Terceira island is part of the archipelago of Azores and is located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1600 km west of Lisbon and 4000 km southeast of New York. Together with São Miguel, Terceira is probably the most beautiful island in the archipelago.
This is one of the biggest islands on the Atlantic with a population of around 56 437 inhabitants, located mainly in Angra do Heroísmo, the oldest city in Azores and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Initially known as the island of Jesus Christ, Terceira island was colonised around the year 1450, but it started to gain more and more relevance during the 16th and 17th centuries, when galleons returning from America with goods and riches traded with ships returning from India.
To learn more about Terceira’s history, I suggest you visit the museum MAH in Angra do Heroísmo so that you can better understand how this island in the middle of the North Atlantic evolved.
This remote archipelago is just full of adventures and is, in a way, the Hawaii of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, one can do all sorts of activities like whale-watching, sailing, scuba-diving, hiking, canyoning and other water sports; for the most adventurous, paragliding is also an option. Apart from that, you can also enjoy the landscape itself: a paradise with amazing caves and lagoons that appeared due to the island’s volcanic activity.
Hiring a car is the easiest way to explore Terceira island because you can only get to some of the island’s points of interest that way. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit some well-known locations on the island like the mountain Serra do Cume and the cave Algar do Carvão, a volcanic-origin location situated in the centre of the island.
Due to its remote location in the middle of the Atlantic, weather forecast in Terceira island can be, sometimes, hard. In the summer months it is perfectly normal to be hot in one place and raining in another; when the sun sets, the ocean breeze tends to cool down the island.
In your bags, I suggest you put some light and fresh clothes along with some warmer clothes and suitable footwear for hiking. Throughout the year, the temperature varies from 13 ºC to 26 ºC and the island is known for its mild weather, attracting visitors who want to enjoy the summer days or escape the European cold winter.
Discover in this article the most beautiful places to visit in Terceira island, the best itinerary, the best activities and tours, where to sleep, where to eat and the traditions and festivities.
Top 15 of the places to visit in Terceira island
1. Angra do Heroísmo
Main city in Terceira island and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1983, Angra do Heroísmo, or just Angra, is an architectural dream. When strolling through the streets of the historic centre, one becomes amazed with all the beautiful facades, a beautiful palette of colours in Baroque style.
The main streets of the city are the perfect place for an array of shops, restaurants and galleries, all displaying the Portuguese life and culture.
Explore the city and don’t miss the opportunity to visit the church Igreja da Misericórdia, the bay of Angra, the museum Museu de Angra do Heroísmo, the garden Jardim Duque da Terceira and much more!
2. Miradouro da Cruz do Canário
Located 10 km away from the beautiful city of Angra do Heroísmo, Cruz do Canário viewpoint is another place worth visiting.
From this viewpoint you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the seascape and sight the islets Ilhéus das Cabras, a place where some bird species nest and some small cetaceans swim by.
3. Piscinas Naturais de Porto Martins
The natural pools of Porto Martins, located on the eastern coast of the island, are great to enjoy some leisure moments and the true, pristine nature of Terceira island.
This bathing area is the perfect place for swimming due to its depth and dimension. One of the must-see places during the spring and summer, know that these natural pools have the structural conditions to welcome visitors, such as a bar, a restaurant, WC, showers and surveillance – more than enough reasons to be attributed with the blue flag (a testament to its quality).
4. Praia da Vitória
Praia da Vitória is a small city with approximately 6600 inhabitants and its location is close to Lajes Airbase. Due to its proximity to the airbase, it’s only natural that you see American soldiers around.
Despite being small, it’s a picturesque city with colourful houses and churches and you’ll also find beautiful parks and some restaurants and bars.
Miradouro do Facho
If weather allows it, this viewpoint should be your first stop after leaving the airport Aerogare Civil das Lajes. Located 5.5 km away, Facho viewpoint offers amazing views over the city of Praia da Vitória and its harbour.
Império do Divino Espírito Santo da Caridade
Império do Divino Espírito Santo da Caridade is located at the parish of Santa Cruz and was founded in 1941. A beautiful celebration takes place here in honour of the Divine Holy Spirit (Divino Espírito Santo) on the last Sunday in September and a procession marches from here to the church Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz.
Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz
Located 500 metres away from the Império, you’ll find the church Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz, erected in 1456, under the wing of Jácome de Bruges, an important Flemish noble.
In 1577 it underwent a reconstruction process and, at that time, the king D. Sebastião offered marble portals in Manueline style that are still there. Due to several earthquakes that destroyed part of the island throughout the centuries, this church underwent several modifications until this day.
5. Miradouro da Serra do Cume
To fully admire the amazing and breathtaking landscape of Terceira island, you should go to Serra do Cume. Even though it’s located in a relatively flat terrain, Serra do Cume viewpoint is at 545 metres of altitude.
From this viewpoint you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the panoramic views of the landscape, the small towns and villages surrounding Serra do Cume, and of the Atlantic Ocean.
6. Miradouro da Alagoa da Fajãzinha
Located on the north coast of Terceira island, Alagoa viewpoint is one of the viewpoints you must visit!
As part of Alagoa da Fajãzinha Natural Reserve, this is a unique place that stands out for its biodiversity and here you’ll have the opportunity to admire protected animal species and plants apart from the lush vegetation and the Atlantic Ocean.
If you love hiking, then you should know that this viewpoint is close to the trail Trilho das Baías da Agualva.
If you’re looking for white-sand beaches, you came to the wrong place. Terceira island, like the other islands of Azores archipelago, is a volcanic island characterised by a volcanic-rock shaped coastline. Instead of white-sand beaches, you’ll find natural pools (the archipelago also has black-sand beaches) in volcanic rock like the ones in Biscoitos, in the northern coast of the island.
These pools were naturally formed after the volcanic eruptions and now they’re perfect for swimming on those hot summer days. Due to their unique formation, the water in these pools stays warm while the water of other pools, closer to the ocean, are constantly filled with cold water from the sea.
Museu do Vinho
In Biscoitos, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Wine Museum and learn more about the local wine and the importance of Verdelho grape variety throughout the centuries.
Inside the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to admire several objects used in the production of wine, a Verdelho wine cellar, a distillery and a tasting and bottling room.
8. Miradouro da Ponta do Queimado
Ponta do Queimado viewpoint is located at a cape called Ponta do Queimado, at Serreta parish, in the municipality of Angra do Heroísmo.
Located in the westernmost point of Terceira island, this viewpoint is on the top of a cliff, 600 metres away from the lighthouse Farol da Serreta.
As a curiosity, you should know that this place was used during the 19th century to spot whales due to the panoramic view it offers over the Atlantic Ocean.
9. Miradouro da Serra de Santa Bárbara
This viewpoint is located at Serra de Santa Bárbara, the highest point in Terceira island, constituted by what’s left of the biggest volcano on the island.
Once you get to Serra de Santa Bárbara viewpoint, located at around 1000 metres of altitude, take your time to enjoy the landscape that stretches all the way to the sea – this is definitely one of the places that offers the best views over Terceira island.
10. Lagoa das Patas
The lagoon Lagoa das Patas is located at a forest reserve with the same name. This is an artificial lagoon that gets its waters from Serra de Santa Bárbara.
This is the perfect place to have a picnic and whoever comes here will have the opportunity to enjoy an idyllic scenery. When you visit this place, make sure to spend some time admiring the beautiful fauna and flora.
11. Gruta do Natal
Also known as the Christmas cave due to the Christmas Catholic Masses that take place here, this cave is, in fact, a system of lava tubes created by flowing lava originated by the surrounding volcanoes, centuries ago. Gruta do Natal is close to one of the points of interest you can’t miss: Algar do Carvão.
To get inside this cave, you’ll need to wear the necessary equipment like helmets to protect your head because of the low ceilings, irregular terrain and stalactites. This cave was restored and a support house was built here so that this place would become more accessible for all sorts of public.
12. Furnas do Enxofre
At the sulphur fumaroles there is a lot of volcanic activity under the surface that escapes through the cracks in the ground. These cracks release a sulphur smell that lingers in the air for some time.
This will be a relaxing stroll, different from many others you can take on this island, a stroll in which the dominant colour is green, from the meadows and woods.
Information: if you have already visited Caldeiras das Furnas in São Miguel island, Furnas do Enxofre can be left behind on your list of places to visit in Terceira. The fumaroles of Caldeiras das Furnas are much more impressive!
13. Algar do Carvão
One of the most interesting places on the island is the cave Algar do Carvão, an old volcano and lava tube located in the centre of the island.
There are few places like this in the world where one can go inside a volcano. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to admire a volcanic pipe and a secondary magma chamber. It’s basically a place where you can stroll inside a beautiful volcano covered with moss, in a sort of magical atmosphere.
When you visit Algar do Carvão, you’ll enter through its top and then you’ll climb down the volcanic pipe. Afterwards, you’ll get to the first chamber where you can admire a set of stalactites and stalagmites.
Next, you can proceed to the second chamber where there is a small lake formed by rainwater throughout the years.
The religious cult to the Holy Spirit in Terceira island is a tradition deep-rooted for some centuries now. It all started with the influence of the queen Santa Isabel who introduced the cult in mainland Portugal during the 14th century.
Decades later, by the time of the Age of Discovery, the cult spread to the Portuguese islands until it reached the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, to Brazil.
In Terceira island, as in the rest of Azores archipelago, this cult has a special relevance since it is made in the so-called “Impérios”. “Impérios” is the name given to small religious buildings with beautiful facades, all different, and that spread out through the parishes, especially after the second half of the 19th century, so that everyone would have a permanent location to pay tribute to the Divine Holy Spirit.
Each year an “imperador” (a respected person in the community) is appointed and he/she becomes responsible for the organisation and financing of the festivities in honour of the Holy Spirit. Apart from that, the “imperador” keeps the crown, the sceptre and the orb of the Holy Spirit in his/her house, in an improvised altar where people can pray for some time.
The brotherhoods, responsible for the “Impérios”, organise the “lunches of the Holy Trinity” and during the festivities they distribute soup and other essential goods.
Among others, you can admire the “impérios” of São Sebastião, Caridade, Terra Chã and Ladeira Branca.
15. Walking trails
In Terceira island, one of the activities you must do is go for a hike on a walking trail, where you can contemplate nature at its best while discovering some true hidden treasures of Azores.
Baías da Agualva
Hike the north coast of the island, in the Baías da Agualva walking trail, which is part of the protected area Área Protegida para a Gestão de Habitats ou Espécies da Costa das Quatro Ribeiras. It is well signalled and is the perfect walk to get to know all the biodiversity in Terceira island.
This is an easy 4-km walking trail so it won’t take you longer than two hours to complete it.
Rocha do Chambre
Rocha do Chambre walking trail is 9.3 km long and begins in a location called Malha Grande, near Biscoitos. You’ll hike through a gravel trail surrounded by the endemic flora like laurel, holm oak and juniper.
Contrary to the previous walking trail, Rocha do Chambre is a medium-difficulty trail since its highest point is at 708 metres of altitude. You should know that you’ll have the opportunity to admire the forest natural reserve Reserva Natural Florestal do Biscoito da Ferraria e Pico Alto.
- Necessary days to explore Terceira island: 3 dias
Travel guide to visit the 15 most beautiful places in Terceira island
To explore the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, I suggest you stroll its streets so that you can easily discover the different points of interest of this city, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1983.
To get to the places furthest from Angra do Heroísmo, you can choose one of these three options: take a taxi, take a bus or hire a car.
Depending on the number of days of your stay and to get to know all the points of interest in Terceira island that I suggest in this article and others, I recommend you hire a car here (affiliate link).
If you don’t want to hire a car or don’t have much time to explore the island, you can choose to book one of the tours that local companies offer. Find below some of my suggestions:
Terceira island tour (affiliate link)
With this activity, you’ll have the opportunity to admire not only Angra do Heroísmo but other parts of Terceira island. This is one of the best tours one can take in Azores and you’ll be able to explore the whole island, enjoy the amazing landscapes and much more!
Apart from the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, you’ll have the opportunity to explore other fascinating locations such as the already mentioned Algar do Carvão.
If you don’t have much time to explore the island, then know this is one of the best ways to do it! Throughout this tour, you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide who knows the island and its secrets like few. Don’t miss it!
Caves and craters in Terceira island (affiliate link)
In this 4-hour long activity, you’ll have the opportunity to explore some of the places mentioned above, located in the outskirts of Angra de Heroísmo.
In addition to visiting the highest point on the island, by taking this activity you can explore the cave Gruta do Natal and the sulphur fumaroles (Furnas do Enxofre) until you get to the highlight of the tour: Algar do Carvão.
Whale watching and tour on Terceira island (affiliate link)
Aside from its natural beauty, the archipelago of Azores is known for being an excellent location for watching cetaceans, like whales, and other beautiful marine species.
By doing this activity, know that you’ll start by a boat tour in search of beautiful cetaceans. Needless to say, you can also admire the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean and Terceira’s coastline.
After this marine adventure, you’ll still have some time to explore the beautiful island on a comfortable jeep that will take you to some of the most authentic places through some of the less known routes.
How to get to Terceira island
There aren’t many options to get to Terceira island. In fact, you can only get there by taking a plane between this and other islands of the archipelago but also mainland Portugal and some other international destinations.
As an alternative, you should also know that, during the high season, you can get to the island by ferry, if you’re staying in one of the other islands of Azores.
Where to sleep in Terceira island
Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo **** (affiliate link)
Located in the fort Forte de São Sebastião, Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo is one of the best places to spend the night during your visit to the city.
Among other amenities, know that you’ll have at your disposal two pools: one for adults and another for children. There is also an amazing restaurant where you can enjoy wonderful regional dishes.
In this four-star hotel, you can enjoy the amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean and Monte Brasil Natural Reserve. Apart from this, its privileged location offers its guests the opportunity to easily access other points of interest on foot, like Marina d’Angra and the church Igreja da Misericórdia.
Hotel Beira Mar *** (affiliate link)
This three-star hotel offers its guests a great value for money and is located at the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, facing Prainha de Angra.
Apart from the comfortable rooms, enjoy the wonderful breakfast while admiring the landscape from the terrace, where Monte Brasil stands out.
Hotel Zenite ** (affiliate link)
Located at the heart of the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, Hotel Zenite is just 200 metres away from the Cathedral, 300 metres away from the garden Jardim Duque da Terceira and 450 metres away from the city’s museum MAH.
This two-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms and cable television. For the main courses, you can explore the streets close to the hotel where you can choose from a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Where to eat in Terceira island
One of the things you must do while in Terceira is trying the local gastronomy, its typical dishes that are the delight for those visiting the island. Below, discover my suggestions for the best restaurants in the city:
Traditions and Festivities in Terceira Island
The small chapels known as “Impérios” stand out during Festas do Divino Espírito Santo, festivities that are loved not only by the inhabitants of Angra do Heroísmo but of the whole island. The eight weeks between Easter Sunday and the Sunday of the Holy Trinity are full of festivities that entertain the most different locations of the island.
Sanjoaninas, festivities in honour of St. John (São João), take the streets of Angra do Heroísmo for ten days, during June. Concerts, bullfights, food stands, theatre, fireworks and sporting events culminate with the popular parades in the eve of St. John’s day. These are, eventually, the most beautiful and well-known festivities in the archipelago of Azores.
One of the traditions that stands out in this island and that attracts thousands of visitors every year is rope bullfighting (“touradas à corda”). Contrary to the “normal” bullfights, in rope bullfighting a rope is tied to a bull (controlled by two groups of people) and then the animal is released on the streets of a parish. Know that this tradition takes place on different occasions, from May to October, throughout the island, and in each event (that lasts about 2h30) four bulls are released, one at a time.
Information: you can check here the dates, schedules and locations of the “touradas à corda” in Terceira island.
Are you going to visit Terceira island, in Azores? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car and the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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