Protected Landscape Area
Located on the central zone of Pico, this area has about 9518 hectares and constitutes the largest protected area of the island, covering three of the four nature reserves: Montanha do Pico, Caveiro and Mistério da Prainha; and also the Lagoa do Caiado Protected Area for the Management of Habitat or Species.
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 located 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 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.
Of small size, Lagoa do Capitão has an area of 2.6 hectares and a maximum depth of 4.5 metres. However, it is an important strategic reserve of freshwater and plays a vital role in the operation and maintenance of the island’s natural systems. Together with other lagoons in this protected area, it is classified as a Protected Water Mass through the Lagoas do Pico Land Development and Watershed Plan.
This place offers great panoramic views of the Pico Mountain and the Planalto da Achada volcanic ridge. To climb the Mountain, one must visit the Mountain’s House, a place of environmental information and where is mandatory to register before climbing.
On the other hand, Pico da Urze, also integrated in 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 locality 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 southeast), which corresponds to the initial phase of the island’s formation, with about 300 thousand years. At west, the Pico Mountain stratovolcano, the highest point of Portugal, with 2351 metres of altitude. At east/northeast is Planalto da Achada, a fissural volcanism zone constituted by a northwest-southeast alignment of about 190 volcanic cones.
In this protected area, of the existing flora, stand out the endemic species Juniperus brevifolia, Euphorbia stygiana 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 integrates the Montanha, Prainha and Caveiro Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Zona Central do Pico Special Protection Area (SPA) within the Natura 2000 network, the Zona Central do Pico Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention and the priority geosite of Planalto da Achada (plateau) of Azores UNESCO Global Geopark.