“Pico Azores: tips on planning your trip” is the sixth installment of a series of nine blog posts about the Azores islands. The posts are meant to give you a detailed overview of each one of them to help you plan your trip, whether you decide to visit one, two, or all nine. If you have any questions or a specific request, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it or to put you in touch with the right contact.
Table of Contents (Click to skip to a section)
- An overview of the Azores island of Pico
- Top things to do and recommended local companies
- Top cultural events
- What to eat
- What to buy as a souvenir
- Where to stay
- “Know before you go” information
About the Azores island of Pico
Perfect island destination for fans of mountain climbing, UNESCO World Heritage wineries and award-winning contemporary architecture.
The island’s (and the country’s) highest peak rises 2350 meters (7700 feet) above sea level, thus dubbing the second largest island in the archipelago as 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 (listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004) and the contemporary Cella Bar (one of the winners of ArchDaily’s 2016 Building of the Year Awards).
Settled by Portuguese from the North in the late 1400’s, the main economic activities were based on the production of wheat and dye plants (as was very common in the other settlements in the archipelago). However, soon the settlers realised the potential of the lava soils and switched to wine producing instead. If you have ever tasted Pico wine, you know it was a smart move.
Pico has a very strong Historical link to the whaling activities, first as sperm whale hunters from the late 1800’s until it was banned in 1986, and now as watchers and protectors. The uniqueness of the volcanic soil has also boosted the wine making industry. The tourism industry rides these both waves (of whale watching and wine producing) brilliantly, determined to highlight 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 the knowledge and experience of a local guide. Touring the local vineyards and getting to know the whale species you can spot should also be on your to-do list.
Recommended Local Companies
Please note that I’m not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list I used the following criteria:
- Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- A website in English where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (with a working email)
Responsible Whale watching in the Azores since 1989. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
9930 Lajes do Pico
Activities: whale and dolphin watching (prices start from €49/US $54), swim with dolphins (prices start from €625/US $698, for an 8-day package), whales and dolphins of Queimada (prices start from €39/US $43), “Sea Watch” – Around the Azorean biodiversity (prices start from €98/US $109).
Ecotourism and responsible tourism activities to live the island.
Monte de Cima, 21
9950-154 Madalena do Pico
Activities: Climbing (€45/US $50, for half day; €75/US $83, for a full day), orienteering (€15/US $16), bike tours (€35/US $39), hiking (prices start from €25/US $27).
Epic and sustainable tourism activities to discover the best the island has to offer.
Estrada Regional, 48
9930 -178 Lajes do Pico
Activities: relaxing massages in one of the islands natural settings (prices start from €25/US $27), photography expeditions (€35/US $39, for 3 hours), “Pico-nics”, picnics with local products (€35/US $39, for 3 hours; meal included), different cultural tours, including vineyard tours and historical whale hunting tours (prices start from €35/US $39, per person), guided mountain climbing (prices start from €50/US $55, per person), activities for kids, ages 4 to 12 (€10/US $11, per person).
Whale watching with the knowledge of the former whalers. Rated as Good on TripAdvisor
Rua Manuel Paulino Azevedo e Castro, 9
9930-149 Lajes do Pico
Activities: whale and dolphin watching (prices start from €48/US $53, per person), swimming with dolphins (prices start from €60/US $67, per person), boat rental (prices start from €370/US $413 for an RIB, and €480/US $536 for a cabin boat), day in paradise – 6-hour tour in a cabin boat (€980/US $1095).
Rai and Matteo combine their climbing knowledge with their unconditional love for the island. Rated as Excelent on TripAdvisor
Rua da Igreja, 23
Activities: Pico Day Tour (duration 8 1/2 hours), Wine Tour (duration 8 hours), Secret Lagoons & Lava Cave Tour (duration 8 1/2 hours), Pico Mountain Climb.
Lages do Pico – Ilha do Pico – Açores #lagesdopico #lages #baleeiros #semanadosbaleeiros #ilhadopico #açores #acores #azores_islands #azores #azores #azoresislands #visitazores #iloveazores #igers_azores #portugal #portugal_lovers #best_destinations #nature #nature_lovers #wonderful_places #sonyalpha #sonyalpha100 #photooftheday #pic
A photo posted by Jose Branco Carvalho (@josebrancoc) on
Top cultural events in Pico island
Local religious events, especially the Holy Ghost festivities, are as common here as in any other island of the Azores. But the most important cultural events here are those that honor the heritage and History of wine producing and the whaling industry.
The Whaling Week (“Semana dos Baleeiros”) happens in the town of Lajes every August. It’s a mix of cultural events and concerts, but with a great focus on the whaling heritage. The most special happening of them all is the race of traditional whaling boats — not so much for the race itself, but for the chance of seeing those tiny vessels in the ocean and to imagine how small they look compared to the whales their sailors used to hunt.
The Grape Harvest Festival (“Festas das Vindimas”) happens in the town of 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 island
Local wine and cheese are the bases of Pico’s gastronomy, which seems to be quite the start of a love affair with the island. Doesn’t it all sound perfect? Mountain, sea, cheese and wine? But because all these views (and probably the mountain climb) will make you crave for a little more sustenance, the island is also famous for its stewed octopus in “vinho de cheiro” (roughly translated to “fragrant wine”, it’s a typical local wine produced from an American variety of hybrid grapes known as “Isabella”) and fried pork sausage with boiled or baked taro roots (although they’re called “inhames” in Portuguese and sound like yams in English, they’re not the same. They’re brownish in color and may not look like the most attractive food on the plate, but your taste buds will have a different saying on the matter.)
What to buy as a souvenir
In the height of the whaling industry, the engraved sperm whale teeth were a common souvenir. These days the whaling industry is remembered through handmade small-scale models of the old whaling boats.
The local Handicrafts Schools keep the artisan traditions alive while creating typical local straw hats and flowers made with fish scales.
Where to stay in Pico island
Please note that I’m not listing ALL accommodation possibilities. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list of places to stay on the island, I used the following criteria:
- Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). I excluded chain hotels.
- A website in English and/or a listing on Booking.com* where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
Twelve restored stone built houses that aim to recreate the typical Azorean village life. Review of 9.2 on Booking.com
Rua do Ramal 14
9940 – 062 Praínha
Prices start at €65/US $72
Located in the heart of The UNESCO World Heritage Landscape of Vineyard Culture, with a view to the nearby Faial island. World Luxury Award Winner 2015. Rating of 9.1 on Booking.com
Rua Madalena do Pico, 107
9950-170 Madalena do Pico
High season (from 1st of June until 30th of September)
Double room – €185/US $206
Single room – €155/US $173
Villa – €490/US $547
Low season (from 1st of January to 31st of May and from 1st of October to 31st of December)
Double room – €155/US $173
Single room – €135/US $150
Villa – €410/US $458
Located in Sao Mateus near the vineyards and just 200 meters from the Ocean. Rating of 9.0 on Booking.com
Travessa Santo António 5
9950-528 Sao Mateus
High season (from 1st of May until 30th of September)
Prices from €70/US $78, per night
Low season (from 1st of January to 30th of April and from 1st of October to 31st of December)
Prices from €60/US $66, per night
Founded in 2001 as a company that produces and sells local handicrafts, it has since expanded to include accommodation services with two apartments.
Estrada Regional Sao Mateus
9950-535 Madalena do Pico
Low season (January to March and October to December) – €40/US $44, per day
Shoulder season (April, May, and September) – €45/US $50, per day
High season (June to August) – €50/US $55, per day
Low season (January to March and October to December) – €50/US $55, per day
Shoulder season (April, May and September) – €55/US $61, per day
High season (June to August) – €60/US $67, per day
A genuine and innovative family-owned company, offering holiday houses for tourism, in absolute contact with Nature.
Rua João Bento Lima, 24
9940-366 São Roque do Pico
Prices start at €75/US $83, for maximum two people, depending on chosen season (from 6 seasons available)
Prices start at €75/US $83, for maximum two people, depending on chosen season (from 6 seasons available)
Casa da Cisterna:
Prices start from €155/US $83, for minimum 3 nights and maximum 4 people, depending on chosen season (from 4 seasons available)
Prices start from €80/US $89, for minimum 3 nights and maximum 4 people, depending on chosen season (from 4 seasons available)
A photo posted by Inês (@heinzines) on
Basic information about Pico island
These are the most frequently asked questions about the Azores islands in general (and the island of Pico in particular). If you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to email me.
Where is Pico island?
Pico is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
What’s the official language in the Azores?
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
What’s the time zone in the Azores?
GMT -1 hour
What’s the currency in the Azores?
Are there banks and ATM machines in Pico island?
Is there a post office in Pico island?
What Visa do I need to visit Pico island?
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.
Do I need any special vaccination?
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
How do I get medical care on Pico island if I need it?
There are pharmacies and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde with emergency services on the island.
What is the voltage?
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Is there public transportation in Pico island?
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
How big is Pico island?
The area of Pico island is 444.9 square kilometers (approximately 171.77 square miles).
How far is Pico island from Lisbon?
1,670 km (approximately 1,037 miles)
How many people live in Pico island?
14,148 people, according to the last census of 2011.
How many main towns does Pico Island have?
Pico has one three main towns (concelhos in Portuguese), Lajes do Pico, Madalena (where the airport and the ferry station are), and São Roque do Pico (where the second ferry boat station is).
How do I travel to Pico island?
By plane* – between islands, SATA Air Acores; from the Portuguese mainland and other countries, SATA Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and via Ponta Delgada (S. Miguel) Ryanair,
EasyJet (only until October 2017) and Delta Airlines.
By boat – between islands (regular trips from Faial and Sao Jorge, Green Line): Atlanticoline SA.
How is the weather in Pico island?
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F.
When is the best time to visit Pico island?
In August and September for the local unique cultural events.
Are there earthquakes in Pico island?*:
There’s been low activity in recent years. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Is there WiFi and cell phone coverage in Pico island?
Yes, 3G and 4G.
When will you start planning your trip to the Azores?
Tips on planning your trip to the other Azores islands: