Home EuropeAzores Best Things To Do in Terceira Azores – A 2-Day Itinerary

Best Things To Do in Terceira Azores – A 2-Day Itinerary

by Andy Vanr

Terceira Island lures with its UNESCO-recognized city, Angra do Heroísmo, and awe-inspiring natural wonders.  Our 2-day itinerary reveals the best of the island, from historic Angra to the island’s volcanic marvels.  Discover how to maximize your short stay on this enchanting Atlantic paradise.

2-Day Terceira Island Itinerary – The Best Things To Do

Day 1:  Angra do Heroísmo
Devote a full day to the UNESCO city of Angra.  Our self-guided walking tour visits the historic old town sites.

Day 2:  Terceira Island Attractions
Visit several of these towns and natural wonders of Terceira.

Terceira Island Attractions Map

Map of Terceira Island, Azores, highlighting key locations: Biscuits Wine Museum, Furnas do Enxofre, Algar do Carvão Cave, Praia da Vitória, Serra de Santa Bárbara Viewpoint, Angra do Heroísmo, Monte Brasil.
Click on the Terceira map for an interactive version.

Terceira: The Third Azorean Island

Terceira, Portuguese for third, was the third Azorean island identified in the early 15th century.  It is called the Lilac Island for its plentiful purple hydrangea and stunning lilac sunsets.  It is the 2nd-most populated island, with much of the island dedicated to sheep and cattle farming. 

Angra do Heroísmo was the first town to be deemed a city in the Azores and was its historical capital.  Since 1976, when the Azores became a Portuguese autonomous region, the government’s judicial branch is headquartered in Angra do Heroísmo. (The executive branch is in Ponta Delgada São Miguel and the legislative branch is in Horta Faial.)

Angra do Heroismo (UNESCO)

Angra do Heroísmo is the oldest city in the Azores and the largest on the island of Terceira.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, it was an important, intercontinental port from as early as the 1600’s, witnessing much of the Age of Discovery. 

An aerial view of Angra do Heroísmo with red-roofed buildings surrounded by greenery and hills under a cloudy sky.
The buildings of the UNESCO-protected city of Angra do Heroísmo spread eastward, away from Monte Brasil, an extinct volcano which is a protected Azores Geosite.

Two 400-year-old forts remain of a number which protected the city from sea invasions.  The central zone of Angra is recognized for its many historic buildings.  A large number were damaged in the 1980 earthquake.  They were restored to their historic 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Renaissance appearances and many are open to the public. 

Angra do Heroismo Walking Tour

Our walking tour is one of the best ways to discover the major sites in Angra. 

On our visit, we found the city’s historic centre perfect for walking.  We began with a 1-hour visit to the museum in the San Francisco Building and finished at the cathedral in about 4 hours.

Map showing attractions in Angra do Heroísmo, including Angra do Heroísmo Museum, Captain General's Palace, Cathedral of Angra, Praia Beach, Convent of São Gonçalo, and various other landmarks.
Click on the Angra do Heroísmo map for an interactive version.

Angra do Heroismo Museum (San Francisco Building)

The Museu de Angra do Heroísmo displays its extensive historical collection in the former São Francisco Convent.  Learn about Terceira’s history from the 15th to 19th centuries through both long term and short term exhibits.  See ceramics, weapons, navigational instruments, sculptures, paintings and more, including the vehicle used as the first motorized hearse on the island.

The building was built in the 15th century as a Franciscan convent.  After 1832, when monastic orders were closing, it was used as a high school and a seminary until the museum opened in 1969.  The museum includes the beautiful Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Guia (Church of Our Lady of Guia), decorated with intricate woodwork, statues and 18th-century azulejos tile panels.  

A vintage car displayed inside the Angra do Heroísmo Museum next to historic architectural elements and ornate wall decorations.
This Willys Overland Whippet Six was produced in the US (between 1926 and 1931) and imported to the island by the British Military during the 2nd World War. It was the first motorized hearse on the island.
An interior view of Church of Our Lady of Guia, inside Angra do Heroísmo Museum featuring arched columns, wooden pews, a large chandelier, and an intricately decorated altar.
The beautiful Church of Our Lady of Guia, now part of the museum, was renovated in the 18th century to what we see now. It is decorated with stunning woodwork and the distinctive blue tile panels.

The entire top floor of the museum has a detailed look at Azores history, including the role of Angra as capital of the Azores.  Exhibits showcase the island’s military significance describing the battles, military techniques and the role of artillery.  For more details, including hours, see the Museum of Angra do Heroísmo website.

A room in the Angra do Heroísmo Museum features intricately decorated antique cabinets on a wooden table, with a glass-fronted cabinet displaying colourful plates and several exhibits in glass cases.
The entire second floor of the huge museum complex is exhibit space.

Enter the large garden just west of the museum (from the street Ladeira de São Francisco).

Duke of Terceira Garden

The Jardim Duque da Terceira is one of the most beautiful gardens in the Azores.  Established in 1882, its several levels are connected by walking paths.  Enjoy the many different species of flowers, shrubs and trees from around the world throughout the garden, including coffee plants, eucalyptus, araucarias, dragon trees, and avocados. 

At the entrance to the garden, a part of the wall of the former Franciscan convent has been preserved.  The four, blue-tile panels from 1740 show domestic scenes of the 18th century.

An elaborate garden is built around the central bandstand in the garden’s lower level.  This style of garden, with its lawns, ponds, fountains, flowering trees and the odd whimsical sculpture, was in the original design.

A yellow abstract sculpture stands in a reflective pond, surrounded the landscaped Duke of Terceira Garden with a pink gazebo, palm tree, and various plants and shrubs.
The lower part of the Duke of Terceira Garden is built around the central pond and bandstand. The colourful plants, sculptures and fish in the pond really brightened up our cloudy day.
Val stands next to a round fountain in the Duke of Terceira Garden behind of a large multi-story building with multiple windows and balconies, surrounded by trees and greenery.
We walked some of the cobbled paths of the Duke of Terceira Garden. This fountain gurgled away behind Val in a quiet corner at the back of the Azoris Angra Garden – Plaza Hotel.

We stayed in the lower garden but there is a lot to see in the upper garden.  Follow the path to the north and the ruins of a former watermill, Beco das Alcacarias Mill.  The mill dates from the 17th century and was used until 1977.

The path continues to the highest point in the garden and the Memory Hill Obelisk and viewpoint.

Exit the garden through the west gate onto Rua do Marquês.  The Palácio dos Capitães-Generais and its adjoining church are directly across the street.

Captain General’s Palace

This 16th-century building houses a museum showcasing royal portraits, sculptures, furniture, and decorative arts from the 18th and 19th centuries.  It is an official residence for the president of the Azores Regional Government.  The administrative offices of the vice president also operate from the building.

Built in 1572 as a Jesuit college, it became a government headquarters for the Azores archipelago in 1760 after the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal.  It has been a residence for the island’s governors and served as a royal palace several times.  Over 30 different groups from both the crown, Portuguese Republic and the Autonomous Region of the Azores have used the building over its history.  The earthquake in 1980 severely damaged the building.  It was been restored to its late-18th century look and furnished with period furnishings.

Orange and white Igreja do Santo Inacio de Loyola has tall windows and wooden doors, flanked by a street lamp and a small stone wall in the foreground.
The church has one of the best collections of 17th-century Dutch tiles outside of the Netherlands.

The adjoining Igreja do Santo Inacio de Loyola (also known as Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo) was built by the Jesuits in 1637 in conjunction with their college.  When the college buildings were converted into a palace, the church was given to the Third Order of Mount Carmel.  Inside the church see gilded woodwork and 17th– and 18th-century Portuguese and Dutch tiles. 

Walk south from the church to Praça Velha (Old Square), the town’s main square.  This square has been an important meeting point for generations, holding markets, bullfights, and even public executions.  Its unique paving was inspired by regional quilt designs.

Andy standing in a cobblestone square in front of Angra's ornate Town Hall. Patio umbrellas and chairs are in the corner of the square.
I’m standing in Praça Velha, the main town square, in front of the Town Hall.

Town Hall of Angra

The Paços do Concelho, the third on this site, was built in the 19th century.  Its design was inspired by the city hall in Porto, Portugal and purpose-built as a city hall.  There has been a town hall on the site since the 16th century. 

While it is generally an administrative building, we did look around inside with the permission of the attendant.  We walked up the red-carpeted, central staircase to get a better view of the beautiful, stained-glassed windows on the landing.  Check out the golden ceiling decoration of the Noble Hall on the second floor.

Three stained glass windows with intricate designs at Angra do Heroísmo's Town Hall. The central panel features a coat of arms, the left panel has a shield, and the right panel has a cross.
These three, large, stained-glass windows, with representations of the Coats of Arms of the city of Angra and in the centre that of Portugal, are best seen from the landing of the central staircase of the Town Hall.

Walk south from Praça Velha on Rua Direita.

Rua Direita (Straight Street)

This was an important street in the early town as it ran straight from the dock, the only point of arrival in Angra, to the town’s main square.  Its many beautiful buildings with elegant wrought-iron balconies were the homes of the city’s merchants and elite citizens. 

The Thane of Vila Flor House, the second building on the right, south of Rua de Sé, was the residence of António José Severim de Noronha, 11th Captain General of the Azores.  He played a key role in defending Portugal’s Queen Maria II’s reign during the Portuguese Civil War at the Praia armada battle in 1829.

Cobblestone Rua Direita lined with parked cars, motorcycles, and colourful buildings with balconies. There is an outdoor seating area under umbrellas on the right side of the street.
Rua Direita was Angra’s 16th-century “High Street” with a mix of shops, food establishments and lodging. Not much has changed. The street is a busy shopping area with several restaurants and hotels. Thankfully, the wrought-iron balconies have been kept.

Continue south to the large blue church at the foot of the street.

Misericordia Church

Also known as the Church of Mercy, this magnificent, four-story church was built in the 18th century and has two bell towers. 

This was the site of the first hospital in the Azores built in 1492 by the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit.  A church was first built here in the 16th century.

The Mercy Church’s single nave has 6 side chapels.  There are two altars that face each other representing the brotherhoods who built the church.  The altar of the Holy Spirit is on the left and the altar of the Holy Christ of Mercies is on the right.  There are several beautiful paintings, including one representing the descent of the Apostles.

Tall, pale blue and white Misericordia Church with symmetrical towers and arched entryway with green iron gates, adorned with a coat of arms.
The colourful shield on the front of the church is the Shield of the Kingdom of Portugal and the crown above it represents the monarchy which existed until the early 20th century.
An ornate church altar in the Misericordia Church with intricate gold details, red carpeting, and two paintings on the right wall. The altar has candelabras.
The gilded main altar of the Misericordia Church. The six side chapels are equally as impressive.

Walk across the street into the square, known as the Pátio da Alfândega.

Customs Courtyard and Pier

This area is the oldest part of the city, established by the first Europeans who arrived on the island around 1470.  The Customs Pier (Cais da Alfândega), below the city walls at the water’s edge, welcomed many ships.  Their goods were registered and stored in the Customs House, on the right side (west) of the courtyard. 

The Vasco Da Gama Statue in the Customs Courtyard commemorates his 1499 visit to Terceira after his first voyage to India.

Walk to the arched gate at the end of the courtyard and down one of the twin staircases to the Customs Pier.  A fountain sits between the two staircases.

Andy stands smiling in front of the double staircase leading up to an arched entrance with the white and blue Misericordia Church on the right.
I’m standing on the Customs Pier, at the base of the twin staircases leading to the city gates and the Customs Courtyard. The building on the left is the Customs House and the blue building is the Misericordia Church.

From the fountain, walk over to the beach along the Estrada Gaspar Corte-Real.

Angra Prainha Beach

This is the only sandy beach in the Bay of Angra do Heroísmo.  This beach is popular with both residents and tourists as it is easy to access and has lots of amenities nearby,

This area was once Angra’s Naval Shipyard, busy with ship construction and repair.  The dock was popular with ships from the Portuguese or Castilian Indies trade routes.  They visited for supplies or repairs during their transoceanic voyages.

Standing on the beach, look to the left.  Behind the curved breakwall is the modern Angra Marina which opened in 2004.  The old harbour, Porto da Pipas is just southeast.  This dock is used by local fishermen and small cruise ships.

Panoramic view of Angra do Heroísmo's sandy beach backed by a curved wall, a breakwater, and buildings lining the shore under a cloudy sky.
Angra Prainha Beach is Angra’s main beach and the only sand beach on the bay. The Angra Marina, in the background, opened in 2004. The entire area was originally the Naval Shipyard.

Climb the stairs to Rua da Rocha.  If you are interested in the geology of Terceira’s volcanic caves, stop into the small Machado Fagundes Volcanospeleological Museum.  Learn about the unique formations and natural structures of these caves.

Walk 1 block north on Rua do Salines.  Turn left on Rua da Rosa and walk 4 blocks to the huge complex on the northwest corner.

Convent and Church of Sao Goncalo

The Convento de São Gonçalo was the first convent built specifically for nuns on the island.  Built by the Sisters of St. Clare in 1545, it is the largest convent complex in the city with two cloisters, an enclosure and barns in addition to the church and convent itself.

The convent has housed secular entities over the years.  The church has both Baroque and Rococo architecture with 18th-century azulejos tile panels and a 17th-century silver cross.

It is open for visiting during the summer but was, unfortunately, closed on our visit. 

Andy stands in front of the yellow and white Convent of São Gonçalo with architectural features including a tower and arched windows.
I’m in front of the Convent of São Gonçalo, the first convent built specifically for nuns. Most cities had at least one convent. It was a place that women could gain a higher education which was unlikely in regular society before the 19th century. It could also offer a way to avoid marriage to someone chosen by the family and not the woman.

To discover the history of weapons of war, detour a block south of the convent, on Rua da Boa Nova.  The Manuel Coelho Baptista de Lima Military History Centre is in the former Military Hospital of Boa Nova.   Learn about the evolution of weapons of war through a collection of weapons, uniforms, body armour and more.  The museum also explains the building’s history and its use as one of the oldest military hospitals in the world.

From the convent on Rua da Rosa, walk a block north on Rua Recreio dos Artistas.  Turn right and walk 3 blocks to the Igreja do Santíssimo Salvador da Sé.

Cathedral of Angra

Construction began in 1570, expanding the early Holy Saviour Church, and over 50 years, creating the largest church on the island.  The church faces north instead of facing toward Jerusalem, which was customary at that time.  There are two bell towers.  A small clock temple was added between the towers along with other additions to the cathedral in the 18th century. 

Facade of the pink and white Angra Cathedral with two towers and a clock. The ground features a circular mosaic with stars and the number 1534.
The Church of the Most Holy Saviour of the Se, commonly called the Angra Cathedral, was built in about 50 years beginning in 1570. The city of Angra was chosen as the seat of the bishop in 1534.
An altar in the Angra Cathedral with six candles, floral arrangements, ornate silver decorations, and a red backdrop enclosed in a stone arch with hanging chandelier.
The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament holds a valuable collection of silver pieces dating to the 18th and 19th centuries including the tabernacle, the altar frontpiece, 6 huge candlesticks and more.

Note the silver-plated front panel of the altar with its Eucharistic images in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.  Made by a local artisan during the eighteenth century, this is the only piece of silver that wasn’t removed from the church during the Liberal Wars of the 19th century.

The 1980 earthquake extensively damaged the cathedral.  In 1983 the façade collapsed leading to the loss of a lot of the original Baroque decoration.

Our walk ended at the cathedral.  After enjoying lunch at the local pastry shop, Athanasio, we continued our tour of the city by car.

Memory Hill Obelisk and Viewpoint

The highest point in the Duke of Terceira Garden is Memory Hill.  Enjoy its panoramic view over the rooftops of Angra do Heroísmo. 

The Obelisco do Outeiro da Memória was erected in the mid-19th century in memory of King D. Pedro IV.  It was built using stones from the first fort built in the Azores in the 15th century.  There is no trace of that fortification now.

The large yellow and white Memory Hill Obelisk stands on a grassy hill, accompanied by a wooden signpost with multiple directional arrows.
We checked out the fingerpost-style milestone sign on Memory Hill. Home was over 4300 kilometres away!

While we drove to the viewpoint, it can also be reached by walking up the garden paths.

Fortress of Sao Sebastiao

This 16th-century fortress was converted in the early 21st century into a luxury hotel.  (It is part of the Pousadas de Portugal, a hotel chain of luxury hotel accommodation in beautifully restored historical buildings in Portugal.)  During our visit, tourists were allowed in the open courtyard and to walk along the fort walls, after checking in with the front desk.

A modern hotel building with a pool and sun loungers in the foreground, beside the old fort walls of the Fortress of São Sebastião.
The 16th-century São Sebastião Fortress held a number of cannons, a munitions warehouse, and residences for military the garrison. It was used in the 1828-1834 Portuguese civil war and both World Wars.

The original fort was built as part of a then-new concept for coastal protection.  The range of its cannons interlocked with other forts along the coastline creating an integrated defense plan for Angra’s port which was often a target for pirates. 

The fort housed a number of cannons, a war munitions warehouse, a cistern, and residences for the captain and the garrison.  It played a crucial role in the 1828-1834 Portuguese civil war and served military purposes in both World Wars.

Fortress of Sao Joao Baptista

Spanish King Filipe II ordered construction of the fort in 1592 to protect his ships returning from the East Indies.  They were laden with gold and silver making them targets of pirates as they passed through the Azores.  The fort, called Fort São Filipe do Monte Brasil in his honour, was completed about 50 years later. 

It is believed to be the largest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in the territories which they conquered.  With an area of about 3 square kilometres, the fort covers a large part of the peninsula of Monte Brasil.  It is surrounded by close to 5 km of walls and had 5 bastions.

Panoramic view of Angra do Heroísmo's white buildings with red roofs, seen from the grassy Monte Brasil with ancient stone structures and walls in the foreground under a cloudy sky.
The Holy Spirit Magazine and defensive walls of the Fortress de São João Baptista on Monte Brasil.

In early 1641 local forces, revolting against the Spanish presence on Terceira, captured the fort for the Portuguese.  In celebration of the victory, the name of the fort was changed to its current name, Fortress de São João Baptista.

The São João Baptista Church, Santa Catarina Chapel, and the Governor’s Palace are within the walls. 

The fort remains a military base making it the oldest fortress continuously occupied by the Portuguese Army.  Guided tours are available through the Military Museum.

Monte Brasil

The peninsula on the southwestern edge of the city of Angra is an extinct volcano, created 20,000 years ago.  It began offshore, under the water.  As it grew, the volcanic cone rose above the ocean’s surface and spread laterally, joining the island. 

The base of the volcanic cone is 1.5 kilometres at its widest.  Erosion by seawater on its south side has eaten some of the cone away.  The seabed around the cone is a protected marine area (Monte Brasil Protected Area of Resources Management).  There is evidence of lava flows, caves, rocky reefs and more.

Much of the peninsula is within the Saint John the Baptist Fort, an active Portuguese military base.  Access the peninsula through the military checkpoint gate at the foot of the peninsula.

Monte Brasil has excellent viewpoints, many former whale lookouts, providing panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscape.  Some of the trees and shrubs are protected as endemic or of special interest as species at risk.  Enjoy a walk on the hiking and walking trail, called Monte Brasil (PRC 04 TER) and the various picnic spots around the peninsula.  

Val stands next to a large statue King Afonso VI with hat and cane on a hill overlooking Angra do Heroísmo.
Val is leaning on a statue of Portuguese King Dom Afonso VI who was king when the Azores became part of Portugal. The statue commemorates five centuries of settlement on Terceira island.
An old artillery gun emplacement with a monument in the background under a cloudy sky at Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas, Monte Brasil.
Pico das Cruzinhas is one of the four peaks on Monte Brasil. Its viewpoint provides a spectacular view of the city. The Allied anti-aircraft gun emplacement remains from the 2nd World War.

The land of the peninsula is also a protected landscape known as the Monte Brasil Regional Forest Reserve.  It is the volcanic caldera surrounded by four peaks: Pico das Cruzinhas, Pico do Facho, Pico da Quebrada and Pico do Zimbreiro.  The hiking trail visits all four peaks while the paved road only reaches Cruzinhas.

Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas Viewpoint provides panoramic views of the city.  The peak is 168 metres above sea level.  During World War II, the Allies constructed a battery at the peak for anti-aircraft artillery.  Several gun emplacements remain. 

The Monument of King Dom Afonso VI is also here, commemorating five centuries of settlement on Terceira island (1432-1932).

On the land around the viewpoint and the battery, we saw deer and peacocks.  Monte Brasil is also home to a Cat Colony.  Volunteers have constructed cat houses for a number of feral cats.  They feed the cats, sterilize them and make sure they have veterinary attention.  They were very friendly.

Several cats sitting and standing near small wooden houses in a forested area on Monte Brasil.
Over the years, volunteers have constructed cat houses to provide shelter for the colony of feral cats on Monte Brasil.

From the cat colony, a dirt road leads to the Miradouro do Pico do Facho Viewpoint.  While it can be driven, we chose not to.  Pico do Facho, at 205 metres, is the highest point on Monte Brasil and the site of a historic watchtower, used for signalling approaching ships.

Angra do Heroismo Museums

Learn about the cultural and military history and the unique geology of Terceira at these great museums in Angra do Heroísmo.

MuseumMain Focus
MAH – Angra do Heroísmo Museum – San Francisco BuildingCultural history of Angra do Heroísmo and Terceira
MAH – Angra do Heroísmo Museum – Military History CentreHistory and evolution of weapons of war and military hospitals
Machado Fagundes Volcanospeleologic MuseumGeology of volcanic caves

Angra do Heroismo Restaurants

Here are 5 of the most popular restaurants in Angra.  We enjoyed a beer and pub fare at O Pirata.

Restaurant NameKnown for
O PirataGreat beer and drink menu with best views of Angra Bay
Beira Mar Restaurant São MateusExcellent seafood, fresh ingredients with beautiful seaside location
Tasca Das TiasCute atmosphere, good food, and delicious limpets (local seafood delicacy)
O ChicoComfort food in a welcoming environment, though with mediocre beer selection
O CachaloteHighly rated as one of the best restaurants on the island
Andy sitting at a table in O Pirata, holding a glass of beer. A bottle of beer is visible in the foreground. The background features artwork and other patrons dining.
I’m enjoying my beer while we waited for our food at Angra’s O Pirata restaurant.

Azores Geopark Geosites and Terceira Nature Park

The Azores Geopark was established in 2010, part of the European Geoparks and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Networks.  Geoparks conserve geologically important areas and provide education about environmental well-being and sustainable development.  There are 7 geosites on the island of Terceira.

In 2011, the Terceira Nature Park was created.  It further protects areas on Terceira which have unique natural and cultural values and high levels of both geodiversity and biodiversity.  About 22% of Terceira’s land area is protected within the Nature Park.  All of the native habitats of the Azores are represented on Terceira and hold 80% of the Azorean endemic species.

A wooden staircase leads down to the lush green caldera floor surrounded by densely forested hills in Monte Brasil Forest Nature Reserve.
From the Miradouro do Alto da Caldeira the view is over the central crater of Monte Brasil, part of the Terceira Nature Park.

The following are protected areas in both the Azores Geopark and the Terceira Nature Park.

Algar do Carvao Cave

In the centre of Terceira, Algar do Carvão (Coal Cave) is a lava tube of an extinct volcano which erupted about 2000 years ago.  Stalactites and stalagmites of cloudy-white silica are present, some up to a metre long.  These white cave formations are normally found in limestone caves.  They are very rare in volcanic settings such as Coal Cave. 

A number of biological communities live inside the cave including endemic arthropods and several plant species. 

The cave is about 100 metres deep with the bottom reached by climbing down a series of staircases (+250 steps, some steep).  As depth changes, the walls change colour along with the biological community present.  A rain-fed lake is 80 to 90 metres into the cave.  It can be up to 15 metres deep but almost disappears during the summer dry season.

Algar do Carvão is a protected area due to this unique geology and rich biodiversity. 

Tickets are not available online.  Consider visiting both the Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal caves.  Tickets are available only at the caves.  There is a discount for visiting both.

No car to get to the caves?  Consider this cave tour with a local tour operator.

Furnas do Enxofre

Take a walk through this geothermal area on the south flank of the Pico Alto volcano in the centre of the island.  There are fumaroles, hot springs and mud pools.  We noticed the smell of sulphur right away on the trail as we walked past a number of vents emitting steam.  In many areas nearby, the landscape is coated with sulphur deposits. 

The presence of steam and volcanic gases at various temperatures has led to the development of a community of microorganisms capable of surviving in extreme environments.  Temperatures range between +/-95 °C at the surface and +/-130 °C at a depth of about 0.5 metres.  Neighbouring wetlands support other endemic species.

The area is protected due to the presence of both the geothermal system and microorganisms capable of surviving in these extreme temperature conditions.

Information panels along the trail explain more about the area.

A narrow dirt path at Furnas do Enxofre with wooden railings on both sides runs through a foggy, hillside landscape with bushes and shrubs.
Take the circular walk through the Furnas do Enxofre and learn about this geothermal area.

Serra de Santa Barbara e Misterios Negros

The Santa Bárbara Volcano experienced two major eruptions; 25,000 and 15,000 years ago.  The summits of each cone collapsed leaving a double caldera.  The younger caldera has several domes within it from subsequent periods of minor volcanic activity.  The sides of the volcano have small cones and domes as well.

Terceira’s last volcanic eruption on land occurred in 1761 on the eastern side of the volcano.  Small lava domes are evidence of this activity.  They are called the Mistérios Negros or the Black Mysteries due to the presence of the shiny, volcanic rock obsidian.

The area around the volcano is covered in native vegetation with a diverse mix of flora and fauna.

The Serra de Santa Bárbara and the Mistérios Negros, including the flanks of the volcano, are protected in a Nature Reserve due to their geology and the presence of endemic species and species at risk.  The protected area covers 1863 hectares and includes the highest point of the island, at an altitude of 1021 metres.

Several circular walking trails (PRC01TER and PRC03TER) explore parts of the nature reserve.

Val reads information panels about habitats and species of the Terceira Nature Park at the Serra de Santa Barbara Interpretation Centre.
There are a number of displays at the Serra de Santa Barbara Interpretation Centre about the protected areas within the Terceira Nature Park. Val enjoyed reading the many informational panels.

Serra de Santa Barbara Interpretation Centre

Exhibits describe the volcano, the crater and the associated nature area.  Learn about the other protected areas in the Terceira Nature Park and the effects that humans have on this natural environment.

Miradouro da Serra de Santa Barbara Viewpoint

Drive through unspoiled nature, up the southern flank of the Santa Bárbara Volcano to Terceira’s highest point at 1021 metres.  A large part of the island is visible from the viewpoint.  

On clear days you can often see other islands of the Azores central group (Pico, São Jorge, Faial and Graciosa).  The road travels through a rare type of forest dominated by Juniper trees endemic to the Azores.  The forest is called a cloud forest, a subtropical forest where there is high humidity and more or less stable mild temperatures.

Gruta do Natal

This cave, like Coal Cave about 4 kilometres to the east, is a lava tube.  It is close to 700 metres long, with high ceilings.  It is relatively flat though the floor does have uneven parts.  The route through the cave is circular.

A building protects the cave entrance ensuring the safety of the cave and its visitors.  This building is surrounded by mountain pastures and next to the Lagoa do Negro.

Tickets are only available at the cave, and not online.  Consider visiting both the Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal caves.  There is a discount for visiting both

Praia da Vitoria

Terceira’s second largest urban centre, Praia da Vitória, is located on the east coast of the island.  Its large, modern marina and air field support the fishing and agricultural industries of the municipality (of the same name).  Its wide, sheltered beach is the only sizable sand beach on the island and one of the nicest in the Azores.

The Lajes Field is 3 kilometres north of town. It is home to the Portuguese Air Force, a unit of the US Air Force and Lajes Civil Air Terminal aka the Terceira Airport. The Terceira Airport is a civilian passenger and cargo terminal.  Most tourists arrive on Terceira through this airport.

There are several interesting places to see in the city’s historic centre with its narrow streets, alleys and colourful houses. 

For an excellent panoramic view over the city and surrounding area, there is no better place than the top of the Serra do Facho.  Drive up or walk from the marina up a staircase on the hillside to the top in under ten minutes.

Val stands on a swing structure labeled "Baloico Da Praia" with a view of Praia da Vitória and hills in the background.
The view of Praia da Vitória from the Facho Viewpoint is very impressive. The swing set is perfect for the kids (including Val).

Miradouro do Facho Viewpoint

Enjoy the view over the city and its long, sandy beach.  The viewpoint’s name ‘facho’ or torch is very appropriate.  Before lighthouses were built around the island, a bonfire was built nightly on the top of this hill as a navigational beacon. 

The Monument of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Monumento do Imaculado Coração de Maria) was dedicated on December 31, 1999.  Mary the Immaculate is the patron saint of Praia da Vitória.  The monument is huge.  The statue itself is 6 metres high and it is installed on a 16-metre-high base.

Marina da Praia da Vitoria

The waters of the bay, a natural harbour, are further protected by the Northern and Southern jetties.  The bay welcomes sailors, windsurfers and water skiers.  Tour operators offer boat trips, sea fishing, underwater diving and whale watching tours.  Cruise ships also stop here.

The city’s marina, with more than 200 permanent mooring sites, sits between Praia da Vitória’s 2 sandy beaches. 

Coastal Praia da Vitória and its marina filled with boats, bordered by a hilly landscape and scattered buildings under a cloudy sky.
Prainha, the smaller of Praia da Vitória’s sand beach is on the left next to the marina. Praia Grande or the Big Beach is closest to downtown.

Praia da Vitoria Beaches

Prainha, the smaller beach, is to the east. Praia Grande is the largest sandy beach in the Azores and backs onto the main street.  Every August, the beach takes centre stage for Festas da Praia.  There are parades, bullfights, concerts, food, water sports and much more.

From Praia Grande, enjoy a short walk through the centre of town (about 500 metres).

The Liberty Statue in the Francisco Ornelas da Câmara Plaza, the main town square, is a memorial to the heroes of the Battle of Praia Bay during the Portuguese Civil War on 11th August 1829.  It was dedicated on the battle’s 100th anniversary.

Camara Municipal de Praia da Vitoria (Town Hall)

A town hall was built on this spot at the end of the 16th century.  It was largely destroyed in a 1614 earthquake.  The current building looks much like a 17th-century Portuguese manor house.  A huge bell tower is on one side of a double-staircase.

Climb the stairs at the north side of the Town Hall and walk to the church.

Praia da Vitoria Parish Church

The parish was established in the mid-15th century and built a church here.  The Igreja Matriz da Praia da Vitória, also known as Santa Cruz Church, has sustained earthquake damage several times over the centuries and been restored.

The front of the church has a beautiful Gothic main entrance and two bell towers.  The 16th-century architecture is visible in the two side entrances.

See the gilded, 18th-century altarpiece of the Capela do Santíssimo Sacramento, azulejos panels from the 18th century and interesting paintings.  The church’s original Baptismal font was discovered during excavation work required after the 1980 earthquake.

North of the Igreja Matriz, in the Rua de São Paulo, visit the former home of writer Vitorino Nemésio.

Two-story Casa de Vitorino Nemésio with an orange and white exterior, arched windows. A small parked car and potted plants are visible in front.
Vitorino Nemésio was a 20th century novelist, poet, journalist and teacher born in this house in 1901. Val briefly dropped by the museum which discusses his life and works.

Casa de Vitorino Nemesio

This 17th-century building is a museum about the life and works of the novelist, poet, journalist and teacher.  He was born in 1901 and lived most of his life in the house until dying in 1978.  He was a proud promoter of his home town and island.

Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo

The church was established in 1521.  Also known as Igreja da Misericórdia or the Church of Mercy, it was partially destroyed by a fire 400 years later.  Issues between the two benevolent orders, Santo Cristo and Misericórdia, led to a solution to appease both.  The church has two choirs each with a high altar.  Everything was built in double to keep the peace.

The Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo in Praia da Vitória is white with blue accents and features twin bell towers. Two people are at the base of the stairs which lead from street to church.
The church was established in 1521 and partially destroyed 400 years later.

Imperio Do Divino Espirito Santo da Caridade

This pretty, multi-coloured building was built in 1941.  These chapel-like buildings are found across the Azores and play a role in the rites and festivals of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit.  The Feast of the Empire of the Divine Holy Spirit, or the Festival of the Holy Spirit, typically takes place on the last Sunday of Pentecost.  The community takes part in rituals which have been around for centuries including the distribution of shared food and drink.

Miradouro Serra do Cume Viewpoint

See the panoramic view over the bay of Praia da Vitória and the flat interior of the island, from an elevation of 545 metres at the viewpoint at the top of Serra do Cume.  The flat land is separated into fields by walls of volcanic rocks.  The pattern created has lead to the area being called the patchwork or manta de retalhos. 

Serra do Cume is the remnants of a volcano which it is thought could be the volcano which initially formed the island.  Its caldera has a diameter of about 15 kilometres and holds native vegetation and pasturelands.

Biscoitos

On the north coast of the island, the parish of Biscoitos has become known for producing Verdelho wines.  Lava flows from a 1761 volcanic eruption cover much of the area.  Their rounded shape reminded people of biscuits or small loaves of bread and so the name ‘Biscoitos’ was given to the area.

Its green rolling hills are home to pasture-land, groves of trees and “curraletas”, the divisions of the vineyards created by dry stone masonry using the local black, basalt-rock.  Primarily Verdelho grapes, a white wine grape, are grown in the area.

At the Biscoitos Wine Museum (Museu do Vinho) learn about Terceira’s grape-growing and wine-making history.  Exhibits document the stages of wine production:  growing grapes in the unique curraletas, harvesting and pressing grapes and the final storage and fermenting of wine in wooden barrels.

When the hot lava reached the ocean, it cooled quickly creating uneven, jagged surfaces, often with shallow pools where seawater collects.  Many have become natural swimming pools.  Piscinas Naturais Biscoitos is one of the largest in the area.  There is a large parking area with changing facilities and food available during the swimming season.  The tiny harbour nearby, used by the local fishermen with colourful boats, once supported the whaling industry. 

Angra's Fanal Natural Pool and coastal area with a curved stone pathway and rocky shore, adjacent to the ocean. There are hills and houses in the background.
The bathing area at the Fanal Natural Pool was recently upgraded with a sunbathing platform and walkway along the upper shore. This is a great place to catch the sun and the sunset!

Terceira Island Beaches and Natural pools

These are the 17 Best swimming areas in Terceira Azores.

BeachTownKnown for
Angra Prainha BeachAngra do HeroísmoAngra’s main beach (and its only sand beach) is just steps from downtown.
Fanal Natural PoolAngra do HeroísmoA natural pool along a city walking path with sunbathing platform.
Silveira Natural Swim AreaAngra do HeroísmoNice swim area.  Take the stairs down from the pier.
Praia Grande – The Big BeachPraia da VitóriaPraia da Vitoria’s largest beach, steps from shops and food.  Known for its windsurfing.
Prainha Beach – Small BeachPraia da VitóriaProtected small beach beside the marina.  Great for sun bathing and stand up paddleboarders.
Sargentos BeachPraia da VitóriaProtected beach for surfing and watersports.
Biscoitos Natural Swim AreaBiscoitosConsidered one of the best swim spots on the island.  Natural pools and beautiful surroundings.
Calheta dos Lagadores Natural Swimming AreaBiscoitosA smaller swim area in Biscoitos, located near the promenade.
Escaleiras Natural Swim AreaVila NovaGreat natural pools with plenty of parking and a nearby restaurant.
Quatro Ribeiras Beach and Swimming PoolQuatro RibeirasThere is an actual swimming pool for the kids in addition to the Natural Pool.
Negrito Natural Swim AreaSão MateusLocated near the small 16th-century fortress of Negrito.
Five Rivers Natural Swim AreaCinco RibeirasTwo natural bays and even some cliff diving.
Porto Martins Natural Swim AreaPorto MartinsGreat swim area with café nearby.
Sao Fernando Port (and Swim Area)Porto MartinsHistorical port with swimming area.
Faja do Fisher Natural PoolFeteiraSmall natural pool.
Riviera BeachPraia da VitóriaA true sandy beach with umbrellas, restrooms.
Refugo Natural Swim AreaPorto JudeuPopular beach located in this small town.

Click on our interactive map for all of the beach locations.

Terceira Hotels

Looking for a hotel in Terceira?

Make the city of Angra do Heroísmo your home base while exploring the island of Terceira.  Check out these great options.

Here are other great hotels on Terceira Island.

Terceira Festivals

Terceira celebrates a number of festivals each year.  Generally the summer months are the peak of the Terceira festival season.  There are lots of local festivals from June through September

They range from religious processions to cultural festivals and highlight the uniqueness of each community.  They are always fun celebrations often including parades, food, dancing and bullfighting Azores-style (with ropes instead of swords).

Here are some of most well known festivals:

1.  The most widely celebrated festival is the Festival of the Holy Spirit or Festa do Divino Espirito Santo.  The festival celebrates the Holy Spirit and is typically held seven weeks after Easter.  The festival has both religious and secular parts and includes processions and a community gathering to share a special meal of symbolic foods.  The feast is often followed by dancing and fun activities.

A colourful Império do Divino Espirito with arches and decorative elements in blue, yellow, red, and white accents and features three large arched windows.
There are many of these tiny community buildings, called Impérios throughout Terceira and the other Azores islands. They play an important role in the Festival of the Holy Spirit, a celebration unique to Azorean culture though most believe it began in mainland Portugal.

2. Sanjoaninas, the festivals of Saint John, fill the streets of Angra do Heroísmo for ten days in late June, to honour the patron saint of Terceira.  The festivities date back to the 16th century.  Daily parades and processions, rich with symbols from island folklore and history, portray the islanders’ joy of living.  There are concerts, food stalls offering local specialties, theatre performances, fireworks displays, and sports competitions.  A highlight is the Sanjoaninas Bullfighting Festival.  Bullfights on a rope, unique to Terceira, were introduced by the first people on the island due to the number of cattle they found.  A bull, tied to a rope held by at least 8 men, is released to run the streets.

3. Tourada a Corda or the Running of the bulls, occurs on a daily basis somewhere from May 1 to September 30. 

4. Festas da Praia is held in Praia da Vitória every August.  There are outdoor concerts, folk dances, and a variety of gastronomic and sporting events celebrating Azorean culture.

5. Angrajazz, held during the first weekend of October, is Angra do Heroísmo’s jazz festival. 

6. Angra holds Ramo Grande Festival in late October and early November featuring world music performances.

Know Before You Go – Visiting Terceira Island, Azores

What is the Best Time to Visit Terceira?

The best time to visit Terceira (and any of the Azores islands) is from May to October, when the weather is most pleasant.  Winters are fairly mild, but unfortunately are quite rainy.  Most of Terceira’s many festivals occur between June and September.

We visited during the shoulder season, in the month of November, and found the weather changeable.  We had rain at some point each day, though not continuously.

Val stands smiling in front of a large sign spelling "ANGRA" with hilly scenery and the ocean in the background.
We visited Terceira in November. Val’s long-sleeved shirt was perfect for the temperature. While we enjoyed our visit immensely, we did have grey skies for much of the time as you can see in this picture of the ANGRA sign and Monte Brasil.

How many days should I spend in Terceira?

A 2-day visit to Terceira is ideal.  While you could easily spend more time, Terceira’s must-do’s are perfect for a 2-day visit.

Our 2-day Terceira itinerary lets you experience the best of the island’s culture and geodiversity.

How to get to Terceira?

By Air:
Most people arrive on Terceira by plane.  Direct flights from São Miguel Island (40 minutes) and from Lisbon (2 hours 40 mintues) are available on Azores Airlines.  The Terceira Airport is in Lajes, just outside the town of Praia da Vitória. 

By Ferry:
There are no longer ferries running between the islands of Terceira and São Miguel. 

Atlânticoline runs ferries between the islands of the Azores Central Group (Pico, Terceira, São Jorge, Faial and Graciosa).  See the Atlânticoline website for full details.

How to get around Terceira?

Public buses on Terceira are operated by EVT – Empresa de Viação Terceirense, Ltd.  For fare and schedule information, check the EVT website. 

Taxi services are also available.

Since bus and taxi options are somewhat limited on Terceira, we believe having your own vehicle is a better option

Where can I rent a car on Terceira Island

We recommend renting a car while visiting Terceira.  This gives you the freedom to discover the island’s many attractions.  Car rentals are available at the Terceira Airport, in Praia da Vitória and in Angra do Heroísmo.


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