Lying across the strait from Faial, Pico is at the heart of the central group of islands, and has established itself as one of the premier whale-watching destinations in Europe.
Over 20 species of cetaceans have been recorded off the coast of Pico – these whales and dolphins either inhabit these waters or pass by the Azores on their migrations. In particular, Pico is thought to be one of the best places in the world to spot sperm whales and witness their endearing behaviour. However, other cetaceans you may see include blue whales, spotted dolphin and minke whale.
At 46 kilometres long and up to 16 kilometres wide, Pico is the second largest island in the Azores, after São Miguel, and covers an area of 433 square kilometres. Its long history is based on whaling and viticulture. Its wines are renowned and its vineyards, with rich black volcanic soil, have been awarded UNESCO-designated World Patrimony status.
The building of wooden boats is still a prized tradition, although happily the hunting of whales has long since given way to their study, and the whale watching industry is burgeoning. Whale and dolphin watching trips can be organized from both Madalena and Lajes. Many of the cetaceans arrive at different times during the whale season, so if you are hoping to spot a particular species, then it is good to discuss which time will suit you best.
Much of the landscape is pitted with the remnants of volcanic craters and lake-filled cones, all dominated by the ancient volcano of Topo. Although most activity ended around 300 years ago, the last eruption occurred as recently as 1963, off the northwest coast. The paths of old lava flows are still visible, however today the only evidence of this violent past appears on the summit of Pico, where gases are emitted on an irregular basis, and on the eastern flanks at between 1,500 and 2,000 metres altitude. Like the other islands.
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