Are you visiting Pico island for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do on the second largest island in the Azores. Pico island is also the highest point in Portugal.
When I have a visitor from out of town the first place they want to see is the vineyards growing inside square shaped, black rock walls, but I also take them to see the houses made of basalt – for an even more local, authentic experience.
Whale watching on Pico Island
I experienced a “circle of life” moment on Pico island when I watched the whaling movie in the Museu dos Baleeiros or Whaling Museum. While many men of Pico island made a living killing and processing whales, the island residents now make their income taking tourists on whale watching excursions.
Living history lessons are not lost on children. If you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Whaling Museum where you can see actual whaling boats.
North side of Pico island
After a visit to the museum, drive to the North side of Pico island and get your picture taken by the Harpoon whaler in Sao Roque. From ancient whaling times to present day whale watching, Pico island is ideal for spotting Fin whales, sperm whales and blue whales.
The North side of the island is also where a lot of vineyards grow. The uniqueness of Pico vine culture has classified the landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture as World Heritage Site, by UNESCO. If you have time, stop at the old barrel ramp, also UNESCO classified, where wine barrels and fire water were loaded onto boats for export.
Visit the Pico Island Wine Museum, learn the varietals of grapes grown on the island, see examples of how the grape vines are grown within rock walls and go into the wine press building and look at the ancient equipment used to make Pico Island wine.
Pico island food:
If you are looking for typical foods of Pico island, I recommend Canto do Paco on Sao Roque. It seems that all Portuguese meals include several types of bread and local cheese, as well as boiled potatoes. I tried the beef steak sandwich during my visit. My dining companion opted for the lunch buffet. Save room for the chocolate mousse; it was dreamy and delicious!
Looking for a good, affordable buffet lunch near the Whaling Museum? The buffet at Restaurante Lagoa had plenty of options for meat lovers and seafood eaters. I liked the rock cod fish, beef with clams and homemade soup.
Pico Island – got rocks?
Seeing a lot of basalt rocks on Pico? Several parts of Pico island are UNESCO World Heritage sites. As the island is dominated by the volcano of Pico, it’s no surprise that the island’s surface is composed of lava rocks and soils. You’ll notice that the majority of island houses, buildings and churches are made from basalt rocks.
Pico Island mountain top
When I want to escape the tourists, my favorite place to visit is high up the mountain by the lakes, the cows and Pico volcano. The best vantage points are taken by driving to the top of Pico island, looking out to the Atlantic Ocean and Faial.
If this is a romantic trip, I recommend pulling over on a scenic lookout for kissing with a view.
Looking for a place to stay on the water? Eco-friendly Baía da Barca offers self catering apartments, including breakfast; ideal for families.
Outdoor adventure on Pico Island
On Pico island outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike, bike or horseback ride around the island. Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the water front or take a swim in one of the natural pools connected to the Atlantic ocean.
You can tell a lot about Pico island from visiting and whale watching in the summer.
Insider Tip: Pico island is the place for bird watchers and hikers.
Pico island may be the highest elevation in Portugal, but São Miguel holds the title of largest island of the archipelago. More than half of the Azorean population call São Miguel home. Make sure to include São Miguel during your visit to Portugal. SATA Airlines offers direct flights from Lisbon.
What are your favorite things to do on Pico island?
Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Visit Azores, Portugal Tourism and SATA Airlines.