Hiking above the Clouds on Pico Island
The island of Pico is a small mountain island that is just 150 miles north-west of the island of Sao Miguel. The island is known for its volcanic landscape and the unique wines produced on this small volcanic island in the Atlantic. The grape vineyards here on Pico were designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004 due to the region’s wine production’s historical background. It’s here that the impressive black lava stone walls, which were built centuries ago to avoid the perils of the unpredictable Atlantic weather patterns, have withstood the tests of time. This has allowed the grape vineyards to be sheltered from various elements that might otherwise damage the harvest, protecting the delicate grapes. Here you can explore the winery while sampling some of their local vintages and admiring the cultivation history on the island in their museum and gift shop. The unique lookout point that overlooks the entire winery with sweeping ocean views matched with the black lava stone walls that go as far as the eye can see makes this a unique UNESCO World Heritage site to visit.
Pico has the tallest mountain in Portugal and is considered the largest mountain in the world if you measured it from the base on the bottom of the Atlantic ocean to its peak. It is a favorite amongst hikers and sports enthusiasts and can be climbed throughout the year without any rock climbing gear as the paths that lead to the top are accessible.
It is recommended to bring gloves, and a jacket as the temperature on the top of the peak is different from that on the island’s lowlands and somewhat chilly. The best time to do the hike is just before sunrise, where you still have the benefit of the thousands of stars guiding your trail, and to be able to watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain. This is an experience of a lifetime and will be something you will never forget.
The local herbs and berries produced on the island make some very unusual but tasty liquors sold throughout the island and are a must-taste when experiencing this beautiful island. It’s not all just liquors and wines here on Pico, with many of the most beautiful water excursions taking place on this island paradise. Here you can find 21 different species of whales and dolphins along the coast. The ocean surrounding the Azores is deemed safe due to the strict laws imposed by the regional government, which bans whaling or improper fishing. Some highly reputable local tour companies offer to take you right up close to a safe distance to these beautiful ocean mammals.
The capital city of the Island is Madalena, with a population of just a few thousand residents makes this is a safe and fun city to visit. The small island capital is filled with history and charm, with several religious and cultural festivals taking place here year after year for over a century. The most popular time to visit Pico is in the spring and summer months when the weather is ideal. The winter months are usually plagued with extensive amounts of rain and overcast but like anywhere in the Azores it’s 4 seasons in a day.
The small city center has many unique restaurants that serve traditional local cuisine. There are some international restaurants that have opened up recently that offer some of the island’s finest local ingredients in various contemporary recipes. It is recommended to try the local seafood as well. All seafood here is caught fresh daily and is an important economic sector of the island. This is due to the high-quality fish that come from the North Atlantic waters.
No matter what you decide to do on Pico island, you are sure to get a truly authentic Azorean experience. This unique region is considered one of the most unspoiled regions in Europe. The relaxed island lifestyle, great food, and abundance of picturesque landscapes make this an island you must explore when visiting the Azores.