Exploring the Azores: Walking the Historic Trails

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 27, 2024 19:00 PMNews
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Aerial view of Pico Island, Azores
Aerial view of Pico Island, Azores. Source: Photo by Kévin et Laurianne Langlais on Unsplash

With over 500 miles of marked trails, the Azores offer a unique walking experience. The island of Pico, with its black basalt labyrinths and electric-green lichen, attracts hikers keen to explore this North Atlantic archipelago's rich past.

Walking on Pico often means single-file paths originally meant for cattle and mule carts. Inês Neto, a guide with Futurismo Azores Adventures, emphasizes Pico’s history of winemaking and whaling, best appreciated through hiking. The five-mile Vinhas da Criação Velha trail weaves through ancient vineyards, where settlers planted vines in volcanic rock crevices, protected by stone walls called currais.

"Pico’s currais, if stretched out, would wrap around the equator twice," said Filipe Rocha of Azores Wine Company. The company has restored over 100 hectares of these UNESCO-listed vineyards. Their winery offers a luxurious stay, fine dining, and a chance to taste the unique volcanic whites that once graced the cellars of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Tsar Nicholas II.

The coastal route from Santana to Lajido reveals more about Pico’s resilient history, including rola-pipas, deep ruts where wine barrels were rolled to boats. Lookout towers, or vigia, were used by whalers, and tide-wells show how islanders collected rainwater.

The Donkey Trail cuts through Pico’s rugged interior, passing crater lakes surrounded by endemic flora. Pico’s volcanic landscape, with its swirling black rock formations and the towering Mount Pico, tells a story of ancient eruptions.

Pico isn’t alone in offering excellent hiking trails. Six other Azorean islands feature multi-day "grand routes" and scenic walks, from hot springs to hydrangea-lined lanes. Across the archipelago, 80 trade and pilgrimage routes have been restored, marked by red and yellow signposts.

Now is the perfect time to explore these charming, storied routes and immerse yourself in the history and natural beauty of the Azores.

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