Seven Fun Things to Do in Terceira on the Azore Archiepelago

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

Things to Do in Terceira. Terceira is located approximately 90 miles from Sao Miguel and 66 miles from Faial.
Things to Do in Terceira. Terceira sits approximately 90 miles from Sao Miguel and 66 miles from Faial.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. Angra do Heroismo served as a refuge for Queen Maria II of Portugal from 1830 to 1833.
Things to do in Terceira.  View of Angra and the cathedral.  Angra do Heroismo served as a refuge for Queen Maria II of Portugal from 1830 to 1833.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. Monte Brasil is the remnants of a tuff volcano (and peninsula) connecting the south coast of Terceira.
Things to do in Terceira. Monte Brasil serves as the remnants of a tuff volcano (and peninsula) connecting the south coast of Terceira.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. Angra was established in the latter half of the 15th century.
Things to do in Terceira. Here I dive near the Hotel Caracol.  Angra was established in the latter half of the 15th century.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. Angra served as a place of exile for Almeida Garrett during the Napoleonic Wars.
Things to do in Terceira. The view of Terceria’s north coast.  Angra served as a place of exile for Almeida Garrett during the Napoleonic 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.

Things to do in Terceira. Historically, there has been uncertainty in the date and the discoverer associated with the islands of the Azores. Nautical charts before the "official" discovery identified islands in the Atlantic Ocean as far back as 1325.
Things to do in Terceira. Historically, there has been uncertainty in the date and the discoverer associated with the islands of the Azores. Nautical charts before the “official” discovery identified islands in the Atlantic Ocean as far back as 1325.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. In 1439, the first official discovery document of the Azores appeared, attributing the discovery to Gonçalo Velho Cabral.
Things to do in Terceira. You can see me jumping into a volcanic pool.  In 1439, the first official discovery document of the Azores appeared, attributing the discovery to Gonçalo Velho Cabral.

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.

Things to do in Terceira. The colonization of the island began by decree of Infante D. Henrique (dated 21 March 1450).
Things to do in Terceira. The natural skylight of Algar do Carvao.  The colonization of Terceira began by decree of Infante D. Henrique (dated 21 March 1450).

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.

The first settlement on Terceira occurred in Quatro Ribeiras, in the locality of Portalegre, where a small chapel was raised for the invocation of Santa Ana.
The first settlement on Terceira occurred in Quatro Ribeiras, in the locality of Portalegre, where a small chapel was raised for the invocation of Santa Ana.

Do you have any questions or marks about Terceira or the Azores?

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa A Schad
    September 28, 2018 / 4:25 am

    I love that beach at the Hotel Corcoral. Am planning a retreat there soon.

    • September 29, 2018 / 3:47 am

      How great Lisa! Enjoy 🙂 We will be in Ponta Delgada in mid October.

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