Lying across the strait from Faial, Pico is at the heart of the central group of islands, situated in an area colloquially known as o Triangulo, the Triangle.
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. 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, those dating from the 16th century and 1718 extend for over ten kilometres, 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, Pico is susceptible to seismic events, although the epicentres of these are primarily localized in the inter-island channels. The strongest earthquake in the last 30 years occurred in July 1998, when some homes were damaged and possessions lost.
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