Even though the Azores were discovered by 15th-century Portuguese sailors on a quest to find the lost continent of Atlantis, it was Flemish nobleman Josse van Huerter who settled the island of Faial. He found a small bay that provided excellent shelter against the unpredictable winds and currents of…
Even though the Azores were discovered by 15th-century Portuguese sailors on a quest to find the lost continent of Atlantis, it was Flemish nobleman Josse van Huerter who settled the island of Faial. He found a small bay that provided excellent shelter against the unpredictable winds and currents of the North Atlantic and called it Horta—a Portuguese phonetic version of his last name. Today the town of Horta still serves its original purpose as a port of call for every brave sailor who dares to cross the Atlantic Ocean, making its marina the fourth most visited in the world. Sailors from around the globe arrive here every day, filling the cosmopolitan spot with a seagoing spirit, a panoply of foreign languages and plenty of maritime legends. Overlooking the white architecture of Horta Bay is the volcanic cone of Caldeira, which is flanked by lush green slopes occasionally dotted with hydrangeas, the official flower of the Azores. The island's surrounding waters are the natural habitat of sperm whales, dolphins and an immense array of sea life, which you can see and even swim with, if you are brave enough.
If Horta is the center of sailing in the Azores, then the marina is its beating heart. Starting out as “sea graffiti,” passing sailors would paint or draw messages on the marina's gray concrete walls as a way of securing good luck on their travels. It soon became a tradition amongst sailors across the world, whose works have turned the Horta Marina into a global open art gallery.
Whaling was an active industry in the Azores until the end of the 20th century, with the mammals hunted for their oil and precious ambergris. Located in the Old Whaling Factory, the Azores Sea Observatory (Whaling Museum) showcases a wide variety of machinery used in bygone days, as well as collections related to whaling in the Azores.
Any visit to a volcanic island wouldn’t be complete without touring the dormant craters. The Capelinhos volcano is only 50 years old, so you can see how a volcanic landscape is formed through time. The interpretation center was built underground, close to the eruption's epicenter.
The waters of the Azores archipelago churn with sea life, so whale-watching trips can pretty much guarantee a sighting of these magnificent creatures. You're most likely to see beaked whales, pilot whales and sei whales, along with the native sperm whale.
There's a saying that indicates just how much an institution Peter's Café Sport has become in the maritime world: “If you sail to Horta and you don’t visit Peter’s, you have not actually been to Horta.” Stop by for a late afternoon gin and tonic surrounded by sailors from the four corners of the earth.
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