Pico is the second biggest island of the Azores. It is famous for its gigantic volcano that occupies most of the territory of the island. But not only! Anything is possible in Pico, and we can plan it entirely for you.
So if you are planning your trip, here are 15 unique things to do in Pico for your holidays.
Pico Island got the name ‘grey island’ due to its volcanic features like the dark basalt walls between the unique vineyards.
The mountain island offers many things to do all year round due to good temperatures. You can jump into the numerous pools or hike wonderful trails.
Also, watch whales jump and show their huge tail! In Pico, hike among the vineyards protected by UNESCO and climb Portugal’s highest mountain!
1. Watch whales and dolphins in their midst
Whale and dolphin watching is an amazing thing to do during your holidays. In Pico, this is absolutely a must!
Indeed, it is one of the best places in Europe to watch the giants of the ocean. This is due to perfect geological conditions for cetaceans who very much enjoy the coastal waters of Pico.
Sometimes they can be really close to shore. That is why you shouldn’t miss whale and dolphin watching with us aboard our fast and adventurous RIB boat.
RELATED TOUR Whale Watching in Pico Island | Book Now!
In the waters surrounding the Azores islands, 28 cetacean species – meaning both whales and dolphins – have been already identified.
In addition to the biggest whales passing by the Azores in spring, we have resident species visible all year round:
We are passionate about ocean wildlife and happy to share our extensive knowledge with travelers from all over the world.
Respecting animals is for us a priority, that is why we follow strict rules from the World Cetacean Alliance.
Futurismo is approved as a responsible tour operator by the largest Organization for the preservation of cetaceans.
By joining us on a sea trip, you are helping us in our scientific research projects to protect marine wildlife.
2. Climb the highest mountain of Portugal
Visiting Pico island without climbing Pico Mountain is a crime you don’t want to be guilty of! The hike with unbelievable views over the neighboring islands is about 3 hours long.
Once at the summit – 2,351m above sea level – a great feeling of accomplishment will fill your heart. There are three ways of climbing the volcano:
- Daytime climb
- Nighttime climb
- Overnight climb
The daytime climb is the easiest one as your backpack will be lighter.
RELATED TOUR Pico Mount Daytime Climb | Book Now!
On the other hand, the nighttime climb will allow you to see the sunrise from the rooftop of Portugal. But climbing in the dark with a headlamp has its own challenges!
The ultimate Azorean challenge is the overnight climb. Hike with your camping equipment and spend the night at the most beautiful campsite: inside the crater of Pico mountain.
From up there, it can get a bit chilly but it seems that the stars glow brighter.
At the mountain house, they provide a GPS tracker and give you a heads up about the current weather.
GOOD TO KNOW Note that climbing with a guide is always recommended.
3. Swim with wild dolphins in the Atlantic
Swimming with dolphins is a dream for so many people, and in the Azores, it can come true very easily!
But what is better is to do it without the guilt of contributing to the aquatic parks that lock those smart animals in small pools and force them to do tricks. Forget about it, here in our islands, we do it differently!
RELATED TOUR Swim with Dolphins in Pico Island | Book Now!
So imagine this: you are snorkeling in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, where the blue of the water is so strong and the only sound is created by the waves. Suddenly, a dolphin passes right under you, then a second, and a third – even more!
They are just swimming around observing you and communicating with each other by clicking sounds.
When you enter their own world, it is a wonderful mix of feelings. Excitement, the discovery of the unknown, privilege, and immense joy.
This is a special activity where we only take 8 people at a time with us aboard our RIB boat.
Our marine biologist explains everything you need to know about swimming with wild dolphins and takes care of every passenger. The material needed is all included.
Plus, you can do this tour any month from April to October due to the acceptable water temperature. Also, we have 3 resident dolphin species and many seasonal ones at different times of the year.
Welcome to the dolphins’ paradise!
4. Taste unique volcanic wines
Pico island is famous for its delicious wines and unique vineyards landscapes. The volcanic soil of the island is rich in nutrients, providing special liquors and table wines.
About the peculiar landscapes, they are small squares of vines with basalt stone walls around to protect them from the wind.
The proximity to the ocean and the salty breeze gives the grapes a specific taste, typical of the island.
Did you know that wine is produced on Pico island since the 15th century?
The landscape protected by UNESCO stretches from Madalena 15 km into the north coast and 15 km into the south coast.
It is amazing to stroll around surrounded by those one-of-a-kind vineyards and meet local people harvesting them. But even more amazing is to have a wine tasting of the different wine varieties that exist on the island.
In order to taste the best wines, Futurismo offers great guided experiences by van like the culture of Pico wine so that you don’t have to worry about anything.
RELATED TOUR Van Tour Wine Culture of Lajes do Pico | Book Now!
You will discover some ancient wine production places on Pico and also may have a wine tasting.
Different wine tasting locations are:
- A Buraca wine cellar in Santo António
- Azores Wine Company in Bandeiras
- Adega do Vulcão in São Mateus (booking needed)
- Adega Amaral in Candelária
- Picowines in Madalena
- Insula Atlantis in Madalena as well
The Wine Museum is a must-visit to better understand the impact of this beverage on the island’s economy. Otherwise, you can buy pico wines in almost every shop on the island of Pico.
5. Discover the biggest lava cave in Portugal
Gruta das Torres in the west part of Pico is more than 5 kilometers long – making it the longest lava tube in Portugal. And guess what, you can visit this wonder of nature safely with a guide!
It is believed that Gruta das Torres was formed naturally about 1500 years ago after an eruption from Cabeço Bravo.
The tube extends from Cabeço Bravo down to Criação Velha. Inside this magnificent volcanic cave, you can see many geological formations as:
- Lava Benches
- And many other volcanic features and bacteria.
Over the 130 lava caves discovered on Pico island, Gruta das Torres is the one you don’t want to miss.
And at Futurismo, we provide the perfect full-day experience for you to visit maybe your first lava cave.
Embark with us on a van tour to visit Gruta das Torres and other breathtaking landscapes like the highland of Pico. The underground tour lasts about 1 hour and you will explore over 450m of the long tunnel.
All the equipment needed for your safety and entertainment is included.
Down there, it is a very special scenery as the volcanic walls at the entrance are covered in green vegetation with the poetry of sun rays doing their magic, and then everything becomes darker and mysterious.
6. Enjoy the sun at several Natural Pools
Pico is the second biggest island of the Azores, yet it has few inhabitants for its vast density. This is so great to enjoy natural swimming pools all to yourself or with very few people.
The volcanic island is rich in natural pools. In fact, it is the island with the most natural pools in the Azores. The famous natural pools of Pico are perfect to relax on your holidays and swim in the Atlantic.
When the sun is up, the natural pools are the place to be for your peace of mind. The water temperature is good all year round, ranging from 16 to 24ºC.
Locals and travelers meet in those heavenly places where crystalline waters call for a swim.
The contrast between the dark lava soil and the blue Atlantic ocean creates a unique scenery. This is ideal for snorkeling and discovering peaceful marine wildlife.
GOOD TO KNOW Beware of the stingy Portuguese man-o-war, often mistaken for floating plastic bags, in the spring and summertime.
At some natural pools, it is possible to have a view over other islands. For example, from the West coast, you can see Faial and from the north São Jorge.
If you are lucky, you might even see whales or dolphins passing near the coast! Moreover, all the amenities are often present around the swimming pool.
Free showers, toilets, barbecue, and picnic area or sometimes snack bars are not far. Some of the most beautiful pools include Manhenha, São Roque do Pico, Arinhas and Criação Velha.
7. Hike with unique views
Pico island is filled with wonderful pure nature and the best way to experience it is definitely to go on a hike with a knowledgeable guide. Some trails offer a great ocean view with the sight of other islands around.
Others will make you stroll by unique landscapes such as the peculiar vineyards of Pico. During all of them, you will discover many cultural, geological, and floral aspects of Pico.
For instance, the Criação Velha trail is one of the most beautiful on the island. You will be walking on a 1,500-year-old lava field surrounded by vineyards protected by UNESCO.
One of the highlights of this hike is the picturesque windmill of Frade where a photo stop is almost mandatory.
Also, the natural swimming pool near the vineyards is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the sun.
If you want to learn more about local culture and old traditions, then Calheta de Nesquim is your best bet.
Indeed, you will hike surrounded by elements of the old whaling times, in addition to seeing great landscapes.
RELATED TOUR Hiking in Calheta do Nesquim | Book Now!
But if you are more of a geology and nature enthusiast, there are 3 hikes that go from the plateau to the ocean, leading visitors through diverse habitats and landscapes:
- Lagoa do Capitão
- Caminho das Voltas
- Caminho dos Burros
Not only you will learn about the flora and fauna of the island but also witness the consequences of lava flows from the last eruption.
RELATED TOUR Hiking in Caminho dos Burros | Book Now!
8. Have a drink at a special bar by the ocean
Cella bar is a one-kind-of-a-bar located by the ocean in Madalena, on the west coast of Pico. From there, enjoy a great view over the neighboring island: Faial.
This bar is unique in many ways, but its architecture is what makes it very special. Indeed, it looks like the back of a whale made of wood.
This building won the award of Building of the year 2016 by Arch Daily.
This is where locals and travelers share drinks and stories. Where you can also taste delicious and fresh food within a cheerful atmosphere.
The owners are very friendly and the locals inside know everyone on this small island where stress and rush simply don’t exist.
Thus, it is like a very close family ambiance that will make you want to learn more about those amiable inhabitants and their tranquil way of living.
A great gastronomic experience with a view awaits. Take a chance to taste the yummy Pico cheese, so soft inside and yet with an astonishing explosion of flavors.
Also, don’t miss the local sausages and meats accompanied by the famous local wines and local liquors! For local snacks, you can also have a look at the several bars near the swimming pools during the summertime.
Contacts Phone +351 292 623 654 Website https://www.facebook.com/cellabar/
9. Learn more about the historic whaling times
Before passing to the peaceful whale watching we know nowadays, in the Azores locals used to hunt whales for subsistence. Fortunately, this practice has been forbidden since 1984.
However, the last whale was hunted on the shore of Pico island in 1987. We kept some evidence and traditions from those whaling times. Most of the equipment has been transformed to adapt for modern use.
Pico island played a significant role in the whale hunting years. Today you can see this heritage through many events and dedicated places.
For instance, the regattas (boat races) are very famous between the islands of the central group of the archipelago.
Also, the former whale processing factory in São Roque do Pico is now the famous Whaling Industry Museum. Another great museum is the Whalers Museum in Lajes do Pico, inside 3 boathouses from the 19th century.
Futurismo can take you on an all-about-whales tour to all the important places from the whaling heritage, from monuments to museums.
And you get to go whale and dolphin watching, where our professional marine biologist will explain everything about the species present in the Azores.
At Futurismo we have lookouts on the coast in order to spot the whales and communicate to the skipper where to go – a great example of an old method from the whaling times adapted to our modern days.
10. Enjoy the quietness at Lagoa do Capitão
There are so many beautiful natural landscapes to see on Pico island. It is hard to choose which one to see first, but Lagoa do Capitão in São Roque should absolutely be on your list.
This is maybe the lake with the most beautiful view over the Pico volcano in the background.
From up there – at 826m above sea level – you can enjoy a great panorama over Pico and São Jorge island.
Once you arrive at the shore of the lake, surrounded by beautiful Azores Junipers, you can meet some peaceful cows, several species of birds, and also aquatic life.
There is the possibility of doing a hike (PR13PIC) to Lagoa do Capitão if you wish to visit more of that beautiful mountainous region that is the central plateau of Pico.
And of course, Futurismo can take you to this beautiful lake, and other wonderful places off the beaten track with a van tour dedicated to volcanoes and lakes.
Embark on this discovery adventure with us and explore not only the most wonderful lakes of the island but also the longest lava tube of Portugal.
11. Drive on the longest straight road in the Azores
The ‘Longitudinal’ road on Pico island is definitely one of the most beautiful roads in all of Portugal. It is mostly due to its clear view of Pico mountain – the highest peak of the country. It represents the regional road Nº 3-2ª and it is 23km long, with the longest straight line in the Azores of 9km.
This road is longer than the length of some Azorean islands, but even if this is a straight line, it is recommended to drive carefully as some cows can appear in the middle of the road.
On the way, in addition to the gorgeous views of the volcano that can be covered in snow in the wintertime, there is a small cave with beautiful geological patterns.
The Longitudinal is located in the area of the central plateau, one of the most beautiful parts of the island.
The road leads to several highlights such as the wonderful Lagoa do Capitão – the second-biggest lake on the island. It also leads to the road that goes up to the mountain house, where you can start to hike Portugal’s highest mountain.
12. Walk surrounded by typical volcanic vineyards
As mentioned in the part about the most beautiful hikes on Pico island, the Criação Velha trail is to be distinguished due to its highlights and singular beauty.
From walking surrounded by old volcanic vineyards to swimming in the crystal clear waters of the natural pool nearby, to seeing interesting geological and volcanological patterns, this trail is full of surprises.
Located in the municipality of Madalena, this hike was recognized in 2011 by BootsnAll for its landscape and cultural diversity. It shows a perfect example of the Protected Landscape of the Wine Culture, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 2004.
It is rich in elements from the wine culture but also from volcanic activity. From the trail, you can even see the islets of Madalena and the island of Faial. One of the highlights definitely includes the big red windmill that is sometimes open to visitors. Walk with our guide in order to know more about this trail!
13. Have a picnic at the park Mistério da Prainha
How long has it been since you had your last picnic? This is a really fun thing to do when the sun is shining and you have already visited everything on your list. And the best place to sit on the grass and admire beautiful views while eating is Prainha do Norte park.
Located in Prainha – on the north coast of Pico island – the views on São Jorge are incredible, as well as on the channel between the two islands. The park is as big as 15 acres and its soil is the result of the historical eruption of 1562 which is now covered in diverse vegetation.
There are several picnic areas equipped with tables and benches as well as bins. So why not take a break there and listen to the sound of nature while tasting some local products?
14. Visit the neighboring islands
Unlike São Miguel, Pico has the advantage of being very close to other islands.
With Faial and São Jorge, they are the ‘triangle islands’ of the central group of the Azorean archipelago. It is very easy to visit other islands while on Pico. There are boats all year round that can take you there quite frequently. The city of Horta on Faial is only 30 minutes away and Velas in São Jorge is 1h20 away.
Those islands have so much beauty; like every single island of the Azores, each has its own culture, traditions, delicious food, and stunning landscapes.
Faial represents so much geological interest worldwide with its impressive Capelinhos volcano or also its green Caldeira. And São Jorge is the paradise of hiking and displays unique villages by the ocean with amazing natural pools.
A bit further away northwards are the two last islands of the central group: Terceira and Graciosa.
If you have too much time on your hand and wish to visit two completely different islands then pack your bags and explore the party island Terceira and the tranquil island of Graciosa.
They are each unique in many ways. The thermal springs of Carapacho in Graciosa and the historical city center of Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira will leave you speechless.
15. Have an Epic(o) day!
If you didn’t really plan your trip to Pico and have only some days on the island, we highly recommend that you take a completely personalized tour with Épico.
RELATED TOUR Epic(o) Day | Book Now!
You will visit the most beautiful places around and also get to know some secret spots. It is the best option in order to make the most out of your holidays.
Embark on a journey around the volcano island planned according to your interests. May it be volcanoes, wine, volcanoes, geology, or hikes, you decide and a friendly guide will take you.
Pico is an island full of interesting culture, pure nature, rich history, and amazing gastronomy.
The advantage of having a guide driving for you is to have someone who knows the island like the back of their hand and is happy to share their knowledge.
Guides know the best spots to visit and will drive safely. You won’t have to worry about anything but enjoying your holidays on Pico island.
RELATED TOUR Costumized Van Tour | Book Now!
We hope you found the ideal activities for your holidays on Pico. Enjoy this wonderful island full of exciting experiences.
This guide suits every kind of holiday from the more adventurous to the very relaxing ones.
The mountain island is great for traveling with family, with a group of friends, with your soulmate, or even alone.
Best time to hike Pico Mount
If you wish to climb Pico mountain, it is better to do so in the late spring or summer for better chances of good weather conditions. The best months are from June to September. Otherwise, it can be windy, rainy, or even snowy.
Also, get a guide to climb in safety and take at least 2L of water with you, and only the essential minimum in your backpack.
Good hiking boots are a must, as well as booking in advance to make sure there is space for you as the mountain house imposes a quota of climbing people.
Packing List per Adventure Type in Pico Island
Wondering what to bring to Pico island for your holidays, here are all our tips not to forget anything!
For whale and dolphin watching trips, consider sea sickness medication if you have already been sick in the ocean.
GOOD TO KNOW Avoid eating too much food that is sweet or fat as well as dairy products.
A raincoat will be your best bet at any time of the year for any activity on Pico island. Temperatures can range from 13 to 26ºC. It is always enjoyable but locals know that we can have the 4 seasons in one day.
Water and snacks are always a good thing to bring with you as we do not sell anything on board.
For a comfortable trip, please bring your own sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat.
Depending on the hike, consider bringing with you:
- Walking sticks
- Hiking boots
- Water and snacks,
- Comfortable and warm clothes
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat
- Waterproof jacket
Climb Pico Mountain
- 2L water minimum (3L for overnight climb)
- Waterproof and comfortable backpack
- 3 layers for the tops: light t-shirt, hot sweater and waterproof jacket
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat
- Hiking boots with good grip
- Walking sticks and gloves
- Energy snacks and sandwiches
- Waterproof bag for keeping belongings and bin bags
- Tent, mat, sleeping bag, headlamp, warm clothes to sleep and a change of clothes for overnight climb
Where is Pico Island
There are 3 different groups of islands in the Azores:
- The Eastern Group
- The Central Group
- The Western Group
Pico island is located in the Central group of the Azores archipelago. There are 4 other neighboring islands:
- São Jorge
- and Faial
The Azores islands are in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, between Europe and America. The 9 islands are Europe’s best-kept secret away from the big crowds and the stress of the ultra-modern cities on the mainland.
How to get to Pico Island
To get to Pico Island, there are direct flights from Lisbon all year round. For instance, there are 5 weekly flights in the summertime and 2 outside the high season.
GOOD TO KNOW You can see the updated list of flight destinations here.
If you are in Faial or São Jorge island, you can also take the boat to Pico as they run all year round.
GOOD TO KNOW Currently, due to the Covid-19 pandemics, there are no ferries between the different groups of islands.
Where to stay in Pico Island
There are many great quality hotels and local accommodations on Pico island. Here are some suggestions:
- If you like swimming pools then Hotel Caravelas in Madalena is a great option.
- For a group of backpackers or a large family, Porto Velho Hostel also in Madalena is perfect with its bunk beds.
- An exclusive and atypical stay would be at the Azores Wine Company hotel located in the middle of the unique wine scenery in Pico island – plus, you get to taste some local wines!
- Another amazing choice is the cozy Adega do Fogo with a beautiful pool with a great view over Pico Mountain.
- Also, Vinhas do Calhau near Criação Velha offers apartments all to yourself for a more private experience.
- And finally, on the South coast of Pico, you can have zen holidays at Aldeia da Fonte being close to nature between the ocean and the forest.
Useful Tools & Apps
In the Azores, there are cameras spread in different locations to see the weather in real-time. SpotAzores is particularly helpful because the weather can be completely different on different spots on the same island.
For ferry schedules and routes, you can check the website of Atlanticoline in charge of maritime transport.
Video – Best things to do in Pico Island, Azores
- Cave, James – Pico Wine: A Guide to One of the World’s Most Unique Wine Regions
- Parques Naturais dos Açores – Grutas das Torres Visitor Center
- My Azores home – Natural Swimming pools
- Boa Cama Boa Mesa – Restaurante Cella Bar, o novo “ex-líbris” dos Açores
- Whale Watching Azores – The Azores – Whales are our History
- Visit Azores – Lagoa do Capitão
- Cais do Pico – Longitudinal — a estrada mais bonita de Portugal