The mountain island Pico

Foto by Robert van der Schoot

Nature lovers can limit their island hopping tour of the Azores, because Pico island has it all. The youngest of the archipelago is small, but its outdoor opportunities are more than big. Pico is of volcanic origin, and this is very evident if you drive from the airport towards the civilized world.

Black lava stones are contrasting the bright green of ferns, young plants, vines and moss. This unique island in the Atlantic Ocean is absolutely worth a visit, and these are the reasons why.


With an area of 448 km2, Pico is the second largest island of the Azores. Here you find the 2,351 m high Pico, the highest mountain of Portugal, who gave his name to the island. Pico, also being called the “Mountain Island”, belongs to the “Azores triangle”. These are the three southernmost islands of the central archipelago of the Azores.

The wines

The dry warm climate and mineral wealth of the lava soil, have ensured the growing success of the vineyards, where the Verdelho grape variety predominates. The Verdelho wine — which is exported to other European countries and America — was already very popular at the court of the Russian tsars.

Madalena is one of the largest towns on the island, and also an ideal starting point to explore the wine of Pico Island. Around this town you will find a vast landscape of vineyards, which were recognized in 2004 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The vineyards consist of thousands of small rectangles of land, called by the locals “lajidos” or “the terrace biscoito” (biscuits fields). The vineyards are often surrounded by lava rocks to protect the vines from the wind and the sea.

The volcano Pico

The immense volcanic cone of Mount Pico, the third largest volcano in the Atlantic Ocean, dominates the landscape on the island. The volcano Pico is 2,351 meters high. The summit is often covered in the clouds. It is the highest mountain of the Azores as well as of Portugal!

The crater has a diameter of 700 meters and is 30 meters deep. It is a challenge to climb the volcano. A trip to the top, a tour around the crater and the descent generally takes about 7 hours to complete, but will bring you to the most beautiful spots.

Don’t forget to stop at the Gruta das Torres, one of the largest lava tunnels in the world that is open to public. The five kilometer long cave is covered with different types of lava rock formations.

Vulkaan Pico

Mount Pico

The giants of the ocean

Pico island is also an ideal base to go diving with mobulas, blue sharks and mako sharks. You can swim between wild dolphins or spot the whales. It is all possible on Pico. It is a great experience to meet these giants of the ocean.

Bezoek van de dolfijnen

Spot dolphins at the Azores

Culture and architecture

Just like the other Azores islands, architectural heritage consists mainly of churches and chapels. For a cultural outing, be sure to visit the Museu do Pico which consists of three distinct parts.

The Museu dos Baleeiros (Whale Museum) in Lajes, the Museu da Indústria Baleeira (Museum of the whaling industry) in São Roque and the Museu do Vinho (Wine Museum) in Madalena, are places where you can learn more about important periods in the history of Pico.

The Museu do Vinho is housed in a former carmelite convent. You can visit the vineyards, taste the wine and participate in September to the grape harvest.


The red mill at Pico

The gastronomic heritage

Besides the natural richness, Pico island offers also an excellent gastronomic heritage. The main ingredients are fish and seafood. Taste the famous “caldeiradas” (fish stews) “polvo guisado com vinho de cheiro” (octopus stewed in wine), and all kinds of fish soups. Other well-known products are the scarlet figs, honey produced from frankincense flowers and the cheese Queijo do Pico – a soft cheese from cow milk.

So take place in one of the cozy restaurants in the town of Madalena, enjoy these local delicacies and bring a toast to this exceptionally beautiful paradise in the Azores!

How to travel to Pico?

There are several direct flights from Amsterdam. TUI (formerly ArkeFly) is flying this summer every Monday directly to Pico. You can fly directly with TUIfly to the main island of São Miguel and from there take a domestic flight (with the company SATA International) which takes about 50 minutes. Between the islands of Pico, Faial and São Jorge a small boat goes 4 to 5 times a day up and down; it is for foot passengers only. This connection takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

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