Top 10 Things To Do in Terceira Island
Updated: Aug 16, 2021
From adventure trails and swimming spots, to exploring the cities and culture!
As you may know, I recently moved to Pico, Azores. I’m going to be doing a blog on Pico very soon, but one of the coolest parts of living in the Azores is that you can explore the nearby islands with a simple ferry.
In this case, I recently visited Terceira Island. And blogging is like cinnamon buns - better straight out the oven while it’s fresh.
We decided to take a ferry so we wouldn’t have to get covid tests and other details I won’t get into. It was an 8-hour boat ride from Pico to Terceira and about €65 round trip plus about €8 for our Scooter. The flights were €175 each and we would have to rent a car or scooter there too - just think about how much food you could eat at restaurants with about €300 savings?!? That wasn’t our main reason for choosing the ferry ride but it was a nice addition to our decision.
Unfortunately, Nathan got really seasick for the first time ever - great timing - and between trying to keep my balance on the boat holding scolding tea to give him and changing his vomit bags, let’s just say it was a grand mess.
The waves were huge and apparently sitting inside the boat at the front makes it worse. We eventually had to move up top to the deck to get some air and hopefully cure the seasickness. Luckily we had a friend who was part of the crew that gave Nathan a nausea-combating pill just over halfway through the trip and he slowly got better.
When we arrived we were so happy to be on solid ground.
However I can easily say that the whole trip was so worth it - yes, Nathan feels the same - because Terceira was even better than we expected.
So, without further ado, let’s talk Terceira.
Terceira is the 3rd largest island of 9 in the archipelago of Azores - hence its name, Terceira - meaning “third” in English. Actually, besides this coincidence of being the third largest, apparently that's not how it got it's name! My newly made friend Paulo Gomes, recently taught me through a facebook comment that the reason it's named Terceira comes from the ancient times when Portugal owned the Canary islands, Madeira islands and the Azores. The Canary islands were called "Primeiras" or the Firsts because they were the first to be discovered, the Madeira archipelago was called the "Segundas", Seconds in English, and the Azores were called the "Terceiras", "Thirds". Terceira back then was the main island and the Capital of the Azores, that's why it got its name Terceira, the main island of the "Terceiras" islands. Cool eh?!
It’s the second most populated in all of the Azores, and the streets themselves are an art gallery on display. It's filled with bustling restaurants, shops, and beautiful scenery. It’s also home to an American Army Base and has a complicated and intense history. In 1980, a violent earthquake destroyed most of the main city - Angra dó Heroísmo, which has since been rebuilt. Nonetheless, the city and the entire island is a must-see and after spending a week in Terceira I have all the tips you need on where to go, what to see, and what to eat.
The way we travel is a bit non-mainstream - we like to see as many things as we can, while also eating at as many places as we can and meeting new people - it’s all about the food and people for us!
This blog will be dedicated on what to see/do, but I will be doing another blog on the best places to eat in Terceira very soon - so stay tuned.
You can do all of the following things comfortably in a week without rushing it! :)
I recommend renting a car or scooter as you will need to get around to fully explore all of these places!
1. Explore Angra Do Heroísmo
The main city in Terceira, Angra, is something you just have to explore. I’d recommend spending a full day simply taking in the beauty of the street networks, restaurant hopping, shopping, and feeling the energy in the city. I personally shopped at a store called Mango and am obsessed with every item I got and the quality of them. Nathan, my partner, shopped at Spagheti’s and let’s just say he got a really, really big bag and sometimes where’s them to sleep - just kidding about the sleep part but seriously it’s all he wears now. We don’t shop much but because we extended our supposed-to-be 2-night trip to a whole week because we were loving it so much, so we needed some clothes to keep us from being in the nude or wearing dirty laundry.
There are countless amazing restaurants which I’ll touch on in another blog, but be sure to stick around until nighttime as the city stays alive, streets are filled with tables and bars are lit up with laughter. The moon on the ocean near Angra beach, causing hundreds of shining diamonds on the water is absolutely breathtaking at night
This next point happens to be in Angra too :)
2. Visit Jardim Duque Du Terceira
The “Jardim Duque Du Terceira” is a botanical garden in the heart of Angra. It is actually a lot bigger than it may seem if you take time to continue walking and finding the many paths within the garden. I highly recommend taking the big cement blocks as a trail up to the top of the hill because the view you get - breathtaking! You can see all of Angra, Monte Brasil, and much more from up there. There’s even a café in the garden which is super chill - but I’d recommend it for coffee or tea as my eating experience there wasn’t pleasant enough to recommend it. In the garden, it’s super serene. There are so many different types of plants of all sorts of colors. It’s quiet besides the sound of rushing waterfalls and countless birds chirping. It’s really cool to feel like you’re in a nature-filled majestic garden right in the middle of the bustling city. It’s night and day when you get out of the garden and plunge back into the city.
3. Plunge at Biscoitos
On the northern part of the island, opposite of Angra lies the town of Biscoitos. The town is known for high-quality production of wine due to the nature of its soil - a lot of volcanic rock! Due to this exact reason, the coast of this parish is filled with natural swimming pools - but instead of chlorine, it’s the ocean! It is normally very busy, especially on weekends as it’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
There are multiple vendors selling fruit, jewelry, little baked goods, and much more! There’s also a café with sandwiches, daily plates of food, baked goods, coffee, etc. The water is very clean and the whole vibe itself is really cool to be in since there’s always a crowd and the energy is alive!
4. Visit Algar do Carvão
This beautiful cave is actually a lava tube or volcanic vent formed over 3000 years ago! It’s about 90 meters deep - so yes, it’s very vertical opening means lots of stairs, and is just like visiting Batman’s cave - without the tech. It’s smack in the middle of the island just north of Angra. The cave has a beautiful opening that allows the sun to peep in causing a “halo” effect when you’re in the cave and a natural pool (no you can’t swim in it) at the very bottom. Ensure to bring a sweater and preferably clothes or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty because the colder temperatures and the nature of the cave keeps in a lot of humidity, meaning the walls, ceilings, and floors get pretty wet. This cave is one of the most famous things to visit in Terceira and I would recommend it to anyone who can walk down a few sets of stairs - it’s totally worth it!
5. Hike The Trail of Mistérios Negros!!
A quick 8-minute drive from Algar do Carvão is one of my favorite experiences in all of Terceira - the trail of Mistérios Negros. In this same spot is Gruta Do Natal - a cave system made up of hollow dried-up lava flow. It’s called Gruta do Natal because they opened it up to the public on December 25th, 1969. Many weddings and religious ceremonies are done there - talk about an unconventional event venue! Now although this may be the main attraction of the area, the winner for me is the trail! We actually had no idea there was a trail there and decided spontaneously to do it - even though we underestimated how long it would be! It’s about 2 hours so come prepared with proper hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. I managed to hike this in a dress with boat shoes on - so regardless you’ll be okay.
It’s a magical enchanted Forrest - and no I wasn’t high- that basically turns into rock climbing (dad if you’re reading this, don’t worry it was safe) and then a huge pine tree forest. The trail is a bit advanced so if you have really bad knee or ankle issues that absolutely cannot be fixed with just ibuprofen, definitely skip this one. It felt like we were in the middle of the jungle, and right beside us, this giant mystery mountain of black rocks - hence the name “Mistérios Negros” meaning black mysteries. At one point we were hiking on huge rocks, up and down, through trees all around us, then at about an hour in the trail, the scenery changes, you’re hundreds of meters up, overviewing the trees and ocean. You then walk into a giant pine forest. It was such an incredible experience. On our final stretch, where the trail is only on the road until the parking lot from there, we met a beautiful couple from Tel Aviv who offered us a ride back. We shared tips with them on what to visit in São Miguel. This was one of those moments when I wish I had a link to send them, and yet another seed was planted to start this blog.
6. Have a drink at Praia da Vitoria’s Delman Bar & Lounge
Now although we only had about 20 minutes at this place before boarding our boat back to Pico, we tried the non-alcoholic version of their Mr. Delman (the only reason it was non-alcoholic was to avoid getting nauseous on the boat like our trip to Terceira). It was delicious a mint drink, the music was popping and it was 2 minutes from Praia Da Vitoria. The beach itself has a lot of history being where the Spanish attacked the island long ago, and the battle was won by the Portuguese - however, I would recommend other beaches to swim at since the water is not the cleanest and doesn’t have the greatest smell due to its really close proximity to the port. Anyways, back to Delman’s. I can see why a lot of people recommended this place for a night out - it seems like a hip, fun, night bar, and a chill place to hang out with friends!
7. Visit Serra Do Cume
Serra do Cume has a beautiful viewpoint overlooking patches of 50+ shades of green, and the city of Praia Da Vitoria. At 545 meters high, you stand on what could well be the first volcano to have formed the island. What you look out at is a “caldeira” or a hollow that forms by the land collapsing around where large volumes of magma erupted. From the viewpoint, you can actually see smaller formations of volcanoes that also erupted as the years went by. I would recommend coming camera-ready because this place is a huge photo opportunity! You can get here easily by scooter or car. If I went back, I would try getting a photo from the side angle rather than just from the platform!
8. Enjoy a night out at Quinta Do Castanheiro
This place had great reviews - and since we’d exhausted our options in Angra on what to do at night, we decided to check it out. First of all, this place looked like it was the backyard of someone’s house when you first get there - and that’s because it is! The owner transformed his backyard into a hidden gem. Once you get in, it’s immediate that you’ve just found something special. It’s an oasis of chill vibes. A giant pool, white cabanas with sofas and chilling areas, and a bar make up the spot. The music was good, however, if I could add some constructive criticism it would be to choose more lively and upbeat music because it would match the pool vibe more. The drinks were fantastic! I had a Porto 15 years - it was spectacular and Nathan had a mixed Whiskey drink, I think it had mint in it - something I never tried and really enjoyed. We didn’t get to try the food from the kitchen only the snack bar, so I can’t say a proper rating on the food. The onion rings we ordered were chewy and from a package. However, the ambiance and service made up for the little mishaps. Overall, I would recommend going to Quinta do Castanheiro for a night out!
P.s if anyone knows why it’s called “Chestnut Farm” please let me know!
9. Furnas do Enxofre
Furnas are called fumaroles in English, they’re basically pockets of volcanic activity that are pretty much at ground level. If you have ever been to São Miguel island, you’ve probably heard of Furnas. These Furnas in Terceira are modest compared to São Miguel, being a lot smaller and you don’t get to see actual water boiling, just the steam releasing from the large wholes in the ground. The volcanic gasses are released through these pockets, causing flows of warm steam that smells like “minerals”. The volcanic gasses change the rocks into clay-like materials like sulfur changing the colour of the rocks and the biology of the environment. It’s super cool to see how much different the environment is in the Furnas area. If you can, touch the ground while you’re there - it’s literally hot and reminds you that underneath you is still an active volcano.
10. Explore Monte Brasil
Monte Brasil is a non-active volcano that formed from the water and joined the island of Terceira. It is a natural reserve nowadays, where people hike, visit the caldeira and get beautiful viewpoints, but there’s also some army activity and an army base on Monte Brasil. Fun fact, Nathan’s grandpa was part of the army back in the day and he told us that there’s so many hidden underground tunnels throughout the entire Monte Brasil that extend all the way into the city with different escape routes for the soldiers. If you head all the way to the top you can actually see hidden tunnels with your own eyes!
Monte Brasil is filled with nature, I would recommend walking the path closest to the entrance (you just turn left) because you will more likely see wild deer if you go by foot here. You won’t see them if you ride a car, simply because you’re going to fast, you can hear them waking on the leaves (which is your signal) and they’re scared of cars. The rest of the hiking trail you can bring a car and just stop at the main attractions. It will take about an hour more or less to do the whole thing and I highly recommend all of it. If you enjoyed this blog it would mean the absolute world to me if you could share it :)
Well friends, this concludes my tips on what to do and see in Terceira. :)
Obviously, there are a few things we didn’t get to do but still looked cool like having a picnic in the Natural Reserve there, but I would say that we did alotttt in our nonstop 7 days there, and I’ve boiled down my favorite experiences to these 10 activities that are a must-do when visiting Terceira!
I hope this guide helps you have a fantastic trip. Don’t forget, as much as it’s important to go to awesome places, it’s just as important to show up with a good and open attitude - good vibes only!!
Can’t wait to share with you my favourite places to eat in Terceira!
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