For miles around, all you see is rocks. Rocks on the ground and rock walls made of basalt. It takes a special breed of horse, and strong hooves to withstand the terrain on Pico Island in Portugal. Afterall, Pico Island, this Archipelago of the Azores, is one of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, 1,500 km west of Lisbon.
It makes sense that this volcanic island, the second largest in the Azores archipelago, looks like a patchwork quilt, stitched together by rock walls. Fortunately for me, I was able to explore Pico Island from the back of a horse.
Horse ride on Pico Island
“I’ve always owned horses to work the fields,” said Turispico Owner Nelia Xavier. “Now we offer trail rides on horseback.” Along with his wife, and son Isaac – who speaks very good English – Turispico offers horse rides, as well as nature hikes on Pico Island. The adventurous traveler may want to attempt to climb Pico mountain, the highest mountain in Portugal.
Picnic on Pico Island
The four year old company is the only business on Pico Island to offer horseback riding vacations. Typically, the horseback rides last two hours and include a picnic with local fruit, homemade bread and jams. The Xavier family also produces fire water, made with local fruit. You’ll get a chance to taste this unique Portuguese drink from their bar and take in the gorgeous view from the deck.
English horseback riding vacations
My guide, Isaac, rides English and teaches dressage. I spotted a Western saddle in the tack room and he willingly saddled my horse, Mimosa, a 15 year old Garrano horse for our trail ride. Mimosa was as sure footed as a mountain goat on these rocky trails. While I am an experienced equestrian, this horse was gentle and easy going on the trail; she would be ideal for a beginning rider, as well.
Pico Island horse ride
Our horse ride brought us through local neighborhoods, where most every resident seemed to have a cow or goat on their property, again, surrounded by basalt rock walls.
One of the reasons that I love to go on horseback riding vacations when I travel is that it is a great way to spend time with a local and learn about the area, its customs and the geography of the place.
Fire water on Pico Island
We rode from the stable to a wonderful lookout place where we could see the village below us, and on to the Atlantic Ocean. After our leisurely trail ride, we circled back to the stable and ended our horseback ride with a trip to the bar and a sampling of locally-produced fire water with Isaac’s father.
Bring your camera with you on this horseback ride, as you’ll want to return home from your vacation with memories of this trip to Pico Island.
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If You Go:
Turispico (351) 912 622 198
Quinta do Cavalo, Camino do Engenho, 9930 – 229 Piedade
Pico Island, Azores, Portugal