(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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
Gruta das Torres has only been open to the public since 2005. But, they still have a great establishment.
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.
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.
Next up- Whale watching and swimming with dolphins!
Complete List of Honeymoon Trip Reports:
Climb of Tosa d’Alp
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 7,713′
Watching Whales & Swimming with Dolphins
Pico Adegas, Gardens, and More
Island of Pico