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Pico, the mountain island

O cume do Pico visto do seu sopé
Place:Ilha Do Pico nos Açores
Photo:Maurício de Abreu
Photo:Maurício de Abreu

With an area of 448km2, the Island of Pico is the second largest in the Azores and one that is home to Portugal’s highest mountain, also called Pico, at 2,351m above sea level. Often referred to as the Mountain Island, Pico forms one of the points of the so-called "triangle islands", being the most southerly of the central group of the archipelago, and just 6km from Faial.

Pico’s hot, dry climate, together with the mineral-rich lava soil and the organisation of the land in a stunning mosaic of black stone - the "currais" (plots) – has meant a growing success in the cultivation of vines, predominantly of the Verdelho variety. Gradually, the wine and the brandy became more and more appreciated both on and outside the island, and Verdelho achieved international fame. It has long been exported to Europe and America, and at the time was even a feature on the dining table of the Russian Tsars.

The extensive lava fields that dot the island’s landscape, which the local population calls "lajidos" or "cookie lands" form the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2004. Lajido da Criação Velha and Lajido de Santa Luzia are the best examples.

On the black lava ground, the "rilheiras" - ruts left by the wheels of ox carts carrying the grapes and barrels – are worth seeing, and in the harbours and coves along the coast the "rola-pipas" - ramps excavated to make it easier to roll the barrels of wine to the boats, still remain as witnesses to the wine industry.

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