Key information: Pico Volcano
- Portugal's highest mountain is an extraordinary stand-alone volcano which dominates the entire central group of the Azores islands, an almost-perfect cone on which balances a steep and slightly sinister mini-cone.
- Walkopedia rating88
- Natural interest19
- Human interest4
- Negative points3
- Total rating88
- Note: Negs: Punishing climb
- Length: 6.5hrs+
- Maximum Altitude: 2,350m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Portugal's highest mountain is an extraordinary stand-alone 2,350m volcano which dominates the entire central group of the Azores islands. It soars above the western end of Pico island, an almost-perfect cone on which balances a steep and slightly sinister mini-cone.
The mountain is a fascinating place, awash with the weird remains of lava flows and peppered with vents. It is clothed in vivid heather and other sparkling shrubs, so is a delightful place to walk. But for the long and arduous slog (3 hours to the crater rim, another half hour+ to scramble up the rocky summit cone, and not far off the same to gingerly feel your way back down the rocky trail), which impairs the pleasure-to-pain ratio.
From the Mountain House (visitor centre), you embark immediately on a punishing 20+ minutes climb up sharp lava to a small blowhole and lava cave. Another 20 minutes or so of angled traverse gets you to the start of the really difficult bit, an endless steep zigzagging 2hr+ climb up a ridge of the roughest remains old lava flows; at least the rock is generally unslippery. It does ease off a bit towards the crater rim, but is a very demanding climb.
The great redeeming feature is the wonderful view west across the lower slopes and the sea towards Faial and its own collapsed volcano, which just get grander the higher you get. As you round the south of the mountain to reach the crater, the eastern length of the island reveals itself as an extraordinary green plateau liberally sprinkled with vents and little craters, which narrows to a final crater-pocked ridge with Sao Jorge lining the northern horizon. Amazing.
The crater is stunning, inside a ring of black cliffs; most of it has been swamped by lighter flows from the decidedly odd and definitely sinister (Mordor like - you can imagine a vast all-seeing eye swivelling from it) steep cone of the true peak.
The climb to the cone is a proper scramble by the end, but the views from the top are of course extraordinary, now affording a full panorama of S. Jorge to the north. The scramble back down needs a lot of care.
The endless descent isn't a mass of fun. Thank goodness for the views.
The route follows red-marked trails on the Kompass Azores map 1.
This is a very tough walk on high, mountains with unpredictable weather. Come prepared.
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For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Pico Island and Azores walk pages.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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