Faial island is less than 1 million years old. It is almost pentagonal in shape, measuring 21km in length and 14km wide, with an encircling 50km road that runs along the coast. The island is mountainous and is dominated by its central crater (Caldeira) and nearby highest point Cabeço Gordo of 1043m. From there a sequence of secondary volcanic cones spread westwards to Capelinhos, where an eruption in 1957/8 added 1,5km.
Varies between 16-23ºC, with the lowest sea temperatures in February and March and the highest in August and September.
When to visit
When to visit Faial depends upon what you want to do. For nature lovers the best season is between April and early October, when the weather is usually more stable.
Best diving season:
For macro subjects - April, May and June
For pelagic fish and to dive the most remote dive sites - July, August and September
Best whale watching season:
For current fares and schedules contact the airlines.
http://www.sata.pt/Airlines have baggage limitations that can affect divers and photographers. Both TAP Air Portugal and SATA Air Açores allow a limit of 20kg at the check-in and one volume of hand luggage with max. 6kg.
In doubt, please contact the airlines when booking the flight.
The Azores are a Portuguese territory and belong to the European Union. Citizens from the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Malta only need an identity card to enter in Portugal. American and Canadian nationals may stay without a visa for up to 60 days with a valid passport. Visitors from countries requiring a visa, the maximum length of stay in Portugal is 90 days, but if in doubt we recommend checking more detailed information with the Portuguese consulate.
The official language is Portuguese, but most locals who are active in tourism speak English and French.
Portuguese currency is the Euro. ATMs are found in the main centres and exchange money can only be done at banks, which are open from Monday to Friday between 8h30am and 3h00pm. Credit cards are generally accepted in hotels and some shops and restaurants. Traveller checks are only accepted in the banks.
Time is GMT -1, one hour less than Lisbon.
The electricity is 220V and plugs are the usual European two-pin style.
In summer the temperatures are very pleasant and usually light clothing is ok. However, at night, at sea or at high altitudes a warm sweater can be necessary. A raincoat and wind-jacket are recommended due to occasional showers that can occur at any time of the year.
Most of the streets are cobbled, so comfortable shoes are a good option.
Health & Safety
No vaccinations are required. There is a Hospital and a Health Centre in Horta. There are 3 pharmacies in the city that open weekdays from 9h00am to 07h00pm. On Saturday they are open until 01h00pm. At Sundays and every day after the closing hour one pharmacy continues on duty until midnight (out of business opening hours are usually posted in every pharmacy).
Faial is very safe and peaceful and street violence towards tourists is inexistent.
People & Culture
People in Faial are naturally friendly and relaxed. We do not have the stress found in other places of Europe, so the best advice for tourists is to slow down and enjoy the beautiful nature and culture of the islands.
The Sea Week in Horta (Semana do Mar) is by far the most popular festival in Faial. Starting every year on the first Sunday of August, this is mainly a nautical event with yachting regattas, old whaling boat races and many other sea related activities. The city avenue is closed and many “tasquinhas” with typical food are set up. Each evening different musical groups perform.
Internet & Phone Services
Some hotels and lodges have internet service available for their guests. In the city there are some internet shops.
Mobile phones work very well in Faial and phone booths are available as well.
Dining & Food
In Horta there are plenty of places where to eat, from traditional bakeries and coffees shops to good restaurants. Supermarkets and groceries are widely available.
Faial has many typical dishes, though sometimes they are a little fatty. The grilled fresh fish and the meat are usually very good. Tuna (atum), swordfish (espadarte), forkbeard (abrótea), wreck fish (cherne) and small fried mackerels (chicharros fritos) are favourite fish dishes in Faial. Azorean sausages (morcela and linguiça) with pineapple and yams and torresmos vinha-de-alhos are a specialty (pork in wine and garlic).
Some Azorean cheeses like Queijo de S. João from Pico, Queijo de S. Jorge from S. Jorge and Queijo Ilha Azul from Faial are very good and worth to try with typical corn (pão de milho) and sweat breads (massa sovada). There are excellent wines from the mainland and from Pico Island available in most of the restaurants. Try also the famous liqueurs Angelica and Licor de Amora (blueberry) from Pico.
Below we give you a list with some of our preferences.
Padaria Popular (the best bakery in town), Café Volga and Café Porto Pim
Clube Naval da Horta (Yatch Club) – right in the marina, with view to Pico; it also offers vegetarian dishes; opens daily
Ponto Come – self-service with plenty of options, with an entertainment area for kids and free wireless internet access
Canto da Doca – local fresh fish and meat cooked on a hot stone; nice view to the harbour; opens every day until 12h00pm
Barão - typical Azorean food, with fresh fish and meat
Taberna do Pim – street restaurant by Porto Pim beach, with a great view to the bay
Medalhas – traditional place with typical Azorean food
Horta is a small town with plenty of history. The colourful and lively Marina, the Museum of Horta and the churches are worth a visit.
Outside the city the impressive views of Caldeira, Capelinhos volcano and Morro de Castelo Branco are a must. In summer the island is covered with flowers and its natural beauty is overwhelming. At the top of Caldeira, on a clear day, Pico, S. Jorge and Graciosa can be seen.
If you have enough time, you can take a day or two to visit the neighbour islands of Pico and S. Jorge. Climbing Pico Mountain (Portugal’s highest peak) can be a challenge for the most fit and in the summit the view is impressive; a visit to the vineyards (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and to Gruta das Torres (a lava cave) is mandatory. S. Jorge is a beautiful island known for its cliffs and peacefulness.
www.transmacor.pt for further details.
Traffic in Faial is very light, so it is easy to drive around. Taxis, rent-a-car/scooter services are available at reasonable prices. Some local companies offer walking and jeep/van tours along the most beautiful routes of the island.
Beaches & Natural Rock Pools
Though not being a beach destination, the sea in Faial is warm and clear in summer and there are some fine beaches and natural rock pools.
The natural rock pools of Varadouro and Porto Comprido (by the Capelinhos volcano) are also very nice and with beautiful surroundings.
Traditional local crafts include beautiful crocheted laceworks, delicate fish scales and fig pith miniatures, wickerwork baskets, folk figures made from corn husks and scrimshaw carvings (in whale bone or teeth). Nowadays, because whaling was banned in 1981, modern artists are working with cow bone and vegetable ivory. The Handicraft School in Capelo (by the road in the way to Capelinhos volcano) sells and exhibits traditional crafts, with local artists demonstrating their work to visitors. T-shirts, postcards and books are also widely available.
In Faial you are welcome to enter any shop and buying pressure is inexistent.
Shops in Faial open weekdays from 9h00am to 1h00pm and from 2h00pm to 6h00pm. On Saturdays they open until 1h00pm (some may open the hole day in summer) and on Sundays expect them to be closed.