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Pico Island

Listed under Islands in The Azores, Portugal.

  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
  • Photo of Pico Island
Photo of Pico Island
Photo by Jenny Fowler
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Distant blue vistas over the sea, tranquil lakes in high volcanic craters, strange rugged cliff formations of black basalt, green uplands and small stone houses, the tiny island of Pico in the Azores packs a big scenic punch for its size.

The island was formed by a volcano, so tall that its top is the highest point in Portugal. Clouds gather round the summit in constantly changing patterns. Down on the coast you can still see lava from the most recent eruption, set in rope patterns or forming caves and sea arches.

The mountain is a nature reserve. Trees and bushes of giant heather grow high on the sides. There are signposted walking trails with map available from the Tourist Office. The lower slopes are a green patchwork of walled fields with cows grazing.

Early settlers used the harsh rocky areas for wine production, painstakingly clearing small fields by piling up rocks the around them. This distinctive landscape is now a UNESCO World heritage site. Windmills built by early settlers have been restored as landmarks too. Wines are still produced on the island and there is a wood fired distillery which makes liqueurs flavoured with local fruit and herbs.

Whaling was another way of surviving and you can see two museums standing as memorials to this gruesome trade, now happily replaced by a thriving whale watching business with daily boats. Cetacean sightings are almost guaranteed as sperm whales and dolphins live here all year round, and other species visit as they migrate.

The island has no beaches, but there are natural swimming pools formed by rocks around the shore. Scuba diving is available with a dive shop in the capital Madalena.

Pico is a great destination for a relaxing outdoor holiday in a beautiful environment.

Written by  Jenny Fowler.

Other expert and press reviews

“Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture”

'The 987-ha site on the volcanic island of Pico, the second largest in the Azores archipelago, consists of a remarkable pattern of spaced-out, long linear walls running inland from, and parallel to, the rocky shore. The walls were built to protect the t… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Pico Island

Pico’s volcano, Ponta de Pico, dominates the rest of the island. Portugal’s highest mountain, it shoots, steeply out of the ocean surrounded by nothing but flat land making it appear even larger and more ominous than it is.

While it was still PC, Pico’s main trade was in whaling, but prior to that it was in viniculture and the island is covered in the remnants of vineyards, plots subdivided by volcanic rock walls. Wine produced here used to grace the tables of the Russian Tzars. It’s not all bygone though, wine is still produced on Pico. The once hunted whales now visit more peacefully, lulled by the deep water harbour. Many of the traditional houses are built from the same black volcanic rock as the vineyard walls and there are a couple of old picturesque churches. Sounds like a restful place.

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