Cover photo by Zen Zero as found on Flickr.
“Tips on What to do in the Azores, Pico” 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.
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.
Most Popular Activities
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 we’re not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list we used the following criteria:
- (1) Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- (2) 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).
- (3) 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).
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
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.
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.)
#terrasDeLava #VinhoDoPico #lapas #nopico #restaurantePontaDaIlha
A photo posted by Jorge Castanheira (@jorgcastanheira) on
Perfect Local 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
Please note that we’re 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, we used the following criteria:
- (1) Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). We excluded chain hotels.
- (2) 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).
- (3) 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 from €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 from €75/US $83, for maximum two people, depending on chosen season (from 6 seasons available)
Prices start from €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
Territory: Pico is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Time zone: GMT -1 hour
Currency: Euro (€)
Banks and ATM machines available? Yes.
Post office? Yes.
Visa Requirements*: Same as other Schengen area territories. 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 vaccinations needed? No.
Health facilities: pharmacies and health centers (known as “centro de saude”).
Voltage: 220 volts (round two-pin plugs)
Public transport: Buses and taxis.
Area: 444.9 Km2
Distance from Lisbon (approx.): 1670 Km
Population (as of 2011): 14148
How to reach: 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. By boat – between islands (regular trips from Faial and Sao Jorge, Green Line): Atlanticoline SA.
Weather: Climate: Mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F. For up to date information from the Azores Weather Institute, you can download the free app Meteo IPMA for iOS* or for Android (Downside: unfortunately, all the information in the app is in Portuguese.)
Best time to visit: In August and September for the local unique cultural events.
Seismic activity*: Low activity in recent years. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
WiFi coverage: Yes.
Cell phone coverage: Yes.
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