How to plan a trip to Pico Island in the Azores
It’s the perfect island destination for mountain climbing fans, UNESCO World Heritage wineries, and cultural events.
The island’s (and the country’s) highest peak rises 2,350 meters (7,700 feet) above sea level. It’s why the second-largest island in the archipelago is called the mountain island.
This should be quite enough to impress every visitor, don’t you agree? Well, it should.
But to sweeten the deal, Pico tops it off with its Landscape of Vineyard Culture (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004) and the contemporary Cella Bar (that won the ArchDaily’s 2016 Building of the Year Award).
Settled by Northern Portuguese in the late 1400s, the main economic activities were growing wheat and dye plants. However, soon the settlers realized the potential of the lava soils and switched to wine-producing.
Pico has a strong connection with whaling. Locals went from whale hunters from the late 1800s to whale watchers since whale hunting was banned in 1986.
The uniqueness of the volcanic soil has also boosted the winemaking industry. The tourism industry rides both waves (of whale watching and wine-producing) brilliantly, highlighting the grey island as a culturally diverse travel destination.
Top things to do in Pico island
Climbing Portugal’s highest peak is obviously an experience of a lifetime, especially if it’s improved by a local guide’s knowledge and expertise.
Touring the local vineyards and getting to know the whale species you can spot should also be on your to-do list.
- NaturFactor (bike tours/MTB, birdwatching, canoeing/kayaking, hiking, yachting) – www.naturfactor.com
- Épico (hiking, climbing, picnics) – www.epico.pt
- Tripx Azores (geotourism, hiking) – www.tripixazores.com
- Espaço Talassa (whale watching, yachting) – www.espacotalassa.com
- Cetacean Watching (whale watching) – www.cwazores.com
- Aqua Açores (whale watching, yachting) – www.aquaacores.com.pt
- Pico Sport (scuba diving, whale watching) – www.pico-sport.com
Top cultural events in Pico island
Local religious events, especially the Holy Spirit festivities, are as common here as any other Azores island. But the most important cultural events here are those honoring wine-producing and the whaling industry.
Semana dos Baleeiros (Whalers’ Week) happens in Lajes do Pico every August. It’s a mix of cultural events and concerts, but with a significant focus on the whaling heritage. The top event is the race of traditional whaling boats.
Festas das Vindimas (Grape Harvest Festival) takes place in Madalena every September. Expect ethnographic and folklore events related to the wine industry, guided wine tours, local cuisine, and, of course, plenty of wine tasting.
For out-of-the-ordinary cultural events, MiratecArts has been proudly hosting the Azores Fringe Festival in Pico since 2013, among other art-related events on the mountain island.
What to eat in Pico
Local wine and cheese could be the beginning of a culinary love affair with the island. Doesn’t it all sound perfect? Mountain, sea, cheese, and wine?
But because the views (and probably the mountain climb) will make you crave a little more nourishment, the island is also famous for its stewed octopus in vinho de cheiro (a local fragrant wine produced from an American variety of hybrid grapes called Isabella).
Add fried pork sausage and boiled or baked taro (inhames) to your must-eat food list.
In the whaling industry’s height, engraved sperm whale teeth (scrimshaw) were a typical souvenir. These days the whaling industry is remembered through handmade small-scale models of old whaling boats.
The local Escola de Artesanato (Handicrafts School) keeps the artisan traditions alive while creating typical local straw hats and flowers made with fish scales.
Where to stay in Pico Island
Know before you go
Pico is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, one of Portugal’s autonomous regions.
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
GMT -1 hour
The same as in Portugal, the Euro (€).
You need a visa to enter all Schengen area territories, including the Azores islands. Click here for detailed information.
* Please note that this information may change over time. Refer to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your departure for updated information.
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
There are pharmacies and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde with emergency services on the island.
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
The area of Pico island is 444.9 square kilometers (approximately 171.77 square miles).
1,670 km (approximately 1,037 miles).
14,148 people, according to the last census of 2011.
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F. Snow is common on the mountain in the winter.
In the summer, for the local unique cultural events.
There’s been low activity in recent years. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Yes, 3G and 4G.