THE BEST WAY TO DISCOVER AN ISLAND?
NATURE AND ADVENTURE OUTDOOR
In the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are the perfect holiday destination for families and friends. The islands offer the calm and peace to those who want to relax and the perfect conditions for the practice of extreme activities in natural surroundings, to the most audacious. The activities are put in practice around impressing landscapes, where the green of the meadows, the clear blue of the sky and the deep ocean and the dark of the lava fields prevail.
The best way to get to the Azores is by plane. There are daily connections from Lisbon to the islands of Sao Miguel, Terceira or Faial and once a week to Pico; from those islands, you can also get daily air connections to the other islands. To travel in the Azores between islands, you can choose to take the plane or a boat. The roads are also in very good conditions, so you can rent a car, a motorbike or a bike to travel across the mysterious landscapes of the islands.
Because of their geographic proximity, Pico, Faial and Sao Jorge belong to the so called Triangle Islands; there are several daily boat connections between these three islands during the whole year. Pico island is majestically located in the middle of the Central Group of the archipelago, about 8,4 km (4,5 nautical miles) from Faial and approximately 20 km (11 nautical miles) from Sao Jorge.
The Azores High acts as a moderating force, keeping temperatures between 14oC (57oF) in winter and 27oC (80oF) during the summer. The coldest month is usually February; sometimes, Pico mountain is covered of snow. The warmest months of the year are July and August, what invites you to swim in the deep blue sea.SEE HOW IS THE WEATHER NOW!
In the heart of the Atlantic Ocean there are nine islands which form the archipelago of the Azores. All the islands are of volcanic origin, stretching along 2,333 km2 and are divided in three geographical groups: the Western Group, comprising the islands of Flores and Corvo; the Central Group, including the islands of Pico, Faial, Sao Jorge, Terceira and Graciosa; and the Eastern Group, constituted by the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria. The Azores (36° e 39°N,e 25° e 31°W) are located at an approximate distance of 1,815 km from the European Continent (Portugal) and 2,625 km from North-America (Canada).The Azores, along with the archipelagos of Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde, constitute the biogeographic region of Macaronesia, known by the richness of endemic variety that can be found there.
The latest census data (2011) report 244,102 inhabitants living in the Azores, who are known worldwide for being strong-minded, good temper, hospitality and humbleness. We can find more and more foreigners coming from diferente parts of the world who, after visiting the islands, have chosen this little and lost Paradise to live in.
The islands of the Azores invite you to the practice of various outdoor activities, both in the sea as in the land and air. The sea is an invitation to water activities, such as swimming, surfing, windsurf, sailing, yachting, canyoning, kayaking, scuba diving, spearfishing or whale watching. In land, you can enjoy trekking, speleology, hunting, bird watching, rural golf, BTT, horse or donkey riding or jeep rides. For the air lovers, paragliding or hang-gliding may be good options of adrenaline.
The Azores are the perfect holiday destination for families and friends. The islands offer the calm and peace to those who want to relax and the perfect conditions for the practice of extreme activities in natural surroundings, to the most audacious. The activities are put in practice around impressing landscapes, where the green of the meadows, the clear blue of the sky and the deep ocean and the dark of the lava fields prevail.
Pico (38o 30' N e 28 o 20' W) is the youngest and second largest island of the Azores, with an area of 444,9 km2, all around the volcano which gives the name to the Island, with 2351 m high, being the highest point of Portugal. Pico island has an elongated shape thanks to its 42 km of length and 15km at its maximum width. A plateau with secondary volcanic cones, which form the beautiful lagoons, extends to the coast, ending in high cliffs, whilst the lower area to the west is gently sloping.
The island was discovered by Portuguese navigators between 1449 and 1451; it was first known as King Dinis Island. The settlement of the island is a mystery, but it may have taken place from 1460s onwards, after herds had been deposited on the wild island. Settlers arriving from the North of Portugal chose to settle Lajes at first place, which was entitled village in 1501, being the administrative headquarters of the whole Island. Later in the north coast, Sao Roque was entitled village in 1543. In 1723, it was the time for Madalena to be elevated to the status of village as well, confirming its economic importance to the island, and its commercial links to Faial. Due to the geographic proximity, the connection between the Island of Pico and Faial has assumed a huge importance, once Horta functioned as the harbor of exports for the products made in Pico.
The economy was first based on the production of wheat and dye plants, which were exported to Flandres. The mineral resources of the lava soils led to the introduction of vineyards, mainly of verdelho grapes. During the XIX century, there was a wine crisis caused by Oidium and phylloxera, which destroyed most of the vineyards. It was when the inhabitants started to emigrate, mainly tp North America and Brazil. As an alternative to the vineyards, those who stayed in the island were turned to the sea, devoting themselves to fishing, ship building and whaling, which was a source of survival for many family along many years. The island's climate has also contributed to the success of fruit, in particular grapes, quinces, peaches, oranges, apples and figs.
Nowadays, industries such as tourism, ship building, fish processing and wine production are important economic sources of the island.
The cultivation of vines is a center of attraction for tourists visiting Pico Island, because the vines are born of lava stones. If put together, all the stone erected by tough bearded men, more than two centuries ago, to form the walls that protect the vines and fig trees, can circle equator. Pico's wine and famous moonshine soon became fame renowned in and out of the island; the Verdelho wine reached international fame for more than 200 years, being served at the table of the Russian czars. During the seventeenth century, wine production had great importance; however, the wine crisis of the mid-nineteenth century, caused by the attack of oidium and phylloxera, reached most of the vineyards. The production was only reestablished a few years later with the introduction of new varieties, helping to develop the island's economy.
The uniqueness of Pico viticulture is internationally recognized, with the classification of the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. The BootsnALL company, which publishes independent travel guides, considered the pedestrian path of the Vines in Criaçao Velha as one of the eight unique hiking paths in the world.
Nowadays, white, red and rosé wines of recognized quality are produced in Pico, which can be tried in wine tasting events organized in wine cellars and local restaurants. Verdelho wine is a dry white wine with an alcohol content of 15 to 17 percent, which after ageing serves as an excellent appetizer. The Pico Island Wine Cooperative, in Areia Larga, concentrates the local wine production with new grape varieties, and can be visited. The Wine Museum, in Madalena, shows the various stages of wine production, with a wide collection of tools, stills and barrels. In Santa Luzia, you can visit the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture Interpretation Centre and the stills where the renowned moonshine is produced. The angelica and liqueurs of various fruit and herbs are suggestions for those who prefer sweeter drinks.
The whaling activity was introduced in the island by North-American ships, which during the XVIII century were looking for sperm whales along Pico's shore. They used the ports of the island for shelter and food supplying and so started to recruit manpower among the locals to fight against the giants of the sea. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the local community began to embrace the activity and whale hunting prospered until the mid-twentieth century. The final point came in 1986 when the hunting of cetaceans was forbidden; they are now protected species. Pico Island continues to maintain a close link with the whales, because whale hunting was replaced by whale watching, the center of attraction of the Azores tourism. Another aspect of the whaling legacy consists of whaling boats races, rowing or sailing, very traditional in Pico Island's festival, giving rise to stiffer disputes with crews from all over the island and from other " islands of the triangle. "
The whaling Azorean epic is told in the Whaling Industry Museum in Sao Roque do Pico, where you can see preserved equipment used in whaling; the Whalers Museum in Lajes do Pico also holds a collection of photographs, tools, artistic copies of scrimshaw (whale teeth and bones engraving) and boats. Lajes, Sao Roque, Calheta de Nesquim or Ribeiras invite you to discover picturesque harbors, old whalers and streets with typical houses.
Pico is a source of attraction for scientists, tourists and explorers who seek for unveiling the magic of Atlantis, between the lava rocks and the exotic vegetation in an ever changing scenery of lights and shadows dominated by the gigantic mountain, a history that links the vineyards to the sea and a sleeping volcano for more than 300 years.In this island of unquestionable magnificence, Man lives in harmony with nature and visitors can enjoy sustainable forms of tourism.
Pico Island is inhabited by about 14.144 people (census 2011). People from Pico are men and women full of courage, joy and hospitality. Knowing a picaroto is making a you'll never forget. The popular folk festivals, the summer festivals and taverns where you can taste the smell of wine, spirits and liqueurs, accompanied by appetizing snacks are places for social interaction and exchange of experiences between the people of the land and foreigners visiting the island.