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) and a large proportion of the original settlers were Flemish. The Hundred Years War has caused devastation in Flanders and the opportunity to resettle far from the troubles of mainland Europe was a big attraction. The sheltered bay at Porto Pim was the obvious anchorage and a settlement quickly evolved in today’s 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 first Captain of the island. Others point to the Latin Horta – as in ‘Horticulture’; it was the cultivation of wheat and cereals which really establish the island’s economy.
As Portugal’s colonies in the Americas expanded during the 16th and 17th Centuries, Faial (like Terceira) became a crucial resupply point for ships trading in Brazilian gold, bound for Lisbon. The island’s importance extended into the 19th Century when the port of Horta became integral to the American whaling industry. Trans-Atlantic telegraph cables began connecting Europe with the east coasts of the USA and Canada – the cables terminated in Horta and a weather station was established, allowing live forecasts to be transmitted to whaling bases across New England and Massachusetts. Horta’s bay continued to provide safe-haven into the 20th Century – for seaplanes making the first trans-atlantic crossings in the 1930s, and as a crucial communications hub connecting the D-Day landing beaches to the USA during the battle of Normandy in 1944.
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. Tragically more than 300 homes were destroyed on the island, leading to the emigration of 4000 residents (mainly to North America). The eruption allowed geologists to study a submarine eruption from beginning to end (the first eruption was Surtseyan, evolving into Strombolian during the second), and the Capelinhos Interpretation Centre exhibits these studies, together with images and film from the time of the eruption.
Horta is one of the best whale and dolphin watching bases in the Azores. You can add trips to a tailor-made holiday or enjoy a whole whale watching from Faial.
Porto Pim Bay in Horta is home to one of our favourite beaches in the Azores - protected from the elements by the extinct Monte da Guia caldera, and a stone's throw away from the Porto Pim Apartments.