Honeymoon TR: Pico Island, day 1

(Last Updated On: August 21, 2011)

Getting from Faial to Pico is fairly easy as there is a ferry that runs every 2-3 hours several times a day. The journey is only 30 minutes from Horta to Madalena. Since Pico is considerably larger than Faial, boasts Portugal’s highest mountain, and has scenic vineyards, we knew we’d find plenty to keep us entertained during our four day stay there.

The ferry- a carless one.
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As the ferry pulled from the dock, this group of young sailors moved out of our way. I couldn’t help but reminisce because I grew up sailing in dinghies like these.
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But now I wished we had a boat like this to take us all over the Azores and beyond πŸ™‚
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Goodbye Horta and Faial.
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Hello Madalena and Pico.
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The Madelena port is guarded by these picturesque rocks which we passed along the way.
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Much smaller than Horta, Madalena has it’s own beauty.
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Madelena’s harbor is much smaller too πŸ˜‰
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We enjoyed the quiet life in Madelena. But, we explored the town in just a few short hours. So, we decided to venture elsewhere. Again, we rented bikes from the tourist information center. Although these bikes weren’t free, like they were in Horta, they were mountain bikes that were in good shape and could get you all over the island, provided you were willing to pedal them that far πŸ™‚
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Our first destination was the vineyards of Criação Velha.
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No one knows for sure when vineyards were established on Pico. But, it is thought that they were established shortly after its settlement in the mid-15th century. Pico’s primary industry was wine-making until the mid-1800’s when disease (Oidium) and insects (Phylloxera) killed the majority of the treasured verdelho grape vines. Before the decline, Pico wines were exported from Horta to locations all over the world.
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After the failure of the verdelho grapes a new type of grape was eventually introduced- the American Isabela. It thrived and vineyards began to be restored in the 1990’s.
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Biking through the vineyards was a fantastic way to see them.
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As you can see, the vineyards here look a lot different than traditional vineyards. Growing grapes here was difficult, due to lack of soil and high winds. People began stacking the volcanic rocks like fences to create microclimates for the vines- protecting them from the wind and giving the vines the warm days and cool nights that they need to thrive. Settlers also often created soil for the grapes by crushing the volcanic rock, often creating a bowl-shaped concavity in which the vine was planted. These obstacles and unique techniques are the reason that the Criação Velha vineyards have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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The Moinho (windmill) do Frado adds beauty to this already scenic landscape.
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After visiting the vineyards, we turned our sight onto the beautiful rugged coast line. A fisherman enjoying a nice day among the volcanic rock.
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Meanwhile, some rocks were being bombarded by waves.
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Then we made our way uphill toward the lava tube / cave called Gruta das Torres, passing densely forested areas along the way.
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We also passed this little guy all tangled up in his own rope.
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Up high in the hills, the coast was still beautiful from afar.
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Gruta das Torres has only been open to the public since 2005. But, they still have a great establishment.
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Though a lava tube formation, Gruta das Torres feels to most like a cave. In order to participate in the cave tour, you are required to don these helmets complete with underlying hairnets.
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The “skylight” is really the entrance of the cave, shown here.
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And down we go.
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The cave was beautiful inside.
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After the cave we headed downhill back to Madalena.
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It was only 7pm, so we went swimming πŸ™‚ Lacking beaches, there are plenty of these “swim holes” around Pico.
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It was cold, but nice.
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We finally sat down to dinner around 10pm. We were greeted with a feast- salad, bread, potatoes, and several different cuts of chicken, beef, and pork.
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The Rio Grande Steakhouse takes pride in where their food comes from, all from a farm not far away in the village of Bandeiras. The one on the left looks the most tasty to me πŸ˜‰
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Our night was complete as we happened upon this traditional Azorean dance performance. A great way to end our night, and a fantastic first day on Pico.

Azorean Dance, Pico Island from 14erskiers on Vimeo.

Next up- Whale watching and swimming with dolphins!

Complete List of Honeymoon Trip Reports:
Barcelona
Gaudi
Spanish Pyrenees
Climb of Tosa d’Alp
Cardona Castle
Montserrat
Five hours in Lisbon
Horta Part I
Horta Part II
Island of Faial
Island of Pico, Day 1
Portugal and The Azores Highest Point: Montanha Do Pico 7,713β€²
Watching Whales & Swimming with Dolphins
Pico Adegas, Gardens, and More
Island of Pico

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate πŸ™‚ Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

Latest posts by Brittany Walker Konsella (see all)

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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