Grey Isle for its Mountain. Pico Island is the second largest island in the Azores Archipelago. It owes its name to a majestic volcanic mountain, the Pico Mountain. This is the highest mountain in Portugal and the third highest mountain emerging from the Atlantic, reaching 2 351 meters above sea level. Administratively, the island is made up of three municipalities: Lajes and Madalena, and São Roque. It has daily maritime connections (Atlanticoline) with the city of Horta and the towns of Velas and Calheta. Its dry and hot climate in conjunction with the mineral richness of the lava soils and the organization of the land in an impressive mosaic of black stone – the “currais” – allowed a growing success of the vine culture, with a predominance of the Verdelho variety. The extensive lava fields that mark the island’s landscape, and which the local population calls “lajidos” or “biscuit lands” form the Vineyard Culture Landscape of Pico Island, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The sites of Lajido da Criação Velha and Lajido de Santa Luzia are worth mentioning.
While on the black lava floor the “rilheiras” stand out, furrows left by the wheels of the ox carts that transported grapes and barrels, in the ports and small harbors by the sea are the “rola-pipas”, slopes carved to facilitate the slide of the kites to the boats. The immense volcanic cone of the Pico Mountain imposes itself on the island’s landscape. In its main crater there is a lava cone called Piquinho, on top of which permanent fumaroles are responsible for remembering its volcanic nature. At about 1250 meters of altitude, where the pedestrian ascent to the Mountain begins, a large part of the island can already be seen, as well as neighboring Faial and São Jorge. The ascent to the top is marked by fantastic and unique panoramic views, which on clear days additionally reward us with a glimpse of the islands of Graciosa and Terceira. Pico is a land of strong whaling traditions. The value of its architectural heritage is mainly concentrated in the churches and hermitages existing in the different parishes: the Church of Santa Maria Madalena, in Vila da Madalena, the Church of São Roque and the Convent and Church of São Pedro de Alcântara, in São Roque do Pico, Nossa Senhora da Conceição and Ermida de São Pedro, in Lajes. The island of Pico, in addition to its natural wealth, also offers a good gastronomic heritage, largely based on fish and seafood dishes, from which the famous Caldeiradas, octopus stewed with sweet wine, sausage with yams, meat sauce and fish broths.
Its figs are also famous, with their bright red interior, the honey produced with the incense flower and the Pico Cheese – a soft cheese made from cow’s milk (namely, those made from Saint John and the Mystery). All washed down, of course, with Vinho Verdelho, or the much appreciated red and white wines from the island. Land of great whaling tradition, Pico stands out for the various handcrafted pieces in bone and whale teeth, as well as for the straw hats, fish scale flowers and wooden miniatures of the whaling boats.