How to plan a trip to Terceira Island in the Azores
It’s the perfect island destination for fans of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, History, and underwater treasures.
Terceira is the second biggest island of the Azores, and it’s called the purple island. It’s the home to the oldest city in the Azores and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, Angra do Heroismo.
Discovered in the 1430s, it was first called Island of Jesus Christ. It was later named Terceira (Portuguese for third, as a reference to it being the third island discovered).
The settlers arrived much later here, in the late 1400s, compared to Santa Maria and São Miguel. The island quickly flourished in the next 200 years. It became 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 expedition to the Galapagos.
According to his journals, there was nothing important here to see. Well… I beg to differ…
Terceira Island played a part in world heritage and History. It’s linked to the Portuguese Civil War between liberals and absolutists in the 19th century. And during World War II, it was chosen as the location for a British Military Base (later handed over to the United States).
If I had to find a new nickname for Terceira, I’d call it the “cultural island”. It sums up what the island does best.
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 want 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.
Satire comes out on 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 Carnaval, lighthearted mockery is allowed and socially acceptable.
Later in June, the popular festivities celebrating St. John are more fun and games than religion, with a particular focus on the marchas. Every year there is a different theme for the Sanjoaninas, highlighting a special date or event. Local dance groups showcase their 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.
What to eat in Terceira
Let me introduce you to the local dish alcatra: local tender beef, marinated in with onions, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, and wine, slowly roasted inside a clay pot.
The secret weapon is the clay pot. That thick sauce calls for 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 amélias, with a hint of cinnamon. Well, after a meal of alcatra, you kinda have to take things down a notch or go for a hike.
Rice pudding and coscoroes are also great dessert options.
A box of donas amelias is a must-buy, 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 is also a popular souvenir. There are English influences in the design and the embroidering technique.
Where to stay in Terceira Island
Know before you go
Terceira is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, one of Portugal’s autonomous regions.
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
GMT -1 hour.
The same as in Portugal, the Euro (€).
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.
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.