Sunday, January 4, 2009

Portugal Vacations: Faial Azores

Faial Azores

On last weeks post of Portugal Vacations I told you about Graciosa, one of the beautiful islands of the Central Azorean Archipelago. In today's post I will tell you about Faial, another of the central Azorean islands.

Originally called Ilha da Ventura (Venture Island) Faial was renamed due to the large number of Myrica faya trees that exist on the island. Some still refer to Faial as the Ilha Azul (the "Blue Island"), due to the large quantity of Hydrangeas that grow there in the summer.

Faial is a Pentagonal shaped island with a land area of 173 km². It is very hilly, with 1,043 meters high peak and with a 2 km wide inner crater that is approximately 500 meters in depth. Faial's closest neighbor is the island of Pico which can be seen at any time of year. On clear days, the Island of Sao Jorge is also visible. Faial has had volcanic activity as recently as 1958 at which time a large portion of the population fled to the other Azores islands, Continental Portugal, Brazil or the United States.

Discovered in 1427, Faial was originally inhabited by Northern Continental Portuguese who migrated to it through the island of Terceira. As time passed, Flemish migrants also migrated to Faial and integrated with the local Portuguese population.

The most important city in Faial is Horta which is located on the southeast part of the island. Horta has always been an important stopover for Portuguese explorers and merchants during Portugal's long Maritime history. The Horta fort, which today is a Pousada, played a very important role in the defense of the Azores, which over the years has experienced raids and attacks by French, Spanish and the English.

Today, Faial has a population of approximately 15,000 people, many of whom work in Tourism, agriculture or fishing. Commercial whaling played a large role in the islands economy in the earlier part of the 20th century, but vanished completely after it was banned by the Portuguese state in the early 1980's.

The island is still considered an important stop-over for small commercial fleets and private yachts sailing from the Americas and Europe.

Faial is an excellent island for boaters who enjoy a day in the open ocean, or island hopping. It is also an excellent place for whale watching. For those of you who love hiking, then Faial is also a perfect location due to it's steep hills and marvelous vistas. Make Faial one of your stop-overs on your next Portugal Vacation.

Source of all images:

isabelmar: Flickr

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