The archipelago of The Azores shelters a rich and diverse speleological patrimony due to its volcanic disposition and the presence of a basaltic magma fluid. The Gruta das Torres is one of the main caves that can be visited on the islands.
Vulcanic Caves in the Azores
There are two principal types of volcanic caves: tunnels of lava and volcanic “algares”.
Lava tubes are natural pipes through which the lava reaches the surface in a fluid, expelled by an erupting volcano. They can be active when the lava still flows towards the surface, or extinct, which means that the lava fluid ceased and the rock cooled off, leaving a long channel, similar to a cavern. Once those tubes are formed simultaneously to the rock evolving them, they’re called primary caves.
Vulcanic “algares” are caves with a subvertical development.
The Gruta das Torres (Cave of Towers) is a volcanic cave.
A tunnel of lava is formed when the lava cools down quicker in its edges than its center, forming banks of solidified lava that unifies. The volcanic lava then flows for long distances because it’s protected from the cooling.
The Pico Island concentrates the highest number of caves (129), representing about 48% total of caves in The Azores, followed by Terceira Island with 26% of the caves of the archipelago.
The vast majority of the caves in the archipelago are closed to visits, being that the Gruta das Torres is the only one open to the public in island of Pico.
Gruta das Torres in Pico
The Gruta das Torres, located in the parish of Criação Velha is the only that can be visited in Pico island – Azores.
The cave is part of the geological formation of Lajidos – Gruta das Torres and it’s found inserted in the volcanic complex of the mountain of Pico.
The Gruta das Torres is classified as a Regional Natural Monument by the DLR No. 6/2004/A, of 18th March 2004, of the Azores Regional Government.
The cave is found registered in the Parque Natural do Pico (Pico’s Natural Park).
Discovered in 1990, it is the biggest lava tunnel known in the Azores and in Portugal (about 5.150 meters of longitude) and one of the ten biggest of the world.
It’s estimated that it had been formed around 1500 years ago, during an eruption originated in Cabeço Bravo.
The main tunnel of the cave is developed along 4 480 meters and it’s for the most part of large dimensions, reaching heights of the order of 15 meters.
There exists a whole medley of secondary tunnels, sides and upper, which dimensions are more reduced and present very diversified and distinct geological structures amongst themselves.
Along its extention, this cave presents a total unevenness around 200 meters, having an inclination rather softer in the SE section, contrary to what happens in some sectors to the NW, where the biggest inclinations occur.
How to visit?
The beginning of the project for the requalification of the Gruta das Torres took place in the year 2000. The Regional Secretary of the Environment created new infrastructures that allow a better access to the place and with better security. This project improved yet the accessibility in the interior of the cave, created a Visitor’s Center and some other annex buildings.
The Center offers guided tours, movie projections and documentaries, and also a parking lot.
In 2004 a protocole of cooperation was signed, between the Azores’ Regional Government and the association “Os montanheiros” with the goal of streamlining, exploring and performing the maintenance of the cave.
To be able to visit the Gruta das Torres you will have to make a reservation. Please use the contacts to book Gruta das Torres at the en of this post.
The number of daily visitors is very limited, whereby in the high season (July and August) it’s advised to do the reservation with some time of advance (two weeks).
Equipped with helmet and torch, you will explore around 500 meters – the rest is reserved to scientists.
Guided by the valuable explanations of a guide, you’ll observe beautiful stalagmites and stalactites of lava, striated walls, lava structures very different from each other, all in a profound darkness and comforting silence. To not distort the places, no human artifice was brought there.
The Gruta das Torres is an exemple of sustainable use of a natural resource for touristic ends, but above all to sensitize regards the protection of the environment. The activity is ideal for families.
It is advised to wear adequate footwear and a waterproof jacket, being that the paving is irregular and water drops are always falling throughout the cave.
What can be observed?
The entrance of the Gruta das Torres is made by the Algar da Ponte.
In the visit it is possible to verify the transition of the very wooded natural landscape transforming into a different green environment, with moss and lichens on the walls and floors of the openings of the cave.
The around 500 meters of visit last on average one hour and it can be observed different types of lava and geological formations, where it stands out the stalactites, lava stalagmites, side benches and lava balls.
This cave exhibits on its interior several structures characteristic of the cavities of volcanic origin.
Along the lava tube there are sections where water drops emerge from the ceiling, although there is a weak circulation of water in the majority of the cave.
You will observe yet the existence of a fauna and flora that belong specifically to the cave.
Possibly due to its dimension and depth, the temperature in its interior is sensibly constant throughout the year, varying more sharply near the opening.
Schedules and Prices of the Visits
1st November to 31st March
From Tuesday to Friday: 10 am to 5 pm
Saturdays and holidays: 2 pm to 5:30 pm
Closed: Sundays | Mondays | 1st January | Tuesday Carnival | Sunday Easter | 25th December
1st April to 31st October
Opened every day: 10 am to 6 pm
Closed: Sunday Easter
1st November to 31st March
From Tuesday to Friday: 10:30 am | midday | 2 pm | 3:30 pm
Saturdays and holidays: 2:30 pm | 4 pm
1st April to 31st May | 1st to 31st October
Everyday: 10:30 am | midday | 1:30 pm | 3 pm | 4:30 pm
1st June to 30th September
Everyday: 10:30 am | 11 am | midday | 1:30 pm | 3 pm | 4:30 pm
Duration of the tour: 60 to 90 minutes
Number of people per visit: 4 – 15
The prices might change.
Child (0 – 6 years): Free
Junior (7 – 14 years): 4,00 €
Adult (15 – 64 years): 8,00 €
Senior (+ 65 years): 4,00 €
Family (2 adults and kids up to 14 anos): 16,00 €
Resident in The Azores: Free (*Through presentation of the Citizenship Card.)
The ticked includes Personal Accident Insurance, individual security equipment (helmet with respective hygienic cap) and individual lighting equipment (hand flashlight).
Children up to 12 years must be accompanied by an adult.
Contacts to Book a visit to Gruta das Torres
Caminho da Gruta das Torres,
Criação Velha, 9950 Madalena
Phone: + 351 924 403 921
The visit to the cave is one of the main points of interest of the island, but for the visits limitation, it’s not one of the most common activities of the tourists, as if per example the whale watching, or the climb to the Pico Mountain.
But if you want to relax and enjoy the island without spending money, you can simply go to the Natural Swimming Pools, and try one of the several Walking Trails available.