Pico is an island in the Azores archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean. This volcanic island is the second largest of the Azores, and provides opportunities for hiking and whale-watching. The island's vineyard culture landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island of Pico (PEE-koo, /ˈpi.ku/) is 17.5 km (10.9 mi) south of São Jorge and just 7 km (4.3 mi) east of Faial, in the Central Group of islands, an area that is colloquially known as o Triangulo (The Triangle). Pico is 46 km (29 mi) long, and at its maximum extent about 16 km (9.9 mi) wide, rising from its center to the west in the summit of the stratovolcano of Pico; making it the second largest of the Azores islands.
The three main settlements on the island are Madalena, São Roque do Pico and Lajes do Pico.
The landscape features an eponymous volcano, Ponta do Pico, which is the highest mountain in Portugal, the Azores, and the highest elevation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In the tradition of the Portuguese poet, Raul Brandão, Pico is referred to as the Ilha Preta ("Black Island"), for its black volcanic earth, responsible for its UNESCO-designated historical vineyards that allowed the development of the island.
The island supported a substantial whaling industry until 1980. The position of the island on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge means that deep water is very close. Active industries include tourism, shipbuilding and wine production.
- 1 Pico Airport (PIX IATA). Direct flights from Lisbon, Ponta Delgada and Terceira.
- Atlânticoline. Ferries. 30 min from Horta on Faial island. 60 min from Velas on São Jorge island. Service also from Graciosa and Terceira.
- Cristiano Limitada. Cristiano offers two bus routes on the island.
- Former biology professor Malcolm Clarke runs a beautiful whaling museum in São João. Displays about the sperm whale and its main food, the octopus (also called giant squids). There are many unique exhibits and you can also sniff ambergris. There is another whaling museum in São Roque that is worth seeing.
- 1 The Gruta das Torres. A lava tube over 5 km (3.1 mi) long.
- 2 Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture. The wine-growing area on the west coast of the island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.
- 3 Museu do Vinho (Wine Museum), Rua do Carmo, Madalena (at the west end of the island), ☏ +351 292 622 147, emailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Apr-Sep: Tu-Su 10:00-17:30; Oct-Mar: Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. A museum on the history of Pico wine making, with English explanations.
- Swim in the largest man-made, outdoor, public saltwater pool. It's a fantastic place to relax and cool off in the summer. The pool is deep enough for diving. Beginner swimmers should stay away from the middle, as the size is quite large.
- The island also offers good opportunities for cycling.
- 1 Mount Pico (Montanha do Pico). A stratovolcano 2,351 m (7,713 ft) above sea level. It is the tallest mountain in Portugal. Climb the mountain in the afternoon so you can see the sunset when you reach the summit. Normally it takes 2 to 3 hours to climb, more if you are not fit. Then in the morning to see the sunrise, climb a little mountain called Pico Pequenino (Little Pico) that the mountain has on top. From there you can see the islands of Faial and São Jorge perfectly.
- Despite some natural swimming pools, the island is less suitable for a beach holiday.
- The island is one of the centers for whale watching. It is also popular with divers.
Popular, but demanding and strenuous, is the ascent of the Pico volcano. The Rother hiking guide Azores describes the following tours:
- From Criação Velha to Gruta das Torres (2 hours 50 minutes)
- Zona do Verdelho (3 hours 30 minutes)
- From Furna de Frei Matias to Madalena (2 hours 40 minutes)
- Montana do Pico (5 hours 45 minutes)
- Around Santa Luzia (5 hours)
- From Lagoa do Capitão to Baia de Canas (4 hours 15 minutes)
- From Lagoa do Capitão to Cais do Pico (3 hours 30 minutes)
- From Miradouro da Terra Alta to Santo Amaro (2 hours)
- From Miradouro da Terra Alta to Piedade (4 hours)
- The highland lakes of Pico (7 hours 15 minutes)
- Ponta da Ilha (4 hours)
- From Parque Florestal de São João to Silveira (3 hours)
There are two CompreBem supermarkets in this town. They both offer cheap prices for good food, colorful produce, a variety of canned goods, and an assortment of household items from fly swatters to televisions.
There is also a local shop run by a Chinese family that sells inexpensive items of almost every variety from electronics to socks. Clothing is mainly imported, and as a result, expensive.
There are many cafes in the area and all of them offer good food for reasonable prices. Variety of food is limited mainly to bread, cheese, and beef. Vegetarians may have some trouble having a balanced meal. Even the local soups will most likely have meat or meat broth as an ingredient. If you're a vegan, be prepared for starvation.
- 1 Atmosfera, Rua dos Biscoitos 34, Madalena (at Alma do Pico hotel), ☏ +351 914 231 436. W–M 19:00–20:30, closed Tu. €20-30.
- 2 O Cinco, Rua Carlos Dabney 5, Madalena, ☏ +351 292 623 970. M–F 08:00–23:00, Sa 08:00–00:00, closed Su. Mid-range.
The local cafes usually double as the local bars. Beer here is cheaper than bottled water, at about €0.50 a bottle.
- 1 Retiro dos Cabritos, Travessa de Santo António, 5 (São Mateus, in front the Atlantic Ocean and overlooking the mountain of Pico), ☏ +351 917 659 073. Holiday cottage.
- 2 Pocinhobay, Pocinho, Candelária, ☏ +351 292 629 135, email@example.com. 6-room boutique hotel with traditional stone cottages and modern decor.
Towns in Pico are very safe. Crime is very low and violence is almost non-existent. However, be very aware when crossing the streets; people on this island tend to drive a bit crazy. You will frequently see cars driving at freeway speeds on cobble stone roads. Also, it's not surprising to see cars parked in the middle of a road and blocking traffic. The driving laws are loose at best.