Looking for the top things to do in Terceira Island? FInd in this must go place in Azores how to enjoy its natural beauty, where to go and eat

For some time we had been planning to visit Terceira Island in the Azores. We took advantage of a cheap flight and the opportunity to enjoy this “paradise” in Portugal at the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This may also be your next dream vacation destination!

Situated between North America and Europe, Terceira Island is the third largest island in the Azores, 29 km long and 18 km wide. It was the third island to be discovered in the Azores archipelago in the fifteenth century, thats why it’s called Terceira (‘third’ in Portuguese).

It’s an island of volcanic origin of great beauty, with pastures surrounded by stone walls and Laurissilva forests, natural pools and sandy beaches and ancient historical centres in Angra do Heroísmo (the capital) and Praia da Vitória. Given its location, Terceira Island is an important port of call for the international maritime navigation.

Terceira Island Map

The numbers (#) on the Map and Text identify places to visit:

Things to See and Do in Terceira Island

A) Explore Angra do Heroismo (UNESCO Heritage)

Angra do Heroísmo

Angra do Heroísmo (1) is the main city of Terceira Island, whose Historic Center is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So strolling the cobbled streets and alleys is like visiting the past, with manor houses, gardens, monuments and well-kept museums such as the Capitães-Generais Palace, the Cathedral or the Angra do Heroísmo Museum.

Not forgetting the very old Fort of São Sebastião and the Fortress of São João Batista.

View of Angra do Heroismo and Monte Brasil
Angra do Heroísmo and Monte Brasil, Terceira Island

Not to be missed on Rua da Sé is a visit to the beautiful Duque da Terceira Garden, with centuries-old trees from around the world, one of the top things to in Terceira Island.

From the top of the garden to the Alto da Memória viewpoint, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city, Monte Brasil (2), Angra Marina (3), Ilhéu das Cabras (4) and the sea in the background.

B) Discover the Algar do CARVÃO (and Geotourism)

Geotourism attracts many tourists to Azores. For example, in Terceira Island there are several places of geological interest for the general public and cavers, such as Algar do Carvão, Furnas do Enxofre and Gruta do Natal.

Algar do Carvão

Algar do Carvão (5) is surely a place to visit and one of the unusual things to do in Terceira Island!

It’s like a trip to the center of the earth! Algar do Carvão (Coal cave) is a natural cavity, about 328ft (100m) deep, excavated in the ground by the movement of the volcano’s lavas and waters, with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. In fact, it is situated in the middle of the Caldeira Guilherme Moniz, inland, which results from an extinct volcano and is the largest caldera of the Azores (9mi or 15 km in diameter), with the largest water reservoir of the island.

So, start by entering the Algar do Carvão Interpretive Center and reach the bottom of this old volcanic chimney through a small tunnel and a staircase (about 340 steps worth descending). As you begin your descent, a few drops of water will begin to fall on you and the stairs, the temperature will decrease and the humidity will increase (you may want to take a coat, preferably waterproof). Along the way you will see stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Algar do Carvão, Terceira Island, Azores
Algar do Carvão, Terceira Island

In the bottom there is an underground pond of clear water. The feeling is unique! As you look up, you will see the mouth of the Algar, of an incredible beauty, from which stands a circle of clarity, fluttering birds and lush vegetation.

Furnas do Enxofre

In Furnas do Enxofre (6), ‘Sulfur cave’, there is a circular walkway, where you walk and watch the fumaroles, which appear “here and there” and that reminds us that underneath us is a volcano in activity! The fumes come from the cracks in the soil at high temperatures, emitting water vapor and volcanic gases, especially carbon dioxide, but also sulfur in small quantities, so you can smell it in the air. In these ‘furnas’ there is no stew (like in São Miguel Island) ! So, if you have never seen this phenomenon of nature, you must visit Furnas do Enxofre.

Gruta do Natal

The Gruta do Natal (7), ‘Christmas Cave’, is located within the protected area of the Serra de Santa Bárbara and Mistérios Negros. This basically consists of a lava tube, about 0.4mi (700 meters) long, with various geological formations: runoff from different types of lava, staph and side counters.

Christmas Cave, Terceira Island, Azores
Gruta do Natal, Terceira Island

To visit the cave enter through the Gruta do Natal Interpretation Center, installed in a typical stone house, where you receive a helmet that protects your head, as there are some low ceilings. Go down the stairs and make a circular path through a solidified lava tunnel, with no significant level differences. In short, here you will find different types and colors of formations that magma “drew” along the way, explained on information boards.

In some places we had to crawl on hands and knees, however without much difficulty. Although there is another section of the cave that can be visited by more experienced cavers. Without a doubt, it was an interesting experience, here you can imagine how that place was formed!

But if you have claustrophobia maybe you better not go …

C) Trekking on Terceira Island

There are several walking routes on Terceira Island, along paths surrounded by hydrangeas and cows grazing in the fields, overlooking the sea that surrounds the island. Here predominate the geological formations of volcanic origin and you can enjoy bird watching. So this one of the amazing things to do in Terceira Island!

One of the most famous routes is the Mistérios Negros (Black Mysteries) Trail, but there are other interesting walking routes, such as Monte Brasil, Mata da Serreta and Baías da Agualva (8). In this course (PR2 TER) one sees the ocean being ‘crushed’ by the rocks, where the imposing headlands show the penetration of the lava in the sea.

Hortência Way, with tall trees behind, Terceira Island, Azores

Mistérios Negros Trail

The Mistérios Negros (9), ‘Black Mysteries’ Trail, is a 4.9 km circular pedestrian path (PRC01 TER), integrated in the Santa Bárbara Mountain and the Mistérios Negro Nature Reserve, in the centre of Terceira Island. This is a route to discover the beauty of the endemic forests and small lagoons, to be careful as it is best suited to the best prepared hikers, as the degree of difficulty is difficult and takes 2h30m! We didn’t do it (maybe next time), but highly recommended by those who have already did it!

The pedestrian trail begins at Gruta do Natal, near the Lagoa do Negro, following through a forest of cryptomeria, pastures, heathers, cedars and some rocks. A little further, there are 3 small lagoons (Lagoinha do Vale Fundo), where you can find migratory birds. Climb to the highest point (about 0.4mi or 650m) and descend through the cryptomeria forest and pastures. Then follow a forest path to the place of departure (Gruta do Natal).

D) Climbing to the Serra do Cume (AND VIEWPOINTS)

Serra do Cume

After going up Serra do Cume (10) you’ll reach the Serra do Cume Viewpoint (near Praia da Vitória), which is undeniably one of the best viewpoints of Terceira Island and surely one of the top things to do in Terceira Island.

From there you have a fantastic view of the interior plain of the island and see the “patchwork” of pasture fields with various shades of green, divided by volcanic stone walls. Sure, that’s where the “happy” cows graze!!

In addition, from there you can also see in the distance the city of Praia da Vitória. Up there you can feel the breeze, the fresh air, it’s as if you are “on top of the world.” It’s a unique place where you feel like staying and taking good pictures. We liked a lot!

View from the Serra do Cume Viewpoint, Terceira
Serra do Cume Viewpoint, Terceira Island

Serra de Santa Bárbara

The Serra de Santa Bárbara (11) is the highest point (0.63 mi or 1,021 meters of altitude) of Terceira Island, whose formation resulted from a now inactive volcano. From the top of the mountain you have a breathtaking view, seeing, whenever the weather permits, the other islands of the Central Group (Pico, São Jorge and Graciosa).

It is worth the climb, surrounded by trees and patchwork of pasture fields, as you observe the Caldeira de Santa Bárbara (a caldera), classified as a Natural Forest Reserve, for its scientific and scenic value.

Here we highlight the Serra de Santa Barbara Interpretation Center, which gives an explanation of the animals, plants and geomorphological formation of the Island, Lagoa das Patas, or Lagoa da Falca (12), with its beautiful water mirror, literally with ducks (‘patas’ is female ducks in Portuguese), surrounded by large conical cryptomeria and, by the sea, the Santa Bárbara viewpoint (13).

Patas Lagoon, Terceira Island, Azores, with large green trees in background
Lagoa das Patas, Terceira Island

Mata da Serreta

In the Mata da Serreta Forest Reserve (14) you will find lush vegetation, especially cryptomeria, which are large pyramid-shaped trees. Within the forest park you will find the interesting Mata da Serreta Viewpoint and Ponta do Queimado Viewpoint (15).

Ponta do Queimado Viewpoint, Terceira Island, Azores
Ponta do Queimado Viewpoint, Terceira Island

E) Visit the BISCOITOS (And Wine Museum)

Natural Biscoitos Pools

The Biscoitos (biscuits in English) village is named because of the burnt earth formed by lava from volcanic eruptions existing there. Here look for the Natural Pools (16), a bathing area with curious formations that resulted from the contact of the lava with the sea water and that invite to a dip.

Natural Pools, Cookies, Terceira Island, Azores
Natural Pools in Biscoitos, Terceira Island

Wine Museum

In Biscoitos you can visit the Wine Museum (17) in a cellar of an old family farm that produces the famous Verdelho Wine (in the past it was produced to supply the Portuguese armadas) and other grape varieties. Framed in the history of Terceira Island, the hosts explain to you the traditional winemaking process where you see used utensils such as stills and wooden barrels where it’s stored.

During the visit of this well-kept farm, you will notice the old tanks, stone millstones and the Curraletas, which are tiny fields of vineyards surrounded by basaltic stone walls, a technique used to protect the vineyards from the weather. In this small museum you can taste and buy bottles to take home.

Vineyards in Curraletas, Cookies, Terceira, Azores
Vineyards in Curraletas in Biscoitos, Terceira Island


F) VISIT THE PRAIA DA VITÓRIA (AND FACHO VIEWPOINT)

Praia da Vitória

Praia da Vitória (18), the second city on Terceira Island, has the protected and extensive Praia Grande, well-kept, which follows the promenade of Beira-Mar Avenue. There are several restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops and terraces with a view to the beautiful bay.

Vitoria Beach House, Terceira Island, Azores
Praia da of Vitória Houses, Terceira Island

This is a place primarily for relaxing and enjoying the view! We took the opportunity to “bathe” in the calm water (clean and with a pleasant temperature) and to rest in the soft sand of this beach. For the active and young, there are venues for various activities, such as playing volleyball or soccer in the sand.

Undoubtedly, it justifies a short walk to get to know the historic centre, walking along the cobbled streets. Check the Town Hall, the Parish Church and the house of the writer Vitorino Nemésio, who portrayed Azores in his literary work. This is surely, one of the things to do in Terceira Island that you can’t miss.

Facho Viewpoint

Along the beachfront of Praia da Vitória, you can see a large staircase on the hillside that leads you to the Facho Viewpoint (19). This name is due to the fact that there was a large bonfire (facho in Portuguese) that served as aid to navigation. From above you have a breathtaking view of the sea, the bay and the Praia da Vitória Marina (20). You can reach the top of the viewpoint by car (that’s what we did!).

View of Praia da Vitória from Facho Viewpoint, Terceira Island, Azores
View of Praia da Vitória from Facho Viewpoint, Terceira Island

Near Praia da Vitória, and on the way to Lajes Airport (21), are Paúl and Lagoa do Junco, which are excellent places for bird watching. There you enjoy a predominantly green landscape.

G) Other Things to See and Do in Terceira Island

– Car or Bike Tour (Terceira Island Tour)

A good option to do all year round is to rent a car, off-road (4×4), bike or mountain bike and take a trip through the roads and rural paths to get to know Terceira Island. It is always good to unveil and discover the trails that have impressive volcanic landscapes, plains and mountains, with the sea in sight. Monte Brasil (2) and Biscoitos (15) are also good places to do so.

Sea view, rocky coast and houses, in Cinco Ribeiras, Terceira Island, Azores
Cinco Ribeiras, Terceira Island

– Boating (And Whales Watching)

The Azores are undeniably one of the best places in the world to watch whales/cetaceans. Passionate people for the sea and marine life can take, in Angra do Heroísmo or Praia da Vitória, the boats of professional companies that lead them to watch whales, sperm whales and dolphins. Although along the way you can find other marine animals such as turtles, rays and other fish.

Boat rides can also be taken to Monte Brasil (2) and Ilhéu das Cabras (4).

Boats in Praia da Vitória Bay, Terceira Island, Azores
Praia da Vitória Bay, Terceira Island

– Swim in Natural Pools (And Beaches)

Terceira Island has several natural pools and beaches that invite you to take a sea bath.

Therefore, we highlight the Quatro Ribeiras Natural Pools (22), whose natural pool is inserted in the middle of the rocks and protected from the waves, in a place of great natural beauty. There the water is crystal clear and you can swim and see the bottom of the sea. Nearby there is an artificial swimming pool has lifeguards, toilet and support facilities.

We also highlight the Biscoitos Natural Pools (16) and Praia Grande in Praia da Vitória (18).

Natural Pools of Porto Martins, Terceira Island
Natural Pools of Porto Martins, Terceira Island

– Surfing (and Bodyboarding)

On the west coast of Terceira Island there are several places, with few people, used for surf and bodyboard, such as Quatro Ribeiras Bay (22), Contendas Bay (23) and Praia da Vitória (18). If you are a fan of these sports, the best time to go is especially in winter.

– Practicing Water Sports

The bays of Angra do Heroismo and Praia da Vitória are good places for water sports such as Windsurf, Kitesurf, SUP, Kayak or Sailing. These marinas, with their supporting infrastructures, allow the anchorage of vessels (such as yachts) and meeting of sailors from all over the world, who call at Azores.

– Diving (and Snorkeling)

The good visibility of the crystalline waters of Terceira Island, with average temperatures between 60.8ºF (or 16ºC) in winter and 71.6ºF (or 22º) in summer, undeniably create good conditions for diving or snorkeling. In this way you can observe the great biodiversity of fish and sea plants in an underwater landscape of volcanic bottoms. So there are several diving centres that can take you to many interesting places.

For example, the Parque Arqueológico Subaquático (Underwater Archaeological Park) located in the bay of Angra do Heroísmo, has the Anchor Cemetery, with over 30 sunken anchors and the wrecked transatlantic steamer Lidador. 35 miles from Terceira Island is one of the best diving spots, D. João de Castro Bank. In fact, it is a submarine volcano whose top is 39 ft (or 12 meters) deep and where it’s visible the fumaroles activity, surrounded by large shoals of fish.

– Play Golf

You can play golf on the interior of the island in the midst of outstanding natural beauty at the Terceira Island Golf Club (24), which has an internationally recognized 18-hole course. It is 5.6mi (or 9km) from Lajes Airport and 8.7mi (or 14 km) from Angra do Heroísmo.

Tours with a Local Guide

Do you want to go on a tour with a local guide? Check here to find the available tours through our partner Get your Guide.

When to Go to Terceira Island (Climate and Weather)

Any time of year is a good time to visit the Terceira Island, in Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (North). The archipelago enjoys a mild climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. On the other hand, there aren’t too many tourists going around (for now!)

In general, air temperatures are between 55.4ºF (or 13ºC) and 71.6ºF (or 22ºC). The highest temperature occurs from June to September. Average seawater temperatures are around 60.8ºF (or 16ºC) in winter and 69.8ºF (or 21ºC) in summer, reaching up to 77ºF (or 25ºC).

Ilhéu das Cabras, Ilha Terceira
Ilhéu das Cabras, Terceira Island

About the weather in the archipelago it is said that usually “4 seasons occur in one day”, ie during the day it can be sunny, rain, heat, cold, fog, etc. Terceira Island is no exception, sun and rain can occur at any time. That’s exactly what happened to us!

How to Get in Terceira Island

By plane – Lajes AIRPORT

Most visitors from Terceira Island arrive by plane to Lajes Airport, located near Praia da Vitória. Lajes Airport (13) is located near the Lajes Base, used by the Portuguese and US Air Forces, due to its strategic importance in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Airplane flying over Praia da Vitória Bay, Terceira Island, Azores
Airplane heading to Lajes Airport over Praia da Vitória Bay, Terceira Island

To Terceira Island there are several international, national and regional airlines, part of them with direct and low cost flights.

More information: www.azoresairlines.pt

FROM BOAT TO Terceira ISLAND

The Angra do Heroísmo (3) and Praia da Vitória (20) marinas are very popular ports, especially during the summer, for cruise liners, pleasure crafts and sailboats.

There are also regular maritime connections between Terceira Island and other islands of the Azores that allow you to appreciate the beauty of the islands’ coast and the sea. Weather conditions sometimes affect these connections to other Azorean islands.

Angra do Heroismo Marina, Terceira Island, Azores
Angra do Heroismo Marina, Terceira Island

More information: www.atlanticoline.pt

Where to Stay in Terceira Island

Terceira Island has a range of hotels, local accommodation and rural accommodation, with greater offer in Angra do Heroísmo. Check the current prices here to find a deal.

Since the island is relatively small (18 mi or 29 km long and 11 mi or 18 km wide), you can easily reach the main attractions.

During our visit we were “well settled” at the Pousada de Angra (Pousadas de Portugal), inside the Fort of São Sebastião, overlooking the sea.

Pousada de Angra, Ilha Terceira
Pousada de Angra, Ilha Terceira

How to Get Around in Terceira Island

In Terceira Island the main roads are reasonably in good condition, with roads along the coast (marginal in Portuguese) and crossing the island, connecting Lajes Airport (21) to the capital, Angra do Heroísmo (1).

Given that the best sights are scattered around Terceira Island, it’s well worth it to have a car to enjoy what is available to see and do.

When we were there we rented a car, which we picked up at Lajes Airport (so we didn’t have to pay taxi from there to the hotel, which is about 12mi or 20 km). We think booking online at a car rental company followed by a car pick-up at the airport is the best option.

Car Hire on Terceira Island

Terceira Island has several local, national and international car rental companies, which can be found mainly at Lajes Airport and Angra do Heroísmo.

One of the best ways to discover the island is by car. In case you need to rent a car, search for a good deal at Discover Cars. This car rental platform will help you finding the right price, in a quick and simple manner. Click here to access.

Goat perched on a concrete road separator in the background road intersection with signboards

Buses

The Empresa de Viação Terceirense (EVT) operates the bus network that runs through Terceira Island. Due to the reduced number of buses and the need for greater freedom in terms of places and times to see tourist attractions, using public transport does not seem to be the best option.

Taxis

Taxis tend to be the most expensive option for visiting Terceira Island.

What to Eat and Drink on Terceira Island

Gastronomy of Terceira Island

In Terceira Island there are several typical dishes, especially the alcatras (usually beef, but also can be with fish, chicken, beans or fava beans). These are slowly cooked (12 hours) in clay pots with wine, onion, garlic, bay leaf, bacon and pepper. Then they are placed on slices of cake of sweet bread.

In addition, there are also shellfish and grilled fish from the Azorean seas, such as the ‘boca negra‘ (red and white, with dark mouth) or ‘veja‘ (parrot fish). We especially liked the grilled limpets! Not forgetting the Vaquinha cheese (spicy or not and that you can taste and buy at the factory), produced with milk of “happy” cows.

The desserts of Terceira Island include the delicious Donas Amélias, which have cake making but cheese shape (corn and wheat flour, sugar, eggs, cane honey, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg). There are also doces de vinagre (vinegar sweets), which do not taste vinegar (milk, sugar, eggs and vinegar), camafeus (nuts, eggs and sugar syrup), cornucópias (flour, toasted bread, almonds, lard and sugar) and fofas (baked lemon-cream-filled ‘filhoses’ – which are Portuguese typically deep fried sugared pastries), with fewer calories than the fried version!

To drink we highlight the Verdelho Wine, typical of Terceira Island, which is a white wine produced mainly in the “curraletas” and the Kima passion fruit soda, that despite not being from Terceira Island, is the most famous soda of Azores!

RESTAURANTS ON Terceira ISLAND

In Terceira Island there are several places with good food, such as:

  • Restaurante Beira-Mar: Located in São Mateus (2.5 mi or 4 km from Angra do Heroísmo) with the fishing port in front. It has a wide variety of fresh fish and shellfish. There are seafood soup in bread, mixed kebabs and grilled fishes. It was not easy to get a table due to the great demand but it was well worth it.
Beira Mar Restaurant, in São Mateus, Terceira
Beira Mar Restaurant at the top, in São Mateus, Terceira Island
  • Casa de Pasto A Canadinha: Located at Av. Infante Dom Henrique, 24, in Angra do Heroísmo, was our place of choice in price / quality / service. It has a typical decor. There we tasted several Azorean dishes and it was where we enjoyed the best grilled limpets!
  • Other restaurants: in Angra do Heroísmo, Tasca das Tias, O Chico and Cais de Angra; and in Altares (12.4mi or 20 km from Angra), o Caneta.

Things to do and see in Angra do Heroismo, Terceira Island

Now know more about Angra do Heroísmo, namely what things to do and see in the capital of Terceira Island. Far from mass tourism, it is a place to travel back in time between the UNESCO World Heritage Site and stunning panoramic views.

In the middle of great natural beauty, this is a city full of history, linked above all to the maritime expansion of the Portuguese and Spanish powers of the 15th and 16th centuries, which justifies a visit.

Pin this post to enjoy Terceira Island to the fullest whenever you want!

Travel Guide of Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal
Travel Guide of Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal
Travel Guide of Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

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