Each island in the Azores has its own charm. There are attractions to see and places to explore. Pico is the second largest island in the archipelago and is nicknamed the“gray island” because it is the most volcanic of the entire archipelago. Landscapes of all kinds of lava formations dominate the landscape, contrasting with the blue of the ocean and the white of the foam of the waves.
It is the southernmost island of the Central Group of the archipelago, and one of the vertices of the so-called “triangle”; it is just 6 km from its immediate neighbor Faial. Its highest point, with 2350 meters above sea level, is also the highest point in Portugal: the Montanha do Pico.
The volcanic soil of Pico is rich in nutrients; this fact, together with the hot and dry microclimate and the hills sheltered from winds thanks to the construction of small dry stone walls, have allowed Verdelho vines to find excellent conditions for ripening and producing the typical wines of the island.
The landscape of Pico is a succession of vineyards, which give life to a fresh and light wine, perfectly matched to the gastronomical specialties of the island, as well as to fish and seafood dishes. Even the famous vinho de cheiro of Azores, similar to strawberry wine, is produced in Pico. It is a wine used by the inhabitants of the island mainly during festivals.
In 2004, UNESCO included in the list of its World Heritage Sites the Vineyard Cultivation Landscape of Pico Island, motivating the entry as a result of ancient cultivation practices mixed to the uniqueness of the natural landscape.
Pico has a lot to offer. Don’t just get to know it superficially, but delve in every direction, from the sea to the mountains, to discover how great the richness of this island is. You can visit the most interesting sites by renting a car or moving with cabs, private minibuses or public buses. If you don’t want to take a car, we recommend the latter, the right mix of low prices and efficient service.
Main town and fishing port of Pico is Madalena, where ships arrive from other islands. In this stretch of sea it is possible to see the islets of Em Pé and Deitado. Do not miss a visit to Arcos do Cachorro, a group of rock formations of volcanic origin composed of niches and lava tubes that together create an agglomeration of sculptures of solidified lava.
Pico has a couple of really interesting museums:
It is not a simple village, but a concept, a philosophy of life. It is a village with stone buildings, with houses built by hand, with hard work and with teamwork. The village is still under construction and the inhabitants will be happy to welcome you and show you this unconventional project. You will certainly be fascinated!
Pico, like all the Azores, is characterized by its volcanic phenomena. Around the capital Madalena, a complex of volcanoes develops, of which Mount Pico is a part.
You cannot miss the view of this imposing volcano. At the top of the mountain, there is also a vast area where secondary volcanic phenomena occur. Whichever way you explore this area, be sure to witness these natural phenomena.
This is a lava cave, a geological formation of volcanic origin formed by the flow and cooling of underground magma rivers. This formation is located outside the village of Criação Velha, in the municipality of Madalena, north of the island of Pico.
It has a height between 1.1 and 15 meters and is located at an altitude of 300 meters. With an estimated length of more than 5.2 kilometers, it is the longest lava cave in the Azores. Access to the cave is managed by the mountaineering association“Os Montanheiros“.
It is the most ancient inhabited area of the island, whose capital is the homonymous town of Lajes. Visit the six traditional villages that compose it: São João, Lajes, Ribeiras Calheta do Nesquim, Piedade and Ribeirinha.
It is an area that seems to have remained somewhat in the past; economic activities, in addition to tourism, revolve around cattle breeding and dairy production. The village of Lajes do Pico has a strong fishing tradition, especially tuna, and for many years has been the center of whaling.
This park occupies an area of 15 hectares. The land is formed by basalt flows, resulting from the 1562 eruption. It is covered by autochthonous vegetation such as azoric heather, beech, invasive species, Pittosporum undulate and pine.
The different rivers of the Parque forestal Prainha do Norte, flanked by ornamental plants, make even the most sedentary people want to stroll through the many corners of the reserve. Alternatively, you can enjoy the magnificent landscape or use the recreational facilities available to visitors, such as picnic area, playground, sports center and a large lawn.
Pico is certainly not the most suitable island if you are looking for stretches of sand where you can relax in the sun. Here in fact there are no real beaches, but small strips of sand or stone overlooking the sea, where the waters are calmer.
The main bathing areas are located in correspondence of the three towns of the island: Lajes do Pico, Madalena and Sao Roque do Pico.
Most of the time, these are not points with direct access to the sea. In fact, thanks to the irregular conformation of the territory, natural pools have been formed, very suitable for children’s bathing, which are actually the areas where you can bathe on the island.
During your stay on the island of Pico you can choose from a wide range of activities depending on your location and your plans. You can move independently on the island or rely on the good local agencies, whose itineraries can be consulted via the web even before your trip.
The island of Pico hides special places, which can be discovered on foot, following some of the oldest paths on the island. There are some paths that climb up to the peaks where the view is beautiful.
Dedicate your walks inland in search of traditional villages. All trails are well marked and mapped, giving tourists the opportunity to venture out safely on their own. There are also guided tours, which include exploratory walks around the entire coastline.
Like all of the Azores, Pico offers several opportunities in terms of cetacean sightings and experiences in contact with the wonderful creatures that inhabit its waters. You can choose to take part in boat trips in an attempt to spot whales, orcas and dolphins, up to extreme experiences such as swimming with sharks.
For diving enthusiasts of all levels, there are many schools and diving centers on site that will take you to points of interest in terms of marine fauna and flora.
From the lava soil and black stone typical of Pico, grow profitable vineyards. Taking part to a tour in one of the farms will give you the chance to know better the product of this island.
The tour explains the history of viticulture in the island, the particular tastes and smells of wine, as well as the secret of production techniques. In the various local agencies you can find half-day or full-day tours.
On the island of Pico there is a great devotion for Nossa Senhora de Lourdes, Our Lady of Lourdes, patroness of whalers. The festival lasts a full week and begins on the last Sunday of August. This week is known as Whalers’ Week and is an important socio-cultural event on the island of Pico, which thus celebrates ancient traditions.
Sao Roque and Madalena are two of the main centers that allow to alternate a stay of sea to a stay of exploration. The transports here are surely more developed, as well as the possibility to participate in organized tours. The two localities are 20 minutes away from each other and from their ports frequent ferries leave for the islands of Sao Jorge and Faial.
Sao Roque is also suitable for the stay of families as there is a beach very suitable for children.
If you choose to rent a car, you can also choose to move from this area, staying for example in Lajes, a very fun, youthful and cheap town. You can choose to stay in a chalet or in a country house, to make your stay really special and in contact with the tradition of the island.
There are basically 2 ways to reach Pico: by sea or by plane. The Atlantico Line ferries offer several daily connections with the other islands of the archipelago, particularly near Faial and São Jorge. It is worth checking schedules and routes the month before, as schedules change throughout the year and ships are more frequent in the summer months.
The other option is to arrive by plane. The only airlines that fly to Pico are SATA Air Acores and Azores Airlines. The former connects the island with Ponta Delgada and Terceira, while the latter offers flights to and from Lisbon. In order to reach Pico, it will be necessary to choose a solution with a stopover.
The best choice to get around Pico is undoubtedly to rent a car or scooter. In this way you will be able to visit even the most hidden and less touristy corners of the island in total freedom, without having to always look at the clock to synchronize with public transport, which by the way are few and inconstant.
In addition to the major car rental companies, Pico is home to several local companies such as Autatlantis, Ilha Verde and Eurocor, which often propose interesting offers. To avoid the risk of arriving on the island and not finding a car available, it is recommended to book in advance on the internet.
On the island there is also a bus service, but usually does not meet the needs of tourists, as in some places there are no stops. Do not exclude, if you want to move for small stretches and not frequently, the use of cabs.