The neighbouring islands of Pico and Faial go together like Azorean wine and cheese - a perfectly complementary duo. Pico's lush green hiker-friendly hillsides and Faial's sailing culture and dramatic volcano should satisfy most of your Azores bucket list requirements. Best of all, the ferry from one island to the other takes just half an hour.
The famed Princess Alice Bank, where blue sharks frequent, is one of our favourite Azores dive spots and is accessible from either Pico or Faial (between July and October). Above the surface, there are some great spots for whale watching and swimming with dolphins. We also love diving at Shrimp Cave where you follow the coastline round past boulders and overhangs before heading into a small cave covered wall-to-wall with Narwhal shrimps. Over both these sites you'll come into contact with amazing cave systems with healthy reefs and beautiful underwater topography.
The landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture is an odd-yet-aptly named region of Pico Island now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the hillsides are coated in vineyards. The island's volcanic soil is ideal for growing grapes, and the remarkable 500-year old currais system of basalt walls dividing the island into a huge grid protects the vines from the Atlantic winds and rain. The winding vineyard-lined roads and dramatic coastlines of Pico are best explored on a road trip, and there is canyoning and riding on the agenda too. The stunning lagoons and caves hidden along the island's coast are also a well-kept island secret. Finally, make sure to pop on your hard hat and descend inside the Gruta das Torres; Portugal's longest lava tube.
As a result of their violent volcanic genesis, Pico and Faial are both fantastic for their walking trails and beautiful viewpoints. Leisurely hikers on Pico will be pleased to hear of the trails marked with red and yellow paint for a laid-back hike. The hard-core hikers should climb Pico Volcano, where five of the nine islands can be viewed from its summit, which at 7,715ft is Portugal's highest point. For an extra special evening, hike this volcano with a guide in time for sunset before camping under the stars and watching the sunrise over the islands. The volcanic landscape in Faial is just as awe-inspiring, but allows an easier option of roadtripping to its Caldeira and Capelhinos Volcanos. You'll encounter similar dramatic volcanic scenery, but from the comfort of your car.