The Central Group of Azores islands are famously known as the ‘Ilhas Triangulo’ – a triangle of islands comprising Pico, Sao Jorge and Faial.

All three islands were settled around the same time, in the 1460s  – the sheltered bay at Porto Pim was an obvious anchorage and a settlement was quickly established, eventually growing into the present-day harbour town of Horta. The etymology of the name Horta is often disputed – some say it’s a derivation of ‘Huerter’: the surname of Josse van Huerter, the Flemish first Captain of the island. Others point to the Latin Horta, as in ‘Horticulture’, and it was the cultivation of wheat and cereals which really establish the island’s economy.

For a small and unassuming island, Faial holds a surprisingly significant place in the history of the Atlantic – as a crucial resupply point for Portuguese ships trading in Brazilian gold in the 16th & 17th centuries, as a 19th century H.Q. for telegraph cables connecting Europe with the USA, as a safe-haven for seaplanes making the first trans-atlantic crossings in the 1930s, and as a communications hub connecting the D-Day landing beaches to the USA during the battle of Normandy in 1944. Nowadays, Faial has a colourful maritime feel and is one of Europe’s best whale and dolphin watching locations – it’s easy to add trips to a tailor-made holiday or you can enjoy a whole week of whale watching from Horta’s marina.

One of the Azores’ most arresting volcanic landscapes is Faial’s western peninsula at Capelinhos. Over a thirteen-month period (from September 1957 to October 1958), two overlapping volcanic eruptions created over 2km² of new land, allowing geologists their first opportunity to study a submarine eruption from beginning to end. The Capelinhos Interpretation Centre exhibits these studies, together with images and film from the time of the eruption.

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