Rising out of the mid-Atlantic, the Portuguese island of Terceria rests a few hours by plane off the west coast of the Iberian peninsula. Covered in lilac bushes, this volcanic outcrop serves as part of the Azorean archipelago. With limitless mild weather and a diverse topography, Terceira provides an ample array of interesting activities for most visitors. As such, please find below my list of seven fun things to do in Terceira.
Seven Fun Things to Do in Terceira on the Azore Archiepelago
Ambulate Around Angra do Heroismo’s Old Quarter
Probably the one thing I didn’t get to do enough of was wander around Angra do Heromismo’s old quarter. Also known as Angra, this beautiful city on the sea presents one of the most picturesque tourist areas around. Cobblestoned streets and interesting shops flirted with my camera, calling me back again and again.
As I wandered around, I felt the urge to keep walking so I would not miss anything. For example, each block offered an interesting vista. Perhaps it was multi-colored pastel buildings dispersed among cathedrals, or the marina with a generous supply of ships to take one out into the deep blue. Or maybe it was the sight of Angra’s main outcrop called Monte Brasil, offering a verdant mini-mountain along the coast. Regardless, it seemed wherever I ambulated in Angra’s old quarter, I was inspired to explore more.
Explore Monte Brasil
This mountainous outcrop on Angra’s southern shore, not only serves as a prime photo-op, it also offers expansive city and ocean views. I rented a car and drove slowly up and along the mountain face, stopping to take pictures of Angra’s buildings painted in pastels and frosted in red tile roofs. With the deep blue sea accenting the cities European architecture, it’s hard to differentiate this Azorean island from the streets of Lisbon, Portugal.
Take the Plunge at One of Angra’s Beaches
Pristine, warm ocean waters offer bathers an ideal aquatic experience. Probably my favorite beach sits west of Angra near the Hotel Caracol. Here a pier provides a five meter (fifteen foot) platform to plunge into the sea. Since I was a springboard diver in college, I eagerly search out spots to practice my craft. Although there was no bounce to this pier, it did offer a lovely diving spot into crystal clear water.
Drive the Coast
Terceira’s rocky coastline rivals a drive along Ireland’s Ring of Kerry. Incongruent volcanic rock formations line craggy cliffs and sharp seas. As we drove west from Angra, Sao Mateus offers a tranquil marina resting at the foot of a blue and white Wedgwood style cathedral. Further on, the farmland of Cinco Ribeiras left us dodging cattle as we maneuvered down the narrow streets.
On the north side of the island, the cliffs turn steeper and more jagged as the waves crash violently. We then cheated and cut south back to Angra, skipping the northeast and eastern parts of the island. That saves something for our return trip. Lastly we drove a bit east of Angra to observe two interesting islets called Ilheus das Cabras. These two private, uninhabited mini islands resemble some sort of odd alien planet you’d see in Star Wars.
Summit Santa Barbara
For a change of scenery we summited the peak of Santa Barbara in the western part of the island. Temperatures dropped as we ascended into the clouds as a forest of red cedars surrounded us. They say the views from the top are amazing. But on this day the cloud cover made visibility impossible.
Swim in the Volcanic Pools in Biscoitos
Various natural swimming pools formed along the ocean edge when the volcano erupted thousands of years ago forming what is now Terceira. We headed to the northern town of Biscoitis to partake in the unique experience. But instead of bathing with the throngs of tourists and locals in the main part of town we headed east to a more secluded section to swim in the mild ocean waters. Stairs and railings have been installed to make the experience more user-friendly and less risky on the normally jagged volcanic rocks.
Descend into Algar do Carvao
A giant underground cavern was created millennia ago when the volcano erupted forming Terceira. As I climbed down the man-made steps into the abyss, I felt like I was entering Mount Doom in the movie Lord of the Rings. I almost expected satanic creatures to appear from the darkness, toiling away in the dank, middle-earth environment.
It’s also exhilarating to look around and know at one point a colossal lava flow formed the asymmetrical cave and surrounding island. You can even look up towards the large, circular hole and see the sky. Lined with various layers of greenery and earth the escape hatch creates an optical illusion as it opens to the skies above.
The Basics of our Stay in Terceira
We stayed at a lovely boutique hostel in Angra called My Angra Botique Hotel. Jose, the owner, set us up with a rental car and the layout of the island. His dining recommendations were also spot on, referring us to both Tasca las Tias and Caneta.
At the time of this article Azore Airlines is offering free layovers of up to one week in the Azores from flights on the US east coast to Lisbon. As the weather in the Azores hovers between 50 – 80 F (10-27c) annually, you can really come at anytime year round and enjoy pleasant weather.
Do you have any questions or marks about Terceira or the Azores?
Please let me know in the comments!