“Terceira Azores: tips on planning your trip” is the third installment of a series of nine blog posts about the Azores islands. The posts are meant to give you a detailed overview of each one of them to help you plan your trip, whether you decide to visit one, two, or all nine. If you have any questions or a specific request, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it or to put you in touch with the right contact.
Table of Contents (Click to skip to a section)
- About Terceira
- Top things to do in Terceira Island
- Top cultural events in Terceira Island
- Azores food: what to eat in Terceira
- Local souvenirs
- Where to stay in Terceira Island
- Know before you go
Perfect island destination for fans of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, History and underwater treasures.
Terceira is the second biggest island of the Azores, is known as the “lilac island”, and is home to the oldest city in the Azores and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, Angra do Heroismo. By now, and as you will read further in the other posts, you’ve realized that every single one of the islands has a very peculiar and unique identity — one is not more important than the other, they’re simply different and the Azoreans live well with those differences (most of the time).
Initially called “island of Jesus Christ” upon its discovery in the 1430’s, the island was later named as Terceira (Portuguese for third, as a reference to it being the third island to be discovered). The settlers arrived later (compared to the first two, Santa Maria and Sao Miguel), in the late 1400’s, but in the next 200 years, the island quickly bloomed to become the official stopover for ships traveling between Europe, America, and India — in 1836 Charles Darwin stopped here to take a well-deserved 3-day break from his recent expedition to the Galapagos. (According to his journals there was nothing important here to see. Well… I beg to differ…)
Linked to the Portuguese Civil War between liberals and absolutists in the 19th century, and to the Second World War (as the chosen location for a British Military Base, later handed over to the United States) — the island is far from being a less important piece of a larger puzzle of world heritage and History.
If I had to find a new nickname for Terceira, I’d call it the “cultural island” — and I don’t mean it in a snobbish way. It simply is a way to sum up what the island does best. And with the background I just told you about doesn’t it make perfect sense? They own it!
Top things to do in Terceira island
The Praia da Vitoria bay is perfect for surfing, bodyboarding, and windsurfing. The Angra do Heroismo bay is the perfect spot for those who wish to combine their love of diving with their enthusiasm for History, exploring the underwater Archeological Park. Full of surprises, isn’t it?
Recommended Local Companies
Please note that I’m not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list I used the following criteria:
- Local companies listed on visitazores.com. I use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- A website in English where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (with a working email)
The company embodies the spirit of the island: “Terceira island is known for being an “amusement park” not only for its festivals but also for the sense of adventure.” Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Avenida Beira Mar
9760 Praia da Vitoria
Activities: Canyoning (40€/US $44, per person), rock climbing (35€/US $38, per person), coasteering (45€/US $49, per person), snorkeling (30€/US $32, per person), caving (40€/US $44, per person), sea kayaking (50€/US $54, per person for half day; 70€/US $76, per person for full day).
An international dive center with staff fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and French. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Hotel do Caracol
Estrada Regional 1, Silveira
9700-193 Angra do Heroismo
Activities: Discover scuba diving – pool (35€/US $38), discover scuba diving – pool + sea (95€/US $103), shore dive (35€/US $38 + 60€/US $65 for equipment), boat dive (45€/US $49 + 70€/US $76 for equipment), night dive (45€/US $49 + 70€/US $76 for equipment)
A familiar school and diving center, with all the right facilities and know-how to meet customer’s needs.
Clube Naval da Praia da Vitória
Avenida Beira – Mar
9760 Praia da Vitória
Activities: special offshore dive – “Don Joao Castro” seamount (190€/US $207, minimum 6 people), special offshore dive – “Serreta” seamount (115€/US $125, minimum 6 people).
The company’s mission: “We do not just organize tours, we do not just guide people, our team really wants to share with you the wonderful experience of living in this magical place, this set of islands lost in the middle of the Atlantic. We want to show you everything we know because we believe that sharing is the best experience.” Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Rua de São Pedro, 32
9700-187 Angra do Heroísmo
Activities: walking tours (prices start from 35€/US $38, per person), bike tour – “Darwin in Terceira” (prices start from 55€/US $60, per person), bike tour – “Center of the Island” (prices start from 45€/US $49, per person).
In business since 2004, this company has a wide variety of activities to do on the island.
9700-000 Angra do Heroísmo
Activities: one-day boat tour of the island (120€/US $130, per person), boat trip to Angra’s bay (60€/US $65, per person), city tour of Angra do Heroismo (25€/US $27, per person), trip to the Natural Monument “Furnas do Enxofre” (22€/US $24, per person), trip to the 90m/295ft deep lava tube “Algar do Carvao” (22€/US $24, per person).
OceanEmotion is a company operating in the Azores, Terceira Island specialized in marine activities. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Marina de Angra do Heroísmo, Loja 1
9700-154 Angra do Heroísmo
Activities: whale watching (50€/US $56, per person), swimming with dolphins (65€/US $73, per person), Angra by boat (20€/US $22, per person), guided inter islands trip (85€/US $95, per person).
A photo posted by paula (@apsc64) on
Top cultural events in Terceira island
It’s safe to say, and I believe the locals won’t mind me saying it, that Terceira is the “party island”. Something is always happening and everything can be an excuse to celebrate; if not, they’ll find one.
Satire comes out on the streets in the “Carnaval dances”, following an ancient tradition, where carefully written songs are meant to critique, but not offend, the current local and National events — during this season lighthearted mockery is allowed, it is “Carnaval” after all. Later in June the popular festivities celebrating St. John are more fun and games than religion, with a special focus on the “popular marches” — every year there is a different theme for the “Sanjoaninas”, highlighting a special date or event. These local dance groups showcase the best of local talent in choreography, original music, and costume design. Yes, they take it very seriously!
For the Jazz music enthusiasts, AngraJazz happens in October (the first edition was in 1999). Don’t expect an elitist festival only appreciated by jazz connoisseurs. Its purpose is to spread knowledge and jazz music to the whole island.
The bullfights are also a big tradition in Terceira but recent events and discussions about whether or not “animal cruelty” should continue as a tradition is a tricky topic I don’t have time to discuss here. Nor this is the right forum to do so. It is a cultural event that’s important to the majority of the local community, so I’m mentioning it here for what it is.
Azores food: what to eat in Terceira
Let me introduce you to the most famous version of “alcatra”: local tender beef, with a sauce enriched with onions, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, and wine, slowly roasted inside a clay pot. The secret weapon is the clay pot. To dip in that thick sauce, there is nothing better than some slices of “massa sovada” (a typical local sweet bread). “Alcatra” doesn’t need a side dish fancier than that.
Desserts and pastries are simple but rich like the famous “donas amelias”, with a hint of cinnamon. Well, after a meal of “alcatra” you kind of have to take things down a notch — or go for a hike. Rice pudding and “coscoroes” are also great choices; not exactly light, but when in Terceira…
A box of “donas amelias” is mandatory, whether you’re a foodie or not. For the advanced local cuisine enthusiasts, if you manage to get a hold of a local “alcatra” family recipe, you can’t leave without the dish’s secret weapon: the clay pot.
The local embroidery work in white, raw or red linen, which show some English influence in the design and in the technique, is also a popular souvenir. Probably not something you’d think of as a souvenir, but still a fine way to support the local handicraft, and step away from the same old same old fridge magnets.
Where to stay in Terceira island
Please note that I’m not listing ALL accommodation possibilities. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list of places to stay on the island, I used the following criteria:
- Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). I excluded chain hotels.
- A website in English and/or a listing on Booking.com* where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
A traditional two-story building within an 18th-century property classified as a historic landmark since 2010. Carefully restored and decorated. All furniture and decorations are original. All accommodations have a private bathroom and Internet. Breakfast is included. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Quinta do Espírito Santo
Rua Dr. Teotónio Machado Pires 36
9700-517 São Bartolomeu dos Regatos
Low season (October to May) – 80€/US $87
High season (June to September, and Holy Week) – 100€/US $109
Low season (October to May) – 60€/US $65
High season (June to September, and Holy Week) – 80€/US $87
Low season (October to May) – 60€/US $65
High season (June to September, and Holy Week) – 80€/US $87
Four different rural houses with different styles and different backstories. Premises include lots of different areas that recreate the traditional farm life. Local cuisine restaurant also in the property. Rating of 7.3 on Booking.com*
Canada do Martelo 24
São Francisco das Almas – S. Mateus
9700-576 Angra do Heroísmo
Casa do Meio
Single room – 72€/US $78, per day
Double room – 79€/US $86, per day
Casa do Povoador
100€/US $109, per day
Casa dos Velhotes
100€/US $109, per day
Casa do Quinteiro
110€/US $119, per day
This farm’s roots go back to the 16th century. The house is located in the protected area of Monte Brasil. 9 Double rooms, 1 suite, 4 rooms with private garden and 2 rooms with sea view. Free Internet. Rating of 9.0 on Booking.com
Low season (November to March) – prices start from 85€/US $92
Shoulder season (April, May, and October) – prices start from 95€/US $103
High season (June to September) – prices start from 120€/US $130
A mystical combination of modern and rustic atmosphere with a VIP treatment. Daily rates include a traditional breakfast.
Lugar do Rossio, 20
9700-301 Angra do Heroismo
Double room – 80€/US $87
Single room – 60€/US $65
Three traditional rural houses fully refurbished using locally sourced materials. Two gardens with endemic plants. The farm had different uses through time, including a public elementary school. Rating of 7.9 on Booking.com
Quinta dos Figos
Cabo da Praia da Vitória
Low season (October to April):
Single room – 45€/US $49
Double room – 60€/US $65
Apartments – prices start from 75€/US $81
High season (May to September):
Single room – 55€/US $60
Double room – 70€/US $76
Apartments – prices start from 85€/US $92
Iléus das cabras (ocean view looking in – backside) Porto Judeu #ileusdascabras #ilha #island #portojudeu #town #farmland #atlantico #atlantic #ocean #sea #water #atlanticocean #beauty #beautiful #nature #love #adoro #terceira #acores #açores #azores #portugal #portugal_lovers #portugal_em_fotos #igers_azores #terceira_acores #terceiraazores #terceiraisland #ilhaterceira
A photo posted by Terceira, Açores. Portugal ?? (@terceira_acores) on
Know before you go
These are the most frequently asked questions about the Azores islands in general (and the island of Terceira in particular). If you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to email me.
Where is Terceira island?
Terceira is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
What’s the official language in the Azores?
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
What’s the time zone in the Azores?
GMT -1 hour
What’s the currency in the Azores?
Are there banks and ATM machines in Terceira island?
Is there a post office in Terceira island?
What Visa do I need to visit Terceira island?
You need a visa to enter all Schengen area territories, including the Azores islands. Click here for detailed information.
* Please note that this information may change over time. Refer to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your departure for updated information.
Do I need any special vaccination?
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
How do I get medical care on Terceira island if I need it?
There are pharmacies, a hospital, and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde) with emergency services on the island.
What is the voltage?
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Is there public transportation in Terceira island?
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
How big is Terceira island?
The area of Terceira island is 401.9 square kilometers (approximately 155.17 square miles).
How far is Terceira island from Lisbon?
1,567 km (approximately 973.68 miles)
How many people live in Terceira island?
56,437 people, according to the last census of 2011.
How many main towns does Terceira Island have?
Terceira has two main cities, Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória (the town closest to the airport).
How do I travel to Terceira island?
By boat – between islands (seasonal, from June to September – Purple Line): Atlanticoline SA.
How is the weather in Terceira island?
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19°C/66.2°F. Average low 11°C/51.8°F.
When is the best time to visit Terceira island?
June for the peak period of local cultural events.
Are there earthquakes in Terceira island?*
There is some seismic activity, mostly in the Ocean. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Is there WiFi and cell phone coverage in Terceira island?
Yes, 3G and 4G.
When will you start planning your trip to the Azores?