Touring Faial Island in the Azores
We had great success touring with a local guide on Sao Miguel on our visit to the Azores. When we arrived on Faial Island we found a small tour company called Naturalist Science and Tourism in a shop in the harbour. After looking at what the tour included, we booked a couple of days with them. Our first day would be a very full day tour of Faial Island.
We checked in for our tour and met our guide for the day. Pedro showed us a map of the island of Faial and explained what we would see on our tour. It looked like a great and comprehensive introduction to the island.
Views Around Horta
We started our full day tour of Faial Island with views of the main port town of Horta. Our first stop was on Monte Da Guia. The view out over the bay gave us another view of Pico Island. From this side of Faial Island, the view of Pico flitting in and out of cloud was a familiar sight. A small local church sat high on the hill.
From Monta Da Guia we got a view back over the beach at Porto Pim where we had lunch on our first day. We could see the small volcanic hills in this area. In front of the hills we saw the downtown port area of Horta.
Leaving this first viewpoint, we drove back down through the city of Horta. Then we headed back up and pulled into the Miradouro da Conceicao. We first stopped at the religious statue that this viewpoint was named for. There was a large bus tour so we waited until they moved out.
On this side we got another great view of Horta. We could see the busy port, the downtown area and Monte Da Guia where we had started our day.
In the morning we managed to get a view of the mountain on Pico from the marina. From this viewpoint, we got a second clear view.
When we got back in our van, we saw a woman running up the middle of the road. She waved her hands at her departing bus. She was travelling solo and somehow the bus driver and tour guide had miscounted. They did not miss her when they pulled away. We offered to take her to our next stop, expecting the bus to be there. While we were on our way, another bus from her group came by and she moved over to that bus. We would see this woman several other times on our full day tour of Faial Island and when we returned to our hotel. We were happy she did get to complete her tour day and was not stranded.
High Up To The Faial Caldera
Pedro had been watching the clouds to make sure we would have a clear view when we reached the caldera. He put this early on our fully day tour of Faial Island. It was a good thing as the clouds moved in later in the day.
We arrived at the caldera and walked through the small tunnel in the rock to get to the viewpoint over the caldera. We saw our first deep caldera valleys when we stood high over Sete Cidades on Sao Miguel Island. Far down below us we saw the deep caldera bottom. Around the sides the lava rock created peaks and valleys.
There was a hiking path that went around the top of the caldera. The mist moved in and out over the path. Pedro noted that there were a limited number of hikers allowed to go down into the caldera at any one point.
Heading To the North Side
From the caldera we slowly made our way back down. Pedro took the local small road through the heavily forested area. We came out at a viewpoint on the north coast overlooking Cedros. From the viewpoint we could look down at the coast below us.
The Small Village Of Cedros
Pedro pointed out the local building methods and materials throughout our full day tour of Faial Island. We saw many great examples of well restored original buildings. There were also many deserted buildings with just the walls remaining. Most of these were destroyed by major earthquakes on Faial. We saw many of the very tiny local churches as we drove the country roads. After we wound our way down the hill, a small road took us down into the small village of Cedros.
We stopped at the Church of Santa Barbara just as the noon bells chimed. Inside the church we found a simple large main worship area with several stained glass windows as the centre pieces. In the entranceway there were traditional Portuguese blue tiles decorating the walls. A display was being set up in this area.
A Typical Azores Lunch
Pedro took us to Pasquinha Restaurant for lunch. He had pre-ordered a typical Azores lunch for us to enjoy while he got caught up on his business. We ordered a local Pico Island wine. This one was lighter than the very yellow local wine we had at the marina the previous day at Porto Pim. The meal started with a bread basket and local Morro Cheese. It was so delicious when served with just a drop of honey or local jam. We would get a treat later in the day when we visited this cheese factory.
The appetizer course was a hearty local bean soup with vegetables. For our main course we got a fish and meat selection. Local tuna in garlic oil was served with a variety of roasted vegetables. The meat stew and potatoes must have been stewing all day. The meat just melted in your mouth. All was yummy! To finish off our meal we were served Drunken Pears – pears peeled and marinated in a sweet red wine.
It was a perfect lunch for our full day tour of Faial Island. It gave us a great taste of local food and a chance to rest before we started our busy afternoon.
Our Next View of the Volcanic Coast
Driving slowly on the upper road over the coast, the next stop was at Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras. We could see the deep gorge between two lava streams. When the rains came down the hills, this gorge ran with water and spilled over the edge in a waterfall. Far below us we could see the volcanic plane (a Faja) and the volcanic rocks of the coast.
Pedro pointed out a project that was trying to restore local plants in this area. Many plants and trees had been brought to the island to help stabilize the land. Plants like the Root Ginger had spread out of control on this island and others. This had impacted local indigenous plant. Efforts were being made to restore native plants.
Winding our way down the hill we parked at the point we had seen from above. Praia do Norte was a typical volcanic beach. Dark black volcanic sand made up the beach. The volcanic rocks surrounded the beach. It was very much like the rocky shores we saw when we toured Sao Miguel Island. We saw this rough volcanic shores again the next day when we visited Pico Island with Pedro.
Learning About the Recent Volcanic Activity at Capelinhos
A highlight on any day tour of Faial Island is to see the calderas at Capelinhos. These are the most recently created calderas on the island. Three waves of volcanic activity happened from September 27, 1957 until October 24, 1958. We saw what remains of the calderas from this activity. Although each year the area was eroding and was reclaimed by the sea.
Surrounding the calderas was the original shoreline formed by much more ancient volcanic activity. When we looked along a line from Capelhinhos we saw the string of volcanos that make up the spine of the island.
Standing on the site is the remains of the lighthouse that existed when the volcanos erupted. Part of the lighthouse building is still buried beneath the ground. David climbed to the top to get a view from above.
We later drove down to the shoreline where the original whaling village used to be before the eruption. It was the whalers from this village that had first noticed the submarine volcanic eruptions starting in the ocean. From this lower point we could see the rough volcanic coast.
A Most Informative Museum
We had a very full day tour of Faial Island. When Pedro had first suggested that we visit the museum at Capelinhos, we thought we would pass. When we toured the volcanic islands of Cape Verde, the Canaries and then Madeira. And we learned a lot about the volcanic activity in the Atlantic islands. But Pedro was quite insistent that this museum was worth the time.
When we reached Capelinhos, we could see the vast field of volcanic ash. It was really not obvious where the museum was. This was Pedro’s surprise for us. As we got close, he told us that the museum was below ground. We could just see the top of the museum in the ash. When David climbed the lighthouse, he saw the outline of the museum.
When we walked in we saw quite an innovative design. There was a large open area with several rooms. Two of the rooms were actually reclaimed rooms from the lighthouse that stands above the museum. We started in the temporary exhibit and got a bit of history of the eruption. There was a wide display of volcanic rock. We saw many more types of volcanic lava flows when we toured Pico Island the next day.
From there we got a private tour through the museum. A good short video provided an overview of the three phases of the eruptions. One room provided the detailed information about these eruptions that formed the Capelinhos calderas. The other room talked a little more about the volcanic activity that formed the entire Azores Islands. A short video provided the history as the islands were raised.
We were very glad we had stopped to visit this interesting museum.
Back on the South Shore
Leaving Capelinhos, we took the shore road. When we reached the small village of Varadouro we headed back down the cliff. At the bottom we found a different volcanic beach area. The high cliffs towered above us. We could see recent falling rock activity.
The Morro Cheese Factory
We were about done for the day. But Pedro was not prepared to stop without a visit to the local cheese factory at Morro. The owners were cleaning up for the day but welcomed us in with a smile. We first got a view of the equipment used to start the cheese making process. The cheese was then moved into molds and taken through a regimented process. It reminded us very much of our visit to a parmesan cheese factory in Italy!
The cheese was first put in a salt bath. Then the molds were put into a moist chamber. From there they were put into the drying chamber.
After we saw the process, the best part came. We knew we liked this cheese that we enjoyed at our local lunch. We were given another sample of that cheese and a very tasty garlic cheese. Both David and I passed on trying the spicy pepper cheese. We were very glad that Pedro stopped at the cheese factory.
Finishing A Very Full Day Tour of Faial Island With a View and A Toast
Pedro had a special finish for us. He took us to one of his favourite viewpoints over the volcanic cliffs. We saw the rocks far below. There were even great volcanic arches similar to what we had seen touring in the Algarve.
Pedro provided us with homemade cookies and a taste of homemade blackberry liqueur. A toast was raised to the great day we enjoyed!
We had enjoyed a very full day tour of Faial Island with Pedro. We saw everything and more that was on my list to see. Pedro shared his love of the island and the very special perspective that Naturalist Science and Tourism provides. The next day we toured Pico Island with Pedro. This gave us a different view of the volcanic Azores Islands.
Did you do a full day tour of Faial Island? Did we miss anything that should be on our return visit?
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I fell in love with Faial, the island is so charming. Our tour around the island was similar but shorter. I’d love to go back to see the museum, that beach was incredible. We missed the cheese factory too! The cheese in the Azores was so good, worth the trip just for the food!
Cathy, We did a long tour and got to see so much on our day trip in Faial. We found that the people in Portugal love their country so much they want to show you everything. Pedro was no exception. He delighted in sharing his island (and Pico) with us. Love to have that local experience. I too loved the cheese in the Azores. Made waiting for the cow traffic jams so worthwhile! 🙂 Thanks for re-sharing our Azores travel with us. Linda
Wow it seems like you saw so much in one day! Did you think it felt rushed? I’m trying to figure out how much time to spend here. Did you do the walk around the Caldeira or just go to a viewpoint? Thanks!
Lauren, We did go for a very full day and did not return until well after 6pm. But it did not feel rushed. We only went to the viewpoint at the caldera. Apparently they do limit the numbers going down into the caldera. So if you want to hike down, check this out in advance. We loved our 10 days in the Azores. Hope you get to visit. Linda