Pico the bunch in the Azores

There are nine islands in the archipelago of the Azores, which is an autonomous region of Portugal that is located about 1500 kilometres west of the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

Although it is just the second largest island in the group, Pico is the most visible thanks to Mount Pico which, at 2,351 metres (7,713 ft), is the highest point in the Azores and also for continental Portugal.

The Azores are volcanic islands, and are subject to a fair amount of seismic activity thanks to them being perched atop the Mid Atlantic Rift undersea mountain range, which just happens to divide the African and European continents from the Americas.

The Pico, the mountain, is a volcano, and one of many that are located in and around the Azores. These volcanoes are not limited to the land as there are several quite active underwater volcanoes which erupt periodically.

Volcanic soil is excellent for the growing of crops, and Pico has a number of vineyards that are well known throughout Portugal. Some of these vineyards date as far back as the 15th century, and are considered to be so important that UNESCO has declared them to be World Heritage Sites.

Because the waters around Pico are very deep, fishing is a popular activity, and is one which draws many visitors to the island. Whaling used to an important industry, but that ceased in the 1970s. These days people do visit Pico searching for whales, but the only shooting they do is with their cameras. Whales are attracted to the island by the richness of the oceans, which guarantees a plentiful supply food.

There are many walking trails on the island, and it is possible to climb to the top of Mount Pico itself. Thanks to all the volcanic activity that has occurred on the island over millions of years there are volcanic lava tube that are worth exploring. The longest of these is “Gruta das Torres”, which is about 5 kilometres in length, but it is recommend for your own safety that you don’t go there alone and that you use the services of a qualified guide.

The coastline is indented with headlands and bays. Impressive lava arches like the “Arcos do Cachorro” (Arches of the Puppy) can be seen along the coastline, where the sea churns through tunnels. The curious rock formation has the shape of the face of a dog, which gave these the lava formations their name.

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