The Azores comprise a group of nine volcanic islands situated along the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge halfway between North America and Europe. Portugal to which these islands belong is about 3.5 flight hours or 1,500 km to the east.
When it is said that the Azores islands are still to be discovered by tourists, then it definitely applies to their underwater world. Clean deep ocean with mild water temperatures, volcanic landscapes in fantastic formations, caves, grottos, chimneys, wrecks and rich underwater flora and fauna, favorably influenced by the Gulf stream.
It’s the combination and symbiosis of this variety that makes the discovery of the Azorean underwater world a secret tip, a very special experience. You can also find whales and dolphins in great numbers as well as different species of sharks at the open sea plateaus “Dollabarat” and “Formigas”.
Only a few know that vacations on the Azores are something special because these islands are not yet very developed by tourists.
We went to the island called Pico where fish life is abundant due to the Gulf Stream passing just north of the islands, mixing Atlantic and tropical fish. Scuba diving is among the best in the world, despite (or because!) of the cold Atlantic conditions. Yet, the Azores are rated as the new discovery in the diving business. Most diving locations guarantee an encounter with the big fishes of the Atlantic and offer spectacular lava formations.
Pico island is considered one of the most beautiful of the Azorean islands. Pico is located right on the edge where the African continental plate drifts away from the American plate and is dominated by an old volcano of the same name. The Pico rises up steeply from the sea to a towering height of 2,351m making it the highest mountain of Portugal. Only 5 km off the coast, however, the ocean floor drops to a depth of 1600m.
A journey to Pico is a journey into the past. Life on Pico has its own slower rhythm. The tranquility and relaxation of the people combined with spectacular nature and beautiful landscapes make it ideal for a secluded vacation. But there is also plenty of opportunity for people who prefer active and adventurous holidays. Most favorite activities on Pico include diving, snorkeling, hiking and whale watching.
We dove with Pico Sport Lda. Pico runs a divebase and also organizes whale watching tours. They’ve expanded their activities to Sao Jorge, a neigboring island of Pico. So you can get the opportunity to visit three of the most beautiful islands of the Azores. At Pico you can choose between 20 shore and 10 boat dive spots! All shore dive locations offer easy entry into the water and are also suitable for less experienced divers. Boat diving takes place at small islands, rocks and drop offs near the coast all of which can be reached after a short trip in their rigid hull inflatable boat.
We frequently observed large schools of mackerels, barracuda,yellow-fin tuna and trigger fish. Common sting rays grow to an enormous size in these waters and if you are lucky, you can even encounter spectacular large mantas. The underwater scenery varies between basaltic rock formations with canyons and caves and open sand flats. Each little cave or rock can be home to a variety of large and small marine animals, such as moray eels, octopus, lobster, spiral tube worms, sea urchins and sea spiders. Night diving is spectacular and amazingly easy at selected sheltered spots along the coast.
During night dives you can seethe dazzling colors of huge swarms of small shrimps, as well as nudibranchs, Alicia mirabilis anemones, and, depending on the time of the year, also bioluminescent plankton (causing the ocean to “glow”).
Accommodation is at Pousada Atlantis which consists of a main house and a few apartment houses that are situated in a nice garden setting, and about 15 min. walk away from the center of the village (Madalena do Pico) and a shop (Madalena also offers ideal opportunities for swimming and snorkeling as well as a salt water swimming pool which can be used free of charge).
Getting to Azores
There are frequent two-hour flights from Lisbon to the three Azorean airports: Ponta Delgada (São Miguel island), Lajes (Terceira island), and Horta (Faial island). Ponta Delgada is also served by regular flights to Funchal (Madeira) and during the peak season to Oporto and Frankfurt (Germany). Charter flights link America and Canada to the airports of Ponta Delgada and Lajes.
Inter-island flights are done by SATA-Air Azores or there are regular ferry connections between the islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge and also between Terceira and Graciosa with Transmaçor and AçorLine.
When to Visit Azores
The Azores have a temperate climate all year round, practically with no temperature changes year round. The temperatures vary between a minimum yearly average of 12°C in winter and 25°C in summer.
Pico’s climate is warm-temperate, often humid. The summer maximum is around 30°C and even in winter, temperatures seldomly sink below 15°C. The water temperature is about 22°C throughout the year.