Azores Main

azores-main

In the 1800s, the island of Pico was a familiar port of call for Nantucket whalers, a remote Atlantic island famed in both America and Europe for its fine verdelho wine, and considered perhaps the loveliest of the Azores. Sadly, those grape vines were lost to disease before the century ended, but reminders of the isle's whaling heritage are still evident on Pico today - and although jets have made the Portuguese archipelago a little less remote, the world of modern tourism has mostly passed by this chain of nine islands.

And a lovely chain it is, with vast green patchworks of farms and fields (wine growing has made a comeback) lined with hydrangeas and azaleas, sheer sea cliffs, long beaches, small fishing villages, and dramatic volcano mountains as a backdrop. Pico, named for its 7,700-foot high volcano (yes, you can climb it with a guide) was first settled in the mid-1400s, but it isn't totally wrapped up in the past: Active visitors can spend their days diving, hiking, sailing, deep-sea fishing, and whale watching.

And, from its location in the center of the archipelago, Pico is a good jumping off place for ferry trips to the also lovely sister isles of Faial, São Jorge, and Terciera.