930's.
Azores flowers for all tastes
Pineapple of S. Miguel
Pineapples are grown in green houses and are only a product of S. Miguel
In Terceira, for example, cows outnumber people 2:1, thus the abundance of dairy and meat
Fish, abundant and varied, is an essential ingredient in the Azorean diet
Cheese - A Specialty
Cheese from S. Miguel, S. Jorge, Faial and Pico are world renowned
A variety of vegetables can be found in the Azoes including the local inhame (yam)