Hiking in the Azores is a very popular activity on the islands. Although my principal goal in the Azores was whale watching, I also took some time to hike. The Azores - here Pico Island - are incredibly beautiful in spring. In this blog entry I write more about my hiking experiences in the Azores.
Hiking in the Azores
Pico Island is one of the nine islands of the Azores and a beautiful place to go on fully-day hikes. But as I was in the Azores principally for whale and dolphin watching, maybe hiking just half-day would be fine as well? But hiking on to the Pico Mountain on a half-day? Is that possible?
Well, I have to admit that this was a constant inner struggle I had during my two-week stay in the Azores. On the one hand, I wanted to see Pico Island, but on the other hand, I very wished to see as many whales and dolphins as possible.
At the end, the whales and dolphins won and I couldn’t hike all the trails I wished to hike.
Firstly, for most hiking trails it is necessary to plan a whole day, because not all of them start at the same location close to Madalena where I had my accommodation.
Secondly, most hiking trails are linear and go into just one direction, meaning, transportation could be complicated, as so far there is almost no public transportation on Pico Island.
And honestly, could you imagine to hike or climb, respectively, the 2351m high mountain on a half-day trip?
Thus, all the hiking trails I write about in this blog entry are possible in half a day. I haven’t done any full-day hikes.
I just couldn’t skip a whale and dolphin watching trip in the morning in the Azores. Unless the weather was bad... but this happened just once. And on a bad weather day hiking is difficult, too.
Nevertheless, I was satisfied with my decision.
For my part, I rather prefer a pleasant and calm day without too much stress than trying to do all the things that could fit into one day.
Thus, the following hikes I describe here are half-day hikes.
Information: There are several hiking trails on Pico Island in the Azores. A good information point is Visit Azores. On that website, you will find information about hiking trails both on Pico Island, but also on the other islands.
Hiking trails in the Azores
Vinhas da Criação Velha
A very nice hiking trail in just half a day is Vinhas da Criação Velha (PR05 PIC). It is a quite easy hiking trail with a length of about 7km. However, it is a linear trail. Thus, if you consider to hike Vinhas da Criação Velha, consider the way back in your plans. The hiking trail connects Areia Larga - a municipality of Madalena - and Candelária.
It took me about five hours to walk from Madalena to the Porto do Calhau and back again (I was very slow).
I walked on asphalt roads or on gravel paths.
The trail started as a coastal trail where I marvelled at the strength of the sea.
But the most characteristic part of the trail Vinhas da Criação Velha are the vineyards with its windmill Moinho do Frade and its long volcanic stonewalls which protect the grape vines against the rough nature.
The windmill Moinho do Frade stood on a foundation of black volcanic stone and could be accessed by visitors.
Very typical for the Azores is its rapidly changing weather. Thus, interestingly, on the day of my hike to the windmill, I observed good weather with a blue and sunny sky on the seawards side and foggy conditions on the inland side at the same time.
On a clear day it is possible to see the Pico Mountain on one side and simultaneously get a beautiful view on to the neighbouring island Faial on the other side.
Nevertheless, these vineyards belong to a very important area, where apparently the best vine of the Azores is produced. These vineyards were even classified as World Heritage by the UNESCO in 2004.
After the windmill the hiking trail led further inland.
In general, there was more vegetation further inland. But the landscapes, as well, were characterized by the typical volcanic stonewalls.
The hiking trails were flat. There were just a few smaller hills, but they were not exhausting to walk. Thus, the whole hiking trail was indeed easy.
As I had to hike back to Madalena again, I decided to stop at Porto do Calhau.
Interestingly, during the whole hike, I didn’t see many other people. I met a few, but most of the time I was by myself. But this was just nice.
I did not take exactly the same hiking trail back. On my way back I decided to walk along the coast again.
It was a good decision in the end, because on one side, I could see more from the island Pico, and on the other side, I could enjoy being close to the sea.
Along the path I even encountered different species of wild flowers like, for example, scarlet pimpernel (on the left photo) or snapdragon (on the right photo).
Tip: When I was in the Azores, I used a hiking app. I used this app for the first time to plan my hikes and get a an offline map. I have the paid version and I am happy with this app so far.
Mistérios do Sul do Pico
Another beautiful hiking trail is Mistérios do Sul do Pico (PR15 PIC). However, as this is again a linear hiking trail and as I had just one afternoon (because of the whales and dolphin...), I did not walk the whole trail.
Firstly, I had to take the car from Madalena to the beginning of the hiking trail, and secondly, as already mentioned, I had to walk back again the trail I had hiked.
I started the path at a parking lot in the Parque Florestal de Recreio de São João Pequenino.
The beginning of the hiking trail was very forested.
Similar to the hiking trail of Vinhas da Criação Velha, there were either asphalt roads or gravel paths.
I decided to walk down a gravel path into the direction of the sea.
And again, I was all by myself. I met even fewer people along this hiking trail than on the previous one - Vinhas da Criação Velha - although the Parque Florestal de Recreio de São João Pequenino is a popular and beautiful recreational area. Just at the beginning close to the parking lot I saw several people.
It was a Sunday afternoon and I had the sea just for myself.
While I had sunny weather towards the sea, on the other side, I was looking at fog again.
The whole hiking trail has a length of about 8.5km. It is an easy hiking trail and should take about 3 hours (one way).
The coastal landscape is characterized by rocks. In general, by the way, there are apparently no sandy beaches on Pico Island.
As in many parts on Pico Island, people live close to the coasts.
Again, I unfortunately could not walk the whole trail on one afternoon, as I had to walk back.
Just before entering the village São João, I decided to head back.
Tip: If you want to hike the whole trail, a taxi could bring you back to the starting point of the hike.
Ponta da Ilha
If I would have had much more time in the Azores on Pico Island, I would have explored more of the east of the island. On one Saturday afternoon, I took a car and made a round trip on the island.
I stopped at several places.
In the south, I stopped for a short moment in Lajes - another important point on Pico Island for whale watching. In that town or village, respectively, was also the Museu dos Baleeiros (which I had visited on another day).
On my trip I stopped at some viewpoints like, for example, in Santa Cruz.
In the northeast of Pico Island, there are actually quite many hiking trails.
There is the Caminho das Voltas (PR07 PIC) or the Canadas da Ribeirinha (PR18 PIC) or the Prainha do Norte (PRC09 PIC).
I walked parts of the hiking trail Ponta da Ilha (PR03 PIC), which started in Piedade.
It is a hillier region and, in some moments, I had to go uphill. And this on a sunny and hot day.
I met friendly people there. They said "Hello" to me.
I was the only person hiking in the region. I did not see anyone else doing the same like me. I just saw people working on the field.
It was a beautiful place at the sea.
I passed Cais do Galego and was wondering how life would look like in a small village like that one.
On my round trip by car, I furthermore passed Santo Amaro (below on the left photo) and São Roque (below on the right photo)
Information: The road around the island is in a good state. However, driving through the villages is not that easy, as the streets are very narrow.
Alma do Pico to Gruta das Torres
During my stay on Pico Island I stayed at Alma do Pico - a wonderful place to stay.
On one day, I decided to visit the Gruta das Torres - a lava cave just next to Madalena. I planned to visit this place on an afternoon.
As Alma do Pico is in a beautiful area, I had a wonderful hike from my accommodation to Gruta das Torres.
The weather was not so good. But still, I had a beautiful walk.
In the village, I walked on asphalt roads, but later I entered a region with gravel paths.
As always, I was all by myself most of the time and did not meet many people.
In some moments I got the chance to look at the sea.
But the weather was not perfect for a great view.
Nevertheless, when I reached the Gruta das Torres, they told me that there was no possibility to take part in the next tour. Unfortunately, the tour was fully booked. Even in the next few days it was not possible to participate in a tour. Either it was again fully booked or they were closed.
Maybe you know that lava cave and can tell more about this tour? Or you know some more hiking trails?
More information about the Azores
Do you know the Azores as a hiking spot? Or have you climbed the Mount Pico? Please let me know more about your experiences in the comments.