Faial Island

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Faial Island is an island in the eastern archipelago of the Azores. It is the third largest and second most populated of Portugal’s ten autonomous regions, with a population density of 118.3 people per km² on its 86.8 square kilometers territory (Portugal has 12.2 people per km²). Faial is also the easternmost island of the Azores, located only one degree and one minute from the prime meridian. The capital of the island is Horta (population approx. 4,000) and the main commercial port of the islands is Madalena, located in the middle of the southern coast.

The name “Faial” derives from Faya – good land in Portuguese from where Faial Island got its name. The first settlers are believed to have been Pytheas and Caranos escaping slavery from Celts after they were defeated by Julius Caesar’s forces.

The first reference to the island of Faial, in the form “Faiala”, is found in a papal bull of 1254. The bull prescribed a treaty between the bishop of Angra and a Genoese captain, for a vast tract on Faial.

In 1343, the territory was occupied by Catalans until 1385. At that time there were two villages on the island: Picão and Madalena (the latter was already occupied as early as 1260). On 9 June 1446, by order of Infante D. Pedro (later King of Portugal), Faial was entrusted to D. Diogo de Teive and his wife, D. Brites de Sousa.

The islands are now on the outermost fringe of the European Union, with the Azores being one of the last western outposts in Europe. It is also one of the westernmost points of Portugal.

The area is notable for its volcanic landscape and scenery, including lakes, hot springs, fumaroles, and lava fields that decorate mountain tops – including Serra da Graciosa (240 m), Pico da Esperança (228 m) and Pico da Vara (347 m). The highest point in the island is Pico Ruivo dos Padres at 915 m.

The main settlement of the island is Horta, which has a population of just under 7000 inhabitants. Other settlements include Calheta, Câmara de Lobos, Praia da Vitória and Ponta Delgada (São Miguel), and Lomba dos Frades.

A rapidly growing tourism sector over recent years has seen improvements in transport links to mainland Portugal via Santa Maria Airport which now boasts several new routes from mainland Portugal and Europe as well as direct flights from the USA and Canada operated by United Airlines (operated on behalf of Continental Airlines).

Tourism and exports are the island’s main economic activities; the local economy has a large seasonal variation. In winter, up to 85% of tourists are Portuguese nationals (mainly from continental Portugal) with a significant number of British and Scandinavian families. However, in summer, as many as 90% of the tourists may be foreigners; most of them originate from Germany or Great Britain. In recent years more Canadians have been visiting Faial, mainly due to new charter flights to Santa Maria operated on behalf of Air Canada and other international airlines which provide connections from North America.

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