Protected Landscape Area
Located in the central zone of Pico, this area has about 9,518 hectares and constitutes the largest protected area of the island.
This area covers three of the four nature reserves, namely Montanha do Pico, Caveiro and Mistério da Prainha, and also the Lagoa do Caiado Protected Area for the Management of Habitat or Species. Here, there are several geological formations, from which stand out the Lagoa do Capitão (lagoon) and the Pico da Urze (volcanic cone). The Zona Central also houses flora and fauna species endemic of the Azores.
The Lagoa do Capitão (lagoon), located near the Pico Mountain and at 790 metres of altitude, is covered by this classification. This lagoon occupies a closed depression localized at the bottom of the scarp in one of the most important tectonic accidents of the island, the Lagoa do Capitão Fault, with a northwest-southeast orientation. This place belongs to the oldest geological formations of Planalto da Achada, a volcanic ridge with a northwest-southeast alignment and about 30 kilometres of length, from Lagoa do Capitão to Ponta da Ilha, in the east end of the island, and integrates around 190 volcanic cones.
On the other hand, Pico da Urze, also integrated into this protected area, is a basaltic scoria cone, with a maximum altitude of 899 metres and a summit explosion crater, which eruptive activity occurred one or two centuries before the island’s discovery and originated basaltic lava flows that moved south, reaching the sea between the place of Companhia de Cima and the Porto de São João (harbour).
From this cone, it is possible to observe the three volcanic systems that exist on Pico. Topo shield volcano, at the southeast, that corresponds to the initial phase of the island’s formation, with about 270 thousand years. At the west, the Pico Mountain stratovolcano, the highest point of Portugal, with 2351 metres of altitude. At east/northeast is Planalto da Achada.
In this protected area, of the existing flora stand out the endemic species Juniperus brevifolia, Euphorbia stygiana ssp. stygiana, Vaccinium cylindraceum, Scabiosa nitens and Ilex azorica.
Regarding fauna, stand out the Nyctalus azoreum, the resident birds Columba palumbus azorica, Turdus merula azorensis and Fringilla coelebs moreletti, and the rare migratory aquatic bird Mareca americana.
In this protected area are included the Caminho dos Burros (PR02PIC), the Lagoa do Capitão (PR13PIC) and the Caminho das Lagoas (PR19PIC) walking trails.
This protected area is included in the Montanha do Pico, Prainha and Caveiro Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Zona Central do Pico Special Protection Area (SPA) within the Natura 2000 network, and in the Zona Central do Pico Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It includes a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention and the priority geosite of Planalto da Achada (plateau) of Azores UNESCO Global Geopark.