Terceira was the second and final island we visited during our time in the Azores. With a total of 9 islands in the Azores, we’ll definitely be visiting more of these islands off the coast of Portugal in the near future. Our first few days were spent on the island of São Miguel with a slightly unbalanced mix of ample rainfall and a pittance of sunshine. Weather in the Azores is pretty mild throughout the year, though slightly more cool and rainy in the fall and winter months. We can confirm that it is as they say, “You can experience 4 seasons in a day in the Azores“. Even despite the occasional rain during our early November visit, it was an island paradise we’d wholeheartedly recommend. With affordable flights to the Azores from the US and mainland Europe, it’s becoming easier to visit this beautiful island chain.
Things to Do in Terceira
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Terceira, many of which are focused on enjoying the natural beauty of this gorgeous island.
Algar do Carvão
Algar do Carvão is an ancient lava tube located in the geographic center of the island. It is one of a few places in the world where you can walk inside an extinct volcano. While its name loosely translates to cave of coal, Algar do Carvão is not a producer of coal and is most likely named after the the dark composition of the interior rocks. Get ready to climb a few hundred stairs as you explore the depths of this mesmerizing geological wonder. Above you, you will see a fern grotto leading up to the outside world along with stalactites hanging from the interior ceilings. At its deepest point, you will come upon a shimmering lagoon (though lack of rainfall in the summer months may cause the lagoon to temporarily dry up). Please note that the cave has varied opening hours with very limited access in the off-season. Check Algar do Carvão’s website (you may need to use Google Translate) or check with the information desk at the Terceira airport for more information about opening hours.
Though the climate in the Azores is said to be mild year-round, there is no way you would’ve caught us in our swimsuits in the alluring turquoise water in early November; it was much too cold for that! That’s not to say that we didn’t immensely enjoy observing the beautiful and sometimes turbulent waters from land. The town of Biscoitos has a captivating coastline with black lava rocks creating a buffer for the ever-changing tides. Calheta dos Biscoitos is the largest natural pool in this region, where it looks as if the ocean water is breathing as it quickly rises and lowers with the tide. We seriously could’ve spent all day watching the waves crash against ragged rocks, but we had much more exploring to do!
Biscoitos Wine Museum
Also in the town of Biscoitos is a family-run wine cellar and museum that has been open since the early 90s. We enjoyed a quick guided walk around the grounds learning about the history of viticulture in this wind-swept and rock-strewn region. One of many interesting things that we learned during our visit is that the vines grow from the rich porous lava rock, as opposed to growing in fertile soil. Inside the museum is an interesting collection of decades-old wine-making tools. The brief, yet informative tour ends with a delicious sampling of locally produced wines, all of which are reasonably priced if you’re looking to take home a memento from your visit!
Best Views in Terceira
As mentioned before, most of the things to do in Terceira simply involve taking in the breathtaking views around the island, and in most cases it requires getting above sea level for the most spectacular panoramas!
Miradouro do Facho
If the weather is right, this should be your very first stop upon leaving the Terceira Airport. Located just 5 minutes away, Miradouro do Facho offers incredible views over the town of Praia da Vitória and its harbor below. There’s a good chance you will have already seen this wonderful viewpoint from above during your descent onto the island.
Serra do Cume
For iconic shots of the most notable landscapes on Terceira, head up to Serra do Cume. Though it is situated on relatively flat terrain, the Serra do Cume overlook sits high at 1,800 ft (545 m). Two different stops upon the hilltop provide endless panoramic views of the island’s beautiful countryside, nearby small towns, and the surrounding vast Atlantic ocean.
Along the shorelines of Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira’s capital city, are the remnants of a now-extinct volcano. The naturally-formed peninsula, known as Monte Brasil, is another great spot on the island for outstanding scenic views. Follow the designated hiking trail or drive your car to the summit. São João Baptista Fort, located on Monte Brasil is the oldest fortress that has been continuously occupied by the Portuguese army. You will find old out-of-commission artillery pieces near the summit, in addition to a cross indicating the discovery of the island in 1432.
Hiking is one of many active things to do in Terceira, in addition to cycling, kayaking, and paragliding, to name a few. We had planned to go kayaking on the island of São Miguel, but strong winds and relentless rain had other plans for us that day. On Terceira, we were hoping to fit in some hiking, but again, the rain thwarted our plans, though not entirely. Our goal was to hike Baías da Agualva, a 2.5 mile (4 km) circular loop, though because of recent downpours, the trails were rather muddy. Following our muddy hiking adventure in Austria, we weren’t exactly looking forward to trudging through the mud, so instead we drove out to the lookout point in Aqualva and simply enjoyed the spectacular views. A friendly local told us about a nearby pigeon cave that only required about 10-minute hike, and he even walked us halfway there. This was quite possibly one of our favorite views on Terceira!
Upon leaving Algar do Carvão (cave), we made our way toward the western coast on our journey back to where we were staying near Angra do Heroísmo. This took us through the region of Santa Bárbara, which contains Serra de Santa Bárbara, an inactive volcano that is the highest point on the entire island at 3,350 feet (1,021 m). At the base of the ascent to the Serra, you will find the Santa Bárbara Interpretation Centre which strives to educate visitors on the natural heritage of Terceira Natural Park. While we didn’t make it all the way to the highest point on the island, we were quite satisfied with the views from the road on our drive toward the coast. It looks like a beautiful region of the island that definitely warrants further exploration. So much to see, so little time. For this reason alone, you should allow no less than 3 days on the island.
Following a delicious lunch in the town of Altares (which you’ll read more about shortly), we continued westward to Raminho. Just 10 miles from the gorgeous cliffs in Aqualva is another stunning viewpoint showcasing more jagged cliffs along the island’s northern coast. Seriously, the views are insanely beautiful!
Ponta das Contendas
On the complete opposite side of the island, in the southeast corner, is the Ponta das Contendas Lighthouse, built in 1934. The drive along the southern coast offers numerous places to pull over and admire the views, including the beautiful bay, Baía da Mina. How lucky are these cows to have oceanfront pastures to graze?
Towns to Visit in Terceira
Praia da Vitória
As mentioned, Praia da Vitória is just a 5 minute drive from the airport, so it can easily be your first stop during your visit to Terceira Island. And what a scenic first impression it is! The town boasts cobbled streets, colorful churches, an impressive town hall, modern marina, and beautiful beach (Prainha da Praia da Vitória, meaning Beach of the Victory), which in the summer months is packed with sunbathers! While wandering about the town, particularly near the beach, keep your eyes peeled for pieces of the old town wall (erected ~1480).
Angra do Heroísmo
And here we thought Praia da Vitória was colorful! The capital city of Angra do Heroísmo takes vibrancy to a whole new level! There’s not a dull block in the whole city. The entire town center was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for its unique architecture and cultural significance. With plenty of museums, cathedrals, gardens, and restaurants to visit, there is plenty to do in the bustling capital city of Angra.
Located just a short drive from Angra is the tiny town of Porto Judeu (Jewish Port). Wander through the quaint town center consisting of just a few colorful buildings, including a church and post office, then make your way to the coastline where you will find natural swimming pools and a trail leading to a few geothermal vents. Also, while near Porto Judeu, don’t miss a stop at the Cruz do Canario Viewpoint where you will have wonderful views of Terceira’s southern coast and the nearby Ilhéus das Cabras (dual islet).
Vila de São Sebastião, commonly shortened to São Sebastião, has a beautifully preserved city center, including a handful of 16th-century buildings. In addition to admiring the bell tower of Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião (church), you’ll want to take a step inside where you’ll find the walls adorned with late medieval frescoes.
Places to Eat on Terceira Island
Cais D’Angra – Angra do Heroísmo
Cais D’Angra, located near the harbor in Angra do Heroísmo, has an insanely extensive menu with plenty of starters, tapas, and main entrees to choose from. The menu also boasts a substantial wine and beer list, in addition to a delicious selection of desserts, if you have any room at the completion of your meal! The prices were very reasonable, considering it’s practically waterfront dining!
Hotel Beira Mar – Angra do Heroísmo
Just around the corner from Cais D’Angra is the restaurant at Hotel Beria Mar, another great selection for your time in Angra do Heroísmo. The food is wholesome, fresh, and savory. Behind the bar, a large window into the kitchen allows you to see the chefs in action. You can choose to sit on the open-air terrace for views over the harbor, though because smoking is allowed on the terrace and it was rather chilly outside, we elected to sit in the charming dining room.
QB Restaurant – Angra do Heroísmo
Located on the outskirts of the capital city is QB Restaurant. There are two components to this popular Terceira restaurant – a casual food court downstairs and a more formal restaurant upstairs serving a pre-fixed 4 course menu. We had the 4-course meal and it was definitely more than enough food! Besides the mushroom risotto, which was a little too dry for my taste, we enjoyed the delectable spread. The staff was generous to modify the menu slightly to accommodate my pescatarian preferences, which was much appreciated.
O Pescador – Praia da Vitória
The staff at O Pescador in Praia da Vitória treats you like family from the moment you walk in the door. With a plethora of menu options, there’s something for everyone! They specialize in seafood and as I had eaten my fair share of fish during our time on the island, I decided to branch out and try something different. Not my smartest move, as I was seriously jealous of Sam’s fish entree. The vegetarian paella I ordered was adequate, but sadly not my favorite meal on the island. Fortunately, there were plenty of other delicious items we sampled, like the locally-made Dona Amélia cakes. O Pescador comes highly recommended and has pretty much nothing but outstanding ratings online, so it’s definitely a restaurant you want to check out during your time on Terceira.
Restaurante Caneta – Altares
On the north side of the island in the small village of Altares you’ll find the outstanding Restaurante Caneta. Feel as if you’ve stepped into the home of your Portuguese grandma and dine on some of the most authentic and fresh Azorean cuisine on the island. Everything we ate here was exquisite and we cannot recommend this restaurant enough. It’s definitely worth the drive, even if you’re staying in Angra do Heroísmo, as there is plenty to see on the north side of the island, such as Biscoitos, Aqualva, and Raminho, for example.
Quinta do Martelo – São Mateus
For our final dining experience on Terceira, we visited Quinta do Martelo for a memorable evening filled with stories of culture and local history, along with exceptional traditional cuisine. Quinta do Martelo isn’t just a restaurant, they offer unique lodging opportunities on their expansive estate. Oh, how I wish we would’ve had more time to explore the grounds. They’ve gone to great lengths to recreate what life was like on a traditional rural farm five centuries ago, complete with restored workshops and a museum. In the restaurant, they use only the freshest ingredients and still cook with a wood-burning oven. Because of its unique charm and authenticity, it was probably our favorite dining experience during our visit to Terceira.
Where to Stay on Terceira Island
Quinta das Mercês
We strive for eccentric accommodations when we travel and Quinta das Mercês did not disappoint. In fact, it was perhaps one of the most fascinating places we’ve stayed. Set on 8.5 acres (35,000 sq m), parts of the dwelling date back to the 16th-century. During your stay, ask to see pictures of the estate before restoration and you will be amazed at just how much work it took to transform the accommodation into what it is today. There’s even a chapel on the grounds.
Complete with a sea water swimming pool, Turkish bath house, jacuzzi, gym, tennis courts, billiards room, and forest paths to explore, you may be tempted to never leave the property. Mingle with the friendly owners and other guests in one of many sitting rooms throughout the house and make yourself at home. Watch the sun set over the Atlantic from the front of the estate and then settle into the posh and cozy accommodations for a good night’s rest.
So, now that we’ve shared with you all of the wonderful things to do in Terceira, we should probably tell all about travel to the Azores! If you’re in the US, fortunately there are direct flights to the Azores with Azores Airlines, including from Boston to Terceira. With Azores Airlines, you can also fly direct to Terceira from Lisbon (mainland Portugal) or with stops from several destinations throughout Europe. In addition, they provide inter-island transfers in the event that you want to visit some of the other islands in the Azores archipelago.
Car Rental on Terceira Island
It is highly recommended that you rent a car during your time in the Azores. Public transportation is somewhat scarce and it’s much easier to explore at your own pace with a rental car. Compact manual cars are pretty standard and suit island driving just fine. We had a small, basic car through Autatlantis and had zero problems during our time exploring Terceira.
The Azorean people are truly lovely and very welcoming. We honestly wish we had more time to spend with the locals to learn more about their traditions and culture. With easy transport to the islands in the Azores, the archipelago is quickly becoming a go-to island destination and we encourage you to visit before too many people discover just how wonderful the islands in the Azores truly are! Our visit coincided with the off-season (early November), and while the Azores weather didn’t always cooperate, we were able to experience the natural beauty of what is known as the Hawaii of Europe with very minimal crowds. For a look at our stay on the island of Terceira, check out our video:
TIP: To check the weather around the island before you head out, check the Terceira web cams on the SpotAzores website. The weather could be different at various spots throughout the island, so you might be able to make last minute adjustments to your plans to avoid less than ideal conditions.
We’d like to thank the Azores Promotion Board and Azores Airlines for sponsoring our visit to the island of Terceira. As always, our write-ups are an accurate reflection of the experiences we had.