It is a common saying that, in reality, the Azores are only eight islands plus one carousel, and Terceira Island is the carousel. It is the island of festivals, festivities and celebrations. At any time of year there is a reason to celebrate. We witnessed a lot of celebration, but also many other things, which make the island worth of a good couple of days visit…
1. Visit Angra do Heroísmo
Historically the most important city in the Azores, Angra served as the capital city of Portugal twice, and is a UNESCO-designated world heritage site. Angra’s pretty marina, once full of rich caravels and galleons, today it harbours the boats that take visitors around the coast and on cetacean watching tours.
2. Swim at the natural pool in Silveira
The natural pool of Silveira is located in the centre of Angra do Heroísmo, next to the Hotel do Caracol (where we stayed and highly recommend). This pool was originally a fishing port, but has been adapted and converted into a beach, with good infrastructures such as, showers and toilettes.
3. Climb Mount Brasil and Fort São João Baptista
Mount Brasil is a small peninsula which was created by a volcanic explosion in the sea. The lava eruption created new land that connected the volcano to land, next to Angra do Heroísmo. All the volcano is now a protected area and a good place to hike or spend a relaxing afternoon in nature. The Castle of São João Baptista (Saint John the Baptist) is one of the most important forts of the Philippine Dynasty, in the sixteenth century.
4. Check the monument to the bull
The Monument to the Bull is a bronze sculpture, eleven metres high, that honours bulls, cattlemen, shepherds, bullfighters and bullfight. The bullfight in Terceira has a long-lived tradition and is a bit different from the bullfight in the continent. It is called Tourada à corda (rope bullfight) and in this centuries-old tradition, the bull is led along the streets on a rope, held by six people – the pastores – and anyone who dares, taunts and teases the bull.
5. Drive through São Mateus da Calheta
São Mateus da Calheta is a small fishing village just four kilometres away from Angra do Heroísmo, on the southern coast of Terceira. The word ‘calheta’ means small bay, and indeed São Mateus has a lovely small bay and a port, where you will get to see many fishermen preparing their bait to fish on the open sea.
6. Go inside the main church at São Mateus da Calheta
The parochial church of São Mateus is a central building in the architecture of the fishing village. Its construction was concluded in 1911 and its style is baroque. This is one of the larger churches in the Azores, a fact that has always been the source of controversy with many criticising so much richness in such a poor community. Still, it is a beautiful church with two lateral bell towers unique in the archipelago for their pyramidal spires.
7. Stroll along the old port of São Mateus
The small bay and port at São Mateus da Calheta are a beautiful place to have a siesta, after having lunch in one of the restaurants of the village. The fish is fresh, for sure, it comes straight from the boats to the restaurants. There’s a pedestrian walk all around the bay, with lovely views over the sea and the fort.
8. Visit the old church São Mateus
The nowadays known as the old church of São Mateus was built in 1700, and functioned as the main church 28 August 1893, when a strong hurricane hit the church and destroyed its main structure. The church has been abandoned but its beautiful facade still attracts many visitors.
9. Join the locals at the Negrito natural pool
The natural pool at Negrito is located between Angra do Heroísmo and São Mateus. It has a pier and a vast area to sunbath. The area is surrounded by 16th century fortress. In summer the place can get very crowded, since this is one of the locals’ favourite natural pools.
10. Try the delicious Queijo Vaquinha (cheese)
The entire archipelago of the Azores is known for its production of cheese. We specially liked the semi-soft cheese from Terceira, commercialised as Vaquinha for being a more creamy and buttery cheese. The cheese factory is a family business that welcomes everyone who wants to witness how their cheese is produced, from the moment the milk is taken, using traditional processing methods. Some say the general characteristic of Azorean cheeses are that they are salty and soft and that one can taste the grass which feeds the cows!
11. Don’t miss the windmill at Doze Ribeiras
Unfortunately, we do not know much about this old windmill located in the village of Doze Ribeiras. We could see that the windmill has been reconstructed, but the mechanic structure is not working. It belongs to the folkloric group of the village.
12. Have a picnic at the Mata da Serreta
Mata da Serreta was the first Forest Recreation Reserve to be created in Terceira Island. This forest is very popular with locals in summer who search the freshness of the forest for their picnics. The area of the Mata da Serreta is quite big, with many tables and seat amid flowers and trees. The forest has many eucalyptus, pines, arboreal ferns and metrosideros, which add a lot of green and fragrance to the place.
13. Have a break at the Raminho lookout
The Raminho lookout is located just opposite the Mata da Serreta, with incredible views over the sea and the coast. The lookout is beautifully presented with many flowers (such as the Lily of the Nile), and have enough place to park the car and to enjoy a short walk to a recreational area for picnics and to see an old whalers’ lookout.
14. Have a swim at the Biscoitos natural pools
The natural pools of Biscoitos are a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Besides the several natural pools, there is also a restaurant and many souvenir shops next to a huge parking place. The pool is also popular amongst families because it has several lifeguards during summer.
15. Walk inside the military trenches on the northern coast
These military trenches were built during the Second World War, being part of the “Defensive System of Terceira Island”. These trenches were dug in the basaltic gravel and at the time were equipped with light and heavy machine guns and mortars.
16. Try the natural pool Calheta dos Lagadores
The natural pool Calheta dos Lagadores, located on the northern coast, not far from Biscoitos is surprisingly a quiet pool. We had expected to find more people here, because we found it to be the most beautiful natural pool in Terceira Island. It looks like it is a hidden gem, so let’s keep it that way!
17. Hike until the Ponta do Mistério
Ponta dos Mistérios is a geosite of natural interest. It corresponds to a lava delta formed by basaltic lava flows that happened during one or several volcanic eruptions. As the lava flew to the sea, it created a unique lunar landscape along the coast, having the blue sea in the backdrop…
18. Spend a day at Praia da Vitória village
The town of Praia da Vitória is charming and very enjoyable. It has two notable churches, a beautiful public square, and a good number of places to stay and to eat. Now that the airport of Lajes is not exploited by the US army any longer, the municipality makes a living out of agriculture and fishing.
19. Get some sunbathing at Praia da Vitória beach
The beach at Praia da Vitória is a long stretch of golden sand. It gets popular with windsurfers because of constant winds, but little swell. It is also a preferred beach because of all the sand, which is rare in the rest of the island.
20. Dive or snorkel with the Octopus Diving Centre
If you like diving or snorkelling, you shouldn’t miss the chance to join the folks at the Octopus Diving Centre at Praia da Vitória. They take small groups to different places off the coast. We joined on an excursion to the Ilhéu das Cabras and were amazed with the wildlife: schools of small barracudas, some groupers and even an eagle ray that we spotted from a distance.
21. Mingle with the folks at the marina at Vitória beach
Praia da Vitória is home to a large marina, very popular popular with the international yachting community, who stop here on their Atlantic crossings. The marina is located in a natural harbour and is only a few minutes away from the centre of town.
22. Have a unique experience with Sailing Azores
For a unique experience at sea, off the coast of Terceira and the Triangle islands, where you can be part of the crew and help navigate, tack and steer, or just sit back on the deck to feel the breeze of the sea splash your faces with saltwater, you should reserve a sailing trip with Eve and Pete. They are experienced sailors and know the Azores well. Check their website SailingAzores to know how you can book your sailing trip. We had an amazing time with them!
23. Climb or drive to the Facho lookout
There is a staircase from Vitória beach to the Facho lookout, a strenuous 10 minute-walk, well worth the physical effort. But, it is also possible to reach it by car, via a lovely road lined by hydrangeas. On top of the lookout there is a monument dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of Praia da Vitória, inaugurated in 1999. This is a bronze six metre high statue.
24. Try the swing at the Facho lookout
The best way to enjoy the views from the lookout is to sit on the wooden swing that has been placed on top of the lookout. The name ‘facho’ (in English ‘beam’) refers to the fact that, in former times, a fire was lit at this lookout, all nights, to serve as a lighthouse to warn approaching boats that there was a nearby coast.
25. Swim at the natural pool at Porto Martins
Porto Martins is a small parish in the municipality of Praia Vitória. Besides the small bay where a lovely beach is located, the parish is known for its rock-covered vineyards and orchards with many olive trees.
26. Have a lunch break at the Búzius restaurant
This restaurant is very well located near the coast of Porto Martins and with view over the natural pools. Locals advised us to have lunch here, which is always a good sign. We were not disappointed and all the dishes we tried were delicious. It is worth to have the fish soup or the grilled calamari and shrimps on skewers.
27. Spot the different Impérios of the Island
The Cult of the Empire of the Holy Spirit is very present in the Azores. This religious cult is associated with Christian rituals and traditions, widely spread in the islands. The small chapels dedicated to the Holy Spirit are called Impérios, and are easily recognisable due to their typical architecture and colourful facades.
28. Hike at the Santa Bárbara Natural Reserve
Santa Bárbara is the mountain peak of an inactive volcano, it is also the highest point of Terceira Island, at 1,021 metres of altitude. Santa Bárbara is also a protected forest reserve, and a great place to have some hikes amongst holly and juniper forests and the huge Cryptomeria japonica.
29. Try the typical enchidos from the island
Azoreans make all kind of sausages. You ill find them in menus under their general name (enchidos) or their specific names: morcela (a kind of blood sausage) or alheira (a sauasage made with meat and bread). Each island has its own specific recipes, but they are known for having many spices, including cinnamon and ‘pimenta da terra’.
30. Hike the Mistérios Negros (PRC01 TER)
This trail is located in the natural reserve of Santa Bárbara mountain. This hike provides very close views over the geologic formations called Mistérios Negros (literally black mysteries). These are trachytic domes, which are the result of the historical eruption of 1761. It is a good hike to enjoy the endemic vegetation, such as the Erica azorica or the Azorean juniper (Juniperus brevifolia).
- Type of circuit: Circular
- Duration: 4.9 km
- Distance: 3 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Starting and Finishing Point: Next to Lagoa do Negro
31. Go to the sulfur furnades
The Furnas de Enxofre are an open air field with fumaroles. Fumaroles are ground openings near a volcano, through which hot sulphurous gases emerge. There’s a trail through the fumaroles, allowing superb views over the fumaroles and the luxury vegetation.
32. Have an expedition inside the Algar Carvão
The Algar do Carvão is an ancient lava tube, a 45-metre vertical well. We imagined how it was two thousand years ago, when magma gushed into this passage from the interior of the volcano and rushed to the exterior, where it spread down the hill, as lava streams, and into the sea.
33. Stroll in the Lagoa das Patas (Ducks Pond)
The Ducks Pond is located in a forest reserve, in the interior of Terceira Island. It gets its name because of the many ducks that inhabit near the pond. The water from this artificial pond comes Santa Bárbara mountain range. Besides the forest of Japanese red cedars, which surround the lake, there are many azaleas and hydrangeas in the area, making it a very beautiful place for picnics.
34. Don’t miss the lookout at Serra do Cume
The lookout at Serra do Cume offers views over the immense Cinco Picos Crater with its famous ‘piece of patchwork’ (green meadows split into squares by stone walls and hydrangea hedges).
35. Try the Alcatra, a traditional dish
Alcatra is a typical dish from Terceira. The name ‘alcatra’ refers to the cut of the beef (the rump), but it is also the name of this typical dish, in which the meat is cooked in a stew with red wine, garlic and black pepper for as many hours as it needs for the meat to fall apart in tender pieces.
36. Take a boat trip to the islet Ilhéu das Cabras
The llhéu das Cabras is an uninhabited islet, which is also a national protected area. The area off the coast of the Ilhéu das Cabras is popular with divers and snorkelers, due to the crystal-clear waters around it, which allow for good underwater visibility.
Tips to help you plan your visit to Terceira Island Azores
- COVID 19 Travel Restrictions
The Azores have remained in the green zone of the safest destinations for holidays in 2021. The government of the Azores is taking the Covid pandemic very seriously, and all travellers who arrive without a negative test, will be tested upon arrival as well as on the 6th and 12th days of their stay. Costs are supported by the government and the procedure is quick and smooth. Covid 19 should not hold up your visit to the Azores.
- Free Flight Routing Service to a Second Island
SATA Air Açores provides a free routing service to passengers travelling within the Azores, and to or from Mainland Portugal or Funchal. In practice this means that if you want to visit, let’s say, Flores, you only need to have a ticket to Terceira or São Miguel (the archipelago’s gateways), and do not need to buy another ticket to continue to Flores. You get a free routing to Flores (certain conditions apply, though).
- 35 EUR Safe Destination Voucher to Spend in the Azores
As a reward for arriving with a negative test and making a safety registration online, the government of the Azores is offering the Azores Safe Destination Voucher to all visitors, in the amount of 35 €. You receive the voucher via email once your registration is confirmed. The voucher is valid for 20 days counting from its issuing date and you can use it on many services and products (including car rental agencies, restaurants and travel agencies). Get your Azores voucher here.
- Transport during your Visit to Terceira Island
Unfortunately, public transport will not allow you to visit the entire island, because there are few bus routes, and the ones that exist make few journeys per day. Only the main villages are connected and often the schedule is reduced to a few trips in the morning and another one or two in the afternoon.
For travellers interested in seeing different villages, stopping at lookouts, having a break for a swim, the easiest solution is to rent a car or bike. There are some car rentals in Flores (but not many), so it is better to have this organised before arrival, to make sure you get a car. In the high season, the island can get busier.
OUR PICK: We rented our car with Autatlantis and recommend the experience.
- Useful Websites – Spotazores
Weather changes very quickly in the Azores. Locals usually say that sometimes the weather is so capricious that the four seasons show up in only one day. Also, sometimes it is raining on one side of the island, and the other side has a bright sunshine. In order to help you search for the best weather, there is a website and app (Spotazores) that features live webcams located in different places of the island. It makes it easier to decide which way to go if you are seeking for good weather or running away from fog. Here is the link to spot Azores.
- Where to stay when you visit Terceira Island
– Hotels: There is a good selection of hotels in the island. And you can find a good option, regardless of the place where you decide to stay and have as base.
- In Angra do Heroísmo we recommend the Hotel O Caracol
- In Praia da Vitória we recommend The Hotel Praia Marina
- In Cinco Ribeiras we recommend Casa das Cinco