Are you looking for the best things to do in Pico, Azores? You came to the right place.
Pico Azores is a Portuguese Azorean island that is defined by the Ponta do Pico volcano, the highest mountain of Portugal.
Pico was nicknamed ‘Ilha Preta’ or ‘Black Island’ by the Portuguese poet Raul Brando as a nod to its black volcanic soils which sustain the island’s vineyards. For this reason, they have earned a UNESCO designation.
In addition to wine tasting, a trip to the island of Pico is a prime opportunity to hike, go whale watching, and experience the natural beauty the Azores is so well known for.
Read on to discover what there is to see and to do on this beautiful Azores island.
Overview of what there is to do and to see in Pico
Here’s an overview table of all the best Pico attractions that we cover in this post.
Read on for a short description of all the Pico highlights.
Best things to do on Pico island, Azores
You can see up to 28 different types of whales and dolphins in the Azores and may be able to see many of them during a guided whale watching tour!
|Learn more about the whaling industry||
Learn more about Pico’s long history of whale hunting.
|Marvel at the World Heritage vineyards at Criação Velha||
The opportunity to visit such a unique growing environment and sample the wines grown there.
|Take a picture with Moinho Do Frade||
The views of the vineyard you can see at the top of the mill.
|Climb Mount Pico||
The beautiful and dramatic views you can see from the summit.
The variety of views as well as the physical challenge.
|Learn more about wine making||
The opportunity to learn more about the history of wine making in Pico.
|Join a wine tasting tour||
The opportunity to visit a wine cellar and meet a local winemaker.
|Explore the largest lava tube in Portugal||
Learn more about the interior of the lava tube and what kinds of lava formed the walls.
|Enjoy the views from the many miradouros||
The opportunity to simply soak in the beauty of Pico and marvel at the natural wonders the island has to offer.
|Visit Farol da Ponta da Ilha||
The views from the lighthouse as well as the surrounding trails.
|Admire Mount Pico and relax at Lagoa do Capitão||
The opportunity to enjoy the serene atmosphere and see some wildlife up close.
|Relax in a natural pool||
Some of the pools provide an incredible view of the ocean.
|Stroll around Lajes do Pico||
The well preserved historic structures.
|Find the cachorro||
The unique rock formation jutting out from the lava rock formations set against the backdrop of the beautiful ocean is a unique sight to see.
|Have a drink and watch the sunset||
The views of the ocean and the sunset from the rooftop terrace.
|Take a Pico island tour||
The Pico wine and liquor as well as the Azores Triangle cheese!
Best things to do in Pico islands
Go whale watching
- Highlights: You can see up to 28 different types of whales and dolphins in the Azores. While there are lookouts on the island a guided whale watching tour remains the best way to see them!
- Price: Prices start at €56
- Opening hours: These guided tours take off at set intervals throughout the day starting at 8:30 AM. Typically the last tour will depart at 1:30 PM but the hours may vary as good weather is required. They may also have to cancel in the event of storms or rain. That’s why we advise booking for one of the first days of your stay so that you’re able to postpone your plans in case something comes up.
- Tip: A rain jacket and waterproof pants are provided by the tour operator. It may be a good idea to wear water resistant shoes. Free parking is available near the starting point. There is a bus stop nearby, but with only 5 or 6 busses a day, public transport is not a comfortable way to travel around the island.
Whale watching has long been a favorite activity of those visiting Pico and much of the island’s history and industry has been tied to whaling.
Although whale hunting has stopped, the techniques used to track and locate whales are still in use and are now used to appreciate these magnificent creatures.
You can book your tour here. This particular tour lasts about three hours and has multiple departure times throughout the day.
Learn more about the whaling industry
- Highlights: Learn more about Pico’s long history of whale hunting
- Price: Small entrance fee but free on Sunday
- Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM during the summer and 9:30 AM to 5:00PM during the winter months
- Tip: We thought the museum in Lajes do Pico was the most interesting of the two. Be sure to watch the film.
Visit the museum on Sunday for free.
Short description of the activity
Pico has 2 museums that provide more information about the time when whaling was still very common.
If you’re looking to add to the whale watching experience and learn more about the island’s history of whale hunting you should head to the Museu dos Baleeiros in Lajes do Pico.
This museum may be small but there is plenty to see here. It’s close to where the whale watching tour starts and a visit can easily be combined with your whale watching excursion.
You can learn about how the hunting of whales began in the area and about the incredibly profitable whaling industry of the time. You will see how the inhabitants used tiny sloops to hunt these large mammals and how spotters used several lookouts on the island to direct the hunters to their prey.
Although whale hunting stopped in 1986, it is a vital part of Pico’s history and culture.
The second museum is located in São Roque in a former factory and focuses more on the process of turning fat into whale oil.
Marvel at the World Heritage vineyards at Criação Velha
- Highlights: The vineyard are a unique environment unlike anything you can see elsewhere. In addition you can sample some of the delicious wines cultivated on the island.
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: The grounds and walking trails are available 24/7. The museum is open between 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM during the summer and 9:30 AM to 5:00PM during the winter months
- Tip: Admission to the museum is free on Sundays
The vineyards at Criação Velha were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 for their remarkable pattern of black volcanic walls that create hundreds of small rectangular plots.
It is seen as an outstanding example of how already in the 15th-century humans managed to adapt their farming practices to some very challenging environments.
The landscape is truly unique. You can hike between the vineyards by following the PR05PIC trail. It lingers between the volcanic walls and you will come across shelter houses, historic wine cellars, a natural swimming pool, and the red mill, Moinho Do Frade, that towers above the region.
After your hike, you can taste some of the wines you saw growing.
Take a picture with Moinho Do Frade
- Highlights: The views of the vineyard from the platform of the mill
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: On occasion, you may be able to find the souvenir shop inside the windmill open and you can buy small trinkets and learn a little bit about the mill. Unfortunately we cannot tell you when it will be open because it is not run on a set schedule.
Visit the well-preserved old traditional mill, Moinho do Frade.
This bright red structure stands out against the green and black landscape and is the perfect place to take a picture.
In addition to getting a great picture, you can climb up the ladder to see stunning views of the surrounding vineyards.
Climb Mount Pico
- Highlights: The beautiful and dramatic views you can see from the summit
- Price: The fee depends on how far you want to hike. Current (2021) prices are €5 to Furna Abrigo, €15 to the crater, and €25 to the absolute top called Pico Pequeno. These prices are for an individual climb, if you want to hire a guide the costs range from €60 – €80
- Opening hours: Each hiker needs to register at the mountain house. It’s open 24/7 from May 1st to September 30th. The opening hours outside this period can be found on their website.
- Tip: 160 visitors are allowed on the trail at one time and only 30 hikers can be simultaneously at the top. If you want to guarantee your spot on the mountain you can do so by reserving your climb ahead of time here.
While you can attempt the climb on your own, it’s recommended that you hire a guide to assist you along the way and make sure you are hiking the best route.
One of the island’s most notable features is the beautiful and imposing Mount Pico which towers nearly 2,351 m (7,713 ft) above sea level.
Mount Pico is the largest mountain in Portugal and even though it is surpassed by several other mountains in Europe and other parts of the world, its climb is one of the toughest hikes in the world.
The hike is tough because of the steepness and the weather conditions. You should expect the weather to change during your hike so we recommend taking a rain jacket even if the sun is shining when you’re at the mountain house.
If you make it to the absolute top, the Pico Pequeno, you will be able to experience that there is still a little bit of volcanic activity going on. There’s steam escaping from between the rocks and as you’re crawling to the top on arms and legs, the only way to reach the top, you will feel that the rocks are warm.
The trip up and down takes about 9 hours for most people so you must reserve a full day for this adventure. You can spread your effort across two days by staying overnight at the crater. This can be a magical experience. Make sure to reserve in advance as only 32 people are allowed to spend the night on the mountain.
Doing the trail with a guide is not only the safest way it also has some other advantages:
- There is not really a trail to the top, there’re only 47 poles to guide the way. Even though it may seem difficult to get lost it’s not always clear where to go or how to best reach the next marker. The guides know this mountain like the back of their hand and will take the safest and easiest paths.
- The weather can change suddenly, hiding the poles behind a thick pack of clouds.
- If you do a guided tour you’re allowed to stay at the top for a full 60 minutes instead of 20
- With a guided tour you also don’t need to worry about reservations. They have fixed slots of their own.
Check prices and availability:
Climb mount Pico with a guide
- Highlights: The variety of beautiful views
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: Anytime
- Tip: Download the VisitAzores app. It has an overview of all the trails, will show the starting point, and you can use it to check if you’re still on the trail while hiking.
Don’t worry if you’re not ready to summit Mount Pico. There are other trails on the island that are worth exploring. The shortest trail is just over 3 km, the longest one is 22 km in length and crosses most of the interior of the island to end at the northeast coast.
These gorgeous hiking trails take you through lush forests, past fumaroles, and along the rocky coastline. Some also pass one of the natural swimming pools, nice places to refresh yourself in the cool water.
The island is hilly so be sure to take plenty of water.
Learn more about wine making on Pico
- Highlights: An excellent place to learn more about the history of wine making in Pico
- Price: Small entrance fee but free on Sundays
- Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM during the summer and 9:30 AM to 5:00PM during the winter months. Closed on Mondays.
- Tip: The museum is free on Sunday
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of Pico Azores, head to the island’s Wine Museum.
Plan on spending about one to two hours exploring the exhibits and displays that cover the process of winemaking in general and discussing its prominence in Pico.
There are also some simple interactive displays that will help you learn about different grape varieties.
The Wine Museum is fantastic for wine connoisseurs and beginners alike as well as those who want to get some background on the unique vineyards that can be seen on the island.
Join a wine tasting tour
- Highlights: The opportunity to visit a wine cellar and meet a local winemaker
- Price: Prices start at €85
- Opening hours: Starting time may vary, but the tour will begin in the morning and last for eight hours
- Tip: You must book at least 24 hours in advance but earlier is recommended. If you have any dietary preferences, you must let the tour group know at least two days in advance so they have the best chance of accommodating your needs
If you’re interested in the wineries and vineyards of Pico, you can book a guided tour experience that will take you to all of the best stops. This tour will take you on an eight-hour excursion with transportation and lunch included.
You’ll get three different wine tastings and learn about how the blends are made and you will even be able to meet some of the people who make the wine.
Check prices and availability:
Wine tasting tour
Explore the largest lava tube in Portugal
- Highlights: This is a very informative tour where you explore a part of a lava tube. The guide will explain a lot about how the tube was formed and the different kinds of lava that can be seen.
- Price: €8
- Opening hours: Open daily starting at 2:00 PM
- Tip: They accept cash only for the tour. Don’t let this stop you from going, it’s absolutely worth it.
Gruta de Torres is Portugal’s largest lava tunnel.
It’s over 5 km long and that makes it the largest such cave in the archipelago. A major part of the tunnel hasn’t yet been accessed. Studies of the lava have shown that the tunnel is over 1,500 years old!
The tube can only be visited with a guide. You will receive a headlight and together with your guide, you will explore 450 meters of the tunnel. Along the way, you will see different kinds of lava and learn a lot about the cave and the history of the island in general.
Enjoy the views from the many miradouros
- Highlights: The opportunity to simply soak in the beauty of Pico and marvel at the natural wonders the island has to offer
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: Many of these viewpoints are near other Pico island attractions, some of which are on this list. Consider planning your trip so you can admire the view from one of the miradouros before or after other activities.
Miradouros is the Portuguese word meaning “viewpoints” and there are many throughout the island of Pico.
The Arrife Viewpoint is located near the town of Lajes de Pico and gives you a chance to see the beautiful blue waters and stretches of the landscape that are filled with greenery and wineries.
Quinta das Rosas Forest Park is located on the western side of the island and offers tropical views and lush greenery. At this viewpoint you will also find picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms.
Corr’Agua Viewpoint and Prainha do Norte Forest Park Viewpoint are just two of the great options from the north coast of Pico.
The latter is another excellent spot for lunch as it also features picnic tables, restrooms, and a small playground to keep the little ones entertained.
Visit Farol da Ponta da Ilha
- Highlights: The views from the lighthouse as well as the surrounding area
- Price: Free to visit
- Opening hours: Wednesday 2:00PM to 5:00PM when clock is on summer time and 1:30PM to 4:30PM outside this period
- Tip: The lighthouse is one of the best places to admire the confluence of the seas north and south of Pico.
Farol da Ponta da Ilha is the largest lighthouse on Pico island.
Being built in 1946 it is also one of the most recent in the Azores.
It has an impressive and slightly atypical structure. It is U-shaped with the 19-meter lighthouse tower standing in the middle. This puts the light source at an altitude of 29 meters and gives it a range of 24 nautical miles ( 44.5 km).
Access to the lighthouse is fairly limited, but if you are interested in maritime affairs, it will certainly fascinate you.
Those less fascinated by the maritime story can enjoy the distant views.
You can see São Jorge and on clear days you should even be able to see as far as Terceira. Closer, you can see the confluence of the seas north and south of the island.
Often, but partly dependent on the weather, one sea is somewhat rougher than the other, and you can clearly witness a difference in wave action.
Admire Mount Pico and relax at Lagoa do Capitão
- Highlights: The opportunity to enjoy the serene atmosphere and see breath-taking views of the Pico volcano
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: Take a taxi to the lake and hike back – you can hike both ways but the journey will be quite long (about 10 kilometres each way)
Lagoa do Capitão is a beautiful but small lagoon that is worth visiting not just because of its beauty but because of the stunning views of Mount Pico that you can enjoy from its shores.
If you’re hoping to get a clear view of Mount Pico, you must visit the lake on a bright and sunny day so that you can enjoy unobstructed views. You will even see the reflection of the mountain in the lake.
You will probably share its shores with some grazing cows and a few families of ducks.
Mount Pico is often hiding behind some clouds so you may need to stay a while. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as the lake is an excellent place to take a break or have a picnic.
For hiking lovers, there is the PC13PIC trail that connects Lagoa do Capitão with Cais Do Pico. It’s a 9.3km linear route and it’s advised to start at the lagoon so you will walk downhill instead of uphill.
Relax in a natural pool
- Highlights: There’s no better place to cool off after a sultry summer day while enjoying distant views of the deep-blue ocean.
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: Although not required, water shoes may be a good idea if you have sensitive feet!
If you are like us, you may not have heard of the term natural pool in this context before arriving in the Azores.
These natural pools are dotted along the coastline of the volcanic islands. Eruptions have created new rock formations and these formed protected pools with limited wave activity. Some are completely secluded and only have water entering during rough seas. You can find them on each island, including Pico.
The São Roque do Pico Swimming Pools are some of the most popular, but there are many others to explore.
Although they are naturally formed, some of these pools have ladders and handrails built in to help you get in and out with ease.
Stroll around Lajes do Pico
- Highlights: This was the first settlement on the island and it has several well-preserved historic structures
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: Although it is free to visit, be sure to have some cash on hand if you’re interested in shopping at local businesses or grabbing a bite to eat
Lajes do Pico is the oldest municipality on Pico and was the first place where settlers from Portugal established homes and structures.
Many of the buildings that can be seen today date back to the 16th century. For example, you can step into the Ermida de São Pedro chapel, which was one of the first structures to be built on the island.
Lajes do Pico is also home to the Museu da Indústria Baleeira and some other attractions on this list.
Have a look at Lajes do Pico if you’re still looking for a place to stay on the island. There are hotels and several AirBnB’s scattered throughout this area.
It is a great place to stay with restaurants and shops. You won’t need to go too far to find all the essentials.
Find the cachorro
- Highlights: Stunning volcanic rock formations set against the backdrop of the beautiful ocean
- Price: Free
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Tip: There is a boardwalk to safely see the cachorro and the other rock formations.
The beautiful islands of the Azores were formed due to volcanic activity and because of this, you can see lava rock formations such as caves and lava tubes throughout the islands and along the impressive coastlines.
This part of Pico’s coast, near Madalena, is particularly impressive. As you explore the boardwalk you will see natural bridges and caves. The sea crashes into the coast and creates wild whirlpools. It’s a stunning sight.
One of the rock formations resembles a dog and is therefore called the cachorro (Portuguese for “dog”). The head of the dog is facing inland.
It may be hard to locate as you have to be standing in a specific spot to see it clearly, but it’s a fun surprise if you spot it.
Have a drink and watch the sunset
- Highlights: The views of the ocean and the sunset from the rooftop terrace
- Price: Expect to spend between €15 and €45 at minimum depending on if you are simply enjoying a drink or are ordering a meal
- Opening hours: Daily from noon till midnight.
- Tip: Make reservations in advance. Thanks to the stunning views this place has quickly become popular with long waits for a table as a result.
You can admire the sunset from many places on Pico Azores. If you want to do it while enjoying a good glass of wine, or a tasty meal, you need to head to Cella Bar in Madalena.
This wine bar is situated in a striking award-winning building that perfectly blends with the beautiful surroundings. All this only adds to the experience.
They have limited seating so we advise reserving a spot on the rooftop terrace if you will be there around sunset.
Their menu has Portuguese and European options with many seafood dishes such as marinated tuna or fish soup which are some of the most popular.
Take a Pico island tour
- Highlights: You will visit most of the highlights of Pico in one day and will taste some of the local food.
- Price: Starting at approx. €85
- Opening hours: This is a full-day tour of 8 hours approx. The tour starts around 10AM but the exact hour may vary and will be shown when you make your reservation.
- Tip: Be sure to notify the tour company of any dietary restrictions you may have. Part of the tour includes a lunch and wine tasting and they will be able to accommodate most restrictions if they have enough time in advance
We still think that the best way to see the island of Pico is by renting a car and exploring at your own pace. We do however understand that not everybody has the time to create detailed travel plans in advance.
The good news is that this guided tour will allow you to see most of the highlights of this beautiful location and learn about its history and culture. The tour lasts for eight hours and includes stops at Lagoa do Capitao and the Gruta das Torres. At the casa dos Vulcoes, you will learn about the origin of the islands and experience an earthquake in a simulator.
The expert tour guides will help guide you through an exciting experience and can deliver the tour in Spanish, English, or Portuguese.
Check prices and availability:
Pico guided island tour
FAQ about Pico
Here we answer the most common questions you may have about Pico.
- Best time to visit Pico
The seasons in the Azores are in line with those in Europe and, simply put, the best time to visit the island of Pico is between the months of May and September.
By the time June starts the climate is very pleasant with only a few rainy days. June, July, and August are the months that know the least precipitation. September announces the start of autumn and this month knows twice as many rainy days as July and August.
- How to get to Pico?
When you are planning your trip to Pico, you have two options as to how to arrive.
Firstly, you can arrive by sea and book a trip on the AtlanticoLine ferry. These run daily between Pico and other Azores islands.
The schedule may vary but the ferry does run more regularly during the summer months.
If arriving by ferry does not work for your Azores itinerary, you will have to fly to Pico.
There are no international flights to Pico and only a limited number of flights to mainland Portugal (usually 3 times a week). You most likely will have to connect at Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island. All flights are operated by Azores Airlines.
If you purchase a flight from anywhere in Portugal to Pico with a connection in São Miguel using Azores Airlines, your flight segment from Ponta Delgada to Pico will be at no additional cost!
How this works is explained in our article about how to get to the Azores.
- How to get around in Pico
By far the best way to get around Pico is to rent a car.
While the cost of gas can add up if you’re doing a lot of driving, having access to your own car is far better than relying on public transportation which does not run on a regular schedule and is typically unreliable.
Taxis are also available but are a costly option to explore the full island.
Here you can find all info about car rental in the Azores.
- How many days in Pico?
Avid hikers and those taking it slow could spend a week in Pico without getting bored, but you should spend at least three full days on the island to truly experience everything it has to offer.
- Where to stay in Pico?
Pico is relatively small so no matter where you stay you’ll be within an hour’s drive of everything.
If you stay on the western side of Pico, you’ll be close to most of the major attractions on the island. That said, many recommend a stay on the eastern part of the island as that area tends to see better weather.
Madalena and Lajes do Pico are two of the municipalities in Pico where you can find many hotels and such. Madalena is located along the western side of the island, Lajes do Pico is on the north.
- If you are looking for a guided tour in the Azores, check out this post in which we share the best Azores travel packages.
- If you wonder what more to do in the Azores, check out this post.
The island of Pico is filled with beautiful nature and fascinating history and culture.
If you’re looking for an amazing place to escape to for a few days where you can hike, indulge in delicious wine, and soak in the sunshine, Pico Azores is the perfect place for you to visit.