Pico island is most famous for Mount Pico. Pico, the highest point of Portugal, is a dormant stratovolcano rising 2351 meters above sea level. But Pico is much more than just its emblematic peak. Vineyards, changing landscapes, bare black and red basalt, steep green slopes and mountainous pastures. All surrounded by the ocean which is home to numerous species of cetaceans.
Pico – the mountain and more
The best view on Pico, the mountain, you probably have from neighboring Faial when enjoying a gin at Peter’s Café in Horta. For the more adventurous visitors climbing Pico is a must. If you get the chance to do a night climb, the sunrise on the next morning will be an experience of a lifetime. Imagine you are sitting in an airplane high above the ocean and below and around you there are five islands and the sun is creeping up on the horizon. That’s the view you will get, the feelings can hardly been described, there is the sound of the wind and nature. For the bon vivants among the visitors, the vineyards around Madalena are home to volcanic wines which have seen a resurrection over the last decade. The vineyards have been classified in 2004 as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the wine is grown directly in the volcanic rocks in small plots which are protected from the wind by little rock walls. If you love the sea and nature, then Pico is besides Faial the best place for whale watching. No wonder, Pico has seen during the last century the biggest whaling activity. You can not only visit a former whale processing factory in São Roque, but the know how of the last whalers is still used nowadays to spot these peaceful giants from the shore. The landscape of Pico is very diversified, in the west around Madalena you have black and red volcanic rocks, on the south east you might be remembered of the riviera, whilst on the north coast, it is almost like seeing the pastures of the alps.
Madalena, which has daily ferry connections to the neighboring Faial is surrounded by the UNESCO World Heritage Site vineyards, you definitely have to take a walk in these fields. If you are visiting in the autumn, you will realize the hard labor necessary to work these fields. You can also go for a wine tasting in one of the adegas or visit the wine museum. Lajos do Pico used to be the center of the whaling activity on the south coast, today it is one of the major points for starting a whale watching tour. On the northern coast, São Roque do Pico hosts the whaling museum, on of the three in the Azores where you can see the former installations of industrial whale processing. If you are exploring the highlands on the eastern part of the island, Lagoa do Capitão is a small lake from where you can admire the majesty of Pico mountain. Last but not least, Pico, the mountain itself is a major attraction, if you are fit enough and used to mountainous hikes, then go for it. Do not forget to register in advance, as there is a limit of daily visits.
Pico is the second largest island of the archipelago and 64 km long. You definitely need a car to explore it. If you are staying in Faial and take the ferry for a day trip, count for a full day just to go around the island. Pico has direct flights from Lisbon and daily flights from São Miguel and Terceira. The ferry services of Atlanticoline ensure several connections a day to Faial and also to São Jorge.