Pico, the mountain island...

Pico is the second largest island of the Archipelago with a surface area of 448 km2. It is home to the highest mountain in Portugal which reaches an altitude of 2351 meters.

The island of Pico is divided into three municipalities, “Madalena”, “São Roque”, and “Lajes”. Similar to the other islands the value of its’ architectonic patrimony is found in the churches and chapels of the different parishes:

- The “Santa Maria Madalena” Church in the town of Madalena, the “São Roque” Church and Convent and Church of “São Pedro de Alcântra” in São Roque, and the “Nossa Senhora da Conceição” Church and Chapel of “São Pedro” in Lajes, along with many others are examples of the island’s architectural patrimony.

The majestic mountain in Pico, classified in 1972 as Natural Reserve, is a prominent and consistent element in the island’s landscape.

Using the network of roads which pass through the interior of the island, along the mountainside and the coastline, Pico offers a landscape of indescribable beauty. Although it is almost impossible to highlight any one point of Pico’s landscape as better than the last or the next it is necessary to point out a few:

- Starting from the area of “Furnas” at the base of the mountain you will find thick forests up to an altitude of 1500 meters. From this point to about 2000 metres shrubbery takes over. After that bare lava, snow covered in winter, is all you will find. The mountain is peaked by Pico Alto, a round crater with a perimeter of about 700 metres and a 30 meter depth. Pico Pequeno is the volcanic cone which lies at the extremity of the crater. It rises about 70 metres and has fumaroles at its base. Sunrise as viewed from the summit is a spectacular and unforgettable sight;

- The “Capitão, Caiado”, and “Paúl” Lakes, among many others, set within a natural and entrancing environment;

- The “Mistério da Prainha”, between São Roque and Prainha, “Mistério das Bandeiras”, between Santa Luzia and Bandeiras, on the north coast and the “Mistério de São João”, on the south coast, are extensive fields of lava spilled from volcanic eruptions registered after settlement on the island. Much of the cultivated land was destroyed by the eruptions;

- The “Arcos do Cachorro”, an impressive lava flow is perforated by numerous tunnels and grottoes. The ocean passes thunderously in these grottoes and tunnels creating a notable effect;

- The Caves of the “Frei Matias, Silveira” and “Montanheiros”, are magnificent caves which are especially appreciated by speleologists;

- There are extensive virgin areas which are covered in exuberant vegetation, predominantly the “Cedro-do-mato” forest-cedar (Juniperus brevifolia), including  the Natural Reserves of “Caiado” Lake, “Caveiro” and “Mistério da Prainha”. All of these are sanctuaries of the rich endemic vegetation particular to the region.

While passing through Lajes, a stop at the “Baleeiros” (whale) Museum is necessary. All that pertains to the glorious whaling tradition is available to the public. Displayed are biographies, whaling canoes and every article needed for the activity. Due to present day concerns whaling has been halted but the spirit and the memory of the “sea-wolves” still lives. Of growing popularity is the parctice of whale watching. A growing number of enterprises offer spectacular expeditions to the interested tourist.

The vineyards of Pico are very distinctive. A maze of stone walls form corrals in which the grapevines are found. In this way the farmers were able to rid the soil of the many rocks and form shelter for their crops. The “maroiças” or pyramids were also built for the same reason and add an interesting aspect to Pico’s landscape. The product of these grapevines is the famous wine known as “Verdelho do Pico”, a superb aperitif.

Completing your tour of Pico at Madalena’s pier, a daily ferry to Faial is available. From the ocean the sightseer is left with a final portrait of the mountain island which includes the islets “Deitado” (lying down) and “Em-pé” (standing up) overshadowed by the magnificent mountain.