Where is Terceira Island?
Terceira is part of the Azores Islands of Portugal. The Azores is a group of islands located about 850 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal. To put that into perspective, it’s a 2 hour flight to the mainland from where they’re located in the Atlantic Ocean. Talk about isolated! Terceira is home to the second largest population in the Azores, behind Sao Miguel, at roughly 57,000 people. It’s about 156 square miles, so big enough to have a few small cities, but small enough to travel around it in one day.
The island is covered in green pastures and wine vineyards, lined with rocky coasts, and even has several volcanoes on it. This small paradise attracts less tourists than other tropical islands in the Atlantic. I think Terceira Island, along with the rest of the Azores, is a highly underrated tourist destination. I suggest getting out there to visit before the rest of the world catches on!
How Do I Know What to Do on Terceira?
In 2016, I moved to Angra Do Heroismo on Terceira Island to play professional basketball for a team called Boa Viagem. I lived on the island for 7 months, which gave me a lot of time to explore. I have personally done all of the activities on this list, plus a whole lot more. If you are planning a trip to Terceira and need some pointers, don’t hesitate to reach out through email or on our contact page. I am more than willing to give additional suggestions, tips, places to eat, where to rent a car, what to avoid, etc.
10 Things to Do on Terceira Island, Portugal
1. Go to Biscoitos
Biscoitos is a small town of about 1,500 people that offers much more than what first appears to the eye. A small wine museum complements the acres of vineyards throughout town. But, the real gem is the coastline along this Northern part of Terceira.
The large, towering, black volcanic rocks lining the ocean paint a simply magical scene. Natural wading pools have formed that allow visitors to swim and enjoy the sunshine, without the danger of the powerful ocean waves. This was without a doubt my favorite place on Terceira, and one of the most beautiful ocean views I’ve ever seen. Take a walk down the road, and you will find excellent grassy spots and walls to sit on that are perfect for a picnic.
2. Traverse Down an Old Volcano – Algar do Carvao
Have you ever been INSIDE a volcano? No? Well, here’s your chance. Algar do Carvao is one of the few empty volcanoes in the world that never naturally filled in with landslides. Located smack-dab in the middle of Terceira, a tour of the volcano costs less than 15 euros. You will climb down the hundreds of stairs into the large cave, be met by a tour guide who explains the history of the cave (they have one in Portuguese and English!), and then be free to explore a bit on your own.
Some things to know: it’s only about a 30-45 minute activity. It’s a dark, wet cave, with water dripping everywhere – I suggest wearing either rain boots or old tennis shoes. It’s colder underground! Bring at least a sweatshirt, if not a rain jacket.
3. Travel Up an Old Volcano – Serra de Santa Barbara
Terceira Island is well equipped to provide all of your volcanic needs! Serra de Santa Barbara is another inactive volcano, and is the highest point on the island at 3,350 feet. Take a car to the top and see for miles and miles on a clear day. The road up is steep, narrow, and has a few switch-back turns, so beware.
When my friend and I went, it was a beautiful day everywhere on the entire island. However, at the higher altitude, clouds, wind, and rain spray overtook the mountaintop. We were driving a rented Smart Car and it actually felt like we might get blown away! Although we couldn’t see even 5 feet in front of us, we still made the most of it and had our morning snack in the wind.
4. Explore Angra Do Heroismo
Angra is the biggest city on the island with a population of about 35,000 people. The city was founded in 1478 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Downtown Angra is scattered with cobblestone squares, colorful architecture, local shops, churches, and cafes. There are many hotels to stay, endless locations to take in the beautiful coast, and a huge bay that serves as a marina for fishermen and boaters.
Some things to see (that aren’t on the list below): Cathedral of Angra do Heroismo, Misericordia Church, Pousada Forte (an old fortress turned into a hotel, you can stay, dine, or just walk around), visit the Museum of Angra do Heroismo, go clubbing and try a food truck afterwards, walk around the marina, or go whale watching. There are many places to eat, but my favorites were: A Minha Casa, Cais d’Angra, O Pirata, and Petiskaky.
5. Hike up Monte de Brasil
Haven’t gotten your fill of inactive volcanoes yet? Even if you have, visiting the top of Monte Brasil NEEDS to be on your list. Surrounded by the ocean on three sides, this inactive volcano also overlooks all of Angra do Heroismo. It is a great day hike if you want to get some exercise – they have a large map with trails/roads at the entrance. Otherwise, there are areas along the way to park and take in the beautiful scenery. Additionally, an old military fort surrounds it, which adds an exciting element of history to the natural wonder of the volcano.
6. Attend an Azorean Bull Fight
Azorean bullfights are not like the well-known Spanish bullfights. They are called “tourada a corda,” meaning bullfight by rope. Between May 1st and October 15th, bullfights occur on the streets of smaller towns around the island. The atmosphere reminded me of a college football game day in the US. The whole town (and island) show up hours ahead of time to drink, eat, and hang out with everyone else – much like a tailgate. Food and drink vendors set up near the fight, and they also walk around to sell baked goods, ice cream, and soda during the event.
“Shepherds” hold the rope attached to the bull and make sure it stays inside the preset boundaries of the event. Spectators are free to run out and provoke the bull, assuming all risk of injury and death that may occur if they don’t get away in time. There are usually 4 bulls, each “fighting” for a half hour. The bulls are not intentionally hurt or harmed during a fight, and each must receive 8 days of rest before partaking in another one. Azorean bullfights are a huge cultural tradition dating back to at least 1622.
7. Stroll Through a Beautiful Garden – Duque de Terceira Garden
Established in 1882, the Duque de Terceira Garden has grown into a gorgeous, terraced botanical garden with a wide variety of plant and bird species. There are a lot of steps, so be prepared for a good amount of walking/climbing. Along the way to the top, there are plenty of grassy areas to rest, appreciate the views, and even have a picnic or read.
8. Have a Picnic
Terceira Island has, without a doubt, the best variety of options for picnicking you could ever imagine. Going on picnics is one of my favorite activities. While living in Angra, I couldn’t help but find as many great picnic spots as possible. I’ll share some of my most cherished locations, but you should certainly go exploring yourself – that’s half the fun!
- At the end of Rua da Se heading West from downtown Angra there is a wall that overlooks Monte Brasil and the open ocean. It’s right before the Terceira Mar Hotel. Pack a meal and plan to catch the sunset from the best view in town.
- For a grassy area with a view, Parque Municipal do Relvao is the place to go. It’s at the base of Monte Brasil right in front of the military fort. There is plenty of space to lay out a blanket, or take a stone table for yourself and look out over the city of Angra while you indulge.
- Biscoitos, Duque de Terceira Garden, Monte Brasil, Serra de Santa Barbara – refer to above. Hidden park – refer to below.
- Drive up any hill in the grassy areas of the island and park your car. It’s so beautiful, just pick a wall (there are thousands!) and pop a squat. I know it sounds too simple, but it’s perfect, trust me.
9. Visit Praia da Vitoria
Praia is the 2nd biggest city on the island with approximately 22,000 people. Aside from the airport, here are a few notable things to do around town. Visit Serra Do Facho – a viewpoint that over looks the entire city neighboring the ocean. You can climb a lot of steps up the front, or drive your car to the top.
Go to the beach. As one of the few spots to find a sandy beach on the island, Praia’s beach is quite a bit bigger than the sandy beach in Angra. Go clubbing. Praia has more options for dance clubs than Angra, some are even right along the water! Remember Europeans like to party late into the morning, unlike in the US. The clubs don’t fill up until around midnight, and stay open until 6 or 7am.
10. Find the Hidden Fairy Park
Okay, so this place definitely isn’t called “the hidden fairy park,” BUT I can’t remember it’s name. This magical retreat reminded me of a fairy tale with its towering pine trees, moss covered floor, frog-filled pond, and old concrete benches and tables. My friend and I came across it on our way back from Serra de Santa Barbara and made an impromptu stop. Isn’t that the best part of traveling? Finding places you weren’t expecting, and making the most of the experience.
For more information about Terceira, go to Explore Terceira. For more information about the Azores, go to Visit Azores.