As we continue moving eastward towards Europe, the next island we encounter is Pico. Pico, by anyone's standards, is an impressive sight located in the middle of the other Açores islands. According to those who visit Pico and other Açores islands, Pico is highly underrated; many say it's the most beautiful of the Açores islands.
Pico is Accessible by Boat and by Airplane
Located 3,593 miles from the United States' east coast, Pico is an impressive sight even before you touch its soil as its center is the tallest mountain in Portugal. This stunning island is home to approximately 15,700 people. Its located 4.5 miles from Faial and accessible by ferry and by airplane. Pico's airport was built in 1982 and expanded in 1990 so that large aircraft could land on the island. As with the other islands, Pico can be reached by ferry; however, winter ocean conditions make flying more predictable during those months.
Nothing Else Like It
Choosing a sight that must be seen on an island like Pico is tough. There are many opportunities to spot beauty from its many swimming holes to its highest point of the island. There's also man-made beauty here which is where I chose to take us. The landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. Pico has produced wine since the 15th century, and it's currently gaining attention for the quality of wine it produces. When visiting Pico Island Vineyard, you'll find an incredible sight in a vineyard like no other. More than 2,000 acres of stone-walled plots called currais are designed to expose the vines to the sun but protect them from the wind. Every single stone was moved by hand. What I'm told is that the full enormity of what you see when visiting isn't done justice either with words or pictures. You have to visit Pico Island Vineyard to fully appreciate it the work that's been done in this one of a kind vineyard.
Eat, Drink And Be Happy
Pico is known as the orchard island of the Açores because of the abundance of fruit grown on it. Despite its harsh soil and rocky landscape, the combination of the hot sun and dry climate creates the opportunity to grow apples, pears peach, plum, oranges, and figs. These things are added to the impressive collection of fresh seafood visitors can count on when visiting any of the islands. The restaurant choices for Pico are as impressive as everything else about this island.
When asking the question of what is the restaurant that represents everything about this island the very best, it's Marisqueira Ancoradouro. This restaurant, located in Madalena, is considered and has a reputation for the island's primary gastronomic reference. It stands out for its seafood, of course, but the location is also a huge plus. This restaurant boasts a terrace with an ocean view that invites visitors to soak in the beauty. Another very popular restaurant is located in the heart of Pico's pier. Casa Âncora is also known for highlighting the best of the islands offering in a setting that makes a person want to sit for hours enjoying the view over the bay of Cais do Pico. But it doesn't end there as there are several other restaurants that are described as excellent. No matter whether you choose casual or formal dining, one thing is true of all of Pico's dining options: great food, great views, friendly locals to talk to while dining. Visitors are encouraged to take their time while dining and enjoy the friendliness Pico's residents share with others.
An Experience Not To Be Missed
Visiting Pico and not talking about Mt. Pico is like visiting Rome and not mentioning the Vatican. It's just not done. As I've already said, Pico is about much more than just its mountain but something that grand can't be overlooked.
Standing at 7,713 feet tall, this dormant volcano is considered one of the ultimate Acorean challenges; everyone agrees climbing this mountain is a must for those who can. All the action starts at The Mountain House, or Casa da Montanha, which is "base camp." It's located 3,936 above sea level which is approximately halfway up the mountain. The climb, while greatly worth it when you reach the top, is by no means described as an easy one. While this experience is considered a must, it's been heavily underscored that it's only a must for those who are in good enough physical condition to make a six to eight-hour steep climb. Also, something to consider is that the mountain gets snow in the winter which means the climb is best done in the summer months rather than with the winds of winter. But for those who can do it, climbing Mt. Pico is considered an activity that's described as emotionally and mentally involved as it is physical. Many say Mt. Pico changes those who dare climb it forever.
I've only begun to scratch the surface of the wonderful things about Pico. This impressive island also features some of the best swimming holes in the Azores, is the ideal island to walk, hike, bird watch, jog, whale and dolphin watch, swim, fish and ride bikes. It's a beautiful place to visit and, like the other Açores islands, has more than enough to see and do for several return visits.