Equipped with some local recommendations a small bit the information we could find we headed to Pico Island for a couple of days. We flew from Ponta Delgada direct with SATA and the flight took 90mins. The flights are a standard price (€92 each including a bag). This generally includes free amendments to your flight too. Renting a car is essential, we found the best deal on rentalcars.com*. Note that the rental cars on Pico island have seen better days but they are cheap. Our company was Ilha Verde.
Pico Island (Two days)
Where we stayed
We stayed in the town of Madalena which was perfect for us. It’s just 15 minutes from the airport. It has a ferry port which made our day trip straightforward and nice restaurants and cafes.
Our Airbnb was very comfortable and spacious with everything we needed. It’s large and modern but missing some Azorean charm. If you’re after something more authentic maybe try this or this. We were very happy there as we just wanted a base. If you don’t have AirBnB you can sign up using my referral link and get €50 off your fist booking.
Mistériois do Sul do Pico (Walk & Swim)
São João is a 20 minute drive from Madalena. As this is a linear hike, we chose to walk a smaller section of it. We parked near the church (Igreja de São João) and walked along the coastline (with the ocean on our left). Soon you will see a path on your left (next to a house) – take a two minute detour to the left down to a clearing and admire the views. It doesn’t appear on the map but you’ll see the path. Then continue a bit further and stop for a quick dip in Ponta do Admoiro (the most beautiful natural swimming pool). The water is some of the clearest I’ve seen, even by Azores standards!
Gruta Das Torres
Gruta das Torres is a lava cave 10 minutes outside Madalena. The tour and information is very interesting with a background on how Pico Island and the cave itself was formed. The only light in the cave is flashlights and the whole tour lasts about 30-45 minutes. There’s also a few moments of complete darkness and silence which is a great experience. Well worth a visit. Bring cash (€8).
Lajido and Cachorro
Lajido da Criação Velha is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a 9km trail through the Pico Vineyards landscape but it’s linear (rather than circular). An alternative option is to drive to the area and walk around it. Stop by the visitor center, it’s well worth a look. Drive five minutes west to the Lava Cliffs of Cachorro -these are impressive cliffs formed by lava flows in the ocean with fantastic views.
I recommend Cella Bar – the food is nice and the views are spectacular. It’s a fancier setting than most in Madalena with local foods (including vegetarian options) and a great selection of Pico wines for a reasonable price. Make sure you catch the sunset!
Calheta do Nesquim Hike – We mainly did this hike because it’s one of few circular hikes on a Pico Island. It begins at the church in the town of Calheta do Nesquim. There are a number of steep climbs in the first half. When it eventually flattens out you will walk through a small farming village with plenty of animals. You need to keep your eyes peeled for the path signs as they’re easy to miss – the locals had to redirect us a couple of times. The path down isn’t very well kept so hiking boots are needed. Overall it was a tough hike and honestly not enjoyable in places but I loved seeing the local areas. Start early. If you’re planning on hiking Pico Mountain give this one a miss and save your legs.
If you aren’t too exhausted, stop off at Museu dos Baleeiros which is a modern and though provoking museum about the whaling industry (€2 entry). It’s sad to learn about whale hunting which was a huge industry in the Azores until the 1980s when they started importing goods and foods.
Grab dinner in Mercado Bio in Madalena – it looks like a health food shop but there’s a restaurant area in the back. They have a great selection of food including excellent vegetarian options. I recommend the vegetarian chilli (€10).
Other things to do on Pico Island
Pico Island is one of the best places to do whale watching tours. They operate between March and November with March/April being the best time. Espaço Talassa Pico Island is the longest standing company on Pico Island and has a great track record. They have stopped their swimming with dolphins tours for ethical reasons which is amother good reason to choose them.
This is first on every list for obvious reasons. Almost every local we spoke to recommended it. We didn’t actually do this hike because it wasn’t clear enough and being honest it’s not the kind of hiking terrain I would enjoy. There’s mixed opinions on how difficult it is. Many people have to turn back due to fog and wind around this time of year. You pay €20 and are given a GPS. You can hike it independently or with a guide.
Faial Island Day Trip
We took the ferry to Faial island (€50 return for two people and the car) which took 30 minutes. You can book your tickets at Madalena port in advance (even if the website lists them as unavailable).
Vulcão dos Capelinhos
Vulcåo dos Capelinhos is a recently formed land mass from a 1957 volanic eruption. The area includes an impressive visitor centre (€10 ticket) that includes a film and interactive tour. I felt this most clearly explained he formation of the Azores (and the land. You can climb to the highest point – we couldn’t due to the high winds. We spent about an hour there.
Caldeira do Cabeço Gordo
Check the cameras as this is a foggy area due to the height. You can walk around the top of the crater but first go through the little tunnel to the viewpoint for a look. Sadly it was too foggy and we had to turn back. If you do it please send me photos!
Then it was back to Horta for a walk along the seafront (not a must see) and a quick pastry in Cafe Do Porto Pim before getting the last ferry back to Madalena at 5.15pm. We stopped off at two great viewpoints on the way back to take in the Horta skyline.
- Miradouro Mirante (not on the map)
- Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
Thanks for reading