Faial – In the land of sailors
I have always heard about Peter Café in Horta, Faial Island, for as long as I can remember. In fact, I think that in the Azores, this sanctuary for sailors from all over the world is one of the best known and most talked about places.
Whoever sets foot on Faial for the first time, like me, goes straight to Horta and heads to Peter’s to enjoy one of their Sea Gins. The tables are always full, in what was just a bar chosen by the old sea wolves. Today, the institution occupies the entire block, with a store, museum, and advertisements for boat trips or support services to the vessels that arrive at the island’s port.
How to get to Faial
There are direct flights to Horta from Lisbon, but if you want the airfare to be cheaper, you have to make a stopover at Ponta Delgada (São Miguel Island).
You can get to Horta by Atlânticoline boat. But check the schedules. They vary depending on the island of origin and the date of travel.
In the streets of Horta, you’ll come across sailors, men, and women with the sunburnt into their skin, windbreakers that have certainly dealt with bad weather, white-soled shoes that are mandatory for walking on the boat decks.
In front of Porto Prim bay, Mr. Genuíno is one of these seamen, who opened the restaurant that bears his name and offers visitors good fish dishes. In an infinite showcase of souvenirs, spread through the walls are objects, costumes, flags, and photographs that mark this man’s travels around the world. Had he not circumnavigated onboard a sailboat, solo… twice already!
He welcomes us with a broad smile, the kind you get from long-time friends, and when we leave, the payment is accompanied by travel stories that leave us fascinated.
The power of Faial’s volcanoes
But if Horta attracts with its harbor, the same one where the sailboats arrive and the boats for whale and dolphin watching leave, the rest of the island captivates with its volcanoes.
Caldeira do Faial is one of those places that make us feel small in the face of nature’s power and the reason why islands are formed.
The crater of the largest volcano in Faial is 2 km in diameter and is now a nature reserve, located right in the center of the island. The perimeter can be walked around, but ideally, you should do it on days with good weather and visibility.
But for those who don’t have time or are averse to long walks, the view from the belvedere is 100% worth the distance traveled on the winding road into the mountain.
The Capelinhos Volcano is also an essential stop in Faial. In fact, this geosite is the main attraction of the island. The crater isn’t bigger than Caldeira, but the fact that this is a very recent volcano and its formation and eruption is still very much alive in the memory of those who live on the island and of the older generations.
The Capelinhos Volcano appears in an almost lunar landscape, where the black sand reminds us of the ashes that were expelled from there in the 1950s. Next to the crater is the Capelinhos Lighthouse, a large, half-naked structure with no longer existing walls and windows contrasting with the shining glass at its top.
The sight is awe-inspiring, but we only get to know the magnitude of this place better when we visit the interpretive center. This underground structure immediately reminds us of old bunkers.
During the permanent exhibition, a holographic reconstitution of the rise of the Capelinhos Volcano lets us know virtually everything that happened there. From the fact that the volcano erupted more than 1 km from the coast, in the middle of the sea, where there were only a few separate rocks. Or that it was erupting for 13 months and then formed the sizable volcanic mountain that we see before us today.
Here we see photographs of that time and get to know the story of Tomaz Pacheco da Rosa, the lighthouse keeper who was on duty when the volcano erupted and didn’t leave his post, even when the whole scenario told him to run away.
The full ticket to the Capelinhos Interpretation Center is far from cheap. However, it still gives you access to climb to the top of the lighthouse, and from there, you have an extraordinary view of the volcano and its surroundings.
I could have gone even further in Faial, but the visit had been scheduled to last only one day, and, on the following morning, I would take the boat to make the crossing to São Jorge island.
But back at Peter Café Sport for one last gin before setting sail from that land, I looked around at the men and women of the sea sitting at the surrounding tables. With their glasses almost empty and their mouths full of stories, they too were preparing for a new journey. Faial is, without a doubt, a great port of departure for new adventures.
Bathing at Almoxarife Beach
Whale and dolphin watching
Capelinhos volcano and interpretive center
Peter Sport Café
By plane or boat
Good network coverage
If you visit Capelinhos Volcano on a windy day, take a windbreaker to protect yourself from the small sand tornadoes that form there
- Go for a Gin at Peter’s
- See the Capelinhos Volcano and learn about its history
- Climb to the viewpoint of Caldeira do Faial
Have you ever thought of visiting Faial?
Did you like this post about Faial? Is it an island in the Azores that you would like to visit one day? Have you ever been there? What was your experience? I’d love to talk to you! Share in the comments box below.
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