Climbing Mount Pico on the Azores Islands

While in the Azores I had the pleasure of climbing Mount Pico which is the highest mountain in all of Portugal, the third highest in the Atlantic Ocean and a bit of a beast which stands at 2351m. By no means is this one of the tallest mountains in the world but it’s quite the hike, let me tell you. It took myself and the fearless expedition I had joined several hours to climb Mount Pico and and a little longer to get down. The views from the summit are spectacular but we’ll get to that in a moment.

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Hiking is big in the Azores and if you’re coming for a hike, climbing Mount Pico on Pico Island is the main event. It’s not an overly difficult climb but if you’re not in good shape, you’ll definitely feel it. It’s basically straight up as you climb these old lava flows for a few hours before you reach the crater. You see, Pico is a now dormant volcano and an interesting fact for you, the newest of the Azores Islands. So there is a big crater at the top and then in the middle of said crater, a final summit which is quite the final climb.

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Before we get to the summit, let’s talk a little more about the way up, yes? Well it has great views of the surrounding area and the path we climbed was right across from the city of Horta on Faial. There are 45 posts which help guide the safest way to climb the mountain and let me tell you this, those markers don’t pass fast enough. It’s a bit disheartening when you’re tired and you look at post nine but it’s invigorating as you’re breathing fresh air at post 42, yes? Going up is way easier than going down but I think that’s normal for most mountain climbing experiences.

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Once at the crater, the summit just spikes up and this is the first real climbing as before it was more of a steep hike. I met a few people who simply climbed to the crater but let’s be real, you didn’t climb the mountain until you stood at the summit, yes? When we arrived it was a mix of clouds and clear skies. We stayed for a while and sure enough we got to enjoy some incredible views of the surrounding oceans and islands. To say I felt accomplished would have been an understatement.

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I remember on the way up I went through a real host of emotions from fatigue to incredible excitement. I will say the party sorta stops when you’re at the top and then it’s a long steep walk down. We had a guide and if you’re going to do this, it’s a good way to go as he knew every step of the way which path to take and knows all about the area. You’d figure it out on your own but some paths are certainly easier than others. I will note that I think there is a market for heli-hiking which is the opposite of heli-skiing aka they pick you up at the top of a mountain instead of drop you off.

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If you’re coming to the Azores for hiking, don’t miss hiking Mount Pico as I’m sure you’ll be very glad you did once it’s over like I am. Also, if you’re going back to Sao Miguel eventually to catch an international flight out, try and fly from Pico because you get an incredible view of Mount Pico outside the right windows during the ascent of the plane. Just looking at these photos brings back great memories and a sense of accomplishment. I had a great time on the Azores Islands and hiking Pico is definitely one of the highlights.

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Oh and eat lots of cheese while there, I loved the cheese from Pico.

In closing, big thanks to Visit Azores for their hospitality; appreciated!

Tips hat,

4 Comments

  1. Marta Kulesza

    October 12, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I know what you are talking about with those feelings whilst climbing a mountain. I usually think to myself ‘Why the hell am I putting myself through this hell’, but once I get to the top my question is answered. It is this great sense of acomplishment. I would have not considered Portugal as a hiking spot so thanks for bringing this location to my mind. For now I have a year in New Zealand ahead of me and I am sure I will be doing loads of hiking and mountain climbing there!:)

    • Rob

      October 12, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Enjoy yourself and keep the Azores in mind for the future. It’s a really nice place and looking forward to returning sooner than later.

  2. Kathleen

    March 25, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Hi Rob!

    Great write-up! I am traveling to Pico next month – my mom was born there and I am taking her back. I REALLY want to hike the mountain and was thinking I’d try doing it solo but your post is pushing me to go with a guide. Do you recall how you found the guide, or have any recommendations? I’m on a budget but that also means I can’t afford a crazy medical bill 😛 So my priority is to get up there safely.

    Thanks so much for any info you can provide!

    • Rob

      March 28, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      I was there with the tourism board so they supplied the guide; no ideal really. Lots did it without the guide but it helps! =)

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