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?
- Comunicair (birdwatching, hiking) – www.comunicair.pt
- Rope Adventures (canyoning) – www.ropeadventures.pt
- Os Montanheiros (geotourism) – www.montanheiros.com
- Seadventures (bike tours/MTB, hiking, whale watching) – www.seadventures.eu
- Pete Keeping Atlantic Sailing (yachting) – www.petekeeping.com
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 (arroz doce) 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.
Find a place to stay
Know before you go
Where is Terceira island?
Terceira is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, one of Portugal’s autonomous regions.
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?
The same as in Portugal, the Euro (€).
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 to visit Terceira Island?
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 do I travel to Terceira Island?
SATA Air Acores – between islands
Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and Ryanair – from the Portuguese mainland and other countries.
Atlanticoline SA – between islands (seasonal, from June to September – Purple Line).
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.
5 thoughts on “How to plan a trip to Terceira Island in the Azores”
we will go to Terceira in middle of the July. I would like to ask you (in your opinion) you can see any whale at this time. When we were St. Miguel last year in oktober we didn’t see, only dolphins.
Thank you for reply,
Hi Anikó! Well, as a wild animal whales will do as they please. Sometimes they’ll come closer to humans and sometimes they won’t. Technically, you can spot whales all year long and in most of the islands. I suggest you read this information by Visit Azores to know more: https://www.visitazores.com/en/experience-the-azores/whale Cheers!
Thank you very much for the useful information! Have a nice day!
We are heading to Terceira and wanted to know if there is any problems with renting cars ? Should we get insurance and would you recommend any rental company at the airport ? Thank you Kelly
Hello Kelly, you should be fine about renting a car in Terceira. I don’t drive, so I can’t advise you on which car rental to choose or what are the rules on insurance. There are nine different car rental companies at the airport, and all of them with a working website. Here’s the full list: http://aerogarelajes.azores.gov.pt/rentacar.aspx
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