Faial is part of the central group of the Azores archipelago, formed by five islands – Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, but also of the “triangle islands” (Pico, São Jorge and Faial, forming a triangle). It is the third most populous island after São Miguel and Terceira, with about 15,000 inhabitants.
Faial is a pentagonal island that is 21 km long and 13 km wide, with a total surface area of 173 km2. It is located about 120 km away from the summit of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The closest island is Pico, only 6km away, and the highest point of the island is Cabeço Gordo, in Caldeira area at about 1,043m of altitude.
The soil fertility of Faial is what made the first settlers want to populate the island. There was a fast economic growth due to the cultivation of wheat and woad, the main sources of wealth for Faial during two centuries.
The 18th century’s wealth is based on the production and exportation of oranges, in the whole archipelago including Faial. This is until the mid 19th century, when a disease infected the fruit. The harbor of Horta is also important for stopovers of steamboats and the whaling boats from the United States. The whaling industry will know two phases in Faial: the manufacturing production from 1860 to 1942, and the factory production until 1981.
Nowadays, just like in the other islands, tourism and the service sector are important in Faial, in addition to agriculture, as it occupies about 28% of the total area of the island. Cattle breeding and tuna fishing are significant, as well as dairy products.