Visiting the island of Pico

If you are planning to go to the Azores you are probably wondering what the island Pico has to offer. This post will tell you more about what to see and do on Pico and my own take on the island if it’s worth a detour (hint: yes it’s definitely worth it).

View over mount Pico from my AirBnB

What to do or see on Pico?

Pico was one of the first islands I saw when I first visited the Azores. I had 5 days of work and 5 days of leisure and I wanted to explore as many islands as I could. Therefore, I chose to stick to the central islands and mainly Pico. Here are the main things, I believe are worth seeing and doing on Pico.

Hike Mount Pico!

The chief feature of the island of Pico is unsurprisingly the huge volcano in the middle. What most may not know is that the volcano is still active and you might see some lava if you are lucky! Don’t worry though it is safe to hike on the mountain.

Hiking on Mount Pico is not a small ordeal, however. Should you do it, you will have to pass the so-called “Mountain House”. This is a mandatory stop before attempting a hike: you will be equipped with a GPS that will track your position while hiking up and down. This is necessary since the fog is known to appear unexpectedly and make vision almost impossible: this combined with the very rocky terrain makes it into a problem should you twist your ankle in the fog. But with a GPS, the local guides can easily find you and bring you safely down should it ever happen.

Hiking on top of Mount Pico is a must if the weather is sunny as it will give you an amazing view over the neighboring islands. If you want to take it to the next level, hike before the early morning and see the sunrise over the Azores: breathtaking experience!

Try the wine from Pico

It is an unlikely place but the island of Pico is the home of famous Portuguese wine. The hostile environment which at first glance doesn’t seem like a place of choice for wine has two unique aspects: firstly, the volcanic ground offers a rich soil for the grapes and secondly, the volcanic stones can be stacked to make small walls which would protect the grapes from the harsh winds of the Atlantic. Although the grapes are used to make red and white wine, the most common use of the grapes is to produce fortified wine from the Verdelho grape.

These wines can be consumed at the local restaurant of course but the islanders do produce their own wine in their so-called “Adegas”: these are basically small huts or houses located outside of the villages for the islanders to escape the town life and enjoy some homemade wine. If an Azorean offers you to try their wine you must say yes!

Espaco talassa is a renowed whale-watching company located in Lajes do Pico

Go whale and dolphin-watching

Pico has a few companies that offer whale and dolphin watching. The guides take you on their motorboats and you would do a 2-hour tour following whales or dolphins depending on what they manage to find. One company that has been around for many years and which is very liked is the Espaco Talassa in the town of Lajes do Pico (southern coast of Pico). The place also offers accommodation for those staying for several days.

Worth keeping in mind is that the peak season to see whales is between April and October.

Whales come often by the island of Pico. Image by L. Nebuloni CC-BY2.0

Visit the whaling-museum

The history of the Azores is intertwined with whale hunting. Although whale hunting is prohibited today it was a major source of income for the locals in the past. The towns have preserved the old tools as well as the impressive harpoons. On the neighboring island of Faial, they would also have a boat race with the old rowing boats they used for the hunts. This museum however is located in São Roque and has preserved the hunting gear as well as the boilers they used to boil down the whale-fat. The whale-fat was used in fine machinery as a lubricant, the whale’s bones were instead used for corsets and skirts and the ambergris was used in perfumes and cosmetics. Needless to say, the history behind whale hunting is very interesting and if you want to learn about the Azorean culture, this is a great stop to learn more about it.

Where to stay on Pico?

Pico’s offer of accommodation is limited due to the fact that the island is pretty small. The most populated area of the island is also where you will find the most options, this is on the western side. You will find its main town: Madalena as well as the second largest town: São Roque do Pico. These towns also have restaurants and bars so it is better to stay in this part of the island if you can.

However, I can recommend two places where I have stayed which were nice but also not too expensive. These are:

  • Picodreams, this hotel had great rooms and the location is close to the small town of São Roque. The staff was very lovely and kind.
  • Sara Village-Sportfish, which is a more modest hotel with fewer rooms. However, what the place lacks in size it makes it up with its owner Miguel who is a great guy and is very welcoming.

Where to eat or have a drink on Pico?

As mentioned above, Pico is rather small so the choice of places to eat is also narrow. The kind of food I would recommend would be anything related to fish. You can be sure that the fish you will eat was caught earlier that day just off the shore of Pico.

Cella Bar offers a great view over Faial and is amazing place to watch the sun set over the Azores

There are a number of places I have been to have a drink or a meal. Of these, I would recommend the following for their quality and price:

  • Cella Bar. Located on the outskirts of Madalena, this bar was built by an architect and is probably the coolest one I have ever been to. Just the location is amazing and you have a great view over the island of Faial during the sunset. Drinks can be had on the roof, but you can also dine very well inside!
  • Mar Sushi Terrace. If there was one thing that was obvious when I ate here it was that the owner was very passionate about fish and especially fish caught locally and in a sustainable manner. The sushi is great and the view on the terrace is amazing: you might even see whales off the coast if you’re lucky.

  • Bar Clube Naval de São Roque do Pico. If you are looking for a place to have a quick lunch or an all-you-can-eat buffet this is the place. Located in São Roque do Pico, this café is a perfect stop if you need to refuel on food before making it to the eastern part of the island. Prices are very affordable and it is right next to the whaling museum: two-birds-in-one-stone?


To sum-up

As you have seen above there are many things to see and experience on Pico. If you want to read more on the Azores and more generally about traveling there read my Azores-article for more tips. Otherwise, if you want to read about the other islands, check my latest posts in my Azores category.

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