Terceira Island in the Azores – 7 Things I Love

Secluded in the middle of the Atlantic, sits a series of nine Portuguese islands called the Azores.  Still relatively undiscovered by modern tourism, they radiate a Mediterranean charm and simplicity.  I sojourned over a long weekend on the second largest island called Terceira.  Without a doubt I relished Terceira’s raw, unspoiled beauty, and am already dreaming of a hasty return.  Below please find the seven things I love about Terceira.

Terceira Island in the Azores – 7 Things I Love

Terceira possesses a population of 56,000 inhabitants in an area of approximately 396.75 square kilometers (153.19 square miles)
Terceira possesses a population of 56,000 inhabitants in an area of approximately 396.75 square kilometers (153.19 square miles)

1 – The Location

Just four and a half short hours from Boston, we landed at night on Terceira.  Normally when we go to Europe, flights head north towards Greenland, so it seems at some point we are always near land.  However, to reach the Azores the airlines head east, straight over the open ocean.  Knowing we are literally in the middle of nowhere further enhances their mystery.

Then off in the distance out of the void appears the twinkling lights of the Azores.  As I buckle in for the landing, little do I know I’m about to discover one of Portugal’s obscure treasures.  In fact, I certainly did not expect to find such Mediterranean class and charm on an island that sits so far off the European coast.

Part of the sophistican comes from the exclusion.  Still relatively unfazed and undisturbed by modern tourism, Terceria oozes old world charisma.  Come soon while this virgin paradise remains unsullied.

Angra do Heroísmo is the Azore's oldest city and the historical capital of the archipelago.
Angra do Heroísmo is the Azore’s oldest city and the historical capital of the archipelago.

2 – The Architecture

The buildings in Terceira’s main city of Angra do Heroismo look like they were picked right off the streets of Lisbon.  Pretty pastels like pink, light blue and yellow, cover Spanish Renaissance type architecture, while red tile roofs line the horizon.  Colorful cathedrals appear around many corners, enhancing Tercerira’s architectural style.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d expect to be wandering the streets of some classic European city.  However, here I am on a relatively small island placed pretty much in the middle of the open ocean.  The designer in me dances enthusiastically as the kaleidoscope of colors carries off into the sunset.

Angra do Heroísmo is a World Heritage Site.
Angra do Heroísmo is a World Heritage Site.

3 – The Weather

Terceira boasts annually temperate weather.  It’s 75 and sunny in the summer and 55 and sunny in the winter.  Without any great temperature fluctuations, Terceria makes itself a very pleasant place to visit year round.

When we went in early September, we wore shorts and sandals in the daytime and a long sleeve shirt at night.  Frequently I went swimming in the ocean with water temperatures a warm 78 degrees.  Rarely was I too cold or too hot.

A small number of hypogea (earthen structures carved into rocks, that were used for burials) were discovered on the island of Terceira, indicating a history of settlement that may date back 2000 years/
A small number of hypogea (earthen structures carved into rocks, that were used for burials) were discovered on the island of Terceira, indicating a history of settlement that may date back 2000 years.

4 – The People

On Terceira the honor code prevails.  When I lacked cash to pay for my coffee at the local cafe, the merchant told me to just return later.  Then at my quaint hostel, the patron offers food and drinks for sale using the honor system. Take what you like and just write down in the adjacent registry the item(s) consumed.

Such a trusting culture and people are rare now a days.  However, it’s refreshing to find people who are not yet jaded by globalism and con-artists.  I only hope society on Terceira can stay small and innocent as tourism grows.

The island of Terceira consists of four overlapping stratovolcanoes built over a geologic structure called the Terceira Rift.
The island of Terceira consists of four overlapping stratovolcanoes built over a geologic structure called the Terceira Rift.

5 – The Cleanliness

The island is practically devoid of trash.  Streets are pristine.  And it seems everyone recycles.  Even at the local grocery store, from young to old, rich and poor, everyone brought their own bags instead of using the store’s plastic ones.

At the beach and on the shores, finding trash took effort.  And the ocean waters sparkled, garbage free and translucent from top to bottom.  Out here in the middle of the Atlantic with such an eco-friendly populace, the global trash problem might as well be on Mars.

The main economic activity on the island is raising of livestock and the production of dairy-based products.
The main economic activity on the island is raising of livestock and the production of dairy-based products.

6 – The Topography

Terceira’s topography is very diverse and visually stimulating.  On such a small island, it’s rare to see a rocky coastline, oceans, mountains, farmland as well as thick forests all on one small piece of land.  And to think this utopia started centuries ago from volcanic eruptions!

Starting on the coastline, shores are rocky and quite jagged.  And on the north part of the island, cliffs cover the main part of the shore.  As we stood and gazed out into the deep blue, undulating ocean waves really made us feel like we were stranded in the middle of the Atlantic.

However, as we headed inland the landscape turned mountainous and green.  Hillsides are covered with rich farmland.  And lilac bushes appear in multitudes, giving Terceria the nickname “Lilac Island”.

Then as we drove to some of the mountaintops, the slopes were iced in red cedars.  For a moment, it almost didn’t feel like we were on the same volcanic island.  In such a short time period the weather turned cool and wet as we climbed into the clouds.

The western part of Terceira Island is more heavily forested than the eastern part, due to the prevailing westerly winds bringing increased precipitation to that side.
The western part of Terceira Island is more heavily forested than the eastern part, due to the prevailing westerly winds bringing increased precipitation to that side.

7 – The Seafood

With open ocean surrounding Terceira, the island offers some of the freshest seafood around.  On our first night in town we dined on scrumptious grilled tuna at Tasca las Tias in downtown Angra.  Then the following day for lunch we had divine octopus at Caneta.  We could easily tell the locals cared about the quality and freshness of their food.

Considering making reservations as venues pack quickly.  Furthermore, there aren’t that many restaurants around.  So a small selection of prime spots with incredibly delicious food really don’t need to compete for your business.

Administratively, Terceira is divided (along an irregular diagonal frontier from north-northwest to south-southeast) into two municipalities: Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória.
Administratively, Terceira is divided (along an irregular diagonal frontier from north-northwest to south-southeast) into two municipalities: Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória.

Terceira in a Nut Shell

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a charming, colorful and classic island deposited in the mid-Atlantic.  Prices are still affordable.  So much so, you can buy a decent sized home for under $150,000 USD.

And Terceira is so clean – from the streets to the ocean water, trash appears as frequently as bigfoot.  With such a friendly and trusting populace, Terceira is so unspoiled in many ways.

The portugues bullfight is popular on the island, coming in two variations: the traditional equestrian bullfight (in the ring) and the popular “touradas à corda” that occur in the streets.
The portugues bullfight is popular on the island, coming in two variations: the traditional equestrian bullfight (in the ring) and the popular “touradas à corda” that occur in the streets.

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

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

Follow:
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.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

8 Comments

  1. Scottie
    September 12, 2018 / 11:38 am

    This looks like a great destination. Do you know what the weather is like in other seasons?
    We loved Portugal also.
    Well done descriptions y photos.

    • September 12, 2018 / 1:20 pm

      Hi, Scottie. In the winter lows are in the 50s and highs in the 60s. Then in the spring and fall lows are in the 60s and highs in the 70s. In the summer the lows are in the 70s and highs in the 80s.

  2. Haley Burns
    September 12, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    Hey there!

    How was the hiking? I’m planning an Azores trip in January with the main goal of being able to trail run everyday. I know the trail systems are extensive on Sao Miguel, curious about Terceira!

    • September 14, 2018 / 9:11 am

      Hi, Haley. i did not go hiking. But I did ask my friend Jose of the My Angra Botique Hostel and this is what he told me:

      About trails in the Azores, there is a good website that you can recommend trails.visitazores.com where the information is accurate and always updated.

      As for Terceira at the moment there are 8 trails the shortest is 4km and the longest around 10km. One that people usually use for trail run is Monte Brasil Trail.

      On Faial and Santa Maria islands thereis a long trail specially marked for trail runners. On the following website https://www.azorestrailrun.com/ your reader will find more information specifically about trail running, such as marked routes and specially events that take place in the Azores.

      Best,

      Matt

  3. Marcia Moreira
    September 12, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    Great article, Matt!! I have been living here since December 1994. I love it!! Thank you for letting the world know about the precious gem of an island we are so fortunate to live on. Come back soon!! We are extremely hospitable people. On of a kind 🙂

    • September 13, 2018 / 2:41 am

      Thank you Marcia. I can see why you live there. It’s beautiful!!

  4. September 13, 2018 / 5:46 am

    Great Article!

    I am native of Terceira, and I am a tour guide who is proud to show this little piece of paradise to who visit it.

    I don’t know if you got any tour, but If you come back, I would like to guide you here in the island, would be a pleasure. 😉

    Have a great day!

    Gui

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[instagram-feed]