The highest point on Pico Island in the Azores, Mount Pico is a stratovolcano that reaches an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. At more than twice the altitude of any other peak in the Azores, that height makes it not just the highest point on the island, but also in all of Portugal and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
In the winter months, the top of Mount Pico is often the only place in the Azores covered with snow. When it isn’t, Pico Alto, a round crater about 1,600 feet in diameter and nearly 100 feet deep at the top of the mountain is clearly visible.
The volcano’s most recent eruption occurred in December 1720. Strangely, eruptions on Pico have typically come from the vents on its flanks rather than from the summit crater. An eruption in 1562 that lasted for more than two years sent lava flowing all the way to the sea.
Visitors can hike trails up the mountain and reach the summit in about two to four hours from the trailhead. For the first 5,000 feet or so, the mountain is covered in thick forests. At that point, the trees give way to shrubbery for another 1,500 feet. The cap is made up of rock and naked lava.
The climb is recommended only for the experienced, especially in winter months. Strong winds and bad weather often cover Mount Pico with little warning. For those that make it to the top though, the volcano offers excellent views of several islands in the area.
Know Before You Go
Try to either stay at the summit over night or start the (guided) tour just after midnight, so you can watch the sun rise. Wear appropriate shoes and water/wind proof clothing. The weather can change rapidly and the temperature may drop (even if there's no snow anymore). Wear gloves to protect your hands against the cold and the cheese-grater rocks (in case you slip).