Pico Island is located in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, often considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.
If you are looking for a getaway filled with unspoiled nature and vegetation, volcanos, lava stone landscapes, coastline views, and exquisite vineyards, Pico is the place to go.
In this guide, we share everything you need to know about visiting this stunning island, including how to get there and the best things to do.
Getting To Pico
The best way to reach Pico is by plane (most international flights arrive in Sao Miguel or Terceira islands from there you can take a short regional flight) or travel by ferry if you are travelling from another island in the Azores.
Landing in Pico was one of the most incredible flights I have had in my life. I fell in love with this island when I saw the stunning views of the Pico mountain and the lava fields from my plane window seat.
Getting Around Pico Island
When in Pico, the easiest way to explore the island is by driving, so I advise you to rent a car at the airport for the duration of your stay. Pico is a small island, but it has so much to offer visitors. I recommend staying for at least four days or five days.
If you don’t have time to spend four or five days on the island you can see the highlights of Pico on a guided one day tour. This small group day tour includes an experienced guide who will share information and history of this UNESCO World Heritage site, a visit to Whaler’s Museum in Vila das Lajes and wine tasting.
Where To Stay On Pico Island
There are some hotels in Pico and several local accommodation options. I recommend booking in advance to find the best option for your needs, location desires, and budget. I stayed in Aldeia da Fonte, a nature hotel near Lajes do Pico with beautiful cliff views of the sea and typical volcanic houses.
Best Things To Do In Pico
1) Pico Mountain
The most iconic place on the island is Pico mountain (which means Peak in Portuguese). With an altitude of 2350m, it is the highest mountain in Portugal.
Many visitors come to the island to climb Pico. You can climb it with or without a guide, but hiring a certified guide or joining one of the local tour companies is recommended because the hike to the top can be pretty steep and challenging.
To start your Pico climbing adventure, you have to check-in at Casa da Montanha, located at an altitude of 1200m. There is also excellent coffee at Casa da Montanha with beautiful views of the surrounding nature to enjoy while you drink your coffee.
Even if you don’t climb the mountain, you’ll still be rewarded with great views of Pico on a clear day.
One of the best views of Pico mountain is from the middle of EN2 Road, crossing the heart of the island from São Roque to Lajes do Pico. Usually, this road doesn’t have much traffic, so you can find a place to stop the car to take a stunning picture of Pico.
2) Pico Wine Museum
Pico is well known for its vineyards but only because they are pretty unique, planted in the fertile volcanic soils of the island, with the basalt stone walls to protect them. Pico vineyards have been considered a UNESCO- listed World Heritage Site since 2004.
Just a few kilometres away from Madalena, you will find the Wine Museum. It is a great place to learn more about the viticulture industry and the history of Pico. The museum is located in a vineyard and has a beautiful red footbridge with one of the best viewpoints on the island. To finalise your visit to the museum, take part in some wine tasting and take a walk in the garden with a dragoon tree.
Tour: Pico Wine Tour/UNESCO World Heritage Site
Why not take an organized wine tour that will take you through local villages where you will see spectacular houses made of volcanic stones?! On this small group tour, you will visit local vineyards and wineries, learn about the Pico wine culture.
- Certified Azores Natural Park guide
- Entry ticket and guided museum visit, interpretation center, & wineries
- Photos of the activity
3) Pico Lakes
When in Pico, don’t miss the many lakes that characterize the volcanic landscape of the island. The most well known ones are Lagoa do Caiado or Lagoa do Capitão.
The best way to reach the lakes is to drive through EN2 until just before the EN3 crossroad, where you will see a secondary road with a sign pointing to “Lagoas”. Take that road and be ready to enter one of the most scenic landscapes that you’ve probably ever visited. The vegetation in that area of the island is unique, and you will feel like you are in the middle of a Jurassic period movie.
The first lake you will find is Lagoa do Caiado, if you continue down the same road you will find lots of other lakes.
4) Gruta das Torres Lava Tunnel
Pico is a volcanic island home to the largest lava tunnel in Portugal, Gruta Das Torres, which is more than 5000 meters long. It is estimated that this tube was formed more than 1,500 years ago during a volcanic eruption.
Now it’s possible to go on an adventure hike to visit the Gruta das Torres, the hike takes approximately one hour and an altitude of 450 meters. During the visit, you can admire different types of lava and natural formations like stalactites and stalagmites.
Madalena is the central city in Pico, located by the Atlantic Ocean with privileged views of the nearby Faial Island.
It is a great place to find excellent restaurants with typical dishes and a great place to do some shopping. There are some great places to visit in Madalena like the church in the city centre and the harbour.
Don’t miss the opportunity to have an evening meal or a drink at Cella Bar. It is considered by many as one of the most beautiful bars in the world due to its unique architecture. It has won awards for architecture, thanks to its combination of an old building made in lava stone with a new timber structure.
6) Calheta de Nesquim
According to the legend, a long time ago, there was a wreck near this village, and three fishermen were saved by a dog called Nesquim. This is why the town was called Nesquim to perpetuate this story of the bravery and loyalty of a dog.
Besides this story, Calheta de Nesquim is a friendly village to visit with a traditional centre and harbour, some natural pools and another typical windmill in Mourricão, at the top of a small hill.
7) Lajido And Cachorro Villages
Two of my favourite villages on Pico Island are Lajido and Cachorro, located near Madalena facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Vineyards surround Lajido, and so do beautiful houses built with volcanic stones and decorated with colourful doors and windows. Pico Island Vineyard Culture Interpretation Centre is also located there. Don’t leave Lajido without visiting the natural pools. They are pretty popular in the summertime.
The other village is named Cachorro due to a rock formation next to the sea with a dog shape (“cachorro” in Portuguese means puppy). It also has the island’s typical stone houses.
8) Vinhas da Criação Velha
Located on the west coast of Pico, Vinhas da Criação Velha is probably the most famous vineyard on the island, and it’s easy to understand why. Take some time to explore the trails with sea views alongside the vines protected by black stone lava walls.
Stop by the iconic red windmill Moinho dos Frades, climb the stairs and admire the views.
9) Lajes do Pico
Located on the southern coast of Pico, Lajes do Pico is another typical village with narrow streets and colourful houses on the seashore.
The history of this village is connected with the whaling tradition on the island and there is also a Whaling Museum. Lajes do Pico is also the perfect spot to join a boat tour to see whales, a pretty popular activity on the island.
Head to Lajes do Pico at the end of the day for the most epic sunset on the island.
10) Ponta da Ilha Lighthouse
Located within Mantenha, in the Lajes do Pico municipality, Ponta da Ilha Lighthouse is a superior U-shaped construction with a tower in the middle. From the building, there are great views of Pico and the neighbouring island of Sao Jorge and the far away Terceira island.
If you have enough time, take the opportunity to explore some other islands in this beautiful Portuguese archipelago where there are three groups of islands, each of them are different and unique:
- Eastern Group with São Miguel and Santa Maria islands
- Central Group with Pico, Faial, São Jorge, Terceira and Graciosa islands
- Western Group with Corvo and Flores islands
When visiting Pico, it is pretty easy to take the ferry and do some day tours to explore other nearby islands from the Central Group like Faial and São Jorge. To visit the other island groups in the Azores you can either take the ferry or a regional flight.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Pico and the Azores. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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