Terceira Azores: tips on planning your trip
If you’re planning to travel to the Azores in times of COVID-19 please refer to these official sources when planning:COVID-19 Information from the U. S. Embassy in PortugalOfficial Azores Government’s Information for Passengers Traveling to the Azores
“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.
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?
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
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.
Terceira is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
GMT -1 hour
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.
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
There are pharmacies, a hospital, and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde) with emergency services on the island.
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
The area of Terceira island is 401.9 square kilometers (approximately 155.17 square miles).
1,567 km (approximately 973.68 miles).
56,437 people, according to the last census of 2011.
Terceira has two main cities, Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória (the town closest to the airport).
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19°C/66.2°F. Average low 11°C/51.8°F.
June for the peak period of local cultural events.
There is some seismic activity, mostly in the Ocean. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Yes, 3G and 4G.