The Amazing Azores: Best Things to Do in Terceira

September 21, 2018

Terceira Azores

Who could have guessed that there are so many things to do in Terceira?

Our overnight flight landed us on this tiny island in the Azores just after sunrise. Expecting to be driven to our hotel for a short nap, we were surprised when Paulo, our guide suggested that we take advantage of the clear spring morning and start our tour.

“Yes!” I said, garnering a glare from Alison, my travel companion. “Just for an hour,” I whispered to her, “then we’ll ask to go and take a rest”. I was eager to start exploring this island that almost none of our friends had ever heard of.

It turned out to be a good decision – we shot our crispest panoramic shots that morning before the fog rolled in for much of the next few days.

Terceira is the second largest and second most populated of the Azores archipelago. It sits smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe. Sometimes called “the violet or purple island,” Terceira is awash in colorful, historical architecture, lush landscapes containing towering volcanoes and winding caves, and impressive sea views. It’s a nature-lovers paradise offering every manner of outdoor activity. The island maintains a moderate temperature without extreme fluctuations.

There is much to love about this technicolor island; here are some of our favorites.

1. Things to do in Terceira:  VIEWS

Pico do Facho

things to do in terceira

This viewpoint can be reached either by car or by a staircase on the hillside. There is a wall with a magnificent panoramic view of the city and beach of Praia da Victoria.

Serra do Cume

things to do in terceira

Serra do Cume is a caldera – a large volcanic crater formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano.   We took a winding drive to get to the viewpoint for the panoramic views of walls of volcanic stone known as “patchwork.” There’s a lookout viewing platform you can walk onto, which was a bit of a challenge in the extreme wind, but the views of the patchwork and Praia de Victoria are worth it — if you’re not blown away by the wind, you’ll be blown away by the view!

Monte de Brasil

things to do in terceira

The peninsula of Monte Brazil is located on the south coast of Terceira.  We hiked to the top of this extinct volcano for dramatic views across the bay to the city of Angra de Hermoso, but you can also drive if you prefer.

Angra de Hermoso

things to do in terceira

UNESCO World Heritage Site Angra de Hermoso is the Azores’ oldest city and one of the three regional capitals of the Azores. From the Obelisco do Alto da Memória, the view is absolutely stunning – a latticework of red tile roofs, cobblestone streets, and alleys, historic churches and palaces, squares and gardens. We walked from the monument through a labyrinth of gardens down into the city where we spent an afternoon taking in the palaces, cathedrals, castles, and mansions, as well as restaurants and shops.

2. Things to do in Terceira:  NATURE

Volcanic sea walk

things to do in terceira

Volcanic rocks are strewn along much of the coast of Terceira, creating a colorful walking vista.

Cabras Islet

things to do in terceira

The Cabras Islet, near Portu Judeu, is a witness to a volcanic eruption, leaving behind dual uninhabited islets along the southern coast of Terceira.

Praia dos Biscoitos

things to do in terceira

Brilliant azure blue water crashing wildly on black rugged volcanic rocks forming natural swimming pools, Biscoitos is nothing short of otherworldly.

Cow crossing

things to do in terceira

Rush hour traffic on the Azores? Yes, for sure. But expect to be “mooed” not honked because you’re likely to be stopping for cows, not cars, because livestock has the right of way on Terceira.

Beaches

things to do in terceira

Terceira is known more as nature/eco-destination, but there is a pretty sandy beach and port in Praia de Vitória where locals hang out in the warmer months.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take advantage because we were there on a chilly, drizzly spring day, but I’d love to return when it’s warmer. The beach is my happy place!

3. Things to do in Terceira:  ADVENTURE

Running with the bulls

Terceira has its own version of running with the bulls called touradas à corda. A bull is constrained by a group of men while bystanders either take seats behind barriers on the side of the road, or the more courageous souls take positions in the road to participate. The bull is then released in the town square to roam freely through the streets. Onlookers sometimes try to provoke the bulls, resulting in the occasional injury.

Spelunking

things to do in terceira

Algar do Carvão is an immense volcanic chimney containing some of the largest silica stalactites in the world. Much of the cavernous space is lit to expose the colorful shimmering stalactites. Because the cave is well lit, much of it can be explored, but be careful of the drippings which may hit your head and/or face!

Hiking

things to do in terceira

Terceira, like much of the Azores, is a hiking paradise. From the heights to the craters, the extinct volcanoes offer a variety of difficulty and views.

Scuba diving, cycling and horseback riding are also popular outdoor activities on the island.

4. Things to do in Terceira:  VILLAGES

Porto Martins

things to do in terceira

Porto Martins is a charming little town in the municipality of Praia da Vitória, characterized by volcanic rock-lined vineyards, orchards and flowers, and the smaller of the island’s two swimming beaches.

Vila de São Sebastião

things to do in terceira

This charming tiny village of 2000 people is known for its four churches and chapels.

Praia da Vitoria

things to do in terceira

Praia da Vitoria is a sleepy little town just a 5-minute drive from the airport. It offers a taste of European culture with a local flair in its charming shops, romantic cobblestone streets, colorful churches, and pretty city squares.

5. Things to do in Terceira:  FOOD

Fish market

things to do in terceira

The traditional Portuguese fishermen’s stew, caldeirada de peixe is delicious. Fresh ingredients are abundant in the local fish markets, like the one above in Praia de Vitória.

Quinta do Martelo

things to do in terceira

Quinta do Martelo restaurant serves the popular Azores dish alcatra. This entrée consists of locally raised tender beef roasted slowly in a clay pot with a savory sauce made with wine, onions, garlic, bay leaves, pepper. The dish is served with “massa sovada,” The Azores traditional sweet bread. The grounds on the property are fascinating to walk through, from the rustic stone inn to the ancient storage and handicraft buildings and barns, all offering views into what it was once like to live on a traditional farm.

QB

things to do in terceira

This is the place for a decadent meal! My entrée was grilled octopus on top of bonito fish on top of rings of squid on top of bread soup made with pieces of shrimp and fish eggs garnished by a sprig of ice plant. Delish.

Cais de Angra

things to do in terceira

Far and away my favorite restaurant, this small outdoor eatery serves heavenly seafood on an open-air patio with the sea just a few feet away. I tried two new items…. limpets and barnacles. I thought the limpets were mussels, steamed and soaked in butter and garlic. I loved them – until I learned they were really aquatic sea snails. The barnacles… well, I’m glad I tried them, but once was enough.

Clube Queta

things to do in terceira

I have a tradition of trying ice cream in every country I visit, and the Azores was no exception. In addition to the creamy goodness, the views from the terrace made the experience even better.

For more exciting reviews of the food in the Azores, read 10 Ways to Taste the Azores.

We both agreed that Terceira was even more beautiful, photographic and fun than we’d anticipated.  We recommend staying at the Terceira Mar Hotel in a balcony room with stunning sea and volcano views and a delicious buffet breakfast including many local treats.

things to do in terceira

More things to do in the Azores and Portugal:

25 Tips for Your First Trip to Lisbon, Portugal

The Amazing Azores: 13 Reasons to Pack Your Bags Now!

Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching in the Azores

Here’s your pin so you can easily find again!

terceira azores

 

Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of VisitAzores during her stay in Terceira, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.

Visit Azores

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  5. Comment by Michele

    Michele Reply September 24, 2018 at 10:42 am

    I loved the Azores and you’ve really captured its spirit of adventure and rugged beauty. We spent all our time on Sao Miguel but Terceira sounds incredible too

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      I loved Sao Miguel too!

  6. Comment by Carol Colborn

    Carol Colborn Reply September 24, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Never heard of the Azores but you caught all the highlights of the archipelago that has a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They did well to make you a guest and write about this hidden gem. I would love a stay there…especially with all that seafood, nature, and sights! I wonder about the people?

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 30, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      The islands are really amazing. I especially loved Terceira.

  7. Comment by Jen

    Jen Reply August 28, 2017 at 12:08 am

    I love that you included the cows crossing. I lived on Terceria for two years and have such wonderful memories of my time there. Rarely is the cow crossing mentioned, but it was such a way of life. You could be late and as long as you explained the cows were in the road you were fine.

  8. Comment by Leticia

    Leticia Reply April 25, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Great guide! My family is from Terceira and I grew up going there every summer to our home in Biscoitos. This year, I am returning after not being there for 15 years and I’m taking my husband with me. He has never been so I shared this with him and think it will help him prepare for the trip. Thank you!

  9. Comment by Stephanie

    Stephanie Reply December 29, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    The Azores are high on my list! They look like the perfect paradise for my nature loving heart. Is it easy to get around the island? Or would I have to rent a vehicle?
    Thanks!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply December 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Definitely the place for nature lovers, Stephanie! There’s not a lot of traffic, but the roads are a bit countryish but really pretty so I’d recommend renting a car. Then you’d be able to just stop whenever you see something interesting, get out, take pics, etc.

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