15 Fun Facts About Horta, Azores
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15 Fun Facts About Horta, Azores

In early April, we hope to visit the Azores via a transatlantic cruise.  Several years ago we planned to visit these Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean during a cruise from Spain to Florida. Unfortunately, the port call was canceled due to poor weather conditions. This year, our cruise itinerary includes two stops in the Azores: first in Horta, on the island the island of Faial; followed by a port call in Ponta Delgada, on São Miguel Island.

Wanting to make the most of our day, we did a little research to learn the city of Horta on the Azorean island of Faial.

Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal

The City of Horta and Horta Bay, Azores.

15 Fun Facts About Horta, Azores

1. The city of Horta is home to approximately 7,000 people, making it the largest municipality on the Azorean island of Faial.

2. Known as the “blue island” due to the plethora of blue-colored hydrangeas that bloom every summer, Faial Island covers 68 square miles and has a population of 15,038.

3. Horta is capital of the island of Faial, and is also the home of the Azorean regional parliament.

4. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the small town of Horta prospered as a stopover on transatlantic sailing routes between Europe and the New World. Horta became an important stop for North American whalers, and as a refueling port for coal-powered ships during their transatlantic passages.

A vista of the village of Horta, Faial from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, c.1842 (Purrington & Russel)

A vista of the village of Horta, Faial from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, c.1842 (Purrington & Russel)

5. Horta also served as the staging and export center for Azorean goods being shipped to Europe or North America. Exports included Azorean oranges, whale oil, woad (a plant used to make blue dye), and  wines from the nearby island of Pico.

6. In August. 1893 the first underwater telegraph cables linked Horta and Lisbon. Horta became an important post in intercontinental communications between 1893 and 1969.

7. Horta also played a role in aviation history when U.S. Navy Captain Albert C. Read piloted his NC-4 float plane into the Bay of Horta in May, 1919. This was the first Atlantic leg of the first transatlantic flight.

Pan Am Yankee Clipper flying boat, 1939

The Pan American World Airways Boeing 314 Yankee Clipper (serial NC18603), circa 1939. This aircraft started the Transatlantic mail service.

8. On May 20, 1939 Pan American’s B-314 Yankee Clipper departed New York for the first scheduled mail service across the Atlantic. The ship flew the across the southern Atlantic, stopping in Horta before landing in Lisbon after 27 hours of flight time.

9. On June 28, 1939, Horta became a scheduled way point on the new Pan Am Clipper flying boat routes between North America and Europe. The flying boats would dock in Horta harbor.

10. By 1960, yachts began using Horta’s sheltered port during transatlantic voyages.

Pier at Horta Marina. Photo by Jameslwoodward.

A pier at Horta Marina, showing calling cards of visiting yachts painted on the ground. Photo by Jameslwoodward.

The walls and walkways of the Horta marina are covered with visitor paintings that note the vessels, crews, and the years they visited.

11. Peter’s Cafe Sport, a restaurant and bar located across from the marina in Horta, is known world-wide as a meeting place for visiting sailors, as well as its gin and tonics.

Anthony Bourdain visits Peter’s Cafe Sport during his Season 5 No Reservations show on the Azores.

12. The cafe is also home to Peter’s Scrimshaw Museum which houses a significant collection of artifacts and artwork carved from whale tooth and jawbone. Sailors on whaling vessels would create scrimshaw handicrafts to alleviate the monotony and boredom during the long days at sea between the occasional excitement of chasing and capturing a whale.

13. The Horta Regional Museum houses a permanent exhibit detailing the 1957 volcanic eruption in the Azores, called the Exhibition of Capelinhos Volcano.  Visitors to this Horta museum can also view a collection of scale models of buildings, ships, and people carved from fig kernels.


14. Mark Twain visited Horta in June 1867, near the beginning of a long pleasure-cruise  to Jerusalem. Twain described his visit to Horta in his semi-autobiographical book The Innocents Abroad, complimenting the physical appearance of Horta:

The town has eight thousand to ten thousand inhabitants. Its snow-white houses nestle cosily in a sea of fresh green vegetation, and no village could look prettier or more attractive. It sits in the lap of an amphitheater of hills which are three hundred to seven hundred feet high, and carefully cultivated clear to their summits – not a foot of soil left idle.

Twain was less complimentary about the inhabitants of Horta and Faial at the time:

The group on the pier was a rusty one — men and women, and boys and girls, all ragged, and barefoot, uncombed and unclean, and by instinct, education, and profession, beggars. They trooped after us, and never more, while we tarried in Fayal, did we get rid of them.

Monte Da Guia, Horta, on the Azorean island of Faial.

Monte Da Guia connects to the city of Horta, on the Azorean island of Faial.

15. Monte Da Guia is a piece of land on a volcanic cone. Hiking this area offers a fantastic view of the city of Horta and the Porto Pim Bay.

To Learn More About the Azores:

Check out these resources:

Top 10 Azores

Michelin Green Guide Portugal Madeira The Azores

Have you visited Horta or other islands of the Azores?

If so, let us know your favorite spots via TwitterFacebookPinterest or Instagram.

 

 

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