A paradise for serenity seekers and adventurers, and an insider tip for wine connoisseurs.
More than 1000 miles from the European mainland lies the Azores archipelago. Each of the nine islands scores highly for dramatic landscapes, black beaches, and excellent dive spots. However, Pico literally stands out. Portugal’s highest mountain, the Teide, towers over the small island and its extraordinary centuries-old vineyards – considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
First-time visitors to Pico will instantly notice the salt in the air, the sometimes strong winds, and the dry black basaltic stones scattered everywhere. Add to this the small plots of lava stones that dot the route from the airport to Madalena, and you might be fooled into thinking it's not the best conditions for growing vines – but all isn't as it seems. These lava stone plots are actually 'currais', a special kind of vineyard that protects the vine from wind and salt.
The green leaves and knotty vines crawling over the black earth are probably the most resilient vines in the world and have been grown on Pico since the 15th century. It's not surprising then that wine is a big part of the island's DNA, something winemaker António Maçanita is keen to continue. He's built the Azores Wine Company using some of the archipelago’s indigenous grapes and successfully presses some of the best wines in the country. Luckily for any curious travelers, he's also opened a stylish boutique hotel on the grounds of the vineyard to show off all that the island has to offer.
The winery and the hotel are a modern masterpiece of smooth concrete, planes of glass, and rough lava stones, managing to somehow both emerge from and blend in with the landscape.
The sleek, clean rooms all make the most of the positioning by boasting sea views. The mini bar is stocked with unique wines that can't be found anywhere else, and in a delightful twist, the menu at the restaurant remains the same, while the selection of wines changes every night.
One of Pico’s huge perks is its incredible nature – not just the vegetation on land and the mysterious depth of the ocean, but also the incredible night sky. The Azores Wine Company is the perfect place to fully appreciate all three, as the commitment to zero light pollution means you can marvel at the stars sparkling over the ocean at night.
The middle of the Atlantic Pico is the ideal spot for whale watching. Sperm whales stay in the deep waters around the island all year long too, so there's a high chance of a sighting. Experienced divers also shouldn’t miss a trip to Princess Alice Bank, the underwater mountain known for attracting Mobula rays.
Back on the land, the climate on the Azores archipelago is pretty mild all year round, so it's a perfect destination for hiking. A hike up to the summit of Teide takes almost a full day and is a challenge not to be underestimated – or missed out on.
Talk to one of our travel curators about planning your trip to the Azores.
All images copyright of Acores Wine Company (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), Bianca Klement (3,4,10,11)