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Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira Azores

The Renaissance setting of Angra do Heroísmo reminds us that it was the centre of trading and treasures, both from the Indies and the New World.

Near its bay, there are about 80 shipwrecks, the oldest dating from 1543 – the treasures it hides from us are incalculable… It was the most important city in the Azores until it was usurped by Ponta Delgada.

It is half an hour from Lajes Airport. In the centre, you have the old square and the town hall (19th century), which has some of the best galleries in Portugal. It is linked to the period that led to Brazilian independence and the Portuguese civil war, with various elements of that period.

The largest non-religious festival in the Azores passes through here – Sanjoaninas (at the end of June) – dating back to the 16th century. The Queen’s Procession kicks off the festivity.

Sanjoaninas

The theme differs yearly – lately, moments are remembered when the island played a leading role in Portuguese history. Various shows, music, and popular interests, including bullfights with a rope.

Angra de Heroísmo Museum

  • Coordinates: 38.656801, -27.216585

Very close by is the Angra de Heroísmo Museum  (Ladeira de São Francisco), in the former Convent of São Francisco (17th century). With a remarkable nautical, military and fine arts collection, it costs around 2 euros.

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Guia

You have access to the Church of Nossa Senhora da Guia, where the elder brother of Vasco da Gama, who was returning from the 1st sea voyage to India (1499), is buried. In his most excellent adventure, the young (29) knight Vasco da Gama is escorted by Paulo da Gama who commands the ship, São Rafael.

The angel that was the figurehead of his ship can be seen at the Museu da Marinha in Belém. Vasco da Gama was distraught by his death, staying here for a long time before telling Dom Manuel I about his success – out of a garrison of about 170 people, 116 died…

  • Coordinates: 38.656931, -27.215806

Next to the Convent, we discover the Hotel Cruzeiro (Rua Nova) – original decoration with the best rooms in the centre.

Santíssimo Salvador Church

  • Coordinates: 38.655839, -27.221072

500 metres away is Santíssimo Salvador Church. It was founded in 1570 with beautiful 16th-century panels, Indo-Portuguese style with Brazilian rosewood and whale ivory – the altar is from the early 18th century.

It was completed in 1618 when Angra was under Spanish rule and influenced by Spanish Baroque. It suffered from the 1980 earthquake, and the tower on the right side later collapsed. Later there was a fire – all the gilded woodwork burned down.

Bettencourt Palace

  • Coordinates: 38.654908, -27.221250

100 metres away, on Rua da Rosa, is the baroque-style Bettencourt Palace (17th century) – above the entrance is the family coat of arms (originally from Normandy and from Jehan de Béthencourt, who started the Canaries conquest ).

Jehan de Béthencourt

It is now a library. Jehan’s nephew, a hospital knight, lived on the island of Madeira and at one point sold the Canaries to Prince Henry the Navigator… Well, the Bettencourt’s spread across the Atlantic.

João de Bettencourt de Vasconcelos (knight of the order of Christ) from Terceira supported the pretension of Philip II of Spain. 

For this, he was executed. In the XVII century, another João de Bettencourt was one of the leaders who restored the island’s Portuguese independence.

Convento de São Gonçalo
On the other corner, you can see the old Episcopal Palace from 1544. Following Rua da Rosa, you will find the walls of São Gonçalo Convent (1545) – Order of Santa Clara.

General Captains Palace

  • Coordinates: 38.656805, -27.220472

From the Cathedral, it’s 300 metres down Rua da Esperança to the Palácio dos Capitães Generais building – a former Jesuit college. Open to visitors (costs two euros) with a beautiful garden. The island’s governor modified it (18th century) and turned it into a palace. Two kings stayed here: Dom Pedro IV (1832) and Dom Carlos I (1901).

Duke of Terceira Garden

  • Coordinates: 38.656784, -27.219225

Continuing down Rua da Esperança, you will see the beautiful Jardim do Duque da Terceira (free) in honour of General António de Noronha – hero of the liberal wars. Dom Pedro V saw him as his second father.

The garden has a unique beauty, century-old trees and beautiful flowers that inspire us. Climb the steps up to the steep Outeiro da Memória, known as Alto da Memória, the site of the 1st fortress of the Azores (1474). As a reward, you will have beautiful views of Angra and Monte Brasil.

The enormous obelisk that emerges is a tribute to Dom Pedro IV (19th century) – with an evident Masonic influence.

Misericórdia Church

  • Coordinates: 38.654085, -27.218337

Near the Sea Gate stands the beautiful Igreja da Misericórdia (Pátio da Alfândega) – 18th century. Vasco da Gama desperately crossed this area, searching for doctors to treat his brother.

Statue of João Vaz Corte Real in Angra do Heroísmo Museum

Initially, the 1st hospital of the Azores was built here (1492) at the behest of João Vaz Corte-Real –  captain of the donee in Angra. According to the Azorean historian Gaspar Frutuoso (16th century), this knight discovered Canada (Terra Nova) before Don Cristobal Colon reached the Americas.

São Sebastião Fort

  • Coordinates: 38.651432, -27.212316

To the east, at the edge of the marina, is the town’s old fort, São Sebastião Fort (16th century).

It was erected at the behest of Dom Sebastião and protected the valuable port, from where large vessels called to India and Brazil. Today it is a peaceful hotel: Pousada de São Sebastião.

The port has lost importance to Praia da Vitória – now, the D’ANGRA marina is a support structure for yachts crossing the Atlantic. With some cafés, bars and the Angra Marina Hotel 5 star hotel. With spacious rooms with beautiful views of Monte Brasil.

  • Coordinates: 38.652752, -27.215583



 

Angra Beach

To the west is the small sandy beach known as Prainha de Angra – a small sheltered urban beach with calm waters.

In the past, it was precisely the place from where the vessels that required attention and care were repaired: ships and galleons that sometimes arrived laden with precious metals.

São João Baptista Fortress

Fortaleza São João Baptista
  • Coordinates: 38.650837, -27.225404

From the beach, in 15 minutes on foot west, you reach the foot of Monte Brasil, where the São Baptista Fortress (late 16th century) is located next to Relvão Municipal Park (an excellent place for children).

In the past, it was called Fortaleza de São Filipe, erected at the behest of Philip II of Spain. The disappearance of the Portuguese Dom Sebastian (who was his nephew) in current Morocco precipitated the Iberian Union.

The fortress was considered impregnable, the largest that the Spaniards built outside Spain – 4 km of walls and hundreds of cannons pointing at the bay (and the city).

During the War of Restoration, nobles and people besieged the fortress for 1 year. The Spaniards, led by the veteran Santiago Alvaro de Vivero y Menchaca, fought valiantly.

After several battles, they surrender (for lack of food) – those who are still alive are transported to Spain. Later, during the Liberal Wars (in the 19th century), the military revolt in favour of Pedro IV took place here.

Inside, there is the Governors’ Palace and the Church of São João Baptista, commemorating Portuguese sovereignty’s restoration (1640).

In the Azores, all the islands have nature walks, and on Terceira, there is an exciting trail on Monte Brasil. It starts at Parque do Relvão; it is 7 km long (2:30) and shows us the endemic nature and part of the island’s history.

Monte Brasil Recreational Forest Reserve

Monte Brasil is a peninsula that resulted from 3 eruptions of an extinct volcano – it is Angra’s natural bodyguard. In fact, the choice of Angra as the 1st settlement of the island is due to the protection of Mount Brasil – it is a natural barrier to the (predominant) southwest wind.

It is idyllic for a picnic. On the trail, you are surrounded by cryptomeria, ferns, and various animals, such as deer, living in communion with nature. Spend a good afternoon exploring the hill of beautiful views (to all sides).

It culminates at the Pico das Cruzinhas viewpoint, with expansive views of Angra do Heroísmo. At the top, the standard of the Discoveries marks the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Terceira. On one side, it has the year 1432 (the indicated year of the island’s discovery).

  • Coordinates: 38.647276, -27.225440

From the viewpoint, you will see two 2 types of red on the ceilings of the houses in Angra: the darker one is the traditional clay tile. The other places, with “new” roofs, correspond to the houses rebuilt after the earthquake of January 1980.

The walk will whet your appetite. 700 metres away, on Rua de São Pedro, is Adega Lusitânia, a classic to get to know Terceira’s dishes.

  • Coordinates: 38.657278, -27.227078

Try the excellent limpets, the house soup (the recipe is kept a secret), and the tender beef rump. It is reminiscent of chanfana – not by chance; the first settlers knew its confection well. The desserts are good, too.

Cais de Silveira

  • Coordinates: 38.655879, -27.235709

From the centre, it is 4km westwards to Cais de Silveira. Once a port, it is a popular bathing area overlooking Monte Brasil and the bay of Fanal – don’t forget the sunscreen. Under the quay is the Hotel Caracol has a pool, spa, and good breakfast under the pier.

On the perimeter, you can see the old tower that monitored approaching boats – known as Caracol.

Caracol

The other option for staying in the area is just over 350 metres away, the beautiful Terceira Mar Hotel (Rua portões de são Pedro). With friendly staff, good health club and pool with great views.

  • Coordinates: 38.656635, -27.232639



 

Furnas do Enxofre

The Furnas do Enxofre are a 15-minute drive in the mountainous interior of Terceira.

  • Coordinates: 38.726397, -27.227727

When you arrive, leave the car in the car park, and follow the walkway surrounded by stunning nature to the specific sulphur-scented fumarolic field. The field is smaller than Furnas of São Miguel.

Algar do Carvão

  • Coordinates: 38.727353, -27.215208

Five minutes to the east, we find Algar do Carvão, a volcanic cavity over 2000 years old. It is one of the ex-libris of the third, with 110 meters of depth. You will see singular silica stalactites, ending in an underground lake (resulting from water infiltration).

It is a rare opportunity to visit the interior of an extinct volcano. There is something similar in Indonesia (rarely seen by the public) and in Iceland (Þríhnúkagígur) from where you descend by a tiny lift. Here you can comfortably walk down, but bring a warm coat.

You can visit between May and September – from three to five in the afternoon. Entry costs around €6.

Natal Cave

  • Coordinates: 38.737434, -27.268368

A 10-minute drive westwards, spot another peculiar formation that results in the shape of a lava tube – nearly 700 metres long – with a maximum height of 12 metres and a width of up to 7 metres. Beneath the beautiful Negra Lake, tourists enjoy a relaxing picnic in summer.

Negra Lake

 What to visit near Angra do Heroísmo: