One Day on Faial Island in the Azores | Self-Driving Itinerary
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Known as the Blue Island of the Azores, Faial is part of the central group of the Azores and is especially beautiful in July and August when the island is covered in bright blue hydrangeas. It only takes 1 hour to circumnavigate the island on the main road meaning you can fit all the main sights in just one day. Due to the unpredictable weather in the middle of the Atlantic, we’d still recommend you to stay at least two days on Faial. You can split this itinerary across two days for a more relaxed pace or keep it all in one day if the weather doesn’t cooperate on one of the days.
Like all the islands in the Azores, the easiest way to get around is to rent a car. This full drive takes less than 2 hours, but you’ll be spending plenty of time at each stop. While we had originally planned to do the whole itinerary in one day, the weather didn’t quite cooperate and we wanted to get ourselves a break or two to enjoy the island’s culture. The first day, we just visited the Caldeira, Monte de Guia, and Porto Pim. The second day, we did the full drive around the island.
Found in the center of the island, Faial’s Caldeira crater itself is beautiful and the views from the edge are just as beautiful. The easiest way to get up to the crater from Horta is via EN2-2A or EN1-2A and following the signs to the Caldeira. The drive takes about 25 minutes from the center of town. If you are following Google or Apples Maps directions, these programs may suggest short cuts on steep or difficult roads – ignore them and follow the signs up the hill. It is a relatively easy drive with a bit of an incline. There is a parking lot right at the top near the lookout. The lot may be busy depending on what time you get going in the morning and the weather. Save the Caldeira for your sunniest and clearest day on the island. If you visit on a cloudy day, you may get a few good views as the quickly moving clouds pass but it is truly spectacular on a clear day.
There is a path around the rim of the crater that takes about 2 to 3 hours to hike (8km). You can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise but counter-clockwise is typically advised. Pass on the hike if it is extremely windy or if the weather is turning dangerous. You will likely want a windproof jacket and hiking boots. Always stay on the trail, there are no guard rails and the trail itself is narrow. You can also go on a guided tour of the Caldeira which includes descending down to the bottom of the crater. You can only go on this trail with a certified guide and permit.
From the Caldeira, you can get incredible views down around the island of Faial and also of the mountain of Pico. The island of Pico is just 12 km from Faial and the peak of the Pico can be seen on a clear day if you are lucky.
Time Spent: 45 minutes or 3 hours
Monte da Guia
Drive back down to Horta, through the town and up Monte Da Guia – a volcanic cone with beautiful views of the city of Horta and the beach below. You can drive up the road to the top or take the hiking trail if you have time. The road up to the top is a 2-way road but is narrow. Go slow around the turns if you are driving in case another car is coming from the opposite direction. Up at the top there is a small chapel and an unmarked parking area. There is not a good view of Pico from here but you’ll be able to see the town of Horta from above.
Time Spent: 15 minutes
Walk or drive back down Monte Da Guia and stop at the parking lot for Porta Pim beach, you’ll have passed it on your way to Monte Da Guia. Take a quick walk on the beach at Porta Pim or spend a few hours enjoying the ocean. This is one of the few grey sand beaches in the Azores. There is a small restaurant and changing rooms available. If you are interested, there is a whale museum and aquarium nearby.
Time Spent: 20 minutes or longer
Marina of Horta
Another short drive from the Porta Pim parking lot, head into town and park along the main road to access the harbor. Horta’s harbor is one of the most visited in the world due to its advantageous location in the Atlantic Ocean. Sailors and yachtsmen from around the world stop by in this harbor and paint a small mural to commemorate their voyage. Walking along the marina, you can see thousands upon thousands of these paintings from years ago up until today. You might even spot someone painting a fresh mural on your walk. You could spend as much or as little time here as you want. We spent an enjoyable hour walking, reading the murals, and watching the waves come in.
Time Spent: 1 hour
After exploring the harbor, head into town to eat lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the ocean. The most famous restaurant in town being Peter’s Cafe Sport, although it is popular for the decor more than the quality of the food.
Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
Time to leave Horta and visit the rest of the island. There are only a few stops worth visiting but it is still worthwhile driving the hour road around the island. The first stop is just outside of Horta – an overlook of Horta, the harbor, and out to Pico. This is the best Miradouro or overlook on the island and only requires a few minutes to stop. There is parking on both sides of the road, making it effortless no matter which direction you are coming from.
Time Spent: 10 minutes
About 3/4ths through your drive around the island, you’ll reach the Capelinhos. The Capelinhos is the site of the 1958 volcanic eruption on the western side of Faial. This is a whole new section of the island that was made just 60 years ago, accompanied with upheaval of the island’s population. It is a really fascinating landscape, a wonderful combination of eeriness and beauty. You can walk around and up the ridge of the volcanic cone and view inside.
There is also a great museum underground on the Capelinhos volcano, the Azores, and tectonic plates and the formation of the earth. The museum entry also allows you to climb up the lighthouse. The museum itself takes about an hour to visit and you can easily spend another hour exploring the area itself.
Time Spent: 1.5 hours
Where to stay
The only major city on Faial is Horta. Horta has the majority of accommodations and restaurants – it is also a great base for this itinerary. You can’t go wrong with any section of the city, because it is a relatively small city and you will likely have a car to access anywhere out of walking distance. Most of the restaurants and activities are down on the waterfront, but you will likely find slightly cheaper and larger accommodations further back in the city. I’d recommend finding an airbnb with parking, which provides comfort, convenience, and a local feel.